New Testament Commentary
The twenty-seven books of the New Testament cover the historical events that occurred prior to Jesus' birth until the apostle John experienced the vision recorded in Revelation in 96 A.D. A New Testament commentary is a book or set of books that provides pertinent information on these Scriptures. Depending on the comprehensiveness and purpose of the commentary, this may range from a brief overview of each particular book to a verse-by-verse explanation of the text based on the oldest available manuscripts.
A basic understanding of the books of the New Testament is needed before delving into one of the numerous commentaries that are available on the market, both as hard copy and on the internet. Most scholars divide the New Testament into four or five sections. The four Gospels, a word that simply means "good news," are the eyewitness accounts of Jesus' ministry and miracles, and His death, resurrection, and ascension. Matthew, the taxpayer, and John, a fisherman, were both apostles who traveled with Jesus during the three-year ministry. This John is not John the Baptist, who was beheaded by King Herod, but the brother of James and the son of Zebedee. Though Mark was not an apostle, many scholars believe he was in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. He later traveled with his cousin Barnabas on mission journeys. The fourth Gospel writer, the physician Luke, also wrote the only book in the History section, the Acts of the Apostles. It tells how the church spread from Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
The third section is the Epistles. Some scholars separate this into two sections: the Pauline Epistles, or the letters written by the apostle Paul, and the Epistles written by others. The latter includes the two letters written by the apostle Peter, the three letters written by the apostle John, and the two letters written by Jesus' half-brothers, James and Jude. The authorship of Hebrews is not known, though many believe the writer to be Paul, Luke, or Barnabas. The final section, Prophecy, is the book of Revelation which, as mentioned above, was written by the apostle John.
Even a concise New Testament commentary should provide information on the authorship and historical setting for each work, as well as the date of its events, the date it was written, its major themes, and what applications Christians can make to their own lives based on the writings. The more comprehensive the commentary the more historical background and theological and devotional insight inside its pages. Some commentaries, written for preachers and serious students, examine each verse as it was written in the original Greek language, known as koine (or common) Greek. The meanings and the nuances of the Greek words are explored and explained. This type of scholarship, which may take up several volumes, can be difficult for the layperson to understand. Those who want to learn more about the books of the New Testament for their own personal growth or as part of a small group can find numerous well-written studies. These will not be as in-depth, but will focus instead on the major themes and events of the individual books.
Some commentaries focus on particular sections. Gospel commentaries, for example, may be presented as a harmony. This means that the gospel accounts are presented in a chronological order. Passages from the different gospels that describe the same events are compared and contrasted to each other. Scholars label the gospels written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke as the Synoptic Gospels because of their many similarities. John's gospel is unique in that it starts, not with the birth of the Christ, but with His pre-existence. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2). In addition, John only tells about seven of Jesus' miracles. These seem to have been specifically chosen by the young apostle as proofs that Jesus is the Son of God.
A commentary on Acts focuses on the growth of the early church. Peter delivers his famous sermon on the Day of Pentecost which marks the beginning of the church. Later, he visits the Roman centurion Cornelius who became the first Gentile (non-Jewish) convert to Christianity. Luke introduces the zealous scholar Saul of Tarsus who stood by while Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death. After a blinding conversion experience when traveling to Damascus to persecute other Christians, Saul devoted himself to taking the gospel message throughout the region. He changed his name to Paul and eventually was imprisoned in Rome because of the teachings he proclaimed. A few of Paul's epistles were written while he was in prison.
Twenty-one books of the New Testament are epistles, or letters, written to newly-established churches and to individuals. The correspondence to the churches presents spiritual and theological teachings and also addresses specific issues and concerns. Paul's letter to Philemon encourages him to accept his runaway slave as a brother in Christ. He writes to Timothy and Titus to encourage them in their spiritual growth and their ministries. The most controversial New Testament commentary no doubt tackles the prophecies found in Revelation. Scholars differ widely on their interpretations of John's vision. Though challenging, studying Revelation can also be spiritually rewarding.
