How many times have we heard that the Bible is a strange and ancient book with little relevance for the modern world? In The Biblical Polemic against Empires, Lanier Burns, research professor of theological studies at Dallas Seminary, provides ways to understand the Bible and its importance in our lives. He argues that we best understand the Bible when we comprehend the ways that biblical authors presented truths in the contexts of Egypt, Babylon, Hellenism, and Rome.
Burns connects our modern concerns with the ancient world by exploring biblical arguments in three areas—deity, kingship, and city:
- Attitudes toward deity: Ancient nations and empires, including Israel, were theocracies. Governments represented divine interests and powers. Not only was secularity in a modern sense unknown, but so was the notion of citizens selecting their leaders. Idolatry was a particularly heinous sin for the Israelites; other gods were mere projections of the desires of a sponsoring empire. The realms of gods and people were in a constant state of conflict and chaos. People served their gods in a frenzied way, trying to magically manipulate them in hopes of gaining prosperity.
- The tyranny of kingship: The Bible presents emperors as representative of sinful humanity, proud in their attempts to be gods and greedy in their appetites. These kings seem far removed from our lives until we realize that we have gods of our own choosing, idols drawn from various entertainments or escapes from daily pressures. [Read more…]