Picture of the main characters in the TV show, the Chosen

The Chosen – Books to Enrich further Study on the Times of Christ

Posted On April 17, 2024 By Peter In

After we debuted the Chosen Season Four at Substance’s Northtown Bigscreen, I’ve had a lot of people ask me the question: Do you have any book suggestions that will help me to understand the times of Christ?

After binge watching the chosen a second time, my son has had a crazy number of specific questions about everything from the structure of the Sanhedrin to the various Jewish festivals.

Keep in mind, the Chosen has a large number of sermon resources and devotionals that unpack each and every episode here: So, be sure to check those out!

Beyond this, to be honest, I’ve had a hard time thinking of books to suggest that are specifically focused on this time AND easy to read – (not to mention, affordable). So, I’d be curious to hear some of your suggestions as well. But, here are a few I’d mention right off the bat…

New Manners and Customs of the Bible by James M. Freeman – One of my all-time favorite commentaries on ancient customs and objects. He was a scholar from the 1800’s who knew everything about the Ancient Near East’s practices. And he wrote essays on all things practical like, how to use a oxen yoke, or how a typical man wore a cloak, and then connects it to Bible passages. And almost all of his source material predates the 1880s! Recently it was rewritten and updated by Harold Chadwick.

Keep in mind, there are three other books with titles that are almost exactly the same (So, be sure the author is Freeman / Chadwick… NOT, Ralph Gower, J.I. Packer… although, I’m sure those books are helpful as well).

The Rose Guide to the Feasts, Festivals and Fasts of the Bible, by Paul H. Wright – This will help you understand all of the Jewish feasts with lots of pictures. I realize that the foods and festivals of first century Judaism can feel like a boring topic. Yet, there are literally hundreds of references to these things throughout the Bible. And once I learned them, I was shocked how many passages suddenly came alive for the first time because I understood these practical things.

A Global History of Christians – Paul R Spickard & Kevin M. Cragg – This is one of my favorite and most readable church history books that I own. I first read it back at Bethel seminary. And I’ve read it multiple times since. Although it covers the giant overview of Christian history, the first couple chapters do a great job giving people a sense of the times of Christ.

The Triumph of Christianity – Rodney Stark – (not to be confused with Ehrman’s book of the same title) Stark is one of my new favorites. He fundamentally changed the way I thought about Roman religions in the 1st century.  Stark explains why Christianity was such a fascinating worldview to Hellenistic Jews who felt shunned by Hebraic Jews. He also fundamentally changed the way I understood the role of women in the early church. And again, the book covers all of Christian history. But it’s fascinating and easy to read.

The New Testament in Its World: An Introduction to the History, Literature and Theology of the First Christians – N.T. Wright:  Many of you might be familiar with the Oxford trained Anglican scholar. Currently, I am working my way through Wright’s newest compilation. And so far, it’s really good. And consequently, I just heard that he is involved with the oversight board of “The Chosen” now. The book might be a bit big and expensive for the average person still. But very helpful.

So other honorable mentions include, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes by Bailey. It’s not as entertaining to read as those mentioned above, but interesting. Many of you also know that I’ve been a fan of Dr Michael Heiser’s books: Angels and Demons. He devotes a lot of time to the “Second Temple” Period of History leading up to Christ (how the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha affected Jewish thought). And I’ve been mining out an endless number of insights that I’ve never thought about before about what the typical Jew of Jesus’ day believed.

But, the most important thing is this: Every time you watch The Chosen, dive a little deeper into the Gospels. I have literally logged hundreds of amazing discipleship conversations with my son by simply watching the TV show. Anything that births in people a heart to seek God’s Word is a great opportunity.

So far, I’ve been quite impressed with the writers of The Chosen (in the first three seasons) how they’ve chosen to represent many of the tensions of the First Century. And yes, like all film adaptations, they’ve had to make artistic decisions that may irritate certain people (Eg., They merged some of the details of the feeding of the 4000 with the story of feeding the 5000… and the same with some of the details of the stories of Jesus walking on the water, with the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat… see the finale of Season 3). Yet, it was still stinking amazing! And all of it still happened, (albeit slightly more spread out).

But I’m not sure people can appreciate how complicated it is to make a tv show like this. Between the finances and shepherding the cast of a show this large, it’s infinitely more complex than a simple movie. Because I have a background in film, this show is truly a triumph that has been orchestrated by the Lord himself.

That’s why I’m so proud that Substance has been putting forth finances to get the Chosen translated into multiple languages. My wife Carolyn is on the board of One Hope, one of the organizations that’s helping the Come and See Foundation get this translated and globally distributed.

But, like all giant enterprises, the leaders need your prayers!

“Father, I thank you for the opportunity to be a part of one of the largest evangelistic tools in history. I thank you for all the people who’ve made this happen so far. And my prayer is that all of us will have a deeper, richer, understanding of your Gospel, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

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