The following is a suggested list of books, pamphlets, Bible studies, CDs, and DVDs (stand alone and group study) that pastors might want to use to enhance their congregation’s understanding of issues related to the historical Jesus, the early Church, and the world of the Bible.
Books for a Church Library:
Bird, Michael F. and James G. Crossley. How Did Christianity Begin: A Believer and a Non-believer Examine
the Evidence. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008.
Connolly, Peter. The Holy Land. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
This is an excellent work that documents and reconstructs, through the use of the latest archaeological evidence, everyday life and events between the rise of Herod the Great in 37 B.C. and the destruction of Masada in AD 73.
Dickson, John. Jesus: A Short Life. Oxford: Lion, 2008.
Evans, Craig A. Holman QuickSource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2010.
Foster, Charles. The Jesus Inquest: The Case for and Against the Resurrection of the Christ.
Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010.
House, H. Wayne. The Jesus Who Never Lived: Exposing False Christs and Finding the Real Jesus.
Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Howard, Jeremy Royal. Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Jesus. Nashville: Holman
Jones, Timothy Paul. Conspiracies and the Cross: How to Intelligently Counter the Ten Most Popular
Theories That Attack the Gospel of Jesus. Lake Mary: Frontline, 2008.
Lutzer, Erwin. Slandering Jesus: Six Lies People Tell About the Man Who Said He was God. Carol
Stream: Tyndale House, 2007.
MacArthur, John, ed. The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives.
Wheaton: Crossway, 2016.
McGrath, Alister. Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth. New York: HarperOne, 2009.
This is an interesting resource on defending orthodox Christology.
Miller, Stephen M. The Jesus of the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to His Life – World - Teachings. Ohio:
Barbour Publishing, 2009.
Monson, James M. Regions on the Run: Introductory Map Studies in the Land of the Bible.
Rockford: Biblical Backgrounds, 1998.
This is a wonderful resource for getting acquainted with the land of the Bible. Maps are even available to be used in charting/marking. These resources, as well as a free downloadable study guide, can be found at www.bibback.com.
Olson, Carl E. Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? Questions and Answers About the Life, Death, and
Resurrection of Jesus. Fort Collins: Ignatius Press, 2016.
Pate, C. Marvin and Sheryl L. Pate. Crucified in the Media: Finding the Real Jesus Amidst Today’s
Headlines. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005.
Patterson, Webster T. Sacred Sites: Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land. New York: Paulist
Piper, John. A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness. Wheaton:
Price, Randall. Searching for the Original Bible. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
Ritmeyer, Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer. The Ritual of the Temple in the Time of Christ. Jerusalem:
Smith, George Adam. The Historical Geography of the Holy Land. London: Collins, 1966.
Though somewhat dated, this work provides a stirring, picturesque look at Palestine.
Spangler, Ann and Lois Tverberg. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can
Transform Your Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
This is a wonderful book for group study. Additional information and study helps are available at: www.ourrabbijesus.com/index.php.
Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.
Von Kamecke, Fred. Busted: Exposing Popular Myths About Christianity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
Walker, Peter. In the Steps of Jesus: An Illustrated Guide to the Places of the Holy Land. Grand Rapids:
Wise, Robert L. Bible Lands: An Illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places. Ohio: Barbour Books, 2016.
For those interested in reading the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls:
Vermes, Geza. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Rev. ed. New York: Penguin, 2004.
For those interested in the biblical Scroll texts:
Abegg, Martin G., Peter W. Flint, and Eugene Ulrich. The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest
Known Bible Translated for the First Time Into English. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1999.
Palphot Ltd. Has published a number of interesting books designed to take the reader into the Holy Land. Several titles are as follows:
Daily Life at the Time of Jesus
The Holy Land: The Land of Jesus.
Israel, Land of the Bible.
Jerusalem: Past and Present.
The Zealots of Masada.
They also offer works on archaeology, such as:
Ancient Scrolls: An Introduction to Archaeology.
Origins of the Alphabet: Introduction to Archaeology.
For more information, click here.
There are series of pamphlets produced by Rose Publishing which serve as excellent resources to introduce laity to the issues of archaeology and the Bible. The following are excellent starter resources:
Archaeology and the Bible: Old Testament.
Archaeology and the Bible: New Testament.
50 Proofs for the Bible: New Testament.
Archaeology and the Bible: What You Need to Know.
