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Yeshua in Context » Beginners, Reading Strategies, Study Tips » The Basics of the Gospels Series, #1

The Basics of the Gospels Series, #1

You will need some information from outside of the gospels and the Bible.

This principle is not evident to everyone. Recently I posted something positive on Facebook about the Pharisees. I met with fierce resistance from a well-meaning Christian (actually, I’m not so sure he was well-meaning). He started posting comments with exclamation points and some words capitalized. Didn’t I know Pharisee means hypocrite and they are of their father the devil? And he had a Bible verse to back up each point.

I told him that from knowing a little history we could see that the Pharisees were not what many people think. They were a smaller and far less influential group than many think. They were not all hypocrites and neither were their teachings all opposed to Yeshua’s way. I pointed out a few positive things said about Pharisees, such as Matthew 23:1-2.

The commenter fired back, “All we need to know is in scripture. No need to bring up history to understand the Pharisees. The Bible only is our source.”

It sounds good. It’s not true. The Bible assumes knowledge of some history, trends, facts, and personalities that is not talked about in the text itself. People in Israel in Yeshua’s time knew plenty about Herod Antipas, Essenes, Sadducees, the differences between Galileans and Judeans, the way oil lamps worked, and a thousand other things that are not common knowledge.

So, the first basic principle for gospel study is that you will need some information that is not in the gospels themselves, and sometimes not anywhere in the Bible. You’ll have to consult parts of the Bible outside of the gospels (it is best to have a good knowledge of the Pentateuch and at least some of Isaiah and Psalms before getting too far). You’ll have to consult some resources outside of the Bible too.

How is your Bible study library? Want to know the very first tool you should get?

A Bible dictionary. Which one do I recommend? First, do NOT (please) use one of the free ones to be found online. For most readers, I would recommend either The New Bible Dictionary (eds. Marshall, Millard, Wiseman) or The Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible (ed. Freedman).

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