Hi.

Torrey Gazette is the combined work of everyday Christians blogging on books, family, art, and theology. So pull up a seat and join us. Family Table rules apply. Shouting is totally acceptable.

Historical Problems & the Problem with History

Historical Problems & the Problem with History

 The New Testament & the People of God by N.T. Wright

The New Testament & the People of God by N.T. Wright

I recently began reading N.T. Wright's book The New Testament and the People of God. As is the norm with St. Anne's Manor, I will be taken bits of what I find interesting from it and making some comments here. Considering the length (long) and type (technical) of book that The New Testament and the People of God is I'm sure there will be many posts concerning it for the next while as I slowly plod along through it. That being said, I would like to share a couple of good tidbits from the introduction that I found edifying. Both of them involve the concept of "history" (as does much of the book from what I hear) hence my choice in title for this post.

To begin, Wright takes a portion of his introduction to address the concept of historical in general; the work of a historian. Wright argues against the idea that history, as opposed to other fields of study, is somehow "neutral" or "objective". To the contrary, Wright states that such a belief is a prideful hold over from the Enlightenment:

All history involves selection, arrangement and so on, and that the idea of a ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’ history is a figment of post-Enlightenment imagination. (pg. 15)

While this idea wasn't new to me I did find its restatement in Wright enjoyable. It's an important point to understand that nothing we do is ever neutral. The Bible makes it very clear that everything under the sun (from household chores to societal institutions) has a direction that is either for or against God. Much Enlightenment thought attempts to argue that things like "reason," "logic," "science," "history," and other "empirical" categories are objective. This is simply not true. Whatever field of study you find yourself in has a preexisting belief structure that is not objective, including history.

The second item Wright brought up that I found quite interesting concerned historical perspective. Put briefly, Wright concerns himself with the fact that many modern readers of the scriptures project their own problems and platitudes back on to the Holy Writ in such a way as to manipulate the text into answer our problems and not (necessarily) the problems it was meant to address in it's own day. Moreover, Wright also believes that ideas and Biblical passages that seem to perplex the modern mind would not necessarily baffled the minds of the audience it was addressed to:

{C}For too long scholars have assumed that the readers of (say) Paul or Matthew were basically similar to modern readers, so that something that seems difficult to us would probably have seemed difficult to them. (pg. 26)

It's important to understand that the scriptures (specifically the New Testament in this sense) were written in space & time to a certain people in space and time. None of this means that what was written then is no longer applicable to the modern reader, rather, Wright contests that in order to obtain a modern application from the text would depend on obtaining the ancient application. Our approach should not be to divorce the scriptures from the place and time they were written in order to acquire their "higher meaning." Instead we should look to understand exactly what scripture was addressing so that we may see how it does (and does not) apply to us today.

September Book Review

September Book Review

Book Review: Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man by Robert Stein

Book Review: Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man by Robert Stein