Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: Apologia’s iWitness Series

Do you ever feel like God is hitting you over the head, trying to get your attention on a certain issue?  I’ve been feeling that lately about studying the Bible.  Not reading it, but studying the book itself—how it was written, how we can trust its authenticity, shy certain books were included and others not.  Right now our church is doing a 6 week study on these issues, I’m going over the same material with my son for his Royal Rangers merit, and I’ve got to reviews for products dealing with the Bible.  The first of those comes from Apologia Educational Ministries.  While Apologia is best known for their science curriculum, they’ve been branching out into apologetics and religious studies (we loved their Who Is God series).  For your consideration today are three books by Doug Powell:

Each book is roughly 65 pages, 6” x 9”,  and comes in a softback format. All the glossy pages are covered with old photographs, images of artifacts, and “hand-written” notes to resemble an archeologist’s journal.  As such, there is no table of contents or index to easily look up specific subjects. Each page or two-page spread does its topic in a large label in the corner so you can flip through the pages fairly quickly.  I will say here that I get the whole “journaling” concept, but sometimes the handwriting fonts were a little hard on the these middle-aged eyes—especially at the end of the day.

Most of my comments on our use of the project will be dealing with my son’s merit badge.  The recommend age level for these books is 11 and older and since he is just getting ready to turn 12, I have been reading the books with him and sometimes aloud to him.

New Testament iWitness

Last week in church the pastor asks if anyone knew what the term “canon” meant.   Although he never actually called on someone in the congregation to answer, I could thanks to this book.  It not only explained that “canon” comes from the Greek word for measuring stick, but what characteristics each book needed to measure up to in order to be considered part of the canon.  The first section of the book gives example after example of early church fathers’ lists of accepted books—all which were written before the Councils of Hippo and Carthage (the generally accepted sources of the New Testament list of books).

My son spent a great deal of time using the spread on the Apostolic Age for his timeline of the Bible (we have to include all the books of both Testaments).  He was also interested in how the Bible was copied in the days before the printing press and accurate those copies actually were.  The final section of the book deals with Text Types and Textual Criticism.

Old Testament iWitness

This book also deals Canon, manuscripts, and copying but not to the extent of the New Testament book.  Did you know that originally there were only 22 books, not 39?  It’s not that more books were added, but the original books were divided.  For example,  what was originally known as “The Five Scrolls” became Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations when the Septuagint translated the original Hebrew into Greek.

My Schnickelfritz found the dating he needed for the prophets who wrote most of the Old Testament as well as the Kings of both the Israel and the divided kingdoms for his timeline project.  There are also several pages devoted to the Apocrypha for those who use the Catholic Bible.

iWitness Biblical Archaeology


There is no mention of the Lost Ark or the Holy Grail.  Although there are a few pages devoted to the Flood and searching for Noah’s Ark, most of the book deals with much more mundane artifacts (inscriptions on tablets and cylinders) that mention names that can be found in the Bible like “The House of David” and Pontius Pilate. I was able to read about some significant archeological finds since my trip to Israel in 1998: they’ve now found Herod’s tomb and they’ve completely uncovered the Pool of Siloam (where Jesus healed the blind man).  There are several pages devoted to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the significance of their discovery.  The book ends with several densely written pages about the Shroud of Turin.


Several years ago there was a movie (and a popular book on which it was based) that asked readers to question the Bible—specifically who wrote it and who decided which books should be included and which should not.  I think any Christian reading these iWitness books would be better prepared to answer those questions than the average church-goer.  And since what goes around comes around, you might want to get your own copies of these books so you’ll be ready next time.  All the books are available for $14 per title.


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