Okay, I am not gonna lie. I have never been a big fan of the Bible. I know that clearly sounds like heresy, but it's true! I mean, I have had a pure admiration for it, but just never understood it. The Message translation came along and helped a little bit, but by that time I had so much frustration, it was difficult to even pick it up anymore. I have read all kinds of books to help me try to understand Scripture, but have mostly resolved to rely on the holy spirit's guidance much like Christians did before the New Testament was published, or the illiterate Christians Jeane Guyon discipled.
I have read one book recently, however, that has totally changed my perspective of the New Testament. The Untold Story of the New Testament by Frank Viola. It helps me understand the culture, see things through Paul's (and all the 1st century Christian's) eyes, etc. Read with the New Testament, it is very much an impactful narrative that has you in tears by the end. I want to (have to)go back and read it again, and keep going deeper. It's like I just received a degree in New Testament or something. Seriously.
here is fellow blogger, Lionel Wood's, review:
Viola Frank. The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament . Destiny Image Publishers , 2005. pp. 208. $10.04
Frank Viola author of Pagan Christianity, Rethinking the Wineskin and now Reimagining Church has provided the Body of Christ a Gem in this work. The book sets out to put the New Testament in Chronological order, filling in gaps, and helping the reader of the New Testament to see, smell, touch and hear what our 1st century brothers and sisters would have experienced during the time the “Church” is being built by Jesus Christ through the work of the Spirit in the lives of the Apostles and others.
The book succeeds greatly at that in my opinion. As I was reading many of the events I had memorized through the book of Acts and the Epistles are displayed in panoramic view. It is like I am there, walking with Paul and Silas, on the ships with Luke and Paul, in Ephesus with Timothy. My heart is burdened with Paul as he writes these letters to the churches he has risked to plant. As the Corinthians reject his apostleship. As the Galatians are hoodwinked by the Judiazers, as the Thessalonians are troubled by those who claim the resurrection has happened, as Titus is struggling to keep the Church at Crete afloat, as John writes to Asia Minor about the “anti-Christs” who have snuck in, as Timothy wants to quit and abandon the gift that he received to continue the work started in him, as Paul writes Philemon about Onesimus and the Colossians about gnosticism and Peter attempts to encourage those who are suffering greatly under the Neroan tyranny. I am there and tears are in my eyes as I am encouraged to see that the same things they struggled with we struggle with.
Frank Viola does an amazing job getting you there and his writing style keeps you captivated. As you go back open your bible to follow the story. You have to keep your bible close by because you will say “I never saw that” and it makes it that much more exciting. You see the Apostolic assistants and church planters write Paul as a wise dad. Paul responds with great insight and wisdom. Which is impossible without the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit. Christ saw this coming and the scriptures are written before your very eyes.
I will say there is much interpretation as the Epistles are written in narrative form. But that was okay for me. I am secure in many of my positions and for those which were challenged I am open to reform. I am pretty sure I will change my position another 100 times before my death and I am secure in the Gospel. But again there is much interpretation in the book so be prepared if you read. Some who read here that are New Testament History buffs may disagree with the chronology of the book and that is okay also.
I recommend this book for EVERY Christian who wants to attempt to understand the New Testament. We see the NT epistles as a response to the maturation of the Church of Christ. We get to understand why Paul tells the Galatians to cut the entire sexual organ off if circumcision is a benefit. We see Paul directing Timothy to sit the women down in Ephesus and Corinth (funny the other churches wouldn’t have known much about this). Once again the book was a gem and I recommend you have this book or something along its line right with your Bible Dictionaries, Greek NT, Concordance and Commentaries.
Author’s Website: http://www.ptmin.org/
By the way, the Viola book, Pagan Christianity, that I set out to read and blogged about forever ago, is awesome too! Such perspective on "church" and Christianity as we know it today, and it will blow your socks off some of the practices we blindly take part in! Actually, quite scary! Definately worth the time spent reading.