Radio Show

N.T. Wright on the Historical Context of the New Testament


N.T. Wright, award-winning author and New Testament scholar, stops by the show to discuss his new book, “The New Testament in Its World: An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the First Christians.”

Wright explains how this new book aims to place early Christianity in its original context for readers. “It’s not to say that God can’t speak to people through the Bible even though they haven’t studied. But there are many passages which you may read wrong if you don’t have some help.”

N.T. Wright encourages readers to think like a first-century believer to understand the remarkable text. “The Bible itself is very specifically a book of its time, because the whole message of Christianity is that at the time God became human as Jesus of Nazareth. So that it isn’t about a religion in which God is sort of floating up in the up in the sky somewhere and dropping down hints and guesses at us. It’s about God coming and getting his feet dirty and his hands messy with all problems. Because we aren’t people like that who floats around in mid air. We are real people with our feet on the ground. We have to live in real life and make real difficult decisions and face problems.”

Wright explains that the New Testament is about how God enters into our world and our problems and shows us how to handle them, and a historical context is important in understanding that. “You only really get that message when you do the history and understand the world of the day,” He says, using an analogy of what technology might look like 2,000 years from now to explain his point.  “I hope there won’t be any such thing as smartphones anymore. We’ll have something else. Things will be implanted in our brains, maybe. But if you were looking back at our time and didn’t know what a smartphone was, you would not get what’s happening in our world [at the time].. So the trick to understanding the New Testament is knowing the historical context.”