Do you know the real story behind the New Testament? We all share a fascination for discovering ‘the rest of the story.’ Through reading the New Testament we discover that God indeed keeps his promises, but those promises don’t always look like what people expected. Especially when it comes to Jesus. Join well-known Bible scholars N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird as they team up to take you on a tour of the explosive story behind the story of the New Testament.
The Bible did not fall from the sky, written in “Ye Olde English” with the words of Jesus in red print. It came through the story and struggles of the early church. The Holy Spirit drew it together from the diaries they were keeping, the sermons they were preaching, the problems they were facing and seeking to solve, and the faith they were striving to live out each day. Learn the background behind the Gospels, the Book of Acts, the Letters of Paul, the General Letters, and the Book of Revelation.
If it had been up to a human strategist to plan the successful entry of God into history, it is unlikely he or she would have chosen locations like Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Galilee. It would be far-fetched to believe such a strategist would choose a time in history with so much radical political upheaval and transition of national powers. Learn about the influences of people like Antiochus, Alexander the Great, Pompey, Augustus, and the Pharisees and Sadducees on the world Jesus entered into.
When we see Jesus announcing the kingdom of God, we also see him doing all kinds of things like healing people and celebrating with all the wrong kind of folk—and then explaining this is what it looks like when God becomes King. It is not what people expected. Jesus did not come into this world just to reform, change, or tweak the existing world systems and power structures. Rather, he came as the King of all kings and the ruler of a new order: the kingdom of God.
The resurrection of Jesus surprised everyone in the ancient world. Even those who held a belief in some kind of afterlife did not imagine that a person could come back from the grave after being crucified and buried. No one saw it coming. The moment Jesus rose from the dead, everything changed. This moment draws a line in heaven, earth, and human hearts. Three words mark the start of this era, which continues today and will last forever: “He is risen!”
Paul the apostle, the traveler, the Roman citizen, the letter writer, and the theologian is the one who invented something we can call Christian theology. In Paul we have a man who not only left his mark on the church but also shaped a movement that would eventually subsume the Roman empire and even change the course of western civilization.
The early Christians believed in the one God. They believed in covenant and creation. They believed this had all come to a climax in the Messiah. They had received the Spirit . . . they were the beneficiaries . . . they were the recipients of the promises of Israel. They organized their lives around that belief, that hope, and that story. For the early believers, this was an exciting new thing they had received, and they were determined to live as Christians—while still getting muddled at times about what that actually meant.
The church has always been a missional community. Wherever Christians have gone, they’ve taken their faith with them and shared the good news about Jesus. But they not only spoke about it—they also lived it out in concrete ways. The reason is simple: it’s a direct imitation of Jesus or a direct commission from Jesus. The mission of the church comes from Christ. But be warned...the mission of the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ are more complex than we realize.
When God gave people his Word, the Bible, he did not give them the finished puzzle. In a sense, he gave them the box filled with so many pieces that it took centuries for them to put it together. It wasn’t just one person who worked on this puzzle, but countless individuals from a rich mix of times, places, backgrounds, cultures, and languages. It was not an exclusively human process, but God guided each step of the way . . . and he is the One who made all the pieces.