Historical Context Matters

These two quotes aptly describe the nature and goal of my doctoral studies in New Testament Context.

“The ideal interpreter would be one who has entered into that strange first-century world, has felt its whole strangeness, has sojourned in it until he has lived himself into it, thinking and feeling as one of those to whom the Gospel first came; and who will then return to our world, and give to the truth he has discerned a body out of the stuff of our own thought.” -C. H. DODD, lecture at Cambridge

And this gem:

“History is stubborn. It will put up with all kinds of treatment, allow itself to be squashed out of shape, cut up into pieces, discussed, dismissed, disfigured and generally beaten up this way and that; and then, at the end of the day, it is still there, bloodied but unbowed, eyebrows raised in an ironic but insistent question. After all the tumult and shouting have died down, after the ideologies and the grand schemes have strutted their stuff, history will still be there, waiting patiently but doggedly for its return. It won’t go away.

History is important not least because it is messy. Just as individual human beings, even the ones we know best, turn out to be not exactly the way we had imagined, to have slightly but significantly different aims, hopes and fears from the ones we had supposed — and just as a real human relationship involves facing those differences and learning to accept them and work with them, rather than continuing with our previous shallow projections — so the sheer detail of what happened last week, last century, or two millennia ago continues to reassert itself. The wise historian learns to face the evidence, to accept it and work with it, rather than continuing to superimpose upon it whichever large, easy scheme had earlier been in mind. That kind of historical exercise, I submit, has always been at the heart of the study of the New Testament. At least, it should have been.” -N. T. WRIGHT, Paul and His Recent Interpreters, p. 221

 

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