Post Reply Historical Background of the New Testament
Christian
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Posted 3/6/15
Well my New Testament Bible Studies class is almost over. I had a great time and learned a lot. I would like to ask all my fellow Christians of this group a question that I had to answer back in week 1. Curious to see what you guys have to say.

Suppose someone were to tell you, “You don’t need to waste your time studying the religious, cultural, or historical background of the New Testament. All of that stuff is irrelevant. What really matters is reading the Bible and doing what it says. The message is simple enough that you don’ t have to know anything about the background to understand what it is really saying. All you need is the Bible.” What would you say to convince this person that an understanding of the background of the New Testament is not irrelevant in the quest to faithfully interpret the Bible?

Before answering, briefly define what is meant by “background” in this context.
Then answer the question: Why should someone spend any time at all studying the world in which the New Testament was written?

Here was my answer.

So it’s okay for a person to believe something without knowing anything about said belief’s origin? When referring to background one is referring to the origin or lifestyle of a particular topic. In this case you are saying that we do not need to know what life was like during the New Testament and that we should just accept what we are told. This is a wrong state of mind to have as it could lead to possible inaccuracies and misconceptions. When one actually studies the background and familiarizes themselves with it, what they are studying becomes easier to understand. We got to remember that another culture is discussed in the Bible and we need to keep in mind what applies to us. The New Testament is known as the New Covenant which applies to the Gentiles. Gentiles are not under the Mosaic Law, but we do take certain laws from it. Also when studying the Historical background of the New Testament we can affirm its reliability and never have any doubt. A lack of knowing what one’s belief is or its History could possibly result in a loss of faith or blind faith in the future. As it was mentioned in the reading in order to understand what Jesus was like and his teachings we need to look deeper into things. By looking into the Background of the New Testament we are able to answer a very important question… Was Jesus God or was he just a good teacher? In the Old Testament the prophets gave prophecies of what the conditions will be for the preparation of the Messiah’s birth. One such prophecy of what times would be like was the world’s spiritual bankruptcy (Cultural Background: Pax Romana, Roman Government & Religion, pg. 12). If we look at History we would be able to see what people’s religious beliefs were at the time of Jesus’s Birth. This is why it’s good to know the background of the New Testament and not simply follow what it says.


Also if you do not believe we need to study the historical background please share your thoughts as well.
Christian
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Posted 3/6/15 , edited 3/6/15

Ctonhunter wrote:

Well my New Testament Bible Studies class is almost over. I had a great time and learned a lot. I would like to ask all my fellow Christians of this group a question that I had to answer back in week 1. Curious to see what you guys have to say.

Suppose someone were to tell you, “You don’t need to waste your time studying the religious, cultural, or historical background of the New Testament. All of that stuff is irrelevant. What really matters is reading the Bible and doing what it says. The message is simple enough that you don’ t have to know anything about the background to understand what it is really saying. All you need is the Bible.” What would you say to convince this person that an understanding of the background of the New Testament is not irrelevant in the quest to faithfully interpret the Bible?

Before answering, briefly define what is meant by “background” in this context.
Then answer the question: Why should someone spend any time at all studying the world in which the New Testament was written?

Here was my answer.

So it’s okay for a person to believe something without knowing anything about said belief’s origin? When referring to background one is referring to the origin or lifestyle of a particular topic. In this case you are saying that we do not need to know what life was like during the New Testament and that we should just accept what we are told. This is a wrong state of mind to have as it could lead to possible inaccuracies and misconceptions. When one actually studies the background and familiarizes themselves with it, what they are studying becomes easier to understand. We got to remember that another culture is discussed in the Bible and we need to keep in mind what applies to us. The New Testament is known as the New Covenant which applies to the Gentiles. Gentiles are not under the Mosaic Law, but we do take certain laws from it. Also when studying the Historical background of the New Testament we can affirm its reliability and never have any doubt. A lack of knowing what one’s belief is or its History could possibly result in a loss of faith or blind faith in the future. As it was mentioned in the reading in order to understand what Jesus was like and his teachings we need to look deeper into things. By looking into the Background of the New Testament we are able to answer a very important question… Was Jesus God or was he just a good teacher? In the Old Testament the prophets gave prophecies of what the conditions will be for the preparation of the Messiah’s birth. One such prophecy of what times would be like was the world’s spiritual bankruptcy (Cultural Background: Pax Romana, Roman Government & Religion, pg. 12). If we look at History we would be able to see what people’s religious beliefs were at the time of Jesus’s Birth. This is why it’s good to know the background of the New Testament and not simply follow what it says.


Also if you do not believe we need to study the historical background please share your thoughts as well.




