Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Review Bomb: Christian History

I am especially fond of books that detail Biblical figures, their time periods, and those involved in the Reformation. I love when we are able to take a look at figures from the Bible, and then place them in their proper context. These three books fit the bill perfectly.

34020185 4 Stars

I absolutely adored this book and found so many women of interest, some who I did not even know were part of the Bible. Through their in-depth stories, we see how each of these women were chosen by God to play a role in the story He is creating. I appreciated that the authors listed all Bible-mentions of each woman in her chapter, as well as her biography and role in the Bible. There is also a 'By the Numbers" section detailing some details about how many children the woman had, and such. I found value especially in the section where the authors asked questions they wondered about, which were not answered in the text. It was interesting to see that others had questions similar to mine over the years, but also that others had questions I have never considered before.

I feel like this could be a great book to use as a Bible study, or a youth group for teen girls. These women all face difficulties in their lives, but overcome those difficulties by faith, trusting God to provide. There are so many great role models to choose from, that this would be very useful in youth ministry. However, I found so much value in it, just reading it for myself. It is not necessary for a group-read, but you might find it interesting to explore further questions together, as everyone brings a different perspective to each story.

Some readers might be just as surprised by the women left out as the ones who are included. We all know the stories of Eve, Sarah, Tamar, Esther, Ruth and so on, but there are women included here that we do not even have a name for - the widow of Nain, the woman sinner, the bleeding woman, and several others. I had no set list of women in mind when I started reading, so I suppose I was not nearly as bothered by some of the exclusions as other readers might be. Here you will not find Rachel, Leah, or Miriam.

The authors do a wonderful job of bringing these women to life. Each woman has her own story, not only who she is in relation to her husband, father, or son. Throughout history, God has used women to further His message. Some of these women were not what would have been considered 'desirable' - a prostitute, an unclean (ill) woman, even those of other backgrounds - Moabites, Canaanites, etc. It is refreshing to see these women given their due in shaping The Story.

16234271 4 Stars

Books like this are among my most favorite. I love Biblical history and archaeology, and these kinds of books that put Jesus in the context of the period. Learning about various aspects of life in that period will never stop be interesting to me and books like this are such wonderful supplements to Bible study.

I have questions. Lots of them. I am texting my pastor constantly asking why this happened, or what those actions meant. He is always patient in his answers - and of course loans me so many books, and points me in the direction of further reading material if he doesn't have a copy himself.

One of the most intriguing periods in history to me is that 400 year period between Malachi and Matthew. Until I returned to church and found my faith again a few years ago, this was something I had never thought about in years prior to college when I was still involved in my church at home. But I really started thinking about this as I returned to reading my Bible more and more, and based on sermons over the last couple years. I was excited to find this text, and share it with my pastor. Naturally I have even more questions, but that's to be expected, right?

This text is absolutely great, and I learned so much about this period that was supposedly so quiet. In truth, it was anything but.

Based on was seems to be sound scholarship, the author presents these 'missing' years. We follow the journey of the Jewish people as they leave captivity in Babylon, along the entire path that leads us right up to the ministry of Jesus. Even though, the story continued further as the author details Jewish history up to the destruction of the  I feel like this really added so much to my Bible knowledge, as I was able to see God still working among His people, even when things looked as though the end of the line had come for the Israelites. We know that God will not let that happen, though their enemies did not. Time and again the Jewish people survived - from the Babylonians to the Romans, and everyone in between.

I appreciated the materials covered in this book for a number of reasons. Now, there are not really any questions I am too embarrassed to ask my pastors. They have the patience of saints and kind of expect this kind of thing from me; I question Every.Thing. (What's the difference between the Pharisees, Essenes, and Sadducees? What makes a Zealot? Why did the Jews dislike the Samaritans so much? How were Pilate and Herod placed within the hierarchy of the Roman government?) But this book was able to answer a lot of those questions, and I will definitely be looking for a hard copy to keep in my collection. Each chapter also includes really thought-provoking questions - right up my alley!

