The New Testament, an Introduction: Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History

The New Testament, an Introduction: Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History

The New Testament, an Introduction: Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History

The New Testament, an Introduction: Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History

Excerpt

The New Testament is both a book and a collection of books. When we read the New Testament we immediately are aware that it is trying to convince us that certain things are true and therefore affect our lives. There is, in other words, a strong element of proclamation in the New Testament. Its writers sought to exhort and instruct, to guide and comfort, to advise and encourage, and often to reprimand. Scholars call this parenesis.

These considerations account for the first part of the subtitle of this book. The second part of the subtitle derives from the further consideration that the New Testament is a fascinating blend of history and myth. On one level we are being presented with the historical facts of how the Romans crucified a potentially dangerous leader (they crucified a hundred such men) and of the story of a wandering missionary for a new religion or philosophy who ran into trouble with his rivals in the city of Corinth. On another level we are being presented with the same facts as they reveal the nature of God's judgment on the wisdom and power of the world--as they become myths. This theme is developed in the second chapter of this book, and it remains a constant factor in later chapters.

The New Testament tells of events, ideas, and persons surrounding a Jew who lived in ancient Palestine and who spoke the Aramaic language. But Palestine was part of the Roman Empire, and the texts of the New Testament reflect the historical, cultural, and religious circumstances of that larger environment; they were written in Greek, then the international language of the empire. Chapter 1 therefore surveys the world of the New Testament by taking up the history and religions of the Greek and Roman periods, especially those of Judaism. Moreover, the texts of the New Testament can properly be understood historically only if they are placed firmly in the context of the particular . . .

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