All of these small pamphlets present archaeological finds that confirm the Bible’s accuracy, that help to understand the Bible better, and that help explain the Bible’s background and culture. The guides also offer recommended readings for those interested in further study.
Rose Publishing has also recently released a pamphlet entitled: Jesus: Fact and Fiction, Truth About Jesus Christ. This pamphlet deals with issues such as the Gnostic Gospels, Jesus’ Virgin Birth, the “lost years” of Jesus, the resurrection, the “lost tomb” of Jesus, etc. With each topic, fiction is separated from the facts and biblical evidence is offered in support of each conclusion. Like Rose’s other pamphlets, it also offers a brief but excellent “Recommended Reading” list.
For more information, click here.
Akin, Daniel L. Discovering the Biblical Jesus. Nashville: LifeWay Press, 2003.
Another excellent resource for small group study which focuses on the central doctrine of Christianity - the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Hamilton, Adam. 24 Hours That Changed the World. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009.
This is a study that helps the reader/group experience the final day in the life of Jesus. Along with the book, there is also available a DVD and a 40 day book of reflections. The DVD takes the viewer on a journey through the Holy Land to visit the sites where the final events of Jesus’ last day took place. It can be used with the book for study or as a stand alone video study. The 40 day book of reflections is ideal for use not just at Lent but at any time of the year for those who wish to reflect and mediate and thus dig deeper into Jesus’ final day.
Keck, Leander E. Jesus in the Gospels. Nashville: Abingdon, 2003.
This study is part of Disciple: Second Generation Studies, a discipleship series that is produced by Abingdon Press and distributed by Cokesbury. It features a leader’s guide, study manual for participants and an optional though extremely valuable Gospel Comparisons guide.
The study also features an optional DVD series that contains a two-part video segment for each lesson, as well as a segment to end the weekly group session. The first segment is a seven-to-10 minute presentation by a noted Bible scholar or theologian on a topic or aspect of the subject treated in the lesson. The second part brings forward, through art, music, words and movement, the Jesus in the week’s Scripture. The study is available in a helpful planning kit which contains all of the available resources.
JESUS IN THE GOSPELS invites believers to look at Jesus in each of the four Gospels and ask the question, “Who is the Jesus that you see?” This study will deepen discipleship through better understanding of the biblical texts and their message. Two questions frame this study: “Who is the Jesus you bring with you to this study?” and “Who is the Jesus you take with you from this study?”
JESUS IN THE GOSPELS takes participants on a journey from one question to the other. While distinct in format and approach, this Bible study builds on the foundation and carries forward the philosophy and ideals that shaped DISCIPLE—high-commitment, long-term, disciplined study that fosters community and builds toward transformation.
JESUS IN THE GOSPELS is different from DISCIPLE Bible study in its approach to Scripture; it looks more closely at the Gospel texts, in the kind of daily preparation and study required of the participants, in lesson layout and design, and in the nature of the study and discussion that takes place in the weekly group meeting.
JESUS IN THE GOSPELS focuses on the portraits of Jesus found in the four Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The word “in” used in the title signals that this study takes an approach different from the familiar “life and teaching of Jesus” approach of reading stories and accounts of what Jesus said and did in order to draw conclusions about their meaning and about who Jesus was. This study looks at the way each Gospel writer presents events and teachings and at the picture of Jesus that emerges in each of the Gospels. In addition, the study helps group members understand that Jesus is rooted in Judaism and the Scriptures of Judaism and that Christianity and the New Testament are rooted in the Scriptures of Judaism—our Old Testament.
Kelley, Michael. The Tough Sayings of Jesus I and II.
These two study guides are published by LifeWay and are excellent for small group study or a small group youth Bible study.
Swindoll, Charles R. Jesus: The Greatest Life of All. Great Lives From God’s Word. Nashville: Thomas
This book on the life of Jesus is great for small group studies. It comes with a Bible companion which can serve as a study guide for the group.
Bolen, Todd. Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. 10 Vols. Kregel Academic & Professional, 2004.
This is a beautiful collection of slides which capture images from the Holy Land through Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Rome. The slides are presented in several formats, including PowerPoint presentations, which give excellent geographical, historical, textual, archaeological, and biblical overviews of the different areas and regions.
Another good series of archaeological slides in CD format can be ordered from www.biblicalarchaeology.org. They include New Testament Archaeology in Pictures and Galilee Archaeology in Pictures.
Above Israel. Gaithersburg: Preserving Bible Times, 2004.
