So often today people try and use biblical culture as a way to get around some of God’s very direct commands. It’s unfortunate, because understanding the cultures of the Bible can actually add a depth to our understanding of scripture and answer questions that can cause confusion.
There is a brand new resource, that is my favorite of all in this genre I have seen thus far. Encountering Jesus in the Real World of the Gospels by Cyndi Parker is a must have for your reference library and to share with older kids and teens. In it, she explains the cultural backgrounds that led to Jesus and existed in the lifetime of Jesus. She does so, not to try and prove some point about church doctrine, but to put Jesus within an overarching story of scripture rather than as another set of stories seemingly disconnected from the others in the Bible.
In the course of the book, not only does she accomplish that masterfully, but also she explains confusing cultural things in easy to understand and memorable ways. For example, even though I have read many explanations of the different Herods, she finally explains it so it would make sense to even kids and teens. She also explains things that can confuse us all…like why sometimes Jesus told people to keep quiet about his miracles, while other times he told them to spread the word. (Spoiler alert – it is indirectly connected to all of those Herods!)
Throughout the book, she weaves together the biblical narrative into a beautiful tapestry, providing the most beautiful description of the purpose of the Law and the most gracious explanation of the Pharisees I have read. She even explains the differences between the Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots and others in ways even children can understand and remember.
There is so much great information, you will want to keep this book to use as a resource for your Bible lessons for kids and teens. It will add to their Bible knowledge and comprehension, because as the author says, culture doesn’t change the meaning of scripture, it just enhances it.