What’s an Enhanced Resource?

Posted by on 02/19/2018 in: ,

At least once a year, we like to highlight our enhanced resources: resources that we’ve enriched so that it’s more useful inside our app. Instead of our resources simply being eBooks that you only scroll and read, we’ve made the content discoverable by search and the Resource Guide, hyperlinked verses, activated cross references, and more.

Digital resources have their perks!

Truth is, most of our resources are enhanced in some way now. This is great for you… but only if you know how they are enhanced! So, first let’s look at where to find which enhancements a product has. Then, we will go through all the different enhancements we are currently implementing and how they work.


Here is a screenshot of our website:

Inside the green circle, you can see a list of features (enhancements) that are inside this resource. If you tap the arrow, you will be able to see the full list.

Not sure what the feature means? No problem. Tap on the name of the feature and a description will appear.

These descriptions are also available in the store while you are inside the app.



Gain the insight of studying the Bible in its original language without knowing Greek or Hebrew. Simply tap a linked word and read the original definition in a pop-up window. You can also build your understanding by searching for other uses of the word in the Bible and looking up related articles.


Tap on a word and access it’s parsing instantaneously. A pop-up window will display a dictionary definition, a link to more information, a gloss, and parsings. For more advanced study, you can search on the word’s morphology as well.


Gain reliable knowledge on any passage of the Bible, exactly when you need it. The Resource Guide will let you know when information in this title is relevant to anything you’re reading in the main window. It will also conveniently track along with you as you read through the Bible.

The number inside the purple circle lets you know how many related articles a resource has on the passage you are reading.


Wondering where that ancient Israelite city is located that you just read about? Check out the maps the Resource Guide found for you, pulling in maps from all the resources you own. Then, zoom-in or make it full-screen—or both.


Quickly see all the verses relevant to the current verse you’re reading. Tap on the cross reference, a pop-up window will appear, and then you can quickly navigate to the corresponding verse—without ever leaving the passage you’re reading.


This is so much more than a traditional dictionary. While you’re reading the Bible and other titles, the Resource Guide will pull up related articles dictionaries you own. You can even select words you want clarity on, tap “Look Up”, and access any relatable information in a convenient pop-up window.

In this example, we saw that the Resource Guide suggested we see if there were any articles in our library on “Apostles.” This is what it found!


Not sure what to read during your devotional time each day? Stay committed to growing spiritually with daily readings, personalized reminders, and a calendar to track your progress.

When you see this feature on a product, it is most likely a devotional book. Instead of leaving this file as an eBook, we’ve adapted it to work like our other reading plans.


Learn more with information displayed in visually-appealing ways. Not sure what charts you have? The Resource Guide will automatically pull up charts from any relevant sources while you’re studying.

This screenshot was taken directly after tapping on a chart that the Resource Guide pulled up.


Get a feel for how books of the Bible are laid out and how your commentaries will be structured. You can also access these from the Resource Guide when it’s applicable to the passage you’re reading, providing additional context.


Quickly find information about a book of the Bible, its author, date, audience, purpose, and other topics worth keeping in mind. If you have an introduction to the book of the Bible you’re currently reading, the Resource Guide will make it easily accessible for you.


Read sermons prepared by famous pastors. If you’re reading a passage of Scripture that one of the sermons addresses, it will appear in the Resource Guide for quick access.


Reading about a person, place, or thing but don’t know what it looks like? If this book has an image of what you’re looking for, the Resource Guide will let you know. Just glance under “Image,” and tap to see the photo enlarged.


Did your resource mention a passage of Scripture, but you can’t remember what the verse says? No fear! Tap the linked verse and a pop-up window will appear, giving you quick and easy access to the verse in context.


If you are wondering which enhanced resources could be helpful for you, we’ve pulled together a list of our top-sellers! Visit our website to see the list and check out which enhancements each resource has.

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Look Inside: Essential Bible Reference Collection

Posted by on 02/16/2018 in:

Learning how to study the Bible shouldn’t be difficult. The Essential Bible Reference Collection provides four quality, easy-to-use resources to get you started. Before you know it, you’ll feel confident using Bible dictionaries, handbooks, and historical resources.

Let’s take a look inside this new collection in our store!


This resource covers each book of the Bible! It gives easy-to-digest bits of information that will help build context before you begin your study. Each introduction covers:

  • Summary Overview
  • Key Themes
  • Purpose
  • Author
  • Recipients
  • Interesting Facts

There are also applicable pictures—which are always a plus!




