Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Apologia: iWitness - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

In late August, the Crew learned that Apologia Educational Ministries was going to have the Schoolhouse Review Crew do reviews of three of their iWitness books: iWitness Biblical Archaeology, New Testament iWitness, Old Testament iWitness. In light of what we were going to be studying in our other courses, this was a great fit for our home school, so I "raised my hand" and asked our Crew leaders to "Pick me! Pick me!" And they did!

I want to preface this review with the statement that I have still never met an Apologia book that I did not like. This review period is complete, and my statement still stands!

The books in the iWitness series are written and designed by Doug Powell. Mr. Powell had a degree in graphic design, but who was making a living as a professional musician. He found, however, that he could not make an adequate living at this. He went back to college and studied apologetics. He was asked to write an overview of apologetics for Biola University and was also a contributor to the Apologetics Study Bible. Then he got the idea to combine his understanding of apologetics with his skills at graphic design, and the iWitness book series was the result.

Our school year actually began the last week in August, so we had started before these books arrived. When we received the package, I began our work in them the very next day. I knew that these books were laid out in a format similar to books my son has read in a genre called a "graphic novel" (not that these are novels), so I was hopeful the style would pull my son in.

I started our studies with iWitness Biblical Archaeology, because I thought this would have the most appeal with my son. I quickly saw
the books are laid out in a very easy-to-use format where four pages completes each topic/section. So I generally started each day with our Bible reading and then read four pages of the iWitness book I was in right after that. My son's interest did not bloom to the point where he was picking the books up on his own to read, which I was disappointed about. However, to his credit, he was totally listening. At one point he said, "This is exactly what we were just talking about in Youth Group!"
iWitness Biblical Archaeology begins with a section about The Epic of Gilgamesh. We are currently reading The Epic of Gilgamesh for literature. How cool is that? The iWitness information helped us understand how to read The Epic of Gilgamesh with a Biblical worldview, rather than avoiding this pagan story, dismissing it because it is one of the old culture's stories about their gods. iWitness Biblical Archaeology then discusses "The Flood" in relation to the story of Gilgamesh. Then the book discusses the search for Noah's Ark, Egyptian chronology, the Exodus of the Hebrews out of Egypt, and lots of archaeological evidence that backs up and supports the history presented in the Bible. The last topic discusses the burial shroud, also known as the Shroud of Turin, and discusses previous thought and the latest developments in the study to determine the truth or validity behind the possibility that this might actually be the cloth that Jesus was wrapped and buried in. It is all very intriguing, and most of it kept my son totally interested.

Next we read our way through Old Testament iWitness. This book begins with a discussion about manuscripts that were used to get the Old Testament, how they were copied, and why we can trust what we find in our Old Testament. Next the Old Testament ("The Tanakh" or the Hebrew "Canon") is explained according to its traditional divisions -- The Books of Moses (the "Torah"), the Prophets ("The Neviim"), the "Psalms" (which included 11 books, also referred to as the "Ketuvi'im"). History of the Hebrew people was explained, and the author explained certain other ancient writings which are valuable, historic, accurate, but which did not meet a certain set of criteria to be included in our Old Testament.

Each section of the Old Testament is described and explained, both the way the Hebrews knew them, and also why they are arranged (Biblical order) the way we know them now. In case you don't realize it, the Old Testament is not entirely chronological. Also, the author talks about the books not included in the Protestant Bible (the "Apocrypha") which are included in the Catholic Bible, and why. (This material is presented from a Protestant point of view, but not - in my opinion - in a way that a Catholic would find offensive.) Old Testament iWitness also talks about the history between the Old and the New Testament in a very helpful, enlightening way. 

Next the Old Testament iWitness tells about the Dead Sea Scrolls in a way that made me feel like I could totally understand this.... if I read it a few more times... Then it even dabbles into a bit about archeology, and goes a little bit into the New Testament: who believes it and why, and Old Testament prophesies fulfilled. The Old Testament iWitness ends with an amazingly helpful timeline that I plan to go back and study again.

Our review period was buzzing along so I could not park in the Old Testament iWitness. We moved on next to New Testament iWitness.
This book begins with a discussion of the criteria used to determine the content of the Canon (New Testament). Similar to the other two books in style, this book focuses on why certain books "made it" into the New Testament we know and why others did not "make the cut". It has a great deal to do with who is determined to have written the book (there is a specific criteria), test that have been made to determine authenticity, age-dating of the document to make sure it was not written at a time after all the potential "acceptable" authors had passed away, and must not contradict anything written anywhere else in the Old or New Testament.

I found all the information in each of these books to be totally intriguing. They kept my son's interest as I read them aloud. I expect I will read them again in the future, and I think my husband and my adult daughter will both appreciate reading them.

These books are "winners".

Each book sells for $14, so all three together would cost $42. These are great books for many different ages, but the reading level is going to be for ages 11 and up. You can do like I did and read them out loud. My favorite time was that part of the time my son and I sat together and he looked at the pages as I read aloud.

If you want to read the reviews of other members of the Crew who also reviewed these books, please click the button below:


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