A lot of disagreements between christians come down to how we see the Bible. And a lot of how we present the christian faith to outsiders (whether well or badly) is similarly determined by how we see the Bible.
I think there are four basic views, and I thought diagrams might make them clearer.
Two years ago I wrote about the progression we can see in the New Testament of the disciples’ belief in Jesus (see How did Jesus become God?), how they seemed to go from incomprehension to belief he was the Messiah, to belief in him as the unique son of God. In particular, I referenced New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman’s then view that this process took 60 years (from Jesus’ death to the writing of John’s Gospel).
Last week (Close to understanding Jesus?) I outlined how I came to see that much of the evangelical teaching I had received about Jesus didn’t really explain Jesus and his ministry in accurate terms historically.
It seems that many people are coming to similar conclusions, for example New Testament scholar NT Wright and the philosopher, the late Dallas Willard.
New Testament scholar and theologian, Scot McKnight’s 2011 book, The King Jesus Gospel, takes up the same theme, but from a theological rather than historical perspective. So I guess it is hardly surprising that Wright and Willard both contributed Forewords.
One day, when I was a young christian, I had a surprising thought. As soon as I thought it, I knew it couldn’t be true.
But this untrue thought set me on a path of discovery that I am still on today. This path has enriched my understanding of Jesus and changed the way I live and some substantial things about what I believe.
You can read the New Testament without knowing anything about the authors or the background to their writing. If that’s you, you probably won’t be interested in this post. But I have long been interested in these background matters, and lately I’ve be coming to a few conclusions.
I have been considering the implications of Peter Enns’ suggestion that, in the light of the evidence, we should understand the Old Testament differently than we have done in the past. In a comment on the post Interpreting the Old Testament, Brisancian has asked a number of questions about how we can know what’s true.
I thought the questions were important enough to answer in a new post. Quotes from Brisancian’s questions are shown as blockquotes.