Understanding the Times of Christ

Thanks to the Book Thread folks for encouragement to start reading books again. Still re-learning, but enjoying it.

I found myself abruptly at the end of the narrative part of Mark Twain's Autobiography, part 1, big fat study edition. So, I picked up the next book I found lying around. Once again, I found one of those things Milady discovers in the thrift store bins for two bits:

Understanding the Times of Christ
William W. Menzies
Gospel Publ House, Springfield Mo. 1969

First thing I noticed about this book was, unlike the squinty Twain book, I didn't need my glasses. Normal-size type is still readable for me. Or I'm in denial about the blurriness. :/

This small book (124 pages) serves its purpose well: to give a broad, general background for understanding of New Testament times.

The author covers the history leading up to the times of Christ, the politics of Rome, and Palestine of the time, the society and daily life of Judaism of the time, the broad spread of Judaism, and Judaism functioning amid a pagan world.

The final two chapters are specifically about Jesus' life. The earlier chapters generally eschew footnotes (acknowledgements are made in the introduction), but derive from historical study and describe what you wouldn't pick up from reading the scriptures, while the last two chapters mostly derive from and reiterate the Gospels, relating them to the context aforedescribed.

As this is an area of interest of mine, I was intrigued that EITHER I was better informed than I realized OR the author and I are mis-informed in the same ways. I did glean some new information about the historical contexts, and some political-social matters. It was for me, then, in a way, a good "lite" refresher course; the arrangement of the information especially gave me a better perspective of the context and sequence of some events.

The author lapses regularly into some statement or other of Christian doctrine or teaching. Usually only a sentence at the end of a section, and not abrasive, nor unexpected in a publication from the Assemblies of God, but sometimes just seeming gratuitously inserted. Despite that, it was refreshing to read a book on Biblical historical context which came from a position of faith rather than cynicism and doubt.

Ironically, the chapter I found most informative was the section on the Essenes at Qumran. Ironically, I say, because the Essenes never get a mention in the New Testament, and really had nothing to do with the Christ story. The author includes them because of the newsworthiness-popularity, still in 1969, of the "Dead Sea Scroll" community.

The Essenes had a run of two hundred years, devoted to purifying themselves in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Just about one hundred years before, and one hundred years after Christ. It's already painfully obvious, practically redundant, when the author points out that, from a Christian's perspective, basically, they missed the boat they were packing for.

And after taking a couple of weeks to consume Twain's bio, it was nice to buzz through this little volume in a day. In learning to read all over again, that's a bit of encouragement.

But now I have the habit, I'm wondering, what to read now?