Is it Important For Christians To Read About Jewish History?

by Michael T. Graham Jr. – Oct 7

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As one considers the vast history that the Biblical narrative encompasses, he or she can feel a bit overwhelmed. The narrative of scripture spans thousands of years, multiple geographical locations, and it is recorded in three different languages. Moreover, it is surrounded by multiple other languages and cultures. Thus, the notion of understanding the culture and context in which God acted in history is not a light task. However, it is an essential one, for the Bible leaves out much of the surrounding historical and cultural details since the original reader would have been familiar with these things.  That is, as N.T. Wright aptly states, “…the writers of the New Testament were not for the most part trying to give their readers this sort of information…that sort of between-the-lines reconstruction is what historians often have to do.” (N.T. Wright, The New Testament and Te people of God, 14-15). Thus, as modern readers of Sacred scripture, there will be much benefit from reading the history that surrounds the texts that we value so much, for in that history we can discover many of the details that the writers of scripture assumed their readers already knew.
One book that is particularly helpful in understanding the cultural and historical setting leading up to and during the time of Christ is Victor Tcherikover’s Hellenistic Civilization and The Jews. In this book, Tcherikover walks the reader through the key events from Alexander the Great to the fall of the Hasmoneans. That is, from about the years 334 B.C.E. to 64 B.C.E.  Further, in this book he addresses key cultural, political, social, and economical issues. Thus, this book is immensely helpful to anyone who wishes to understand the historical and cultural climate surrounding the making of the New Testament.