Most people don’t care to know history, and one could hardly blame them for the wealth of boring material there is out there on the subject. Of those who do take an interest, generally all they are given is a birds’ eye view of the past. The problem is that most historians are not necessarily good storytellers. What we need is a ground level view of history told in a you-are-there style of approach.
Don’t get me wrong. What we need is not to embellish facts or blend real happenings with intriguing speculation. It’s tempting to try to dress up the actual story of what’s been said and done, but in the end we’re not doing anyone a favor by giving in to this urge. I love a good historical fiction as much as the next guy, but when it comes to the New Testament we need to shoot straight as much as possible and be careful to distinguish between fact and fiction.
For instance, knowing the story of the first century churches will effectively chip away at the popular notion of a “golden age” of Christianity. They certainly had some things going for them that we don’t, but they had their fair share of problems just the same. It wasn’t all peaches and cream, you know.
Anyway, this is what I envision for a new New Testament: A grassroots presentation of the early movement of the Spirit in the days and years immediately following Jesus’ resurrection… a ground level view offering real historical sense rather than the bird’s eye view we are usually forced to settle with.
Our historians must also be master storytellers, presenting the facts as best as they can be discerned. This presentation must be unbiased by any particular church tradition and unembellished by the novelist’s flair for the dramatic. In short, we must allow the Story to tell itself.