The Bible in History: How the Texts Have Shaped the Times

The Bible in History: How the Texts Have Shaped the Times

The Bible in History: How the Texts Have Shaped the Times

The Bible in History: How the Texts Have Shaped the Times

Synopsis

No one can doubt that the Bible has exerted a tremendous influence on Western civilization since the dawn of Christianity. But few of us have considered the precise nature of that influence in particular historical contexts. In this book, David Kling traces the fascinating story of howspecific biblical texts have at different times emerged to be the inspiration of movements that have changed the course of history. By examining eight such pivotal texts, Kling elucidates the ways in which sacred texts continue to shape our lives as well as our history. Among the passages hediscusses are:
• "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18), which inspired the formation of the papacy and has served as its foundation for centuries
• "The righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:17), which caught the imagination of Martin Luther and sparked the Protestant Reformation
• "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me'" (Exodus 8:1), which has played an important and diverse role in African American history from early slave spirituals through the modern civil rights movement and beyond
• "There is no longer Jew orGreek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), which has been adopted by feminists as a rallying cry in the battle for women's ordination Each of the historical episodes he explores--from the beginning ofChristian monasticism to the emergence of Pentecostalism--is evidence of the dynamic interplay between Scripture and the social and cultural context in which it is interpreted. Kling's innovative study of this process shows how sacred texts can give life to social movements, and how powerful socialforces can give new meaning to Scripture.

Excerpt

The basic idea for this book originated in the classroom. Over the past two decades I have taught in two kinds of educational environments: one a private, nonsectarian university, the other a variety of Christian settings, including a Protestant college, a Catholic seminary, and a number of Protestant churches. In my experience, students in both groups labor under misapprehensions that, although quite different, are related. On the one hand, university students may learn something from a course in the history of Christianity, but when the last assignment is completed and the final exam taken, they have little knowledge of the Bible's relationship to developments in the history of Christianity. Ironically, it is as if the Christian faith, often labeled a “religion of the book,” were bereft of a guiding sacred text throughout its history. By contrast, although students in Christian educational settings have a working knowledge of the Bible, they have little understanding of how various biblical texts have been interpreted and applied throughout history. For them there is a different irony: it is as if the Christian faith, often called a “historical religion,” were devoid of twenty centuries of history. And so the idea occurred to me, now expressed in the pages that follow, to make some attempt to bridge the gap between Scripture and its place in the history of Christianity.

Given the specialties and subspecialties of the field, historians of Christianity seldom venture into the discipline of biblical scholarship. In fact, a perusal of general works on the history of Christianity turns up limited references to the impact of the Bible as a formative influence in Christian history. Apart from a discussion of the . . .

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