“Sure-footed” in the Material of Ancient Judaism

“Sure-footed” in the Material of Ancient Judaism June 1, 2012

Geza Vermes, one of the senior statesman in Jewish Studies, pointedly expressed the importance of a thorough knowledge of the Jewish context of the New Testament for its proper interpretation in his book Jesus in His Jewish Context (Fortress Press 2003). While it is commonplace these days to assume the importance of the Jewish context for the New Testament, it is always good to hear a fresh challenge to “take seriously and walk sure-footedly in the languages and literature which form the Jewish background to the New Testament”.

In short, it has become obvious to many – in theory at least! – that expertise in the Jewish background to the New Testament is not an optional extra, but that, on the contrary, no adequate understanding of Christian sources is conceivable without it . . . A good New Testament scholar will have to endeavour to become a citizen of that larger world to which his discipline belongs (and that means not only Jewish, but also Hellenistic world), so that he will be able to understand the arguments advanced by the experts in the various provinces of that world, but also, to think out new and pertinent questions and initiate fresh research likely to be beneficial to New Testament study (63, 66).

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