This resource is a typical Bible dictionary. You can look through it alphabetically on its own like this:

OR — you can use the lookup feature. Either select a word in the text or look for articles in the resource guide.




Similar to the Essential Bible Companion, this resource provides fundamental information on each Psalm.

You’ll find information on:

  • Type
  • Author
  • Background
  • Structure
  • Special notes





There are also photos, charts, and lists. Some of the hyperlinked lists (that can be made full-screen) include: unusual terms found in the Psalter, Hebrew References to God, and Types of Psalms.


This resource is a short Bible handbook covering topics on family, household, work, society, government, and religious life during Biblical times.





A resource like this is great for anyone wanting to start the journey of deeper Bible study. Learn to use a dictionary, handbook, and historical resource to investigate passages of Scripture. You’ll build context and be able to interpret the Bible more accurately.

Visit our website to learn more about the Essential Bible Reference Collection.

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Grow in Love: Helpful Family & Marriage Resources

Posted by on 02/14/2018 in:

Happy Valentine’s Day! We would send you all flowers and chocolate if we could… but instead, we decided to discount some of our top Marriage and Family resources. This is the kind of gift that keeps on giving!

Scroll through this blog and see if anything catches your eye. You can’t go wrong!



Grow toward God—together. This devotional by Dr. Gary Chapman comes with

  • Scripture reading plan, making it easy to read through the entire Bible in a year
  • 260 daily devotions, one for each weekday
  • 52 feature articles, one for each weekend
  • Prayer guides, reducing awkwardness by providing specific cues
  • Select readings addressing a wide variety of couple-oriented topics
  • Bible book introductions providing context and essential background information

View Resource


Experience the heart of Jesus with popular author, Max Lucado. This devotional Bible is great for anyone needing to read something relatable that is encouraging and speaks truth.

View Resource


Read this daily devotional by Zondervan with your significant other. You’ll find entries from Dale Evans (wife of TV cowboy Roy Rogers), Frank Peretti (author of “This Present Darkness”), and 141 other evangelicals.

View Resource


Author Diana Garland takes a three-pronged approach to family ministry, which includes developing families grounded in Christian faith, helping families live the teachings of Jesus with one another, and equipping and supporting families as they learn to serve others. The insights gained are organized into four main sections:

  • The Context for Family Ministry
  • Family Formation
  • Family Dynamics
  • Leading Family Ministry

View Resource


Want to teach your children about God and the Bible, but unsure where to start?

Intended for families to use three times per week, each 5–10 minute lesson includes:

  • A basic Bible question with an accompanying answer in the form of a memory verse
  • Carefully-chosen Scripture passage to read aloud
  • A devotional paragraph designed to help kids connect the Scripture passage to the Bible’s overarching message
  • Reflection questions for the whole family to ponder and discuss together

View Resource


Christian psychologist Dr. David Clarke provides both biblical teaching and real-life counseling expertise to help you see what will work—and not work—in your marriage today. Written with plenty of humor, The Top 10 Most Outrageous Couples of the Bible proves that “outrageous” isn’t a bad thing—as Clarke says, “It’s not always pretty. But it’s always powerful.”

View Resource


With an introduction by J. I. Packer, this book includes topics for those passionate about families or those teaching on the characteristics of a godly family. Richard Baxter covers topics such as marriage, children, and family worship methodically and comprehensively through both hypothetical and real-life questions and concerns that arise in family dynamics.

View Resource


Reflecting on forty years of matrimony, John Piper exalts the biblical meaning of marriage over its emotion, exhorting couples to keep their covenant for all the best reasons.

This Momentary Marriage unpacks the biblical vision, its unexpected contours, and its weighty implications for married, single, divorced, and remarried alike.

View Resource


The New York Times best-selling book The Love Dare now has a devotional companion: The 40 Daily Dares. Strengthen your marriage through these 40 days of challenging, but rewarding, lessons.

View Resource


In Married. Happily., Pastor Greg Laurie opens God’s Word to show husbands and wives how to find oneness and harmony in their lives together – and how to avoid the common snares and perils along the way.

View Resource


This book is for all husbands who wish to better understand how God made their wives and how they can pray biblical prayers for them.

