Jesus in Context – One of the Most Helpful Biblical Background Books Around

JesusInContext-BockI recently came across the most helpful resources on the historical backgrounds to the Gospels that I have ever seen. It is called Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study by Darrell Bock. This book works through the synoptics and John and pulls just about any relevant extra-biblical text in full quotation to help you see what other ancient writers said about a topic, a city, a custom, etc. Reading the geneaology of Jesus? Look and see how other ancient Jewish writers did genealogies. Studying Jesus’ turning water to wine at Cana? You go to that miracle in this book and it first gives you a bit of historical background on eschatology and wine followed by relevant quotations from 1 Enoch, 2 Baruch, Tobit, and the Talmud on wine and quotations from Josephus on Cana. Combine the content with Logos Bible software and you have an unbelievably powerful resource for your studies. This book concludes with multiple indices that include index by topic, by scripture, by extra-biblical reference and a huge list for further reading broken down by topic, If you are a student of the Gospels and want extra-biblical references all in one place this is the book for you. If you would use Logos and would like to have it at your disposal in a fully searchable, indexed format with clickable links with full references for you to use in your study or writing, you can get it here.


Two Great Deals: One from N.T. Wright and One from Logos Bible Software

Two great deals you don’t want to pass up…

N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope is on sale for Kindle for $1.99

Today is the last day to get Logos Free Book of the Month – The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol 5

Review of Logos “How to Read the Bible” Collection – Part 4

OutOfContextThe 4th and final review of Logos’ “How to Read the Bible” Collection is a review of “Out of Context: How to Avoid Misinterpreting the Bible” by Richard Schultz. This was the best book in the whole collection. There are a lot of books that cover similar content to this one but this one has two things going for it that the other’s don’t. Books like D.A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies are excellent but pretty academic. This book can be read and understood by everyone from a beginner to a scholar. That is hard to pull of.

The second thing that makes this book stand out is that Schultz has hundreds of examples of interpretation errors from familiar books and familiar authors. He touches on everyone people like Rick Warren, James Dobson, John Piper, Larry Crabb and many more. What is so great about this is that in no way does Schultz come across like an attack dog. He is very, very humble in his presentation and even concludes the book with a section on his own care for those who make these mistakes in interpretation. The book really makes you respect and admire Richard Schultz.  He does it so well and his examples are so good that I am considering buying this book for my Christian Basics class.

The first section of the book deals with some of the most popular works that relied on misinterpreting scripture. Any guesses as to what his main example is? The Prayer of Jabez! He thoroughly and respectfully dissects that book and shows which principles of biblical misinterpretation went into the writing of that once extremely popular book. Second, he deals with the underlying misconceptions of scripture that lead to the common misinterpretations.

Schultz doesn’t just discuss how to do it wrong. Along the way he finds moments  of opportunity to introduce correctives to the problems he is outlining. So when he discusses proof texting he also discusses the different types of context and how to identify and use context to assist our interpretation. Here is one example where he emphasizes the use of historical-critical interpretation scripture,

What is important to note here is that biblical interpretation can go wrong at various points. When interpreting textual details, we can adopt a questionable translation of key words or phrases. Furthermore, we can ignore both the historical and literary contexts of the passage, which largely determine how the passage should be understood and how it functions within Scripture. We can also pay too little attention to the formal, structural, and stylistic features of a text and how these shape the communication of divine truth. Further difficulties are involved in the process of application, as we bridge the gap between the world of the Bible and our contemporary world and recommend concrete steps toward affirming and living out the truths and lessons of the Scriptures. Here we can move too quickly in universalizing a specific action or instruction, assuming that what one ancient Israelite experienced can and should be experienced by all contemporary Christians. – Schultz, R. L. Out of Context: How to Avoid Misinterpreting the Bible p. 19

He deals with so much more…common problems with word studies, understanding genre, failure to read prophesy in its original context (aka finding Jesus everywhere), and errors in application.  If you haven’t ever read a book on common ways to misinterpret scripture you really should get this book. So many of the discussions I have seen online would be cleared up if more people understood the even half of the principles laid out in this book.

Free Ebook Resources By Verge Network & Logos

If you aren’t familiar with the Verge Network and/or don’t get their email updates about their free ebooks you might want to sign up. They provide some pretty good, free material that can be helpful to your ministry. I have downloaded a few of their books and have enjoyed them and appreciate their generosity in offering these up free of charge.

Verge Network’s Free ebook page

Free Verge eBooks:

Free Logos eBooks:

Logos Bible Software Launches 1500 Quotations for Preachers (with Slides)

LogosBibleSoftwareA few months ago I reviewed a Logos product called 300 Quotations for Preachers by Elliot Ritzema. In that review I gave some really good feedback about Elliot’s work. One of my biggest compliments was how thorough he was in pulling some of the best quotes from all over Christianity over the last 2000 years. Well, Elliot and Logos have just stepped it up from there with 1500 Quotations for Preachers.


Unbelievably thorough:
This new product splits the 1500 quotations up into five groups:
300 Quotations from the Early Church is from the years 100–600
300 Quotations from the Medieval Church is from the years 600–1500
300 Quotations from the Reformation is from the years 1500–1650
300 Quotations from the Modern Church is from 1650 forward

They also include an additional 300 quotes from the Puritans.

