I wanted to take a minute and advertise two figures who have been influencing my thinking on the gospels and Romans for the last few months.
The first is N. T. Wright, a well respected theologian whom some are calling the world’s top scholar. He is the Bishop of Durham and has much experience in studying the new testament and the jewish culture of Jesus’s day. His views on romans and the gospels have changed my concepts of “the kingdom” and the big picture in the Bible itself. His view on Romans I believe is more complete and makes much more sense than views that I had previously held especially concerning the word righteousness and how it is intended to be used throughout Romans. I enjoy listening to him a lot because he seems very objective in his views. He works hard to prevent his own nurture and biases from affecting the way he interprets scripture and constantly challenges his own views and other’s views and is not afraid to ask difficult questions, although he says it is impossible to completely get away from one’s bias.
You can purchase his book Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part One on Amazon. I have also included some of his free material here that has really inspired me. He is well educated and so sometimes his material may be difficult to read for the average reader, but his “For Everyone” book series is written to be simple.
The second scholar is David Bivin, a very well respected Jewish scholar living in Israel. His book Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insights from a Hebrew Perspective has clarified a lot of foggy passages throughout Matthew such as Matthew 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light,” Matthew 18:18 about binding and loosing in heaven and on earth, Matthew 5:17 about fulfilling and not destroying the law, and many others. The majority of the book is devoted to proving how Matthew was in fact originally written in Hebrew and not in Greek as many scholars in the last 250 years have claimed and that the language that was common to Jews in that day and the language Jesus would have spoken was Hebrew. This discovery has lead to the reinterpreting of several difficult passages that when put into Hebrew finally make sense. Jesus was often using Hebrew idioms in his speeches and this has lead to confusion in our english translations.
I am not trying to sell content, I have been strongly impacted by these scholars and I feel they have greatly enriched my understanding of the Bible, the language, and the culture of that time. These men have done the hard work for studying the Bible in context, the language of that time, and the culture and we could greatly benefit if we pay attention.