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27 February 2018

Drive Thru History: Bible History {Crew Review}

When we had the opportunity to review Drive Thru History Adventures, my first questions were about theological compatibility, as these are, I believe, Protestant-made materials. I was pleased to find that the Bible History Adventures materials draw on the shared Christian tradition, and that the theological variances between Protestants and Mormons are not an issue in any of the lessons we have done thus far. We have really enjoyed learning about the life of Christ, and the history and geography that relates to His ministry in the Holy Land.  Drive Thru History Adventures also has an Ancient History and an American History course (other Crew members are checking those out). But we've been quite enjoying the Bible History course.

The course is designed to be done over 18 weeks. Dave Stotts, the host, loves cars; hence the series title: "Drive Thru History". He introduces the car that he gets to drive for the series, an old Landrover. The lessons are presented in a list, with beautiful background art relating to the topic of each lesson; it's very inviting. I've zoomed a bit to be able to show several lessons in a single screenshot, and it's messed with the way that the art displays a little bit, but it still gives the general idea -- and you can see the first several lesson topics.

 Then he gets down to business, laying out the background, telling important things about the time and place and situation that Christ was born into. Mr. Stotts visits a reconstructed synagogue,  delving into both the importance of the pedigree that Matthew shares in his first chapter. The series continues along the same lines: it's full of information that deepens and enriches the understanding of what is happening in the Gospels, along with beautiful works from master artists through the ages, and generous quotations of actual Bible text.

The discussion of Christ's birth in lesson 3 is a great example of how interesting and informative these half-hour videos are. Stotts looks at a number of aspects of the birth from angles that I feel add a great deal of depth, focusing on the historical and social setting for the stories. One of the things that he does is visits a reconstruction of a home that would have been common in the 1st Century AD in Bethlehem, as well as panning across a whole collection of historical sites in the course of the video. Each site is briefly described and is placed in the context of the story of Christ's birth. He also looks at who the wise men were. I liked this quote from Origen, a 3rd Century theologian, so much that I wrote it in the margins of my scriptures where I will see it each time I review the story of the Lord's birth. It was also instructive to see modern Bethlehem, which you see briefly as you follow Stotts on a trip from Israeli-controlled territory into Palestinian territory where he visits the Church of the Nativity. The Church of the Nativity was interesting enough that I grabbed my Book of Centuries, and added the building of the 2nd Church of the Nativity in 556AD. I had previously known that there was a church there, but I had no idea that it was of such ancient date.

I'm not sure what edition of the Bible Stotts is using, but although it's not the King James that we are familiar with, it's an edition that's close enough to the KJV that when my kids heard their memory verses, the very minor differences didn't even get mentioned: they were just excited to be hearing "their" verses. We were all to busy soaking in the landscape to be bothered by slight translational differences. Here, for instance, I was struck by the beauty of the Bethlehem grain fields. I'd heard that they grew grain there, but I hadn't realized it was so beautiful -- or so hilly. There is a "rightness" to correcting my mental images of what Christ's home would have looked like from the romanticized, Westernized paintings I've grown up seeing, to a more accurate image of what the Holy Land looks like. That is something that I appreciate each time I watch one of these videos. 

Although we have just gathered around the computer to watch the videos, there are apps available that will allow you to use these materials on a number of devices. As a fun little addition, this subscription comes with access to Adventures TV, which is little blurbs about a number of things, ranging from the American holiday Groundhog Day, to coins minted by Herod the Great. None of them are very long, but all the ones that I listened to were both entertaining and informative. You can access these either from the app or from the course dashboard on your computer.

The apps aren't the only cool "extras". For each lesson, there is a video that's about 30 minutes long. And there is a work of art from one of the great masters with each lesson such as this one, Christ Teaching in the Temple, from lesson 4.

Each lesson also comes with a suggested reading from the Bible, typically about 2 chapters. They have it embedded right there in the browser window for you in the ESV, but what's really cool is that you can actually switch the version right there, so that your child is reading from the version that you prefer them to read it in. It's simple - just click the arrow at the top, then scroll down to the version you want. It's an elegant solution to a potentially sticky problem, and typical of the kind of care that's gone into the lessons and lesson dashboard.

Each lesson also come with "further reading" articles. These were a feature that I really enjoyed, and Hero(11) said that he did, too. I've been asking him to chose at least one to read and narrate. All the lessons that I looked through had at least two articles, and some had more; Lesson 5 has five different articles to choose among.

Each lesson also comes with a worksheet with short answer questions. I did not have Dragon(7) do these, but I did have Hero(11) do them some of the time, and it provoked some good conversation, and allowed me a little better insight into what parts of the video he'd connected with most strongly, which was nice. If you were doing this with an older student, there is plenty to make a full semester's work.

Stotts does a great job of sharing a vivid picture of the lands and situations that are the setting of the life of Christ, while side-stepping most or all of the various doctrinal disagreements between various Christian denominations - at least all the ones that I'm familiar with. He does occasionally use Protestant vocabulary, but I feel like that's actually a benefit, as it's important to be able to converse with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are not of our faith, and knowing the terms they typically use is extremely helpful. His videos are a pleasure to watch; we have all been enjoying them. I would absolutely recommend these.

To read more reviews from other Crew families -our family has been looking at the Bible Adventures, but other families have also been going on Adventures in American History and Ancient History (Greece, Rome, & Asia Minor). To see what they thought, click the banner below:

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