You know a review product is a good one when you find yourself thinking, "Wow! I wish we'd had this last year!" And that's just what happened as we reviewed the iWitness books from Apologia Educational Ministries.
If you're like me, you think of the Exploring Creation series when you think of Apologia. But Apologia is so much more than just science!
As you may remember, we're in our second year of a 4 year chronological history of the world. Last year we made it up through Ancient Greece, and we've just hit the birth of Christ now. Over and over, while reading Old Testament iWitness aloud with Jack and Eli, I thought, "This would have been a fabulous starting point for a study of history!" Still, the material is fascinating all on it's own, regardless of what you're learning about.
Old Testament iWitness shows the transition from the scrolls of the Hebrew Bible to the Old Testament that we have today. We learned that during this transition, some books were divided, such as Kings and Chronicles, of course, but even that the book of the prophets in the Hebrew Bible was divided into 20 books in our Bible. The Writings became an additional 11 books.
example scanned from Biblical Archaeology
I love the way these books are laid out. Each two page spread depicts photos and ancient document fragments overlaid with smaller "pages" of information in a handwritten looking font. It's like you're reading someone's research notes.
We started with iWitness Biblical Archaeology first, and were mesmerized by it from the start. We had some rousing discussions about the search for Noah's Ark, and our eyes all bulged in horror as I read that the shepherd who found some of the Dead Sea Scrolls took them home thinking he could make the parchment into sandal straps. (We also mourn the loss of the Library at Alexandria, so maybe we're a little intense when it comes to books.)
Even though I was raised in church and attended a couple of Christian schools, I learned things from these books. I particularly appreciated the way the author laid things out in a factual manner and let the reader make their own conclusions from the data presented. You can read an interview with the author, Doug Powell, to get a greater understanding of his background and his reason for writing these books.
I consider these to be family books, rather than kids books, but the reading level is about age 11 and up. Eli, age 13, said totally unprompted, "These books are cool!" while we were reading them together. He was fascinated by the information about the Shroud of Turin, in particular. When I asked Jack, who is 10, if he had a favorite bit to share, he said, "No. It was all too interesting to compare... except probably where Jesus' tomb was." He's referring to the Hadrian and Constantine spread, which shows the modern places believed to be the locations of Jesus birth, and his borrowed tomb.
New Testament iWitness comes at just the right time for us, as the book covers first century events and discoveries from that time period. This book deals with how we got the Bible we have today. While both OT and NT talk about how the manuscripts were painstakingly copied by hand, NT goes more into how and when the books we have in our New Testament were selected.
Each color, paperback book sells for $14. Even though the books initially seem small at 64 pages each, they're chock full of thought provoking information. We read them together a couple of 2 page spreads each day, and had plenty of ideas to discuss and ponder.
I was excited to see plans to continue the series with iWitness World Religions and iWitness Heresies & Cults set to come out in 2015. I think my high school kids would enjoy these. Brianna, who is 14, will be getting some world religions in school this year. Since she's a voracious reader in her free time, I'll be keeping an eye out for the release of the new books.