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A Background to New Testament for College Students and Pastors


Abstract and Figures

The New Testament document did not drop from heaven! This statement sounds strange; and it sounds like a bomb thrown at devoted Bible readers. However, it is loaded with a lot of things that need to be understood by anyone who wants to get good insight into the texts that constitute the New Testament. I came to this conclusion as a student and later a lecturer in New Testament Studies. The New Testament has a plethora of backgrounds – historical, geographical, political, philosophical, economic, social, literary, and many more. All these backgrounds constitute what is called the intertestamental period, the 400 silent years between the Old and New Testaments. These backgrounds are not stated directly in the document though; but a serious student the New Testament is able to see, them from an academic point of view. This raises the question of whether the New Testament is an academic document. The answer to this question is not a straight forward one depending on who is answering the question. But the truth is that any literary document such as the New Testament can be studied academically. Studying the background of the New Testament has some value. There are many references in the New Testament which can be located as historical events that occurred in the intertestamental period, and a student of the New Testament must know in order to be well informed when reading the New Testament. For example, one comes across religious groups like the Sanhedrin, Pharisees, Sadducees; political titles like Herod. Who were they and how did they emerge? The answer to this question is best answered when one does a background study of the New Testament. The New Testament is the record of the works of God in history. Viewed from this perspective, one could say that the New Testament is a factual document; and background study of the New Testament authenticates its factuality. The more one studies the contexts in which the New Testament evolved, the more one gets a precise picture of its people and places. This does not however mean that the New Testament is guilty until proven innocent in historical matters. The opposite rather pertains; the New Testament has proven itself as a historically reliable document. Another important reason for the study of the New Testament background it places events in a sharper focus; it helps students to appreciate the meaning of stories contained in the pages of the New Testament. When one reads stories about the Pharisees and Sadducees confrontations with Jesus in the gospels; and the reference of sorcery in the book of Acts; and magical books in Ephesians and philosophy in Colossians it sends one’s mind back to events that happened in the intertestamental period. Further, an understanding of the religions, customs, languages, geography, and politics in the intertestamental period can help one understand certain difficult sayings and events in the New Testament. There are interpretation problems as one studies the New Testament, and these could be solved with knowledge of the New Testament background. There are gaps in our knowledge of the New Testament we read now and what really happened at the time the events took place. The study of the New Testament background can help fill the gaps in our knowledge. This ten-chapter book, A Background to the New Testament for College Students and Pastors, can be used as a resource textbook for Introduction to the New Testament at the college level. Bible school students, pastors and all those who are willing to learn may find useful.
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Religious pluralism has characterized societies since time immemorial and has been one of the sources of conflict in many societies. This article compares how religious pluralism was handled in intertestamental Palestine and the manner it is managed in post-apartheid South Africa. The study used academic literature which applied the Apocrypha to describe the religious context of Palestine between 336 BC and 63 BC. The themes that emerged from this analysis were then used to source academic literature that describes the religious context of South Africa from 1994 to 2021. This process led to the synthesis of the similarities and differences of the two contexts. The findings latently reveal the contribution of the Apocrypha to theological reflection while simultaneously showing that the Roman Empire’s violent attempts to undermine religious pluralism in intertestamental Palestine bred counterviolence. The paper further reveals that post-apartheid South Africa’s use of legal instruments to promote religious pluralism seems to contribute to the optimization of religious freedom and peaceful co-existence. These findings are likely to contribute to the discourse of religious pluralism, interfaith dialogue, and intercultural communication.
The Cambridge Companion to the Bible, Second Edition provides in-depth data and analysis of the production and reception of the canonical writings of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, and also of the apocryphal works produced by Jewish and Christian writers. Unique among single-volume introductions, this book focuses on the ever-changing social and cultural contexts in which the biblical authors and their original readers lived. The authors of the first edition were chosen for their internationally recognized expertise in their respective fields: the history and literature of Israel; postbiblical Judaism; biblical archaeology; and the origins and early literature of Christianity. In this second edition, all chapters have been updated and thoroughly revised, under the direction of a new volume editor, Bruce D. Chilton. More than 22 new maps, 90 new photographs and a full-color section help illustrate the book. © Cambridge University Press 1997 and Bruce Chilton, Howard Clark Kee, Amy-Jill Levine, Eric M. Meyers, John Rogerson, Anthony J. Saldarini 2008.
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