Huff Post: The New Testament in Historical Context
When I’m invited to teach in churches, I often invite questions from the group before I begin my planned presentation. I call this “building an agenda,” a process that helps me understand where people are coming from and helps the audience pursue the questions they care about.
The overwhelming majority of questions I receive involve historical matters.
Moreover, in churches, in academic classrooms, and in private conversations I’m still amazed at how many popular misconceptions shape people’s approaches to the New Testament. Many posit that Jesus “liberated” people from Judaism, as if Jesus himself were not Jewish and as if his teaching did not emerge from the rich soil of popular Jewish wisdom. Many assume the Bible was created by a bunch of bishops during the third century, presumably in a smoke-filled room. Many just “know” that “Women were only property in the ancient world.” And don’t get me started about the Pharisees. They get blamed for everything.
Misconceptions like these skew our understanding of the New Testament, often in ways that hinder our faith development and our ability to engage the world in constructive ways. If you really care about understanding the New Testament in its historical context, I’d like to recommend three new publications that offer lots of specific help.