Studies in the Historical Context of the Bible:

1. Introduction to the Historical Context of the BibleThis course on the historical context of the Bible begins with an introduction to the subject, highlighting the benefits of such a study for apologetic, educational, and interpretative purposes. Play Audio Play Video
2. Genesis 1 and Enuma ElishEver since the discovery of the Mesopotamian creation myth, Enuma Elish, there have been attempts to reconcile the creation record of Genesis with the views of the ancient Sumerians. In this presentation, Bruce shows the important similarities, but also highlights the significant differences between the two accounts, and explains why the comparison should be important to us. Play Audio Play Video
3. Noah and the Epic of GilgameshWhen the Epic of Gilgamesh was discovered in the late 19th Century, it sent a shock wave through the world of biblical scholarship, as attempts were made to reconcile the account of Genesis with the similar account of the ancient Mesopotamians. In this lecture, Bruce seeks to find the proper understanding of the relationship between the two, while summarizing in some detail the most important features of the great Gilgamesh tale. Play Audio Play Video
4. Abraham in Historical ContextThe career of Abraham begins toward the end of the Third Dynasty of Ur, in southern Mesopotamia. He travels first with this family to Haran in southern Turkey, and from there to Canaan, the land that God promised to give to him and his seed. The career of Abraham is followed along with the significant events and locations of his life in this summary of a remarkable life of faith. Play Audio Play Video
5. Moses and the Code of HammurabiThe most enlightened example of civil legislation prior to Moses comes from the Babylonian ruler Hammurabi, who pre-dates Moses by at least 200 years. In this discussion, a comparison and contrast between the two great law-givers is provided, with a focus on the extent to which the law given through Moses shows a clearly superior approach to jurisprudence.Play Audio Play Video
6. The Adventures of Abraham in EgyptThe ancient history of Egypt intersects with the Biblical narrative when Abraham travels from Canaan to Egypt during the 12th Dynasty, probably during the reign of Sensusret III. By that time the great pyramids had already been standing for hundreds of years, and the great civilization had realized some of its most important accomplishments. Play Audio Play Video
7. Joseph and the Hyksos PharaohsWhen Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt by his envious brothers, the region of Lower Egypt was dominated by the Hyksos pharaohs, the so-called "Shepherd Kings," who were semitic in background. This may account for the fact that Joseph was eventually installed as vizier to one of these pharaohs, after he was given ability to interpret pharaoh's dream predicting years of plenty and famine. Play Audio Play Video
8. Exodus and the 18th DynastyAlthough there is on-going disagreement about the precise timing of the Exodus, the biblical chronology suggests it took place during the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. If that is correct, then Hatshepsut may be the daughter of pharoah (later a pharaoh herself) who rescued Moses and reared him in the privileges of the royal household. Play Audio Play Video
9. Egypt and the Era of the Israelite JudgesThe Israelite nation gradually established itself in Canaan during a period of significant international conflict between Egypt and the Hittites. The mention of the "Apiru" by the Phoenicians, as well as the "Israel Stele" point to a significant Israelite population in the latter part of the second millenium b.c. Play Audio Play Video
10. The Hittites and the Era of the Israelite JudgesWhile the Israelites were settling into their territories of Canaan during the era of the judges, international conflicts were playing out around them, involving especially the great powers of Egypt to the south and the Hittites to the north. In spite of these surrounding threats, God protected his people and established them securely in the possessions that had been promised to Abraham. Play Audio Play Video
11. The Assyrian Empire and the Israelite MonarchyThe beginning of Assyrian recovery coincided with the division of the Israelite monarchy. The failure of the tribes of Israel in the north to honor their covenant God led eventually to their subservience to the Assyrians as reflected in the Black Obelisk now housed in the British Museum.Play Audio Play Video
12. The Assyrian Empire and JonahThe Assyrian Empire was expanding both in territory and brutality toward the beginning of the eighth century b.c., but entered a strange period of relative silence and peace for about 40 years following the preaching of Jonah in the great capital city of Nineveh. Play Audio Play Video
13. The Assyrian Empire, Isaiah, and King AhazWhen Isaiah told the King of Judah, Ahaz, to ask for a sign, Ahaz hypocritically declared that he would not tempt the Lord God. At the same time he was negotiating a deal with the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser III, to come protect him against local enemies, and thus he strapped Judah to tribute payments that would last for years to come. Play Audio Play Video
