I continue to be writing up a storm, making just the progress I’ve wanted on my Bible Introduction. Gods willing, I will finish chapter 8 tomorrow, which is all of the chapters dealing with the Hebrew Bible. I was eager to finish this part of the book before the weekend, because on Monday I head overseas for the rest of the summer (Sarah and I spend a good chunk of every summer in London; she’s a Brit, and has been there already for a couple of weeks, teaching a Duke summer school program abroad). I hope to finish the NT section while I’m there, but that won’t take as much work, in a sense, since I have, well, written about the NT before. (In another sense it takes a lot more work — about 35 years worth altogether). While I’m away, I will certainly keep this blog going full steam. In case you wondered!

Below is a little section from my opening chapter of the Intro. Remember: this book is for 19 year olds, most of whom will know NADA about the Bible. Early on I want to surprise them and to get them to think. And to realize that a historical approach to the Bible is different from a devotional approach they may have had taken before, if they grew up in a religious community.


One of the fundamental lessons we will be learning throughout the course of our study is that if want to understand something, we have to put it in its proper context. Any time you take something out of context, you misunderstand it. Nowhere is that more obvious or important than with the Bible. This can easily be illustrated.

In the book of Isaiah, written in the eighth century BCE, there is a prophecy that has historically been very important to Christians thinking about the birth of Jesus.   In some English translations of the passage, we read:  “The Lord himself shall give you a sign.  A virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call him Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).   Because this same verse gets quoted in the Gospel of Matthew 7:14, it is typically understood by Christians to be a prophecy about the messiah: his mother will be a virgin.   According to this reading, Isaiah was looking forward to the coming of the savior of the people – the messiah  (which literally means “anointed one” – referring to the one favored by God whom God sends in order to save his people) – who will come into the world not in a normal way, but by a virgin birth.

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