The study guide at the end of the book, designed to help pastors and leaders in their teachings on marriage, draws from the themes of the book’s daily readings and can be adapted for men’s Bible studies, men’s retreats, premarital counseling, or discipleship meetings.

View Resource


Assisting parents with this high calling, Jessica Thompson offers us an alternative to merely telling our kids what they must do to please God and be a “good Christian.” Designed for the whole family, this collection of gospel-centered devotionals will help you teach your children to treasure and rely on Jesus more than anything else.

This resource contains 40 devotionals for the family.

View Resource


Getting married? Check out this premarital devotional for brides- and grooms-to-be.

From Me to We is a transparent, surprisingly honest, and widely informative guide. It will inspire readers to safeguard their marriage by tackling tough questions and issues before they say, “I do.”

Lucille Williams, pastor’s wife and trained Prepare/Enrich Marriage Facilitator, offers straight-talk about marriage as well as challenges and discussion questions—a must-have tool for premarital counseling.

View Resource

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Why Celebrate Lent?

Posted by on 02/13/2018 in:

In high school, I attended a Baptist church “in-town” while most of my peers went to the Catholic church down the street. I always knew when the Lent season started—not just because of the ashes they wore to school—but because of the cafeteria food. They started serving fish. Every. Friday.

And high-school-cafeteria-style fish is not the most appetizing.

Somehow, this was all that Lent meant to me: black smudges and Fish Fridays. But then, I went to Bible college, attended a few churches, and went to some Lent services. I realized how much I had been missing out on.


In case you didn’t know (like me), the Lenten season lasts for 40 days, mirroring Jesus’ time spent in the desert. Just like Jesus fasted during those 40 days, many Christians choose to give something up for that period of time. This is a practice of self-denial, discipline, and reflection. We take time to recognize that the ONLY thing that can quench our hunger, thirst, and desire is Jesus Christ.

Then, when Easter comes, our hearts are ready to rejoice. We do have and will always have a relationship with our Lord.


If you don’t answer this question before Lent starts tomorrow—don’t give up. You can still participate in this tradition!

Some advice I’ve been given that I found useful is to pick something that I think about a lot or find my identity in.

This is why people often give up a food, drink, or social media.

If you decide to give up something that you use or think about often, it will help draw your mind to Christ more frequently—reminding you that He is the one who sustains you.


Yes, yes yes.

Adding a spiritual discipline to your daily or weekly routine during Lent is another great way to turn your heart toward Christ. This is a practice of self-denial and discipline as well—giving of your time and energy in new ways.

What should I add?

We’ve put together a Lent Reading Plan for all of you.

We hope you’ll find it as encouraging as we do during this season. You can find it here with all of the other reading plans:

We also put together a list of Lent Devotionals

You can check out the list by heading over to our website.


Share with us in the comments! How do you celebrate Lent?

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Look Inside: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary

Posted by on 02/12/2018 in:

Have you ever been sitting in church and wondered what a Philistine era oil jar looked like? Okay, maybe that is a little too specific… but the idea is that you CAN find an image of this ancient artifact WITHOUT using wifi. How? We’ve got the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary available for the Olive Tree Bible App. Let’s look inside.


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.

The circle next to the title indicates there five entries related to this section of Scripture. So, I’ll click on that commentary to see a preview of the those entries.

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. So, I tapped on the third entry that talks about the language and literature of the Babylonians.

Then, I 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 insight that helps me view the Biblical text in new ways.


This illustrated commentary is full of pictures, charts, graphics, maps and more. Here are a few more images to give you an idea of what’s inside:



Read an in-depth product description, compare bundles, and more over on our website.

Already own this resource? Let us know what you think of it in the comments!

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The Noahic Covenant

Posted by on 02/09/2018 in:

“I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh: the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
—Genesis 9:13–16


The faint rainbow that appears after a summer thunderstorm symbolizes God’s mercy, His compassion on all. Moreover, it is a sign of God’s covenant, His binding agreement with all humanity to never destroy the earth with a flood.

God initiated this covenant under the worst circumstances: “The earth was filled with violence” (6:11, 13). Even though humanity’s decline into evil greatly troubled God, He favored one man, Noah. He determined to save Noah and his family from His coming judgment and establish His covenant with them.


