Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Biblical Reliability - The Gospels' Grasp of Culture

As I pointed out a couple of days ago, I was skipping one of my arguments for the historicity of the Gospels (which leads to a broader discussion of trustworthiness of the Bible). Specifically, I was skipping over a discussion about how the writing fits the cultural patterns of the day.

I want to get back to that today, leaving archaeology and testimony as my last two areas of discussion. These last three are the broadest in nature, too, and may be applicable to any number of other Biblical books.

First of all, I will acknowledge that this argument isn't necessarily compelling. When writing period fiction, for example, authors may achieve a feel and accuracy in writing about the period in question without having actually lived in that period. I'd suspect this is an argument many on the "the Bible is a nice book, but not really historically accurate" side of the fence would raise. I certainly wouldn't put a lot of stock into it were I not already persuaded by other areas of evidence.

That being said, cultural accuracy is a point in the Gospels' favor. If they were not accurate, in cultural matters or style, we would have less reason to trust them in matters like the resurrection. So I'm not so much advocating a strength as eliminating an area of potential weakness.

I'm going to attack this by linking to various Web sites which discuss this topic. Rather than ramble on as I've been wont to do lately, I figure I'll take advantage of the "linking nature" of the Internet to cover this topic. FYI, I don't fully buy everything written on every one of these pages. However, I generally agree with their views of the cultural accuracy of the Gospels (and where applicable, the NT as a whole.) This should also provide for additional perspectives on NT/Gospel/Biblical reliability overall as these articles address other evidences (some of which I've talked about as well.) Count this an exercise in "other views."

For a Fundamentalist view, see this article talking about Gospel authenticity. For cultural comments, scroll to the section headed "Inclusion of Facts That Only the Contemporaries of Jesus Would Have Known."

This article by pastor/Bible teacher Kevin King argues that, "one of the principal factors that has discredited the higher critics' theories concerning the origins of the gospels has been the sheer 'Jewishness' of the accounts, and the wealth of intimate historical detail they contain - accurately describing a cultural background unknown to the Graeco-Roman culture in which Christianity had taken root and at a level of detail unavailable to a later author." Examples are provided in his article.

A sermon talking about a cultural situation in the Gospels. This site is from a liberal church. I don't agree with much UCC theology but this sermon acknowledges that the Gospels got at least one cultural scenario right.

So, we see that folks from pretty much anywhere on the spectrum believe the Gospels accurately describe the culture, at least insofar as the surroundings in which Jesus et al found themselves were concerned. Again, this doesn't prove that the rest of the NT was historically accurate, but getting the setting right is at least another step towards credibility.

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