Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apologia's iWitness books {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Sometimes a review product arrives at just the right time.

One afternoon, I opened a package of new books and sat down on the couch to read iWitness Biblical Archaeology (from Apologia Educational Ministeries). Every one else was already quietly reading so I couldn't share any cool facts from my reading right away. As our daily reading time drew to a close, I read a section about a burial shroud of Jesus once displayed by a church in Turin, Italy.

I started telling Addison and Brennan about the burial shroud and the mysteries surrounding it. They both piped up that they had been talking about it in their teen Bible study class at church the previous Sunday morning. What a fun coincidence to be able to share the information I had read so they could find out even more about the Turin shroud.

The iWitness Biblical Archaeology book was one of three new apologetics books I received from Apologia. The other two in the series are Old Testament iWitness and New Testament iWitness. All three books were written and designed by Doug Powell.

I enjoy reading apologetics materials myself and I especially like being able to teach my children why I believe what I believe. These three paperback books (each 64 pages long) are worthy additions to my apologetics library.

Old Testament iWitness looks at the Hebrew scriptures, the books that most Christians refer to as the Old Testament. It answers questions such as: Why aren't there more ancient copies of the Hebrew Bible? Who wrote the books of the Old Testament? What is the Septuagint (and why was it called that)? How is the Hebrew Bible arranged and which books are included? The preacher at our current church always refers to the Old Testament scriptures as the Hebrew Bible, and I have a better understanding of the Hebrew Bible after reading this iWitness book.

The New Testament iWitness book asks some of the same questions about the New Testament. It looks at which books are included in the New Testament and why those specific writings were included in our traditional canon. As I read through the evidence presented, I could see why specific books were or were not included in the New Testament as I know it. It is not a matter of a particular church council choosing certain books, instead the Councils of Hippo and Carthage gave formal recognition to the writings that were already considered to be the foundation for Christianity. Finally, this book looks at reasons why we can know that the books we read in our modern New Testaments are indeed the same now as when the apostles wrote them.

Finally, iWitness Biblical Archaeology addresses a variety of issues related to archaeological evidence that has been found to support Biblical writings. It talks about controversial topics such as flood accounts in other ancient cultures and why Noah's Ark hasn't ever been found. It shows how modern archaeological discoveries show the accuracy of events portrayed in the Bible. For instance, the Lachish Letters (found in 1935) date back to 597 BC.  They mention the name Yahweh and match the history recorded in Jeremiah, Daniel, and 2 Chronicles.

I loved all the tidbits of information I learned while reading these three books in the iWitness series. Originally, I had planned to give the books to Brennan (my eighth grader) to read. Unfortunately, I found the layout of the book to be a bit visually overwhelming and the different non-standard fonts to be a bit difficult for me to read. Since Brennan does not enjoy reading (and probably still struggles to read difficult passages), I decided that it would be better to use the information in the books as a basis for family discussions instead of assigned reading.

I've seen these books recommended for ages 11 and up (reading level). I took my own samples from the text and found that they had a readability score of roughly 8th or 9th grade. The material in the books would provide interesting apologetics discussions for children (and adults) in upper elementary grades and up.

The iWitness books are available from Apologia for $14 each. Military families will be interested in knowing that Apologia offers as 40% off discount for military families (active, reserve, retired, and disabled veterans).

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