14. Hezekiah, Sennacherib, and Big SurprisesOne of the great military reversals of history, attested to in Herodotus and the Bible, and implied in Assyrian records, involves the defeat of the vast army of Sennacherib as he attempted to assert control over Egypt and Judah. King Hezekiah was delivered, not by military prowess, but by faith in the God of Israel.Play Audio Play Video
15. Manasseh and the End of the Assyrian EmpireThe last and greatest king of the Assyrian Empire was Ashurbanipal, who left the vast library that was eventually discovered by Austen Henry Layard. He also captured the Jewish king Manasseh and kept him in chains, only reinstating him to his royal throne after his repentence for his sinful and idolatrous practices.Play Audio Play Video
16. Assyria Falls, Babylon Rises, Josiah ReformsAssyria fell to a combined assault by Nabopolassar of Babylon and Cyaxeres of Media, and with its fall the Babylonians began to dominate the region of Syria and Israel. During those years, Josiah of Judah attempted to restore proper worship of the God of Israel, but his brilliant career was cut short in battle with Necho II of Egypt. Play Audio Play Video
17. Nebuchadnezzar and Jeremiah's Letter to the ExilesThe greatest king of the Neo-Babylonian era was Nebuchadnezzar, who dominated the ancient Near East and who forms much of the background for the books of Daniel and Jeremiah. In this lecture the first few years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign are detailed, along with the counsel from Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon. Play Audio Play Video
18. Jehoiachin, Belshazzar, and the Fall of BabylonAfter Nebuchadnezzar, the succeeding kings of Babylon show less brilliance until finally during the reign of Nabonidus, the last king, the empire falls to Cyrus the Persian. Belshazzar, the son of Nabonidus, watches in terror as "handwriting on the wall" declares the end of his reign, just as Cyrus is marching into Babylon to take the capital of the once mighty kingdom.Play Audio Play Video
19. Cyrus and the Liberation of God's PeopleWhen Babylon fell to the Persians, it marked the end of the exile of God's people, as Cyrus the Persian announced that any who wished to might return to Jerusalem. Cyrus therefore represents a great blessing for those who had been so long separated from their homes, and for his earns the title "messiah," the only non-Jew in the Old Testament to recieved such a stamp of approval. Play Audio Play Video
20. Darius and the Completion of the Second TempleThe construction of the temple in Jerusalem was impeded by local oppostion and a change of official policy in Persia. That changed, however, when Darius the Great took the Persian throne in 621 b.c. Under the inspiring preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, the people of God once again took to the task and the temple was completed and put back into operation in 616 b.c., exactly 70 years after its destruction under the Babylonians.Play Audio Play Video
21. Xerxes the Great and Queen EstherThe Persian king traditionally identified as the husband of Esther is Xerxes the Great, who succeeded Darius and fought the Second Persian War.Play Audio Play Video
22. Artaxerxes, Ezra, and NehemiahThe last great king of the Persians, Artaxerxes I, authorized the return of Ezra to the Holy Land to deal with deficiencies in the practice of worship among the people of God, and Nehemiah, who dealt with political problems, and oversaw the rebuilding of the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Later Malachi brought the last prophetic word to God's people before the lengthy intertestamental period that would end with the ministry of John the Baptist.Play Audio Play Video
23. The Greeks Seek for WisdomThe sweep of Greek history provides a remarkable story of how and language and a culture were prepared for the advent of the message of the Gospel. Beginning with the Minoans and finishing with Alexander, this lecture surveys the major epochs of Greek history as part of the story that leads to the great context of the New Testament era.Play Audio Play Video
24. Alexander the GreatWhen Alexander swept through the ancient world, conquering the Persian Empire, and establishing a Greek presence throughout the Near East, the entire shape of the ancient world changed. It was this moment that transformed ancient civilization to prepare the way for the coming of the MessiahPlay Audio Play Video
25. The Hellenistic Age: Alexander to Antiochus IIIFollowing the death of Alexander, his vast domains were split up among four of his military commanders, and thus commenced the age of Greek influence throughout the Mediterranean World. The eleventh chapter of Daniel, though complicated and challenging to read, provides insight into this era and evidence of God's providence in protecting his people during turbulent times.Play Audio Play Video
