Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Martin Hengel on the New Testament and its reliability

Interviewed here by John Dickson. Persevere! It's well worth the effort.

John writes of Hengel:

Let me say something about Professor Hengel’s huge scholarly contribution (which, curiously, is greater in the English-speaking world than in Germany). As I wandered around his library I came across a section containing his own authored and edited volumes, about 80 in all. I was reminded not only of how prolific he was but also how very significant. Few scholars can expect to write something others will describe as ‘landmark’. Hengel is a one man landscape. At a time when faddish scholars were downplaying the connections between Jesus and Judaism and playing up the connections between Christianity and ancient pagan religion, Hengel was busy clarifying our picture of first century Palestine and then trying to set Jesus and the Gospels within that secure context. He wrote a still-standard text on the rise of Jewish revolutionaries in the period (known as the Zealots). In his Judaism and Hellenism he carefully described the relationship between ancient Jews and the surrounding Greek culture. The significance of this last work cannot be overstated. It is now historically impossible to speak of a neat distinction between Greek and Jewish cultures in antiquity, and the once-common suggestion that our Greek Gospels could only contain a distant echo of an Aramaic-speaking Palestinian Jew is now historically untenable. The prominence of the Greek language among Jews even in Jerusalem makes it virtually certain that Jesus’ teachings were being retold in Greek immediately after his death, if not during his own lifetime.

Hengel died on July 2.

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