A little over a decade or so ago I read a book that transformed my view of the Bible. The book was Philip Yancey’s The Bible Jesus Read. By then I’d read two of his other books — Yancey’s, not Jesus’ books, although I suppose I’d read his too — and I loved his writing. The Bible Jesus Read helped me to understand the Old Testament, a large portion (about two-thirds of the Bible) that many Christians haven’t read.
I read another book recently that may change as dramatically the way I read the New Testament, or at least the Gospels. Lois Tverberg’s Walking in the Dust of the Rabbi Jesus helped to transport me to the time and culture of Jesus on earth.
Instead of photoshopping Jesus into yet another improbable reality, a helpful corrective would be to restore Jesus to his original setting. … With our individualism, secularism, materialism, and biblical illiteracy, we in the Western world are the ones who have moved farthest away from Jesus’ world. –LOIS TVERBERG
She dispels our understanding of love, which we tend to equate with emotional feelings, whereas biblical love emphasizes commitment and actions. For instance, how can we love our enemies? By thinking nice thoughts? In this commandment, Jesus was plausibly addressing how we treat them, more so than how we feel about them. Though, our emotions can indeed be changed by our actions. Love is also loyal, especially God’s love toward us. It isn’t so much about the thrill of romance but about faithfulness. Tverberg wonders if the fact that more and more of us are growing up in broken families is causing us to lose our ability to imagine enduring love. I would agree.
Tverberg underscores biblical community as paramount, that our modern individualism contrasts sharply with the culture of the Bible. And I don’t think this is a good thing.
Even though the early Jerusalem church emphasized community, within only a few centuries Gentiles brought into the church an emphasis on individual piety and private devotion. By AD 400, many Christians believed that the hermit’s utter solitude was the path to God. Modern Christians, especially American Protestants, still maintain a strong sense of “Jesus and me” individualism, emphasizing one’s “personal relationship with Christ” as the essence of faith. –LOIS TVERBERG
She also addresses the power of the tongue and how we are to judge others according to Jesus’ guidelines.
While you can discern sin in practice, only God knows the whole motive of the heart. We can (and should) discern outward wrongdoing, but we aren’t qualified to slam down the gavel and declare God’s condemnation on the person as a whole. –LOIS TVERBERG
I earnestly encourage you to read Walking in the Dust of the Rabbi Jesus and to check out another of hers, Sitting at the Feet of the Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, which I haven’t read yet but will.