26. Antiochus Epiphanes and the MaccabeesThe greatest crisis of the Jewish people during the Hellenistic era involved the persecution imposed by the ruler of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. His reign of terror sparked the backlash known as the Maccabean Revolt, and the eventual effect of this movement was to liberate Israel from outside control for the better part of a centuryPlay Audio Play Video
27. The Roman Empire and Nebuchadnezzar's VisionThe dream of a great statue described in Daniel 2 provides an insight into the nature of the great Gentile empires that would span from the time of Daniel to the coming of Messiah. Most prominent among them was the last empire, described as iron mixed with clay, an apt description of the Roman world into which the Messiah was born, and the Christian movement began.Play Audio Play Video
28. Lessons from Rome's Seven KingsThe early history of Rome was dominated by seven kings who established seven fundamental themes that would characterize the life and culture of Rome for centuries to come. Play Audio Play Video
29. The Rise of the Roman RepublicWhen the Romans threw off the rule of kings, they replaced it with their remarkable experiment in republican rule, a system that took shape in the 5th century b.c. After this, the Roman power spread throughout the western Mediterranean, and by the beginning of the second century b.c., had reached the doorstep of Syria, Palestine, and EgyptPlay Audio Play Video
30. Rome and Israel CollideBy the time the expanding Roman world had reached Jerusalem, it had transformed into the beginnings of an empire, largely due to the influence of several military leaders. One of those leaders, Pompey, was the commander who took control of Jerusalem, and from that time until its destruction about a hundred years later, Israel was under Roman domination.Play Audio Play Video
31. Augustus Caesar and the Beginning of Imperial RomeThe Roman civil war, that pitted the military power of Julius Caesar against the Senatorial power of Pompey, resulted in the transformation of Roman government, paving the way for the first true Caesar of Rome, Augustus Caesar, under whose watch came the greatest of all human events, the birth of God's son and the beginning of the new era of the gospel and the kingdom. Play Audio Play Video
32.Herod the GreatThe New Testament begins with two "kings" of the Jewish people. Herod, who had been appointed by Rome, and Jesus, who had been appointed by God. The contest between them represented the culmination of a career of Herod's attempts to prove himself, but for all his achievements, his life ended in disaster and ignomeny.Play Audio Play Video
33. Tiberius and Christian BeginningsThe gloomy Caesar Tiberus reigned over the empire during the single most important week in history - the week of Christian beginnings, commencing with Jesus' triumphal entry in Jerusalem, and culminating with his true triumph, the resurrection and ascension as king of the universe. Play Audio Play Video
34. Caligula, Agrippa, and a Sermon to CorneliusThe brief reign of Caligula was marked by instability and moral collapse. The emperor's close friend, Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, shared the lamentable condition of his ruler, and brought much of his ethic to the Jewish people until his fateful death in the year 44. At the same time, one of the most transforming events of early Christian history took place, the conversion of Cornelius under the preaching of Peter. Until that moment, the gospel had been restricted to Jews and Samaritans, but with this event, it was clear that anyone, Jew or Gentile, would be admitted to the household of faith, the commonwealth of Israel, by sheer faith with no prerequisites. Play Audio Play Video
35. Claudius and the Journeys of PaulWhen the emperor Claudius reigned over Rome, the Christian church experienced some of its most important developments with respect to its early growth. The journeys of the Apostle Paul and the Council of Jerusalem combined to translate the Christian gospel into a message for all people, rather than a belief limited to the Jewish nation.Play Audio Play Video
36. Nero and Imperial Persecution of ChristiansThe Emperior Nero distinguished himself as the first ruler of Rome to authorize a state sponsored assault on the fledgling Christain movement. Aside from this, he represents one of the most unbalanced and vicious characters in the history of the Roman world. Nevertheless, during his reign the Christian message continued to spread, touching an ever increasing number of both Jews and Gentiles in the ancient world. Play Audio Play Video
37. The Fall of Jerusalem and the ApocalypseThe destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 a.d. brought to definitive conclusion the Old Covenant era, and freed the fledgling Christian church from its tether to the city what had become, in the words of the Apocalypse, the figurative 'Sodom' and 'Gomorrah.' While the interpretation of the book of Revelation remains controversial, it has always been the view of some that the colorful images of the last book of the Bible were intended to describe the final days of the 'harlot' city, 'Days of Vengeance,' as Jesus called them, while announcing the beginning of the New Covenant era under the regime of the Messiah. Play Audio Play Video