Friday, January 28, 2011

Background or Matrix? What term should we use when talking about the New Testament World?

When studying Jesus it is important to keep in mind the world, time and culture in which he lived. In order to begin to understand Jesus we need to be familiar with all of these. The problem, however, is that New Testament scholars have often referred to this as the "background" of Jesus and/or the New Testament. This term suggests that although this was the time and place where Jesus lived, he was somehow not influenced by or representative of it. We sometimes speak of Jesus as if he lived in the world, but was not really a part of it.

Mark Goodacre has posted two short videos that help us to think differently about this. The first is one by John Dominic Crossan who argues not for "background", but matrix. He contends, rightly, that we cannot read the Gospels as if there was no influence.

The second is from E.P. Sanders who, although not using term "matrix" talks about Jesus in context. Both are very interesting and helpful.

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