Sep 6, 2016
People in popular media tend to discuss the Bible in one of two ways. Either they focus on new research that challenges traditional Jewish and Christian historical claims or they offer selective quotes to prove a theological or political point. Literary interpretations that pay attention to the whole of a biblical book and the agenda of its author, in contrast, are less common. I argue, drawing on my interview with Jocelyn McWhirter, that this kind of interpretation is hard to do, but it is important and can be persuasive in a way that the two methods just mentioned (historical criticism and proof-texting) usually cannot.
I interview McWhirter about her book, Rejected Prophets: Jesus and His Witnesses in Luke-Acts. She argues that Luke presents Jesus and his disciples as rejected prophets to address several developments that were surprising to first-century Christians. First, the Messiah was supposed to overthrow the enemies of the Jews, but Jesus didn’t do that. Second, most mainstream Jews were rejecting Jesus rather than rallying behind him. Third, most converts to the Jesus movement were Gentiles – that is – non-Jews. Why were all these Gentiles following the long-awaited Jewish Messiah? And fourth, the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, which was supposed to be the Messiah’s power base.
We also discuss the field of biblical studies, differences between literary and historical approaches to the Bible, and what makes an understanding of Jesus more or less persuasive.