There is a massive difference between being familiar with something and understanding it. Having an acquaintance and building a deep friendship are radically different experiences. Flying on a plane and being an aeronautical mechanic are not the same thing!
In the same way, when it comes to the New Testament, many of us are familiar with it. We have an “acquaintance” kind of relationship with this ancient collection of twenty-seven books. We might own a Bible, we have heard sermons, and we have likely read some portions of the New Testament. Maybe we have even read the entire Bible.
But the real question is . . . do we know and understand the New Testament?
Imagine you have gone to the same doctor for more than twenty years. You know his name and can predict how he will be dressed (he always wears a long white coat that buttons in the front). You have a good sense of his interests. He likes to ask questions about your health, eating habits, and exercise disciplines. You could certainly identify your doctor in a crowd. He is caring and compassionate and is quick to ask questions about you.
After twenty years, you are confident you know your doctor.
Then one day, you go to a dinner party with friends and are delighted to discover your doctor is also there. As you listen to him throughout the evening, you are amazed to learn all sorts of new things about this man you thought you knew. For one, he has a wife—which had never really crossed your mind. He also has two sons and is clearly fond of them. Later, in a quieter conversation with a few people, you also discover he had a daughter who died when she was only eighteen months old. As he describes the loss, you realize the experience was more than two decades ago, but there is still real pain behind his eyes and in his heart.
During the course of the evening, you have learned your doctor is far more complex, interesting, and real than you had ever imagined. This new context and interaction has opened your eyes and heart to a whole new person you now see in a completely different light. You realize that while you knew your doctor, you never really knew your doctor.
Perhaps you know the New Testament at the same level you know your doctor. You’ve interacted with it here and there. You’ve heard your pastor use it in sermons at church. You’ve read a few passages here and there. Maybe you have even read the entire Bible. But you don’t really know it personally . . . or the incredible story that it has to tell.
In The New Testament You Never Knew, your hosts N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird will invite you to “get out of the office” and get to know the real story behind the New Testament. The table is set. The agenda is clear. It’s time to enter into a deeper understanding of the New Testament than you have ever experienced before.
N. T. Wright is the Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He is the award-winning author of many books, including After You Believe, Surprised by Hope, Simply Christian, The Challenge of Jesus, and The Meaning of Jesus (coauthored with Marcus Borg), as well as the series Christian Origins and the Question of God.
Michael F. Bird is Academic Dean and lecturer in theology at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission, The Saving Righteousness of God, Evangelical Theology, Romans (Story of God Bible Commentary Series), The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus, and editor of The Apostle Paul: Four Views. He also runs a popular theological studies blog called “Euangelion” and can be followed on twitter @mbird12.