The oldest commentaries are now in public domain which means that any copyright protection has expired. These can be found on various internet websites. One of these is the Geneva Study Bible written in 1599-1560. Used by the Pilgrims, this work was popular because of the marginal notes added by notable Reformation scholars such as Calvin and Knox. Another classic that remains popular is Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible that dates from the early 1700s. Whatever books of the New Testament people want to study, a New Testament commentary is available that will aid in their knowledge and understanding.
Bible AtlasA Bible atlas is indispensable for anyone who wishes to learn more about the geographical settings of Biblical times. Bible maps and other geographical resources should be part of anyone's library in order to have access to the best information about the history of the Old and New Testament regarding geography and archeology. A good map of the areas explored throughout the Word of God can maximize a persons learning experience, as well as the experience of those they may teach about the Bible and its people during the time before and after the birth of Christ. Study tools such as maps or atlases can make the reality of these time periods more vivid to adult and children alike.
A selection of Biblical resources can be purchased through many online distributors of Christian resource materials offering an interactive learning experience. With the progress of multimedia methods, a Bible atlas can be more than just some paper maps and historical information. The presentation of Biblical maps has gone high tech with productions of software, videos, CDs, PowerPoint productions and more. In ever more vivid terms, the geography of the Middle East can be brought to life through these interactive and exciting methods of learning.
Whether someone is a Sunday school teacher, parent, school teacher or student, these interactive tools can be an effective investment in one's own spiritual growth or an investment in those who are taught. By using Bible maps and other resources, the Christian can engage students or children to see the reality of Biblical times more fully. Tools such as maps, atlases, commentaries and study guides are important sources to glean when developing an understanding of the Bible and its history. This is the most popular book in the world as proven by the continued book sales throughout the country year after year. No matter how much controversy it has generated, it still remains as the leading book in the world.
Not only is the Word of God timeless, but it is also fathomless in wisdom, knowledge and perfect truth. In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ is said to be the Word, Who was made flesh and dwelled among us. Realizing the awesome breadth and depth of a book like the Bible has challenged many scholars to offer many learning tools to assist anyone who wishes to learn more about this powerful Book, the Bible. Tools such as a Bible atlas have long been generated from the early centuries to help others study this great work.
In some respects, a modern day atlas can only be compared to those of old only by the content. Revolutionizing methods of learning through communication technologies have brought to Bible maps and atlases an interactive element that was not available with the static, printed forms of yesteryear. Of course, the content remains the most important element of any resource, but the interactive presentation methods available today allow the present culture an opportunity to study the Word in a format that they are easily attuned to.
Computer technologies and communications technologies offer limitless possibilities for those who wish to study or teach God's Word. For instance, if someone is in need of an array of Bible maps for a study, they can access what they need via an Internet source or a software product. The individuals entire library including a Bible atlas can be at their fingertips through a computer. Using these same methods, a person can use PowerPoint presentations or video productions to enhance any Biblical subject they wish to teach. A case in point is the huge evangelistic effect that the Jesus Film has had on the world. This film production of the life of Jesus continues to impact the world in major ways.
It is always good, however, to keep sight on the goal when using technologies to present Biblical teaching. Technologies should be used to enhance and showcase the message rather than draw attention to itself by over stimulation of the audience. A balance of methods and technologies to present the message of Christ is important. With cultural trends embracing the current tech revolution, resources such as a Bible atlas that are available through interactive products are not only appealing, but very helpful. There are many sources that offer phenomenal products with maps, study programs, and other tools.
For the wise student of the Word of God, it is helpful to compare any study tools with older versions of similar content. Unfortunately, in some cases for the accommodation of cultural trends, some historically accurate facts have been minimized or deleted from some current study helps. A person must always use discretion when choosing Bible maps or any other study resources as to the theologically correct perspective as it stacks up to the Bible itself. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)