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Where God Came Down Review by Jay RyanJoel Kramer
Where God Came Down is a beautiful book packed solid with incredible information. This excellent book is a must-have item for Christian homeschoolers. The author, Joel P. Kramer, is an archaeologist and Christian homeschool dad living in Amman, Jordan, with his wife and three children. The Kramers are missionaries who produce films and lead tour groups to sites in the Holy Land. You can learn more about their ministry at https://sourceflix.com/.
Where God Came Down is an excellent introduction to the subject of Biblical Archaeology. If you have been to the movies, you might have the impression that archaeology consists of dodging deathtraps in ancient temples to procure priceless artifacts. But in fact, real-world archaeology entails painstaking, tedious work to excavate historical sites, carefully peeling back layers of dirt and rock accumulated over centuries. A careful analytical process is required, worthy of crime scene forensics, to draw historical inferences from the foundations of ruined structures and the bits of debris uncovered thereby. But the effort pays off in what can be learned of the ancient past.
This book explores the facts uncovered by archaeology at sites in Israel associated with Biblical events. All the locations reported in Scripture are actual places that still exist in the Holy Land today. Many of these locations have been celebrated as holy sites down through the ages.
One such site is Mamre, where the LORD revealed to Abraham that Sarah would have a child. Archaeology has uncovered five different layers at this site corresponding to five eras of history: the time of Abraham (circa 2000 BC), the Kingdom of Israel (circa 1000 BC), the time of King Herod (First Century BC), the time of Emperor Constantine (Fourth Century AD), and the Islamic period (after the Seventh Century AD). Each of these layers reveals evidence of how this site was remembered down through the ages.
I was surprised (but not surprised) to learn that, in the present time, Biblical Archaeology is a secular science in which the supernatural stories in the Bible are viewed as mere myths. But Joel shows that the physical evidence excavated from these sites can only be properly construed using a Biblical worldview that regards Scripture as a reliable historical account. In this way, archaeology and Scripture can support each other. Scripture provides the key for interpreting the physical evidence, and the physical evidence supplements our understanding of Scripture. In a sports analogy, I have the impression that Scripture is the “play by play” and the archaeology is the “color commentary.”
A Biblical worldview is also helpful in understanding why the faithful commemorated these holy sites over the centuries. Many synagogues, churches, and mosques were erected at many of these spots for pilgrimage and worship. The book includes quotations from ancient writers such as the church fathers Justin Martyr, Origen, and Jerome, contributing their knowledge of these sites from their own eras. In this manner, the reader learns much of the cultures of the Abrahamic religions and the devotion expressed at these sites down through the ages.
Where God Came Down is lavishly illustrated. Having also created a resource that relies heavily on illustration, I especially admire Joel’s use of visual media. Each page is full of beautiful color photos and interesting diagrams that depict a timeline of structures erected at a given site. Also included are aerial panoramas that show the relation of historical sites to other familiar places mentioned in Scripture. It is interesting to learn how close many famous sites are to each other. For example, the Empty Tomb of Jesus is remarkably close to Golgotha, His crucifixion site. Joel is skillful in using effective graphical constructions that visually communicate concepts, painting a colorful picture that brings a unique dimension to understanding Scripture.
Like perhaps many others, I have not visited the Holy Land, nor have I extensively studied Bible atlases or other such resources. Thus, I had not made many connections between the locations mentioned in Scripture over the Biblical timeline. I was therefore surprised to learn that Moriah, where Abraham was ordered to sacrifice Isaac, is in the same vicinity where the Temple later stood in Jerusalem. This shows God’s overarching plan for sacrifice at this location. The book is full of revelations like this. In this manner, my understanding and appreciation of Scripture have been greatly enhanced.
Other holy sites from the Old and New Testaments are discussed in this volume, including the cave at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Upper Room where Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Last Supper. If you are like me, perhaps you formed your own mental images of these places in your own imagination. But since these were real places that physically exist in the world, they do not look as I imagined. This book (and Biblical Archaeology in general) can provide an important reminder of the reality of the places where events really did transpire in space and time and are still there today.
Where God Came Down is an important resource for Christian homeschool families to use in their devotional studies. The book is scholarly but approachable, jammed full of interesting information. It is also visually artistic, like a beautiful coffee table book. Christians of all ages and backgrounds would enjoy and benefit from this incredible work. But it can also be a valuable evangelistic resource that could be shared with those seeking Christ. It would be beneficial to pastors for sermon illustrations and as a Bible study supplement. The author might consider creating an accompanying workbook and presentation materials.
The cover indicates that Where God Came Down is Book #1 in The Bible and Archaeology Speak series, which offers hope that there will be more books to come in this excellent series.
I give my highest possible rating to Where God Came Down and encourage everyone to order their own copy right away.
Product review by Jay Ryan of ClassicalAstronomy.com for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2021