Although Noah was surrounded by violence and all kinds of evil, Noah walked with God (6:9) by seeking to obey Him. Noah’s simple obedience is recorded five times in this story (6:22; 7:5, 9, 16; 8:17–18). God called this obedient man to build an ark. With this large boat, God saved Noah from the cleansing waters of the Flood. With the past evils and sins washed away from the earth, Noah and his family could start anew (see 1 Pet. 3:21 for Peter’s analogy comparing baptism with the Flood).


God not only gave them a fresh start; He also gave them an unconditional promise or covenant. He promised not to destroy the earth with a flood no matter how evil Noah’s descendants got. Indeed, He promised that until the end of the earth, there would be the seasons of planting and harvest and day and night. God unilaterally promised to uphold the rhythms of the earth in order to sustain human life—even though humans had rebelled against Him, their Creator.

Today all of us—Noah’s children—should remember God’s mercy to us when we see the beauty of the rainbow.

What are God’s promises telling you today?

Excerpted from the NKJV Study Bible in Full Color. Learn more about this title that we recently added to our store by visiting our website.

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Look Inside: NKJV Study Bible Full Color Edition

Posted by on 02/08/2018 in:

We’ve added a new title to our store! Keep reading to get a sneak peek into the NKJV Study Bible in Full Color. It’s packed full of helpful articles, maps, and more.


Typically, study Bibles are known simply for their short comments in the footnotes—but the NKJV Study Bible in Full Color comes with much more than that. Let’s take a look at all the contents by type:


When looking at the contents list, you’ll see a section called “List of Articles.” These titles are hyperlinked, and tapping on one will take you directly to the article in the study Bible. As an example, there are 9 articles listed for the book of Psalms, covering topics like Image of God, Royal Psalms, and The Sanctity of Life.

This study Bible also provides a short article titled, “How to Understand What the Bible Means by What It Says,” along with a preface to the NKJV. Additionally, you can quickly navigate to hyperlinked lists of Teachings & Illustrations of Christ, Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ, parables, miracles, prayers of the Bible, a concordance and more.

Just when you think you’ve seen all the study Bible has to offer, there’s more for you to discover. The best part? It’s all easily accessible and organized, getting you where you want without turning a page.


Under the “Charts and Diagrams” section, you can quickly find all the helpful visual aids inside the study Bible. For instance, under 1 Kings, there is a visual representation of Solomon’s Temple. Here’s what happens when you tap:

There are also plenty of charts and timelines, helping you grasp the historical events of the Bible.


There are four ways to view maps in this resource.

ONE: Maps will appear as you are working your way through the notes. If there is an applicable map, you’re sure to stumble upon it.

But if you are wanting a specific map, here’s how you find it:

TWO: View the contents of the study Bible and tap on “List of In-Text Maps.” Here you will be able to tap on hyperlinked map names in order to quickly navigate to the map in-context of the passage.

THREE: Know the place you’re trying to find? Navigate to the Map Index. Places are arranged alphabetically. Just tap to see a map!

FOUR: Select “Nelson’s Full Color Maps” at the bottom of the list of contents. Here you will find maps which are typically discovered in the back of a Bible. Tap and zoom to enlarge the map!


While you’re reading the Bible, the NKJV Study Bible in Full Color will occasionally provide you with a word study using Strong’s numbers. This is a very helpful tool for making sure you are interpreting a passage correctly.

To see a list of all the word studies, tap on “List of Word Studies” in the table of contents. Here’s what we found on “mighty men” in 2 Samuel!


Each book of the Bible comes with an introduction. It provides you with important background information, timelines, description of the author and how the book was composed, and any other historical information you may need.


Last, but not least, there are over 15,000 notes in this study Bible. You’re going to learn so much while reading the Bible with this resource. And if you have a question on a topic, check out the List of Bible Times and Culture Notes. You might be able to find some answers without digging through the entire Bible first.


In case you haven’t used the Olive Tree Bible App very much, we’ll give you a brief description of how the Study Center works in the app.

When you purchase the NKJV Study Bible in Full Color, you are actually receiving TWO resources: the NKJV Bible and the notes. You can have any translation of the Bible open in the main window while using the notes in the Study Center,

Best of all, the Resource Guide always knows when you have a resource that discusses the passage you are reading. So, when you’re studying the Bible, just tap on study Bible in the split-window, and it will follow along with you.


Whether you just started studying the Bible, or have been an avid reader for decades, you will always be in need of direction and guidance. There’s so much to learn about the Bible, and we have to be careful to turn to the right resources for information on our faith! Looking to the wrong places (or not looking for outside help at all) can have detrimental consequences.

