I believe in giving our children a strong Biblical education. I believe in letting them see where Christians differ in perspectives and allowing them to see what the skeptics who argue against Christianity say. I don’t want my children to ever be blindsided by an incorrect argument and have their whole faith come crashing down because they don’t have a response to that argument. So, when I received the chance to review some new apologetics material from Apologia Educational Ministries, I jumped at the opportunity have these materials on hand for my own Biblical education and to share with my children.
I received the three newest books in Apologia’s iWitness series. These were: iWitness Biblical Archaeology, New Testament iWitness, and Old Testament iWitness. Apologia sells each book for $14. These are great books to use with children of many different ages, but for independent reading, the reading level on these books are going to be 11 and up. I read the Biblical Archaeology book to my older two children, who are nine and seven, but I have not shared the New Testament and Old Testament books with them yet. Instead, I’ve read them just for myself.
iWitness Biblical Archaeology is a quick run through archaeological studies and evidence surrounding events in the Bible all the way from Noah’s Flood through Jesus’s lifetime. The volume is a standard-sized paperback with this pages and full color interiors. There are many pictures and large boxes of text, so the pages are busy, but they flow easily and are very easy to read.
This is meant to be an overview of the field of Biblical archaeology because you could write a volume about each topic that is covered in the book. There’s just enough contained within the book to whet your appetite and to provide some basic information that you can use in support of the Bible. As we read together, my mind often spun through how I could take this book and make it a unit study spine on Biblical archaeology, and how wonderful it would be to read more and study different finds that especially interested us. There’s also a nice list of references at the back of the book to help with that as well.
I read iWitness Biblical Archaeology aloud to the children, and they expressed varied interest, depending on how familiar they were with the Biblical stories. We’re currently studying Daniel, so the things in the book about Babylon were the most interesting to them. I felt this was a good way to take Biblical history and bring it into the “real world.” Sometimes we’re guilty of reading the Bible so much, and the stories becoming so familiar, that we forget to look for their place out in the world, and I think that reading through this book has provided a corrective and a reminder that this is true history that we’re reading.
Because of the age of my children, we’ve meandered slowly through the Biblical Archaeology book and have just finished it. The next book in the series that we’re just beginning is Old Testament iWitness.
Old Testament iWitness is similar in layout to iWitness Biblical Archaeology. However, instead of looking for archaeological evidence to support the contents of the Old Testament, Doug Powell turns his lens to how the Old Testament was written and why we have it in the format we have it today. As he travels through these topics, the reader gets a glimpse at how Jewish people pass down the Torah scrolls, who the Jews traditionally believed wrote the books of the Old Testament, and how scholars have historically viewed the writing of the Old Testament. He also writes some fascinating pieces on how and why the apocrypha is included in the Catholic and Orthodox Old Testaments and not in the Protestant Old Testament.
I really loved this book, and as it happened, I took the children on a trip to a Jewish temple during the time that I was reading these books and found out that the Jewish people still copy and pass down their beloved scriptures in much the same manner today as the historic manner that Powell describes in this book. I also loved the explanation for why the books in the Jewish scriptures are arranged in a different order than the books in my Protestant Bible. This is all great stuff to introduce you and your children to the textual history of the Old Testament.
New Testament iWitness is the New Testament version of the history of the formation of our canon. It explains the criteria for how the books of the New Testament were chosen, the history of how different church fathers included different books into the New Testament canon and why certain books that were often quoted by the church fathers were excluded. Along the way, Powell also discusses the different copying methods for the New Testament, the textual differences and text families of different New Testament. He also considers hymns and creeds, the synoptic gospels and textual criticism.
This book is also fascinating and illuminating as it considers many of the different areas that are hot beds of scholarly debate in a way that always feels fair and balanced. Of the three volumes, I feel that my children are the least ready for this one because we haven’t studied very much church history yet, so I’m going to hold off on sharing this one with them for now.
I really enjoyed all three of these books. They are beautiful and highly informative. They speak to children and adults both who are looking to be educated on Biblical archaeology and the formation of the canon, and they speak to many of the areas that skeptics will raise as questions or arguments against the Bible being true. They get my highest approval, and I was so excited to read in the back of the books that there are two new volumes to the series to be released in 2015. They (and the already existing Resurrection and Jesus iWitness books) are now on my to-buy list!