This is not just a reference book though, it is so much more and certainly deserves a place next to your Bible. Understanding not only what God was doing at that time, but what the world looked like, really helped me to better understand what Jesus was up against, so to speak. The world was rapidly changing and wars were being fought culturally, physically, and spiritually. Given the historical components here, I do think those interested in ancient history would still find value in the book, even if they do not subscribe to any brand of Christianity. It is also written in a very accessible way, even while dealing with such a scholarly subject. There is plenty of background provided on Alexander the Great and the Maccabees, and how they fit into the narrative. We learned about the Hasmonean dynasty, and quite a bit about Herod and his family.

The only real complaint I have is not much of a complaint at all. I wish there would have been some graphics. Chronologies would have been helpful, family lines (at least when dealing with all the Herods) and such. Maps also would have added a layer of depth. Even so, highly recommended.

33254881 5 Stars

I was on the fence as soon as I started this one and was greeted with these words:

"Henry's Roman Catholic daughter Mary dragged the country back into medieval Roman Catholicism, executing so many Protestants that she is known as Bloody Mary" (1%). 

Ugh. Why does everyone forget the executions carried out in Elizabeth's reign, hmmm?


This was one of the many books I picked up in my spree of Luther-related anniversary books. As the 500th approached last year, I was looking for something related to women of the Reformation, and this was perfect. Despite my Lutheran upbringing, there are so few figures I know about from this period, and those I do know about are male.

The author has taken what was originally a series of articles that were compiled by James I. Good in 1901. He titled his work "Famous Women of the Reformed Church". VanDoodewaard took Good's content and revised and expanded where she could, and also corrected previous inaccuracies that might have existed. As the author sought to include lesser-known women of the age, she removed chapters on Katharina von Bora and Jane Grey. She succeeded quite nicely in reaching her goal, as I was unfamiliar with nearly every women in the book as it is today. There is a plethora of information included here overall, though as to be expected there is some information lacking in some cases. While it would be lovely to know entire life stories, it simply is not possible from this period, especially when talking about women, no matter how important they were to the Reformation.

These women survived some truly devastating events, and continued not only to keep strong in their faith, but worked to deepen it and even spread the idea of the Reformation when it was dangerous to do so. These women were writers, teachers, and  caregivers in addition to being sisters, wives, and mothers. Even as they performed their domestic duties, they served God faithfully while dealing with triumph and loss. Many women lost husbands and/or sons, either to war, persecution, or even forced removal of their children from the home to be placed with Catholic families instead. Combine that with the normal devastations of the time -sickness - and life was doubly hard. Even so, the women continued with their purpose. This is a lovely collection of stories about women who deserve to be as well-known as their male counterparts. Highly recommended.


  1. Merry Christmas, Sarah. Hope you and your daughter had a good one....! Although I'm not a Christian I do have a passing interest in such things so I thought you might like to check this out: 'Heaven – A Traveller’s Guide to the Undiscovered Country' by Peter Stanford. I thought it was pretty good when I read it back in 2013.

    1. Thank you so much! It was very lovely to be with family, and Eleanor and I get to be home until after the new year. Thanks for the suggestion, I just found it for $1.99 on Amazon, so I will be getting to it. I think you would be interested in The World of Jesus, if you do have a historical interest. I love books lie that, which give a picture of life in general in that period, it is really well-done.

  2. These all sound great. I especially like the sound of The World of Jesus, as I always have questions too and love to get the context of the times and culture in which Jesus lived. All three sound fabulous and worth reading though.

    1. I found it incredibly valuable. I really love those kinds of books, that describe the world in His lifetime. A couple years ago I read a book called The Food and Feasts of Jesus, and even included recipes. It was really cool.

    2. That would be cool. It might sound weird but little details like what did they eat, especially with the communal arrangements that seem to have held during the early days of Christianity, for some reason are fascinating to me haha!

    3. No weird at all, I love that kind of stuff too. Here is the Goodreads link to the book if you are interested. it was interesting how the author explains that we are not really sure of what some of the foods were when described, so they had to make their best guesses with some of the ingredients.



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