Editorial -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 50:2 (NA 1999)
Article: Editorial
Author: Anonymous


A serious information gap has developed recently which has significant ramifications for the study of the language and the social setting of the New Testament. It stems from specialisation that has increased significantly in recent decades. Dr R. Lawrence has drawn attention to the problem in areas germane to the New Testament. He notes that ‘developments in the field of archaeology have seldom been communicated beyond the discipline...the two groups of scholars had clearly become isolated through the definition of archaeologists as “not historians” from the 1970’s...Similarly, ancient historians had lost touch with their archaeological colleagues.’1

This difficulty has arisen partly because of the use of highly sophisticated scientific instrumentation regarded as essential to archaeology and results in highly complex reports. Archaeologists see their discipline as a ‘science’, hence their disclaimer.

An allied problem, which also has important consequences for New Testament language and culture, developed much earlier. Epigraphists and papyrologists can no longer speak readily to other disciplines. The former group of professionals are inheritors of a nationalism that developed in a mad late eighteenth and nineteenth century scramble for rights to unexplored sites in the Mediterranean regions governed by European and the Ottoman Empires. Inscriptions published by different nations had no agreed set of conventions and this has created seemingly insuperable difficulties.2

Papyrologists have an internationally agreed set of conventions for their discipline, a field of study which is critical for understanding New Testament Greek. However, the fruits of their endeavours have not flowed into the critical study of New Testament language, as they did so effectively nearly 100 years ago in A. Deissmann’s day.3

If the end result is that those who work in these specialised areas of ancient evidence are going their separate ways and the published results of their endeavours are not easily accessible to those in allied fields, then what hope is there for the appropriate use of this material for New Testament study? Yet, like any other corpus it is essential to examine its documents in the social, political and religious contexts from which and to which they were written. An appreciation of its first-century Jewish and Graeco-Roman horizons is needed if teachers are to apply the text responsibly to identical situations in the many twenty-first century cultural horizons of world-wide Christianity...

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