Given Christianity’s status as a historical religion, with roots deeply entwined in the recorded past, one would think that Christians would possess a relatively high degree of historical awareness. Certainly, one might expect that a Christian, who looks for salvation in God’s self-revelation in history would place a relatively higher premium on getting history straight than, say, a Buddhist, who searches for salvation within a timeless sphere. One would think this . . . however, I don’t think there is evidence that such is the case. In my experience, Christians care about national and world history about as much or as little as their neighboring Buddhists or Hindus—no more, no less. . . . why is that when it comes to “sacred events” (call it the “history of Israel” or the “human history of the kingdom of God”), it is almost a mark of piety not to know about precise dates and times? Why is it considered in so many circles almost a matter of true spirituality not only not to know the historical facts but also not to care? It is an odd state of affairs but it is a dynamic which I think can hardly be denied in the contemporary church.1A lack of interest and knowledge in Biblical history leads to all manner of problems, but perhaps none more serious than a misunderstanding of the context within which various Biblical events take place. This results in a failure to appreciate the implications of Biblical events and even a tendency to misinterpret or ignore otherwise-puzzling statements made by Jesus (e.g., Mat. 18:22; Mat. 19:28; Luke 21:24; Acts 1:6-7). How can we say that we truly love Jesus when we demonstrate an ongoing ignorance of the history from which Christ draws His teaching in the NT? This sad state of affairs is perhaps exacerbated by the seemingly common belief among Christians that most of what the OT reveals has been superseded or reinterpreted by the NT—a faulty view of how the two testaments relate to one another. The progressive revelation within the NT does not abrogate or redefine the OT, but augments, clarifies, and enhances truths which God had already revealed.2
1 Andrew E Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2011), xxi-xxii.
2 The idea that anything truly important for Christians to understand must be repeated by God in the NT, after having already being set forth in the OT, is inadequate. We need remember that the only scriptures which the early Christians had were in fact the OT. It was from these scriptures that Paul reasoned that “Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 17:2; 28:23).