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May 22, 2007


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great stuff - keep em coming Michael!
very helpful information in terms of understanding bible culture.
God bless you as you serve him and those of us who read your teaching.

Dana Ames

This makes me think that Jesus was pointing out the "unjust" steward's shrewd use of the system in the parable in Lk 16 ("take your accounting sheet and write less than you owe my master"). The point Jesus was making was something else, but his description was clearly of something his hearers would have made sense of- patronage.

Why don't pastors teach this stuff to their congregations? Sheesh... How did you first come by this information? There's more of an emphasis on it since we are realizing the importance of context, but it's hard for me to believe it's been entirely unknown until now.


Beyond Words

Thank you--this concepts explains grace so it makes sense--not the "free gift with no strings attached" commodity that evangelicals are so fond of proclaiming. It's a gift so precious that it inspires our true devotion. As usual in the kingdom, a worldy power structure is subverted for truth.

Michael W. Kruse

Dana, for me, this stuff blows the Bible wide open, particularly with regard to Jesus' parables.

I came by it because of I'm obsessive historical-sociologist. *grin* I can’t remember the exact route that took me ever deeper into this stuff. I think the hands down best introductory to this stuff is deSilva’s Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture. Another helpful book, although I take issue with some minor conclusions, is James Jeffers The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity. For background on the family, I consider Joseph Hellerman's The Ancient Church As Family to be an excellent resource.

You are right that much of this info has been around many years. Most of it has seemed to stay locked away in the academy until about the last quarter century or so. I think new literature finds across the 20th Century have been adding to our knowledge and the ascendancy of anthropology/sociology have greatly sharpened our biblical lenses.

My suspicion is that anthropological and sociological methods emerged within the context of higher criticism where there was a heavy bent on deconstruction and “demythologizing” scripture. They were tools used to undermine the traditional view of the authority of the Word. For that reason, many who held to the high view of scripture (like me) were loathe to really engage this material. Starting in the 1970s I think you see what I call the rise of “lower criticism,” which seeks to engage scripture in its full orbed cultural context while still holding to it as the rule of faith and authoritative in all it teaches. (Higher criticism places the reader above the text and makes it conform to preconceived lens of the in order to be in authority over it. Lower criticism critiques from below scripture assuming its authority but wanting to appreciate fully its socio-historical contextual nature. I think the decay of modernism is giving a place for rediscovery of the Bible's original context.

Michael W. Kruse

BW, maybe you have heard of the reformers 3 "Gs": Guilt, Grace, Gratitude. We are convicted of rebellion and separation from God, which we can not repair. Unbelievable Grace is extended to us by God. This evokes deep gratitude in us that makes us want to serve the giver of grace. Guilt, grace, and gratitude is what melts and molds us into the person God calls us to be. I think the reformers had decent grip on grace.

As I will point out in my posts, this human practice of grace, with all of its pretense of benevolence, was rife with people hungry for status and influence. What I think we see in the gospel is “grace” transformed into something higher. How many patrons allowed themselves to be murdered, or their sons to me murdered, for the benefit of clients? The grace of God in Jesus is absolutely scandalous.

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