Barry J. Beitzel, ed. Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through Revelation. Bellingham: Lexham, 2019. 600 pages. $39.99 (hardcover).
The Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through Revelation (the companion volume to the Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels published in 2016) is not a “commentary” in the usual sense of the term. Rather than going verse by verse through biblical books, the volume consists of fifty-three essays that examine the geographic setting of Acts, Paul’s letters, the General epistles, and Revelation. As editor Barry Beitzel (professor emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL) explains in the series preface, “Central to the kerygma [i.e. proclamation] of the New Testament is the foundational claim that God became Man at a definite moment in time and at a precise point in space. 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” (xxi).
The essays are arranged in canonical order, beginning with studies on events and places in Acts and ending with essays on the recipients of Revelation. Each begins by listing the relevant scriptural texts, followed by a summary of “Key Points” from the chapter. Scattered throughout the body of each essay are photographs as well as maps and charts, all of which assist the reader in visualizing the places and concepts being discussed. The chapter topics vary widely, with some examining the meaning of a given word or phrase (e.g. chapter 4 on “the end of the earth”) and others unpacking the cultural context of a particular city (e.g. chapter 34 on Rome). While the essays are fairly thorough in their treatments, they are written at a level that most pastors and many laypeople will find accessible.
The value of such a resource is at least twofold. First, a knowledge of the cultural and geographic setting of the biblical text can often enhance one’s understanding of the text itself. For example, an awareness of the history of places like Joppa and Caesarea Maritima can reveal the full redemptive-historical significance of the encounter between Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 (chapters 16 and 19). Second, studying the vast number of geographic references in the New Testament can have a great deal of apologetic value in defending the trustworthiness of the biblical text. The accurate geographic and nautical details that Luke includes in his account of Paul’s journey to Rome (chapters 32–33), for example, indicate that Luke took great care in his research (in addition to his own participation in some of Paul’s travels). While the essays do vary in quality, and some of the maps and charts contain text that is barely legible due to their small size, the volume is a remarkable achievement and provides a treasure trove of resources to scholars, pastors, and others who desire to grow in their understanding of the world of the Bible.
CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. CBS book notices are not full academic book reviews. The present book notice was written by Drake Isabell, an M.Div. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Content Manager for Book Notices for the Center for Biblical Studies.