So, if you’re in need of a good study Bible, we recommend the NKJV Study Bible in Full Color. To learn more about this resource, see a view of how it works in our app, and even make a purchase, visit our website.

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Sealing the Tomb of Jesus

Posted by on 02/07/2018 in:

Ever wondered about Jesus’ tomb? Let archaeology experts teach you! This blog post is an excerpt from the Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology.



According to Jewish practice the body of the deceased was initially laid to rest in the inner chamber of a tomb. First-century tombs characteristically had a small forecourt that led to the interior features of the tomb, including an inner chamber with benches situated along the walls, often with arcosolia, arched recesses in the wall, a lower elevation pit (for standing inside the tomb), and tunnel-like niches called loculi (Latin) or kokhim (Hebrew).

No two tombs are exactly alike, and though they share these common features, as Jerusalem archaeologist Shimon Gibson has noted, “individualism was pronounced.” This means we have not found, and should not expect to find, a first-century tomb precisely matching the tomb of Jesus as described in the Gospel accounts.


The body of the deceased was laid out on a stone bench and a heavy stone was set into the small entrance door and sealed to thwart the unwanted entrance of animals and grave robbers. Matthew reports that a “big” (Greek megan) stone was rolled against (Greek proskulisas) the door of Jesus’ tomb. Later, Matthew recounts how an angel “rolled back” (Greek apekulisen) this sealing stone from the door (Matt 28:2; cf. Mark 16:3–4; Luke 24:2).

However, the image of a rolling-stone tomb as the tomb of Jesus, while the common conception, has been questioned on the basis of archaeological study of Jerusalem necropoli. In the vicinity of Jerusalem there are 1,000 or more rock-cut tombs. Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner, who has examined more than 900 such tombs, found only four tombs dating from the late Second Temple period (the time of Jesus) that were closed by a rolling stone:

  1. the tomb of the Queen Helena of Adiabene
  2. the family tomb of King Herod of Jerusalem
  3. one nearby Herod’s Family Tomb
  4. another located in the upper Kidron Valley

These had a carved out slotted groove to one side of the entrance of the tomb made to receive a disk-shaped stone. The family could roll the stone forward in the track to cover the entryway of the tomb or roll it back to open it, allowing for new burials. These rolling stones weighed tons and could not have been moved by a single person.


Gibson supposes that the stone covering Jesus’ tomb must not have been so heavy, since he observes both Matthew (27:60) and Mark (15:46) state that Joseph of Arimethea rolled the stone by himself. However, it should not be assumed that these statements mean that Joseph acted alone in the rolling of the stone any more than in transporting Jesus’ body to the tomb and wrapping it in a linen shroud (all of which the text says he did). The natural understanding of this is that Joseph took responsibility for and oversaw these tasks; he did not do them personally but had them done.

The women on the third day after the burial who came to anoint Jesus’ body said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:3). These three women, even working together, understood that they were unable to move the stone.

Gibson also overlooks the clear statement in the next verse (Mark 16:4) that “the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away” (Greek megas sphodra). Even a passage in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter states that Pilate sent Petronius the Centurion with soldiers and they rolled there a great stone and laid it against the entrance to the sepulcher (8:31–33).



The rolling-stone tombs, being very rare, were obviously reserved for royal families or the very wealthy and, therefore, not the type utilized by average Jewish families. Amos Kloner calculates that approximately 98 percent of stones used to close the entrances to tombs in Jesus’ day were square block stones. These were simple slabs shaped something like a bolt with one end designed to provide a close fit for the small opening forming the doorway of the tomb. The larger remainder of the stone had a flange so it would rest against the outside surface of the tomb. These stone “plugs” had the special name golal in Hebrew. Often a filling of pebbles or mortar would be added around these to prevent the entrance of small vermin and insects.

Therefore, since these are the more common form of sealing tombs and the disk-shaped blocking stones are rare, it would have been exceptional for Jesus’ tomb to be so sealed. This led archaeologist Amos Kloner, according to Megan Souter, to argue that the Gospel references to “rolling away” a stone from the entrance to a tomb was a misunderstanding of the normal method of sealing a tomb since square stones do not “roll.” This may be true of the average person in Judea and Jerusalem, but Joseph of Arimathea appears to be a wealthy and influential person in the New Testament.