Highly functional:
What is more, like the original 300 quotations package, this one is full searchable, searchable by theme and comes with its own professional developed powerpoint slide for each quotation so you can plug it right into your presentation. Here is what it looks like:

Here is the layout of each quote:


If you click the writer’s name you get where the citation for the quote. If you click the picture, you get the slide they have produced for that quote. If you click it, it does this…

Logos2You can right-click the larger image, save it or copy it and put it right into powerpoint. It is very fast and the images look good. The big advantage here is having such a large collection of quotes in a database that you can search (even search by the scriptures they tag each quote with!) and nearly instantly put them into a presentation. That saves you from having to scour the internet trying to find the right quote and having to find an image to pair it with and format it all in powerpoint. Kudos to Elliot, Elizabeth Vince and Rebecca Brant for all that they put into this package. Also, each slide’s background image is tied to the era from which it came.

Unaware of any bias that influenced selection
In looking through the quotations I don’t really notice much selection bias. We all have our biases but I can’t really see any glaring through based on what was selected. It would be easy to cherrypick quotations that fit with our own conclusions and that is just about inevitable to some degree but if it is present in this software I haven’t noticed it yet. It is hard to keep to your biases when you include 1500 quotations from various people over 2000 years of history!

Three suggested changes
There are two things I think this are missing. It would be nice to have a brief bio on each person they quote. It would also be helpful to have a link that could be clicked to get you to the full context of the quotation. Stripped from its context, quotes can mean many different things. That doesn’t diminish the usefulness of this software. Logos has informed me that if the work it is quoted from is in your Logos library, that it will take you to the quote in context. Seems like they thought of just about everything. The last change I would make is to change the ordering of these in the Logos library software so they are in chronological, rather than alphabetical order.

If you are interested in purchasing it, you can find it here – 1500 Quotations for Preachers (With Slides)

I appreciate Logos for asking me to review this material. I did receive a copy of this for reviewing it but that doesn’t affect my ability to review it objectively. In other words, I would try to talk you into spending your money is it wasn’t quality enough to warrant it.

400 Prayers for Preachers & 300 Quotations for Preachers by Elliot Ritzema

Elliot Ritzema has just come out with two new series for the Logos Bible software: 400 Prayers for Preachers and 300 Quotations for Preachers. Elliot has done a fantastic job pulling valuable resources together into two resources that are attractive, highly functional, easy to use and extremely well organized. Do you have a scripture that you would like to grab a quotation that fits with it? You can search these quotes and prayers by scripture. You can also search by topic or just read through all the quotations or payers through the author list.


There are two main strengths of this program. First is the content. Elliot was really thorough in pulling from many different people and over a long period of time (See the list below). Second is that it is organized extremely well and that makes navigating it and finding what you need fast and effective. Here is where it gets really good, there is a sidebar index on the left side of logos that allows you to see the author list. You can click the drop down arrow by each name and get a quick synopsis of all the quotes for that author (see the screen shot). You can click on the author and start at the beginning of their section or you can click directly on any of the quotes under their name. He has even included a powerpoint slide for all 300 quotes that you can insert into your presentation (again, see the screen shot to the left). These are the things that make this superior to than just going to google and combing through a bunch of random quotes by and then having to take what you find and make a slide for it. Here is a list of people the quotes are taken from (the prayer program is equally impressive):

Anselm of Canterbury, Augustine of Hippo, James Arminius, Francis Bacon, Richard Baxter, Venerable Bede, Bernard of Clairvaux, William Blake, Napoleon Bonaparte, Horatius Bonar, E. M. Bounds, Thomas Brooks, Brother Lawrence, John Bunyan, Lord Byron, John Calvin, Thomas Carlyle, Stephen Charnock, G. K. Chesterton, John Chrysostom, Cyprian of Carthage, Cyril of Jerusalem, Charles Dickens, John Donne, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jonathan Edwards, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Epistle to Diognetus, Charles Finney, John Flavel, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Goodwin, William Gurnall, Matthew Henry, A. A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, Richard Hooker, David Hume, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, Jerome, Thomas à Kempis, Abraham Kuyper, William Law, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, Mara bar Serapion, Robert Murray McCheyne, John Stuart Mill, G. Campbell Morgan, George Müller, Edgar Young Mullins, John Henry Newman, John Newton, John Owen, Blaise Pascal, Edward Payson, Pliny the Younger, William M. Ramsay, Jean Jacques Rousseau, J. C. Ryle, Francis de Sales, William Shakespeare, Richard Sibbes, Charles Spurgeon, Suetonius, Teresa of Avila, R. A. Torrey, Trajan, B. B. Warfield, Thomas Watson, John Wesley, George Whitefield, William Wilberforce, & William Wordsworth

Last, this is reasonably priced:
400 Prayers for Preachers  – 24.95
300 Quotations for Preachers – 19.95

Thanks to Elliot and Logos for graciously allowing me access to these programs to use and review them. I will make good use of these in the future and hope others will consider it as well.