Daily Archives: December 9, 2008

McGarvey’s Land of the Bible

J. W. McGarvey was one of the best scholars of the 19th century Restoration Movement. He was president of the College of the Bible in Lexington, KY. One of my first books was his practical New Commentary on Acts of Apostles (1892). He had earlier (1868) written A Commentary on Acts of Apostles dealing with some of the critical issues of the book. McGarvey addressed some of the critical questions of the day in The Authorship of Deuteronomy, Jesus and Jonah, and Biblical Criticism.

McGarvey visited Palestine in 1879. His former students paid for the trip [I like that!], with the understanding that he would write a book. They would get their money back from the sale of the book. His book, Lands of the Bible, was published by J. B. Lippincott & Co., London and Philadelphia, in 1881. The title page indicates that 15,000 copies were printed. Impressive for a book on that subject.

J. W. McGarvey’s Lands of the Bible is available at the Restoration Movement pages here. For other works by McGarvey and other Restoration leaders begin with the home page here.

When I led my first group to the Bible Lands in 1967, one friend in the group had studied McGarvey’s book carefully. He took a tape measure with him. When we came to certain sites he took out the tape to take measurements. He wanted to be sure he was at the same place McGarvey visited.

Chapter IX in McGarvey’s book is titled “Argument from the Agreement of the Land and Book.” I have an outline of this material in my Introduction to Christian Evidences [OP], and use some of this material in my Daily Life in Bible Times series. One would be mistaken not to move beyond McGarvey, Thompson, Robertson, and the other early explorers. On the other hand, it would be amiss to dismiss what these scholars wrote.

What prompted all of this? Todd Bolen recently wrote a post on The Acoustics of Mounts Gerizim and Ebal in which he quotes from one of McGarvey’s letters here. I urge you read his post now. Also follow the link to the Biblical Studies and Technology Tools post showing the valley between Ebal and Gerizim using digital mapping tools.

I wanted to contribute something to this study by including here a scan of the plate from my original edition of Lands of the Bible (opposite page 288).

Shechem from the West. McGarvey, Land of the Bible.

Shechem from the West. McGarvey, Land of the Bible.

Todd Bolen has a great photo of Mount Ebal from Mount Gerizim. I would like to add the other side of the valley. Here is a photo showing Mount Gerizim from above Mount Ebal. It is an aerial shot made for me by the well known photographer Zev Radovan.

View of Mount Gerizim from above Mount Ebal.

View of Mount Gerizim from above Mount Ebal.

Maybe later we will discuss some of the important biblical events that took place in this area. For not let us note that this is where the blessings and curses of the law were read after the children of Israel entered the promised land (Deuteronomy 11:19). Here is the account of that event:

All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law.  There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them. (Joshua 8:33-35 NASB)