I do like your view. I believe if you truly believe in something you must study it and it's origins. I hold to that because how can you defend your belief if you don't have anything to back it up...also without an able defense you will never truly stick to one belief. Anyways what I view as background goes all the way back to Genesis. There are so many historical facts and things to learn from the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. In addition, this goes with my stance on studying your belief, because if you don't believe that the origins of the Old Testament namely creation then everything in the Bible is susceptible to un-belief. I believe the Bible as a whole and have the means to defend it. I have looked into all major religions and studied there backgrounds because I was questioning my own faith at the time. However, I then looked into the origin of the Bible just to see if it was possible and what I found is why I have never lost faith. I found that everything in the Bible can be proven true, but this would need an omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient God in which the Bible does hold too, but in a physical sense cannot be proven to others. Alright now to answer your question bluntly I think people should study the world in which the New Testament was written because that provides the secular evidence of Christ. If I hadn't studied the world around Christ I would never have known that there is a real manuscript that mentions his death by Tacitus in his Annals recording Roman trials and other histories. So for defense of faith, for historical truth and evidence anyone claiming to be a Christian should study the world around Christ and the rest of the New Testament.
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Posted 3/7/15
I think this is a complex question and it does make you think. The first thing to answer is what do I consider to be the "background" of the New Testament. For me, that would be the Old Testament and a bit about the historical frame of reference in which Christ lived. Both are background, but I think the first is more critical to fully understand than the second.

With an understanding of the OT, you understand why the many things in Christ's life are important. You understand the prophecy which was fulfilled in Christ. You understand why a New Covenant in Christ is important and how it compares to the Old Covenant. You understand the references to the law and prophets which Christ brings up. You understand why it matters that Christ appeared with Elijah and Moses in the transfiguration. These things all matter and without a working knowledge of the Old Testament, they may be lost on a new believer.

Understanding the world in which Christ lived also helps you to understand the context of which He said the things He said. It also helps you to understand things mentioned in the Epistles. For example - in Corinth, cultic prostitutes would wear their hair down as part of cultic worship which was why Paul recommended the women in the church would cover their hair. He wanted the women in the church to look different than those who were participating in pagan cults. It wasn't a comment for all women for all time and understanding the world they lived in helps you understand why people say what they say.

All that said - see a parallel question - can one be saved by Jesus without a real background understanding of the word. For that, I'd say yes. Did the thief on the cross fully understand the Old Testament or the complete teachings of Christ? No, he just knew Christ was Lord and sought salvation on the spot. And, it was granted. So, while it's important to know the word, understand the background of the word - but that's not what saves you. Jesus does and His saving work on the cross.
Christian
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Posted 3/11/15 , edited 5/31/15
Jesus said "There is no commandment greater than these;"

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" and "love your neighbor as yourself."

He also points out that "the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."

So whereas learning context isn't absolutely necessary, it's useful to know, both for personal edification and for aiding others in their understanding.
Christian
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Posted 3/18/15 , edited 5/31/15
My "short" answer to this: The Gospel message at its core is simple enough even a child can understand and accept it. However, I also think God asks from us according to what He has given us (speaking not of salvation, but more of Christian living). To some He has given more time, brain power, resources, and whatever to study the Bible, the historical context, languages, theology and so on. From those people, He will expect greater fruit. God has also acted in real space-time, in real history. Jesus really did walk the earth and did all the things He did in such and such a place and time. (And He is still doing things, and has things yet to be done.) Hence knowing the context is a part of knowing the Bible-- these aren't unrelated topics. The more one knows, the richer one's understanding.
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Posted 5/31/15
I read the Old Testament simply because I find it interesting. Never heard most of the stories. It also teaches me how fierce God can be. And, having an interest in languages, the biblical style of writing and terminology are fascinating.
Christian
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Posted 6/13/15
So I found this on my readings today:

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed." (1 Peter 3:15-16)

What I understand from it is that yes, it is good to know the reasons and backgrounds of your belief.
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Posted 6/15/15 , edited 6/24/15

CarinaHarumi wrote:

So I found this on my readings today:

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed." (1 Peter 3:15-16)

What I understand from it is that yes, it is good to know the reasons and backgrounds of your belief.

Good point.

It helps to understand context at times. Examples come throughout Jesus' ministry when He references Old Testament examples and in the letters of the New Testament when they reference the OT. It's good to have a Bible which points out the references. My little one which I read daily has New Testament quotes of the Old Testament in bold so you can tell where it originated (and can look up the context to get a better understanding of it).

I find it helpful to read the OT to understand why Jesus' life matched up with prophecy! Reading Isaiah is helpful for that. Also, Psalm 22 (which is short, but powerful - beginning with a verse we all remember Jesus speaking on the cross!).
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