I ran across a short but interesting video clip yesterday. It features DA Carson and John Piper discussing to what degree a pastor needs to be familiar with the background of the Bible. Carson is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Piper is pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
In the clip Carson argues why it is important for preachers to study and be familiar with the historical and cultural background of the Bible. Piper, however, is arguing that a preacher only needs to read the Bible. Piper seems to agree that understanding, for instance, the social and cultural background of Corinth is important, but he also suggests that you can get that information simply by reading the Corinthian letters. Carson makes some good points in response, but Piper does not agree. Here is the clip.
I am curious how Piper can say "the vast majority of contextually relevant things, both socially and linguistically are in the book". He seems to assume that only relying on an English translation is enough for a pastor. But I wonder how he can say this. Carson's question about Ezekiel is a good one, but Piper does not answer it.
Piper argues that spending more time on the passage is more important than learning about the backgrounds. He seems to be separating background study from exegesis and I don't think you can. I think they are both equally important and some passages require more time in background study than others.
What do you think? Can preachers do a good job without having a good grasp of the background to a text? It the Bible enough?
HT: Michael Bird