However, Urban C. von Wahlde, in seeking to answer this question, analyzed the use of the Greek verb kuliō (“to roll”) in the Synpotic Gospels and concluded that the compounds of kuliō all have the idea of movement “toward” or “away from.” Therefore, in his opinion, the grammar does not fit the idea of moving a square-shaped stone, which would have properly been described as “moved” or “dislodged,” although Gibson contends the golal could also be “rolled” after a fashion.

However, von Wahlde also notes that while the Synoptic Gospels describe the sealing of the tomb in this manner, the Gospel of John uses a different Greek verb from the root hairo, with the meaning that the stone had been “removed” or “taken up” (Greek ērmenon) from the tomb (John 20:1). He argues that this description reflects “the Jewish burial practice much more accurately than any of the other gospels. He [John] has given us a detail none of the other gospels have.” He further argues that because Jesus’ tomb was a borrowed tomb for an ordinary Jewish family, the evidence is in favor of closure by a square stone.

He therefore concludes:

“It is not that these accounts are necessarily wrong. But they do give the wrong impression. It may very well be that people rolled the ‘cork-shaped’ stones away from the tomb. Once you see the size of a ‘stopper’ stone, it is easy to see that, however one gets the stone out of the doorway, chances are you are going to roll it the rest of the way.”


Must we conclude that the information in the Gospels gives the “wrong impression?” The grammar of “rolling” (Greek kuliō + pros “up to” or apo “away from”) is unambiguous in the Synoptics, and it is an assumption that Joseph of Arimathea was an ordinary man with an ordinary family tomb. The Gospels portray him as a “rich man” (Matt 27:57), a “prominent member” of the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), and a man with significant status to be granted a private audience with Pontius Pilate and then given special permission to bury the body of a condemned criminal (not a relation) whose high-profile case had been controversial (John 19:38). This may imply a privileged position, which is reflected in the statement in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter (2:3) that Pilate was Joseph’s “friend.” This description of an elite in Jerusalem society argues for someone whose family tomb could have fit the category of a rolling-stone tomb.

In addition, the terminology for the tomb as “cut out of the rock” (Matt 27:60; Luke 22:53) is found in the Septuagint of Isaiah 22:16 with reference to a royal tomb. For the poorer lower class a cave was utilized for burial because a rock-cut tomb was too expensive. Joseph of Arimethea was able to afford the most expensive of tombs, the kind used by the upper class and nobility. Christian scholars through the centuries have seen this as a fulfillment of the prediction in Isaiah 53:9 of the Messiah’s death:

“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich, in his death,”

noting also that as Jesus was a descendant of King David, he was royalty and therefore entitled to an appropriate burial. As to the exceptional grammar of John, commentators have long noticed this particular wording as indeed a detail added by John to the account but have drawn a different conclusion as to the purpose.


A. Front Tomb Wall
B. Rolling Stone

C. Stopping Stone
D. Slanted Track for Rolling Stone
E. Entrance
F. Niche
G. Bench
H. Pit
I. Ossuary
J. Body Placed on Bench for Burial Preparation


One could argue that while the stone had been rolled over the opening, the manner in which it had been rolled away was what was exceptional. The use of the perfect middle/passive participle (“had been moved away”) could suggest that the stone had been “thrown” some distance from the tomb, indicating a divine agency. In all accounts angels are mentioned as having entered the tomb, and therefore, must have been responsible for the removal of the stone. Matthew makes this very point:

“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it” (Matt 28:2).

Therefore, in this case, the stone may have been a rolling stone, but it was not technically “rolled away” as was the usual practice, but forcibly moved aside. This, then, was the detail of supernatural intervention witnessed by the women as one evidence of the resurrection that John wished to convey.

While archaeology can provide examples of specific rolling-stone tombs from the period and argue for the more common closure of tombs with square stones, the deciding factor in the case of Jesus’ tomb must be the interpretation of the biblical text. The kind of tomb and sealing stone implied in the text fit the archaeological data described above.


The Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology is filled with information present just as you experienced above. You can gain knowledge on the culture and history of Biblical times, inserting yourself even more into the stories of the Bible. Visit our website to learn more.

