In Part One of this article, I explained that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are more than divinely inspired, historically accurate biographies. They are that, to be sure. But each writer’s distinctive approach to telling his material gives us nuance and knowledge we would never have received from one writer alone.
This week we consider principles to help us get the fullest meaning possible from what I call these “pastorally interpretive narratives of the life of Christ.”
Read Behind the Lines
The first principle of Gospel reading is read behind the lines. In other words, look at the history and culture behind the Gospel stories. Often we can see a story’s truth clearly only when it’s placed against the historical/cultural/geographical backdrop. As 21st-century Westerners, we must put ourselves in ancient Jewish sandals to understand their culture. We will need to do some hermeneutical excavating to brush away the accumulated dust of the centuries to get back to the original setting. This background can take us to new depths of understanding.