Sunday, January 14, 2007

Reflections on the Holy Land, Part 2

Here is a question I have been pondering as a consequence of my recent trip to the Holy Land: How will a scholar interpret the New Testament differently (perhaps better), if she has an intimate fimilarity with the Land? Can one quantify the difference between a scholar who knows the land well and one who doesn't in their interpretation of Jesus and the Gospels? How much better will the research of a New Testament scholar be because they trimmed a balk and practiced the "waffer" method in a square or studied the pottery shards found in the dirt or dug up the walls of an ancient Jewish village? How much better will be the scholarhsip of one who has travelled the length and breadth of upper and lower Galilee, or gazed at the temple mount from the Mount of Olives or smelled the air off the sea at Caesarea, or hiked the cliffs above Qumran?

As with most things, this can't be an either/or answer. There have been plenty of NT scholars throughout the history of NT research who have made valuable contributions to the field without ever setting foot in the Land. Moreover, it is surely possible to point out flawed and weak views of scholars who know the land well. Yet, these facts suggest to me more a case of an expection that justifies the rule than undermining a basic premise that perosnal knolwedge of the Holy Land as well as biblical archaeology will lead to better interpretations. This point seems to me to be inassailable.


Anonymous said...

Joel-- I think you are spot on.
Unfortunately for me, I have yet to visit the Holy Land--but hope to some day.
I think a visit would add tremendous depth to my understanding.

exegetical fallacy said...


Man, I am so jealous. Next time you plan a trip like that, give me a ring so I can tag along!
How necessary, or at least beneficial, is it for an NT scholar to know the land? That's a tough question. I can only say that the semester I spent studing in Israel was the most I've ever learned about the OT (esp. the significance of geography); I've never really considered the total impact that the trip may have had on the NT, however.
I look forward to your forthcoming posts.

Michael F. Bird said...

Great stuff! I guess this is why Ernst Renan called the land the "Fifth Gospel"!!!

Anonymous said...

I look forward one day when I will have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and Paul. By the way, Joel, I saw John Taylor today in clas (I'm doing Greek Exegesis of Romans with him). He said to say hello to you.