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Look Inside: Life Application Bible Commentary

Posted by on 02/06/2018 in:

While there are lots of commentary sets that have been published over the years, there are very few that everyone should own. Tyndale’s Life Application Bible Commentary is one of those few. It presents a unique blend of verse-by-verse commentary alongside riveting sermon & lesson applications and quotes from greats in Church history. It’s one of those rare commentaries that hits the sweet spot of explaining the Scripture without getting too deep, while not forgetting to apply it to the here & now. This great New Testament commentary set is available for the app, and we want to show you what you get when you add it to your library.

What You Get

The Life Application Bible Commentary provides verse-by-verse explanation, background, and application for every verse in the New Testament. In addition, it gives personal help, teaching notes, and sermon ideas for applying God’s Word. Each volume contains introduction and commentary.

The beautiful thing about using the Life Application Bible Commentary in the app is using with Resource Guide. Instead of hunting for the right place in the commentary, it’ll always be in the right spot when you need it.


The introduction includes an overview of the book, the book’s historical context, a timeline, cultural background information, major themes, an overview map, and an explanation about the author and audience. The information you’ll find in this section make it a one stop resource for getting the background on any New Testament book of the Bible. You’ll only need to turn elsewhere if you want to go significantly deeper in your studies.

With Resource Guide all you just need to go to the “Introductions” section and find the commentary and all the introductory material is right there for you to read.


The commentary section includes running commentary on the Bible text with reference to several modern translations, accompanied by life applications interspersed throughout. Inline with the commentary text, you will find charts, diagrams, maps, and illustrations. The commentary goes verse-by-verse through each book of the Bible, making it easy to follow. It also includes the text of each passage, along with a citation of the translation it comes from.

There are also insightful quotes from church leaders and theologians such as John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley, A. W. Tozer, and C. S. Lewis. These features combine to help you quickly make sense of the biblical information and communicate it to others.

Maps & Charts

Interspersed throughout the introduction and commentary are several charts and maps that further help you make sense of the biblical landscape. The maps make it easy to see where different biblical events occurred, whereas the charts help you visualize some of the data presented in the commentary in an easy to understand format.

The Commentary for Everyone

The Life Application Bible Commentary is truly the Bible commentary for everyone. It’s a great resource for the layman looking to make sense of the Bible and how to apply it to their life. For the pastor it’ll help you gain fresh insight into the passage while giving you ample application for your congregation. It achieves the fine balance of being readable & practical while not compromising on depth of content. Add the Life Application Bible Commentary to your library today.

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Waging War on Legalism

Posted by on 02/05/2018 in:


you had a neighbor who had been paralyzed from the neck down by an accident more than thirty years ago.

One Sunday morning, just after six o’clock, the sound of a lawnmower jolts you from a deep, satisfying sleep. Annoyed, you bolt to the front door to see who would be so insensitive as to rattle every window on the block with that infernal noise so early on a day of rest.

Upon seeing your formerly paralyzed friend gleefully mowing his lawn in perfect health, what do you think you would say?

If you’re a normal person, you’d say, “Hank! What happened? How are you not paralyzed?!”

But if you’re a Pharisee, you’d scream, “Hank! It’s Sunday morning! Turn that thing off!””

Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary

photo from resource, originally taken from holylandphotos.org


John 5:1-18 tells the story of Jesus healing a sick man at the pool of Bethesda. When the man stands and picks up his mat after 38 years of illness, the religious leaders do not rejoice with him. The Pharisees rebuke him.

Why? Because it was the Sabbath.

This is a classic representation of legalism, which Chuck Swindoll calls a “subtle, silent killer” in his New Testament Commentary. Before diving into the text, Swindoll takes time to describe legalism, how it appears, and why it is wrong. Here are his thoughts:


Legalism is the establishment of standards carefully selected by people for the purpose of celebrating human achievement under the guise of pleasing God. Legalism is righteousness as defined by humans, who frequently cite God as the source of the standard. In reality, the standards come from culture, tradition, and most frequently the personal preferences of those who maintain positions of power or influence.

Legalism is based on lists (legalists love their lists!). If you do keep every item on the list of dos and don’ts, you’re deemed spiritually acceptable. But if you don’t follow the prescribed standard, you are judged unworthy of God’s favor and others’ approval. Naturally, legalists always think they know how God judges and they are more than willing to act on His behalf.


Legalism almost always adorns itself in the regal robes of religious garb, and it brandishes the credentials of religious organizations.

This is not to condemn Christian organizations or the clothes they wear—I am merely pointing out that legalists are drawn to them and have successfully infiltrated churches, missions, parachurch organizations, charities, and schools. When they do, they use religious trappings to convince others that their own agendas have God’s approval.

