Must Have Bible Background Resources?

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Posts 316
Michael S. | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, May 16 2018 6:35 AM

Im interested to know from the community, what Bible Background resources do you consider are "must haves"?

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 8:05 AM

It depends a little bit what you mean by "Bible Background". For primary sources:

  • For the NT:
    • LXX
    • Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition
    • Josephus
  • For the OT:
    • Context of Scripture
    • ANET

For secondary sources, I consider the following to be essential reference books:

Then a list that's not comprehensive or systematic at all — just what I've read and enjoyed in Logos.

Also somewhat helpful were:

Posts 560
Ted Weis | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 8:44 AM

Mark Barnes:
Zondervan Bible Background Commentary (OT — NT has disappeared from the store)

Why has the New Testament edition disappeared? That is very discouraging.

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Mattillo | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 9:10 AM

I love Bible Background stuff!  The three that come to mind in order of preference are:

1) Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentaries

2) IVP Background Commentary (OT and NT)

3) Craig Evan's Bible Knowledge Background Commentary (NT Only)

As for the other question I saw in this forum, the NT volumes are still available individually but not as a set EXCEPT the John/Acts volume.  John got picked off for plagerism and from what I remember they will be re-releasing that volume with Acts only and get someone new to re-do John

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Mattillo | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 9:14 AM

I almost forgot... you can grab the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Notes and from what I've heard they are very similar to the IVP volumes mentioned earlier, so it is like getting both at a discount.

I have not tested this myself though

Posts 46
Josiah | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 9:33 AM

Ted Weis:

Mark Barnes:
Zondervan Bible Background Commentary (OT — NT has disappeared from the store)

Why has the New Testament edition disappeared? That is very discouraging.

It is also unlinked (just black text instead of blue hyperlink) in my order history now.  Like the previously retired Logos Now.  Maybe there is a new edition coming?

Posts 46
Josiah | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 9:59 AM

I can't figure out how to get hyperlinks out of Logs.  But I exported this bibliography with a few of my recommendations:

Evans, C. A. (2011). Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.


Green, J. B., & McDonald, L. M. (Eds.). (2013). The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.


Matthews, V. H., & Benjamin, D. C. (1993). Social World of Ancient Israel, 1250–587 BCE. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.


Ronning, J. (2011). The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.


Sandgren, L. D. (2010). Vines Intertwined: A History of Jews and Christians from the Babylonian Exile to the Advent of Islam. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.


Scott, J. J., Jr. (2000). Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.


Sparks, K. L. (2005). Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.


Wright, P. H. (2012). Rose Then and Now Bible Map Atlas with Biblical Background and Culture. Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing.


Young, B. H. (2007). Meet the Rabbis: Rabbinic Thought and the Teachings of Jesus. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Posts 557
Pam Larson | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 10:18 AM

Here are a few more:

https://www.logos.com/product/39639/ancient-texts-for-new-testament-studies-a-guide-to-the-background-literature 

https://www.logos.com/product/7301/holman-bible-atlas-a-complete-guide-to-the-expansive-geography-of-biblical-history 

https://www.logos.com/product/31905/rose-then-and-now-bible-map-atlas-with-biblical-background-and-culture 

https://www.logos.com/product/138314/lexham-geographic-commentary-the-gospels 

Plus one of my favorites that I can't find in Logos' store anymore:

Du Toit, A. B., J. L. de Villiers, I. J. du Plessis, J. A. du Rand, B. C. Lategan, G. M. M. Pelser, J. Cilliers Breytenbach, and P. G. R. De Villiers. The New Testament Milieu. Vol. 2. Guide to the New Testament. Halfway House: Orion Publishers, 1998.

Posts 316
Michael S. | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 10:22 AM

I have pre-ordered the Lexham Geographic Commentary Acts- Revelation.  I already have the one for the Gospels.  Would anyone recommend this, or should I put that money towards one of the other recommended sources?

Posts 316
Michael S. | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 10:29 AM

Mark Barnes:

It depends a little bit what you mean by "Bible Background". For primary sources:

  • For the NT:
    • LXX
    • Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition
    • Josephus
  • For the OT:
    • Context of Scripture
    • ANET

For secondary sources, I consider the following to be essential reference books:

So you would say these are NEED to have?

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NB.Mick | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 1:02 PM

Ted Weis:

Mark Barnes:
Zondervan Bible Background Commentary (OT — NT has disappeared from the store)

Why has the New Testament edition disappeared? That is very discouraging.

Only Vol 2 of the 4 NT volumes is no longer available (see https://www.logos.com/products/search?q=zibbc ) - the commentary on John by Andreas Koestenberger was withdrawn by the publisher for the same reasons BECNT John is no longer available.  

Running Logos 7 latest (beta) version on Win 10

Posts 4604
doc | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 2:15 PM

Must have, need to have in this scenario really depend upon your context.  Mike Heiser has a bibliography of resources he recommends for studying the context of the scriptures here: http://www.nakedbiblepodcast.com/bibliography/.

