Thursday, June 6, 2013

The World of Jesus by Dr.William H. Marty

I must preface this review by admitting that world history, or any history for that matter, is not my area of expertise.  While I normally avoid books that I think will be over my head, the subject of this one caught my attention.  So I opened it up hoping that it was written in a way I could understand.  For the most part, I was not disappointed.

Understanding the culture and history in biblical times is beneficial for understanding the Scriptures.  This book does a great job at taking the books of the Bible and blending them with what was happening historically.  A major focus is the 400 year span between the testaments.  The author consistently relates the historical events of the day to the impact it had on the Jewish community.

The first few chapters were amazing.  In the Introduction, Dr. Marty gave an overview of the Old Testament (Abraham to the Exile) in just 4 pages!  Then Chapter 1 begins with the return from the exile.  What was so neat is that in telling about the events, he pulled in the minor prophets and characters so that is was easy to see how everything fit together.  Normally these books in the Bible seem so disjointed to me because I can't see how they chronologically fit.  Now I have a better understanding of the place Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and others have in history.  I also got some questions answered such as, "Why did the Israelites begin to be called Jews?" and "What is Hanukkah?".

The middle chapters became a bit more confusing for me, mainly because they focused on those years not referenced in the Bible.  I could recognize some key terms and players that I had learned about in high school history classes, such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Herod the Great.  However, I think someone who had a better grasp on their Greek and Roman history would benefit much more from these chapters!  This book would be a great companion for someone studying this time period because it makes connections between the political events and the impact the events had on the Jews.

This brings me to the end of the book, which again was more to my level.  I enjoyed learning more about the religious parties that are referenced, yet not explained, in the Bible: the scribes, Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, and the Essenes.  I also liked the Conclusion which summarized those detailed chapters that I had trouble with earlier, from the exile to the birth of Christ.  (The glossary at the back is a nice touch too!)

While this is a history book, it is much easier to read than a textbook.  The only thing that would have been helpful to include for visual learners, but was left out, are maps (yep...I struggle with geography too!)  Overall, this is a good book for anyone who wants to understand the world Jesus was born into. 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

No comments: