Jesus from the oldest sources: What resources are there to support today's uncommited investigator? What kind of book is the Bible? Where to start? How does it fit? What questions deserve a nod? What ideas could usefully be addressed? What hazards lie in the path? So I set out to produce this blog.

Literalist and/or fundamentalist? Liberal? Evangelical? Post-modernist? Presuppositions and predilections? Prejudice or spiritual blindness? I suppose these and other swear words might seem handy? (Do any of them apply in a truly literal sense?) It is one thing if a person applies one or more of these words to themselves. It is another thing if others use them to label. I think that broad generalisations are not helpful and I should avoid them.

I doubt anyone actually just takes all Bible expressions on apparent, or simply literal, face value. I do not see how that can be done. Maybe some folk have space for talking snake(s)? What about plucking out an offending eye? Both of those examples are found in 'our' Bible.

Not all the literature between the covers of the Bible is of the same type. Some is prose; some poetic; some is metaphorical. "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) is one kind of text. Surely it is obviously different from "proclaim from the housetops" (Matthew 10.27). (Note also, both those quotes are ripped from their contexts, with signficant error if taken literally in the case of one.) In 26 of the 27 NT books the nature of the text seems clear, perhaps with the exception of the 3 'last things' chapters (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21; the final NT book presents a different challenge!).

I found that academic theological studies can be interesting and productive. However, technical questions aside, some experts I read wanted to remake the NT (or Bible) to say what appealed to them; to reconstruct it to fit with their own notions and purposes. (Speculations can be engaging, but that is beside the point.)

Information and reasons are one thing; opinion another. (Which, of course, is my opinion!) True - many scholars devote themselves to minute and detailed examination of the Bible text. They can provide a lot of information about, and insight into, the ancient writings, especially in the original settings. Unfortunately, intelligent, perceptive and diligent people may become (even overt) Bible 'remakers'. (Later I intend to detail an example. Much later note - this I did not do.)

My own approach in this blog is to treat all of the Bible as it is and reject none (though I do have sympathy for Luther's view of James!). There is a need for interpretation? The Bible is its own best interpreter (someone said). The significant 'catch', then, is to know the whole well enough to understand the part. It may take time.

Admittedly, here and there, there are 'variants', 'puzzles' and odd points of translation uncertainty. Resolution may not be available. Nothing fatal there to the task - and, since God is - not likely to be. From time to time I look at selected books or articles. However, in this blog I am not setting out to combat particular critical views, nor to present academic arguments. (Help can be found elsewhere if needed; for example,  may be useful to you.)

I shall aim to avoid suppositions, prejudices and unlabelled guesses. It is my position that God is true and God can be truly known. In fact God wants to be known and welcomes all-comers.

This blog is intended to help an enquirer engage with the NT. The main point is access to the records. So I will fill in some background and give some kind of 'glossary'. You can sample various translations. I suggest an optional order of engaging the documents (reading plan) in lieu of the assumed conventional (start at page one and read to the end)...

In my posts I give priority to the four Gospels, treating them as primary sources.  It is possible or probable that the first written text to come into the hands of early learners was something from Paul, eg, Galatians or Romans. However, the message the potential earliest disciple heard was from the (oral) account of Jesus, probably accompanied by selections from the Old Testament (OT) in Greek (the Septuagint, or LXX) .  

Overall, I am saying Jesus of Nazareth, Risen Christ (Messiah), Lord and Saviour, can, by God's help, be encountered and best truly understood through the pages of the NT, enriched by the OT. I hope you can meet him, whom to know is life eternal.  God bless you.

Scripture is taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.