I love this book! Back before I got seriously ill the first time–I guess around 2000–this was what we were studying in our Sunday class. Because of the illness, I missed way too many classes, but I kept the book. And, boy, am I glad I did! For a small volume, it covers everything I need to help me get the flavor of New Testament times, and if I were writing a historical from Old Testament times, it would be just as helpful.
With this, my incredible set of Bible Encyclopedias, a few references from the history written by Josephus, and an expository Bible, I have just about everything I need here at the house–add the internet, and I have everything I need, period.
Well, okay–delete that “period.” Nothing beats going on site, something I’d love to do because depth perception bites the dust when studying maps and pictures, and there is no way you can smell the air through a computer screen. As for taste? Well, all I need is to try out some goat cheese. Just about everything else I’ve found in the diet I’m familiar with. I mean, who doesn’t know what honey tastes like?
What I love about Gower’s book is the insights he gives that help certain things in the Bible make sense. For instance: Jesus is heading to Jerusalem for the Passover, and he comes across a fig tree. Passover is in our month of April, and although fig trees have strange fruit bearing times, anything left on the tree in April would be left over from the early winter production. The year’s fresh crop of figs arrives in June. So, when Jesus didn’t find fruit on this one particular tree, He shouldn’t have been surprised.
But what He did to that tree always left me feeling like He’d had a temper tantrum. I know how heretical that sounds, but I never could explain it otherwise. He was heading toward what He knew would be His last few hours, His humiliation and painful death. His human side was stressed. Who wouldn’t be short-tempered?
Then I read this: “fig trees became a symbol of security and prosperity.”
The very act of cursing the tree and making it shrivel was a symbol of what would soon happen to Jerusalem–Rome would turn it into rubble, the temple would be left without one stone standing on the other. The land would go to others and the Jews would be dispersed.
And the city–the entire nation of Israel–would stay shriveled from 70 AD to 1948.
Nothing like being able to connect the dots.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, I’m working on the Biblical Historical I mentioned the other day. I got notes of preferences, but this one is burning my fingers right now. I have a name for it, finally: The Cyrenian.