Do you think it's important to study Bible history and customs of the land? What books would you recommend?

When I used to teach hermeneutics and Bible study methods at Multnomah Bible College in Portland, OR, I always emphasized Bible history and culture a lot. I think it really deepens your reservoir from which to draw.

Some of my favorite resources:

The IVP Bible Background Commentary on NT, Craig Keener, is really outstanding. The classic is Edersheim’s Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah which is still good. K. A. Kitchen’s Ancient Orient and Old Testament is interesting. Wight’s Manners and Customs’ of Bible Lands is old, but good. I like the newer Compact Handbook of Old Testament Life, by John Bimson. And two great resources are both by J. I. Packer, Tenney and White, one called Daily Life in Bible Times and the other Public Life in Bible Times. They’re both part of the Nelson Handbook Series.

A lot of people depend on William Barclay’s NT commentaries for historical background. He has lots of interesting things, if you can ignore the fact that he’s notoriously liberal. Barclay does not use footnotes and in some cases he takes modern middle eastern custom and superimposes it on ancient culture. Sometimes the customs have continued, but many of them have changed.

Randy Alcorn, founder of EPM

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over fifty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries

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