This is an invaluable series of videos that provide fly-over views of the different areas in Palestine. Though the images are of modern Palestine, they still provide an excellent glimpse into the history of the land. This series can be purchased through www.PreservingBibleTimes.org.
Other Preserving Bible Times DVDs of interest include: The Bible and the Land: Israel in Context; The Passion of Jesus: In Context (an excellent resource for Bible Study and classroom use); Jesus the Messiah: Overview of the Gospels; and Animals of the Bible (a good children’s resource).
From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians. 240 min. PBS Home Video, 1998.
Though dated, this four part video series presents the viewer with a good summary of mainstream, and sometimes controversial, scholarly opinion on Jesus and the early Christian movement.
Behold the Man: A Journey Into History Seeking the Real Jesus. 43 min. EO International.
This video features Michael Green, Steven Notley and Jacob van Bruggen who examine the historical, literary and archaeological evidence for the case of Jesus and his claims.
Early Christians. 270 minutes. 2010
The Roman Empire persecuted the Christians but was eventually converted. The Barbarians sacked Rome, yet they too were converted. How did the Christian faith manage to survive against such odds? This new film series, produced in Europe, explores the amazing story of the early Christians and the spread of Christianity. The series consists of nine 30 minute programs on 2 DVDs. Program titles include:
-The Scandal of the Cross
-The Empire's Conversion
-Persecution and Defense
-The Threat of Heresy
-Constantine and the End of Persecutions
-Saint Augustine, A Light in the Darkness
-Monks, Virgins and Hermits
-Baptizing the Barbarians
-Byzantium, The New Rome
The Gospel of John. 180 min. Visual Bible International.
This is an excellent, word-for-word presentation of the Gospel of John. It is based on the Good News Bible Translation of the American Bible Society.
His Tomb Is Empty. 120 min. The Inspiration Network.
This excellent DVD features more than 50 hours of interviews with 20 top Christian scholars from around the world, such as Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. Simon Gibson, Dr. Gary Habermas, Dr. Jodi Magness, Dr. Stephen Pfann, Dr. Ben Witherington III and N.T. Wright. Its primary goal is to offer a historically sound rebuttal to James Cameron and Simon Jacobovici’s sensational claim to have discovered the lost tomb of Jesus. This video is highly recommended and can be found by clicking here.
The Jesus Accounts. 30 min. Vision Video, 2011.
The Jesus Accounts is a thirty minute documentary designed to show how the gospel accounts of Jesus are based on solid evidence, significant ancient manuscripts, eyewitness accounts, and much more. This is a wonderful resource that provides understanding, as well as framework to respond to those who doubt or seek to undermine the evidence for the historical Jesus. The program draws on the expertise of numerous New Testament scholars and helpfully explains the background to the spread of the first manuscripts. Filmed on location in Istanbul and the UK, this is a great program both for believers and those seeking to understand the Bible's teaching about Jesus.
Jesus of Nazareth. 382 min. Santa Monica: Artisan Home Entertainment, 2000.
This is one of the finest films released on the life of Jesus, acclaimed by both critics and religious leaders worldwide. There are study guides available for this film as well, available through www.visionvideo.com.
Lost Gospels or False Gospels? 75 min. Ignatius Press, 2007.
Christians and non-Christians alike have long held the four gospels of the New Testament to be the only historically reliable accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. However, media stories and best-selling books have, in recent years, surfaced to claim that there are certain alternative writings about Jesus that are just as important as the four Gospels. Some of these writings include documents or fragments of documents attributed to prominent early Christians, such as Peter, Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Judas, James, Philip and Andrew. It is argued that many of these writings contain “secret” teachings of Jesus, some of which contradict the New Testament and some of which “fill in the gaps” of the “biased” Gospel accounts.
What should informed believers and nonbelievers make of these alternative writings? Were they written by disciples of Jesus as they claim? How do they compare with the New Testament gospels? Are these works truly “lost gospels?” To answer these kinds of questions, this film brings together top scholars, such as Dr. Craig Blomberg, Dr. Craig Evans, Dr. Gary Habermas, Dr. Ben Witherington III and others. These scholars discuss, among other issues, the relationship between these works and the New Testament and startling facts about the groups who composed these alternative works. This DVD can be purchased at www.visionvideo.com.
Shanks, Herschel. Where Jesus Walked: The Life and Times of Jesus as Revealed by Archaeology. 91
min. Biblical Archaeological Society, 2005.
