Review: Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels

Review: Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels March 20, 2019

Editor Barry J. Beitzel
Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels
Bellingham: Lexham, 2017.
Available at Lexham.

By Dr. Kate Tyler

The Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels takes seriously the fact that the historical events recorded in Scripture are located in very specific places. “To be unaware of or to neglect the geographical DNA of the Bible or the biblical world will therefore often mean that one may run afoul of the biblical argument or that reality may dissolve into sentimentalism” (xiv). Introducing this volume, Beitzel highlights that there are quite distinct differences in the images which Jesus uses in Galilee – mainly to do with farming and fishing – whereas in Jerusalem and Judea, Jesus tends to speak more of shepherds, viticulture, and religious practices (xv). It is this kind of subtle cultural distinction, which would usually be missed by those unfamiliar with the geographic context of Scripture, that makes this such a valuable volume.

The book is comprised of 48 chapters which address a particular geographic location, Jesus’ use of a specific contextual image, or survey a range of opinions on where a particular event actually took place. Each chapter is tagged to specific passages from the Gospels, has a useful summary of key points at the start, and is accompanied by corresponding maps and images. Chapters are concise enough to be easily accessible, yet easily give enough detail and evidence of research to be useful in academic engagement.

The fourteen contributors all have significant research and teaching experience in the Middle East. I had the privilege of studying with three of them – Dr Carl J. Laney, Dr Paul H. Wright and Dr Cynthia Parker – at Jerusalem University College in Summer 2017. This evokes great confidence that the contributors are experts in ‘reading the land’ alongside ‘reading the text’ of the Gospels. The wide-ranging scope of topics addressed, and the way that geography is used to deepen one’s understanding of Scripture, makes this a really excellent reference work for students and scholars alike.

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