Eventually, followers begin to fear the disapproval of the leaders, who become more and more visible and controlling as the Lord fades into obscurity.


Legalism denies God’s grace and presumes to earn His favor through deeds. It is a man-made righteousness that exalts humanity rather than the Lord. Legalism produces either pride or depression in the people under its spell—pride for those who keep the list to their own satisfaction, depression for those who recognize their utter inability to keep the list perfectly. Criticism is the primary motivation.

The goal of legalism is to give as much criticism as possible and to avoid receiving it at all costs.

Legalism is wrong because it produces in people what the Lord desires least: pride, self-loathing, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness.

Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary 


After describing legalism, Swindoll goes verse-by-verse through the passage. It’s jam-packed with great information (and even pictures!) to help you understand Scripture in context. Here are 10 facts that we really enjoyed:

1) When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, He apparently visited the sanitarium that lay in the shadow of the great temple built by Herod. The temple authorities, especially the Pharisees among them, would never have entered the place and probably rebuked any Jew who did. (5:1-2)

2) The name Bethesda is a kind of play on words, meaning “house of grace” or “house of outpouring [water].” A curious blend of Hebrew religion and Greek superstition held that an angel of God periodically stirred the waters and promised healing to the first invalid able to pull himself into the pool. (5:3-4)

3) As Jesus visited weary patients who were vainly trying to heal themselves, He found a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years, which was longer than the average life expectancy for a male in the first-century Roman Empire. He had been sick for literally a lifetime. (5:5-6)

4) The Koiné Greek language often used word order for the sake of emphasis. In this case, the man stressed the word “man”—he did not have a man to help him. He clearly recognized his own helplessness; however, the object of his faith was confused. (5:7-8)

5) Just as the reader might begin to celebrate the man’s healing, John’s aside drops like a wet blanket. He says, in effect, “Oh, by the way, it was the Sabbath.” Anyone who knew anything about Pharisees understood the significance of that simple statement. (5:8-9)

6) The Pharisees strictly applied the words of Jeremiah, “do not carry any load on the sabbath day” (Jer. 17:21), but failed to recognize the context. Jeremiah complained because the seventh day in Jerusalem was business as usual, like any other day. Later, Nehemiah would take the same stand by ordering the doors of Jerusalem to be closed on the last day of the week, “so that no load would enter on the sabbath day” (Neh. 13:19). (5:10)

7) Jewish theology of the day correctly taught that sin deserves punishment; however, the rabbis incorrectly attributed physical illness to God’s wrath. The true and ultimate punishment for sin is eternal torment after death. (5:11-14)

8) The Greek word rendered “went away” is better translated “went after” and usually indicates purpose. It’s a common expression in the Synoptic Gospels for discipleship. One “goes after” a mentor in order to learn from him. The man turned away from following Jesus and affirmed his allegiance to the Jewish leaders. (5:15)

9) This particular healing begged the question, “Who owns the Sabbath?” The religious authorities claimed ownership of the Sabbath by objecting to Jesus “doing these things.” (5:16)

10) Having refuted the faulty theology of the religious leaders, Jesus equated His act of grace with God’s continuing “work.” This was an outright claim to ownership of the Sabbath. (5:17-18)


Here are Chuck Swindoll’s three application points:

“FIRST, we must expose legalism. The truth of the gospel—the good news of God’s grace received through faith—must refute the claims of tradition, custom, or any other standard of righteousness not explicitly taught in Scripture. And where Scripture is clear, it must be applied to call people to celebrate the Spirit of God living within them through joyful obedience.”

“SECOND, we must combat legalism. Legalism is an enemy that cannot be met with violence; however, like in any war, we must fight with courage and conviction, recognizing that combat requires toughness. Without setting aside kindness, we must be willing to confront the legalist with his or her lies.”

“THIRD, we must overcome legalism. We do that by proclaiming grace louder, more often, in more places, and to more people than the false prophets of legalism. People only choose bondage when they fear that freedom is unreachable, impossible, unaffordable, or unreal. Once people experience grace and learn that it can be theirs, legalism doesn’t stand a chance.”


Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary (7 Vols.) is a fantastic resource that not only delves deep into word studies, ancient history, and cultural study… but it also applies Scripture directly to your life. Visit our website to learn more.

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