This video can be purchased at www.biblicalarchaeology.org.
Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ Revised: A DVD Study: Investigating the Evidence for Jesus / Revised.
83 min. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.
Skeptics dismiss the Jesus of the Gospels by claiming there is no evidence. Lee Strobel disagrees. In The Case for Christ, a 6-session DVD study, he searches out the truth to determine if there is enough evidence to claim that Jesus of Nazareth really is the son of God.
Jesus: The New Way, hosted by Dr. N.T. Wright.
This is a complete video curriculum that consists of six half-hour programs and covers such topics as the world into which Jesus was born, the surprising message of Jesus and the unexpected direction of the Kingdom of God, the Jewish longing for a King and Messiah, the reason for Jesus’ death, who Jesus was and the resurrection. This is a series that gives a scholarly and reliable account of the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Odyssey of St. Paul, hosted by Dr. Paul L. Maier.
This series, also curriculum oriented, chronicles the life, ministry, writings, and travels of the apostle Paul and thus his influence on the founding of early Christianity. A more popularized version of Paul’s life and ministry is Paul the Emissary.
The Trial and Testimony of the Early Church: From Christ to Constantine, produced by Gateway Films –
This is a complete video curriculum which consists of six half-hour programs that take the viewer to actual Early Church locations in order to discover not only what the early believers were like but how the movement was able to grow and spread throughout the Roman Empire despite the persecution it faced.
DayLight™ Bible Studies
DayLight Bible Studies are designed for anyone who is seeking a deeper understanding of the Bible and the Christian faith. These studies are essentially self-directed studies but they also work well for small group studies. They include a guide for group exploration. DayLight Bible Studies are based on programs produced by Day of Discovery, a Bible-teaching TV series of RBC Ministries, the people who bring you Our Daily Bread. The following studies are currently available at http://www.dhp.org/Daylight:
A Fragile Stone – Peter: Jesus’ Friend.
Land of the Bible: Galilee
Land of the Bible: Jordan and Judea
Romans: the Letter that Changed the World
Jesus: Man, Messiah, or More
Jewish Roots: The Heritage of the Christian Faith
John’s Gospel: Wisdom from Ephesus
Deeper Connections is an excellent DVD based series that focuses on the life and teachings of Jesus. Thus far, the series includes the following titles: The Life of Jesus, The Forgiveness of Jesus, The Miracles of Jesus, The Parables of Jesus, The Prayers of Jesus, and The Last Days of Jesus. Each DVD is accompanied by a Leader’s Guide. Participant Guides are available separately.
The Deeper Connections series is unique. Unlike any other Bible study available, this visually stunning DVD series is written and taught by biblical experts—six professors with specialized areas of knowledge. These engaging and accessible studies are for everyone who wants to deepen their understanding of God’s Word and apply it more faithfully and effectively. In fact, a full one-third of each study is centered on modern application of Jesus’ life and teachings. Each session is introduced on location in Israel and is filmed in locations as diverse as the Rocky Mountains, the Arizona desert, downtown Chicago, and Little Rock, Arkansas. Each volume consists of six fascinating sessions or three hours of teaching per DVD. Furthermore, each session is taught by Bible professors who know how to communicate the world of the biblical text to today’s world. Through alternating sections of teaching and group discussion or individual reflection, this Bible Study series will allow you to make DEEPER CONNECTIONS with three main areas:
1. Historical Background: Jewish, Old Testament, historical, social, and cultural backgrounds, along with New Testament parallels, will be examined in order to bring out the full and deeper meaning of the biblical text.
2. Biblical Text: Bible professors who teach this subject matter in Bible colleges and seminaries will teach the biblical text.
3. Real-life Application: Challenging and accurate applications that come directly out of the biblical text will help you to live the truth of the Bible in today’s difficult world.