Starting at podcasts 17 he discusses these resources and why he recommends them in a series of podcasts.

http://www.nakedbiblepodcast.com/naked-bible-017-taking-the-bibles-own-context-seriously/

Posts 9233
Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 16 2018 3:25 PM

I think 'must have' depends on if you're 'in the choir' (interesting, and not too agressive) or this side of skeptical (maybe angry at a skeptic).

For example, the Logos book 'Did Moses Speak Attic' spends a considerable amount of time discussing the plus's and minus's of 'background'.  Or, exactly why 'background'?

One illustrative factoid concerned YHWH and Ashur ... both were almost alike, though mucho miles distant until the major OT writing period.


Posts 67
David Staveley | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 17 2018 1:37 AM

Michael S.:

Mark Barnes:

It depends a little bit what you mean by "Bible Background". For primary sources:

  • For the NT:
    • LXX
    • Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition
    • Josephus
  • For the OT:
    • Context of Scripture
    • ANET

For secondary sources, I consider the following to be essential reference books:

So you would say these are NEED to have?

As others have pointed out, your question is way too broad for us to answer definitively. By "bible background" you are covering both testaments. And then there is the question of the differences between the Ancient Israelite religion - that is the religion of Israel before the Babylonian captivity - and the Jewish religion after the return from captivity, from 500 BCE on and into the 1st century CE. That's two big fields of study right there. As fascinating as they both are in their own right, only the latter - the Jewish religion from 500 BCE onwards - is really relevant for the New Testament background. 

If I've got it right, and your primary focus of attention is a background to the New Testament, then Mark has listed some excellent reference works. However, you don't really need the primary sources if you are simply wanting to get an idea of what was going on just before the early Jesus movement started. Most reference works about the Jewish religion of that period will quote those primary sources anyway, and also explain what they were saying. And most importantly, why they were saying it. So, if you have a limited budget, then of the works Mark listed, I would highlight just 2:

Early Judaism: A Comprehensive Overview by John Collins and Daniel Harlow

An Introduction to Early Judaism by James VanderKam

And if you have a very limited budget, I would recommend Collins over VanderKam, simply because Collins is the world's leading expert on Apocalyptic Judaism, and that's really the religious milieu that spawned Jesus and the New Testament writers. You can't beat Collins for his understanding of that. 

I would then add to Mark's list with a title which is required reading for any of my students of Second Temple Judaism:

Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE–66 CE by E. P. Sanders

This is available on Logos only in a collection of Sanders' works here:

The Fortress E.P. Sanders Collection (7 vols.)

It's a weighty tome, all 1600 pages of it. But for it's depth and breadth of understanding of the issues, you cannot surpass Sanders. If you have the money, buy it! It truly is a "must have". 

Dr David Staveley Professor of New Testament. Specializing in the Pauline Epistles, Apocalyptic Judaism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 17 2018 3:45 AM

Michael S.:
So you would say these are NEED to have?

David's answered that question well. We still don't have enough information about what you want to study (and your existing knowledge) to be able to answer that question properly.

But on the assumption that you're beginning a Bible background adventure, then I agree with David about the two introductory books I recommended. Personally, I'm not a big fan of Sanders. He's been criticised for flattening out the picture of first-century Judaism by emphasising the things that Jews held in common, whilst sometimes ignoring their differences. That said, Sanders is the heavyweight on Second Temple Judaism. Academically, you can't ignore him, even if you don't always agree with him. I'd probably go with Early Judaism: A Comprehensive Overview instead. As a collection of essays from different writers, it gives a much more rounded picture and has a helpful introduction of “Early Judaism in Modern Scholarship”, which I think you need to know before you read Sanders. (This book is extracted from the Eerdmans dictionary I referred to earlier. If you buy the dictionary, you can use the TOC of this book to point you to the best essays in the dictionary.)

Of course, none of that covers the OT. OT background is even more complex than NT background, as it covers a much broader period with a far wider array of influences. I'm not familiar with introductions to OT background.

PS — I should have added Jerusalem: Portrait of the City in the Second Temple Period to my earlier list. I'd forgotten that was available in Logos. It's academically rigorous, but gives a better flavour of daily life than most academic text books.

Posts 316
Michael S. | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 17 2018 6:59 AM

All very helpful suggestions- exactly what I was wanting to hear.

This all came about, Mark Barnes, when I was looking at your update to the Collection Rules post.  I noticed you had one for Backgrounds and realized I have not looked at my resources for that.  Therefore I was wanting to see what gets the most recommendations, in case I did not have it.

I guess I was really seeking a library evaluation- which would be a great thing to have available... have some experienced and various levels of expertise evaluate one's library to see where the strengths and weaknesses are.

Posts 46
Josiah | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 17 2018 8:21 AM

Michael S.:
I guess I was really seeking a library evaluation- which would be a great thing to have available... have some experienced and various levels of expertise evaluate one's library to see where the strengths and weaknesses are.

I bet Sales would love to do that for you if you called and asked them.  Not sure if that's what you mean, maybe you view recommendations from "Employees" with more cynicism.  But I do think that's one role they try to fulfill (to perhaps varying degrees of success).

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