by Gary M. Burge
I’m really honored that each of you have taken the time to give a thoughtful reading to this short book. I often feel that there is a huge gap between the world of scholarship (where I live) and the world of the church. We publish and discuss technical matters regularly but rarely do we take the time to make these rich things accessible to everyone. That was my goal in this series. And that you read it thoughtfully and gave such amazing comments — usually things more profound than I could ever think of — tells me that conversations like this need to continue.
This particular book, Jesus the Middle East Story Teller, is trying to do what we call “contextual interpretation.” This means that we admit something right up front: that the cultural, social, political, economic context of Jesus’ world was different than ours. And that for us to really understand him and his stories, we have to jump back in time and unravel some of these mysteries from the ancient world. So the idea of borrowing bread late at night, or asking your dad for your inheritance — you name it — these things cannot be understood easily from our position. It would be like taking a very good joke about the Batman Dark Knight film, burying it for 2,000 years, and then expecting readers in the future to understand it. “Who was Batman?” they might ask! And some researcher will write a little book explaining that Dark Knight was a film and that films were things shown on screens, etc. etc.
My encouragement to you is to continue studying context to open the world of the Bible in ways the average person will not. Always make sure that your sources are reliable. Always make sure that a contextual reconstruction is based on sound scholarship, the texts of antiquity, archaeology, and cautious cultural analysis. But if you do, you will have a grasp of the Bible like few others and you’ll be able to speak of God’s word with an authority and power you never had before.
This is a very cool blog group. And website. It’s a new discovery for me and I know I’ll enjoy coming back again many times.
Gary Burge, Ph.D.
Wheaton College & Graduate School