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overview, rethinking

Seeking a ground level view of history

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.

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About Joshua

Writer, husband, father, friend.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Seeking a ground level view of history

  1. “presenting the facts as best as they can be discerned” The “facts” we can know about the words and actions talked about in the New Testament are in reality “very few”. So much of what people and even historians call “facts” are often disputed by other historians with a differing opinion (Is it a fact that the graves of many were opened and the dead raised or was the author writing in parable?). Now I do think it is important and fun to study and see what might of happen but I think people are more in need of Truth instead of so called historical facts. Jesus seemed to tell parables not factual stories to present truth. If one is saying he is presenting a “fact” he is more than often speaking to the head or fleshly nature of man but truth stirs the heart, I think the saying goes…as a man thinketh in his heart so is he. The best storytellers used historical mythology to communicate deep truth – You are right to say that “most people don’t know history” but what history is ever really presented “unbiased”? Can it be? It is my opinion that Historians would serve the public better if they attempted to present truth instead of supposed fact, especially of scripture, often the facts don’t tell the truth. What say you?

    Posted by Christopher M Pridham | April 9, 2012, 11:36 pm
    • Yeah, unfortunately all history has a bit of a spin to it, and even history must be interpreted. But the historian accepts this challenge and plods on. We’re not gonna get it all right, that’s a given. So we study and so we seek. But yes, ultimately the communication of “truth” is the aim, or at least it should be.

      Though it would probably serve us well in a conversation like this to ask at the very outset, “what is truth?”

      Posted by Josh | April 10, 2012, 3:32 am

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