Introduction to Gospel Backgrounds
The study of Jesus’ life in the Gospels is a fascinating and spiritually rewarding adventure. It is even more so when you have a growing understanding of the environment into which the Son of Man came, lived, ministered, died, and rose again. But more often than not we have to completely rely on the “experts” to tell us something about the background. Actually, having the experts there to help us is most often a good thing, but so is reading these ancient texts for yourself. With this in mind, it is the point of this project to provide you with the references to extra-biblical literature (indexed according to the Gospel passages) so that you can go, look up the texts, and read the material for yourself. It is our hope to someday have English translations of these texts online, here at the Biblical Studies Foundation, so that you can easily access them. For the time being, however, a list of the relevant citations will take you a long way in accessing this material for fruitful study, teaching, and preaching. Further, many of the volumes such as Josephus, Philo, the OT Apocrypha, the Septuagint, the Mishnah, and a good translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, are fairly inexpensive reference volumes that every Bible student can own. The OT Pseudepigrapha, Gnostic sources, and Mystery Religion materials are also available in English translations at quite reasonable prices. The Midrashim, Targums, and Talmud generally cost a fair amount, but are still manageable for some folks. Perhaps the best work that surveys this material and is, therefore, necessary for proper handling of, and fruitful access to, these background sources is Craig A. Evans, Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992). This work is generally available for about $15-17 U.S.