A list of the teachers include: Dr. Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary; Dr. Gary Burge, Wheaton College; Dr. Scott Duvall, Ouachita Baptist Seminary; Dr. David Garland, Truett Theological Seminary; Prof. Susan Hecht, Denver Seminary; Dr. Mark Strauss, Bethel Seminary; Dr. Matt Williams, Biola University; Dr. Michael Wilkins, Talbot School of Theology; Dr. Ben Witherington III, Asbury Theological Seminary
Faith Lessons: “That the World May Know”
Faith Lessons are fascinating Bible studies with tour guide and historian Ray Vander Laan. Filmed in Israel and Turkey where Bible events actually took place, teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan weaves together historical, cultural, and geographical contexts to reveal keen insights into how people in biblical times understood God and Jesus' teaching. In doing so, he challenges long-held Western assumptions about even the most well-known Scripture passages. You will simply never read the Bible the same again. Discovery Guides are available to lead a study group further into interpretation and application. Currently, there are currently 12 DVD studies available:
Carson, D.A. The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story. Grand Rapids: Baker Books,
Biblical illiteracy is a problem not just among non-believers but, in our culture, many professing Christians do not possess a basic understanding of the Bible, nor its fundamental doctrines and teachings. The dilemma this presents is, without this solid biblical foundation, believers can and do find themselves struggling to understand their role in God's perfect plan. In this basic introduction to the story of the Bible, the noted evangelical scholar D.A. Carson takes seasoned believers, new Christians, and seekers through Scripture to help them define what they believe and why!
From the Gospel Coalition (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/07/29/audio-and-video-for-d-a-carsons-the-god-who-is-there/):
On February 20-21 and 27-28, 2009, D.A. Carson presented a 14-part seminar entitled “The God Who Is There” at Bethlehem Baptist Church’s North Campus in Minneapolis. This series will serve the church well because it simultaneously evangelizes non-Christians and edifies Christians by explaining the Bible’s storyline in a non-reductionist way.
The series is geared toward “seekers” and articulates Christianity in a way that causes hearers either to reject or embrace the gospel. Its one thing to know the Bible’s storyline, but it’s another to know one’s role in God’s ongoing story of redemption. “The God Who Is There” engages people at the worldview-level.
The Gospel of Judas and Other Gnostic Secrets Revealed. Vision Video, 2006.
From Vision Video:
Why all the fascination about the Gospel of Judas? Who were the Gnostics and why did the early church reject their views? What was the secret enlightenment that the Gnostics claimed? How is it the Gnostics seem to just keep coming back?
The recent discovery of a mystical text buried for centuries beneath the sands of Egypt and a major television documentary about that find cast new light on the ancient heresy of Gnosticism. The text is known as “The Gospel of Judas.” It claims:
• Judas Iscariot was not the traitor recorded in the canonical Gospels, but was a spiritual hero, Christ’s favorite disciple.
• Cain was fulfilling the will of God by killing his brother Abel.
• An evil and malicious God has created the world and all physical things.
• Jesus used his divine powers to hurt or destroy those who angered him.
• Christ and Jesus were two separate beings.
• Spiritual truths are concealed as secrets given only to the enlightened.
This five-part video series provides an enlightening Bible-based journey to uncover the truth behind the supposed “secrets” of Gnosticism. Through interviews with leading historians and scholars and the testimonies of the Gospel writers and the early Church Fathers, we examine how Gnostic beliefs originated, their influence on the Church, and their popularity and resurgence today. This DVD also includes questions for small groups and is an excellent source for Bible study and historical research.
Larry Hurtado. Devotion to Jesus: Why Christianity Makes Sense. Washington, DC: Wesley Ministry
Network, 2008. DVD kit.
The Da Vinci Code is only one in a long line of books containing revisionist accounts of how and when early Christians came to believe in the divinity of Christ. However, the true story of Christians and their “devotion to Jesus” is much more amazing as this eight lesson DVD series demonstrates. Dr. Larry Hurtado is Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology, Director of the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins, and Head of the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University and is one of the world’s leading authorities on Christian origins.
Strobel, Lee and Garry Poole. Discussing the Da Vinci Code: Examining the Issues Raised by the Book &
Movie. Grand Rapids: Zondervan
This is a four-session study that deals with the issues and allegations raised in Dan Brown’s highly successful novel. It answers the question: Are Brown’s allegations true or merely inaccurate accounts of centuries-old myths and heresies? This series is shot on location and contains interviews with noted scholars, such as Dr. Paul Maier, Dr. Scot McKnight, Dr. Kathy McReynolds and Dr. Mark Strauss.
Wright, N.T. Resurrection: Did it Happen? What Could it Mean? 50 min. Downers Grove: InterVarsity
The most startling claim of Christianity is that Christ miraculously rose from the dead 2,000 years ago. How could this happen and what difference does it make to us today? Shot on location in Israel, Greece, and England, Wright walks you through the political, historical, and theological issues of Jesus' time---to offer insight on the most profound mystery in human questioning.