How to Study the New Testament Like a Pro by Ed Cyzewski
While the Old Testament is essential for understanding the New Testament, roughlyfour-hundred years transpired after the last Old Testament book was written. Newinterpretations of the Old Testament emerged in between the testaments, theIntertestamental period, due to religious, political, and socio-economic events.Israel began this period under Medo-Persian rule. Then the Greeks took over before a Jewish Dynasty revolted and took control. After a brief time of Jewish rule the Romans,those mentioned in the New Testament, took over.During these tumultuous years Jewish writers penned a series of books known asIntertestamental literature. Some of these books developed a strong sense of theapocalyptic—anticipating the immanent return of God to save his people and to punishevil-doers. Out of that fertile ground Messianic movements rose up and various Jewishsects emerged with different applications of the Old Testament to their situation. Manyscholars today view Jesus as a prophet in the apocalyptic tradition.In order to better understand how people responded to Jesus, we need a clear picture ofnot only the Old Testament but also how his contemporaries read, interpreted, andapplied it to their times. John the Baptist, Herod, The Pharisees, the crowds, and thedisciples come to life when we read about Jesus with an awareness of his setting, theexpectations of his audience, and the tumultuous period leading up to his ministry.
Suggestions for Historical Background Research
Your best sources will be Bible Dictionaries and commentaries. Some basic Bibledictionaries are fairly inexpensive to purchase in sets of two or four if you wait for theright sale at Christian Book Distributors, though many churches should have some basic dictionaries on hand in a library. My favorite is the InterVarsity press seriesthat’s available on a more affordable CD-ROM.
Some local libraries may carry some worn dictionaries or commentaries that could beof use for extracting historical information.
For those with a little extra time, there is a wealth of information on theIntertestamental period’s literature on the New Testament in Larry Helyer’s book
Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period
I know you’re thinking it, so I’ll just say it:
. Yes, you can learn a ton aboutthe world of Jesus by reading articles on
about the various groups, events,and characters that shaped the world of the New Testament. For starters, look up theHasmonean Dynasty and read about its fall to the Roman dynasty of Herod.
Read Historical Background