We at Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church and New Hope Community Church are starting a joint book study tonight. We are reading The First Christmas: What The Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Birth by Marcus Borg and John Domminic Crossan. Borg and Crossan are prolilic writers and public theologians. Borg might be best known for Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith.
Anyways, as I was preparing for tonight’s book study, I came across this statement from Borg and Crossan: “Ancient Texts in Ancient Context.” This is nothing really new for seminary students or the theologically focused but it gets to the heart of my own struggle to understand the bible. Essentially, let’s not just read the biblical/gospel texts but lets understand the culture and history, essentially the back story, of these texts.
Borg and Crossan go on to make the comparison. Imagine reading Martin Luther King without having any understanding of American history, the civil right’s movmement, racial oppression in American, etc. That is exactly what we are doing everytime we open the bible and don’t have a clue about 1st Century Palestine, the Roman Empire, 1st century Jewish politics and social movements, and the deep history of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Without seeking to understand “Ancient texts in ancient context,” its the blind leading the blind. And our faith and intellect suffer for it.