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The world we live in tends to no longer believe that the Gospels are historical documents that provide authentic portraits of Jesus Christ. Instead, like peeling back layers of an onion, both scholars and popular culture try to peel back portions of the Gospels that they believe do not provide accurate and authentic information about the “real” Jesus.
Learning about why people question the Gospels’ ability to provide entirely accurate information about Jesus is quite relevant in our society. Christians are facing questions and doubts about our faith all the time, and we need to know what we are defending. Understanding the tools scholars use in analyzing the historicity of the Gospels and communicating to non-believers when they question the Gospels are important skills for any theologian.
Many people fall into a trap of reading the Scriptures apart from their context within particular times and cultures. This may lead to anachronistic interpretations and a disregard for the notion that God used human authors who wrote about real and relevant issues in their respective cultural contexts.
Read the following textbook excerpts and watch the video lecture to better understand the historical context behind which the Gospels were written and the tools of the research used. You will learn about the history of Judaism, the geography of Palestine, and the culture of first-century Palestine to which Jesus Christ ministered.
Strauss, Four Portraits; One Jesus, pages 119–165 & pages 189–207
Strauss, Four Portraits, One Jesus, pages 463–481
Green, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, “Demon, Devil, Satan (Links to an external site.),” Background & Terminology sections
Green, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, “Temptation of Jesus (Links to an external site.),” Background & Terminology sections
Green, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, “Son of God (Links to an external site.),” Divine Sonship in the Old Testament & Judaism and Hellenism sections
After reading and watching the above resources, choose 1 excerpt or presentation that is especially helpful for you in understanding background issues related to Christ’s temptations or conception of research relating to the Gospels and follow these steps:
State the resource which was especially interesting to you.
Explain what you think to be the most significant/influential idea in that article/video in 1 paragraph.
Explain how that idea influences your reading and response to Christ’s wilderness temptations (found in either Matthew 4:1–11 and Luke 4:1–14). Start this portion in this manner:
“My reading of Christ’s wilderness temptation narrative is influenced by the idea that ________ [state #2 above]. That information impacts my reading in the following two ways: