When you learn the First Century as a collection of stories, you can read the New Testament in four-dimensional context. To that end, my blogging here focuses on Story, Chronology, and Classical Context. A few details about myself appear below these three introductions.
About Story: Christian scripture is a sourcebook for exploring our heritage and inspiring our future. Today's christian vision is least mature when monolithic, and most dynamic when four-dimensional. Perhaps Truth changes not, but situations change constantly. Whether we commit to the ongoing renewal of traditions or experiment with new styles of gathering, we necessarily write and re-write our own story within our own time, as did each of the earliest churches. Whatever your present context, NT/History as-it-was remains the best narrative fertilizer from which we might grow whatever-comes-next. The Christ of scripture, and those original churches, deserve to be fully respected, as they were in that context, before we appropriate their stories into our own.
About Chronology: The bedrock of history is chronology, which requires both sequence and timing. Happenings rarely make sense without knowing what else took place at about the same time, and/or afterward, and/or before. Some historians lean toward causation and influence where others see chaos and interdependence, but ideas, actions, and reactions never take place in a vacuum. History is development - growth & change, stimulus & response, adaptation & innovation, and all that is evidenced by the passing of time. We cannot contextualize scripture by envisioning "The New Testament World" unless we recognize that situational adjustments kept piling up during The New Testament Era. The only way to understand events "in historical context" is when those events can be related to other events, chronologically.
About Classical Context: Backgrounds are helpful. Connection is far better. Integration beats all. The Jesus movement impacted the world of the Herods and Caesars yet remained bounded within it. Likewise, the decisions of Herods and Caesars created circumstances that affected the decisions of Jesus, of Paul, and of all of their followers. Naturally, all of this played out very slowly across four dimensions. The New Testament is most properly contextualized by a classical milieu that continued developing, day by day, year by year, change by change. A number of differences distinguish the context of 4 BCE from that of 7 CE, or 33 CE, or 54 CE, or 70 CE. To convey any story about that era depends on rightly dividing those times, one from another. The classical context of NT era events was dynamic, rather than monolithic.
In summation, the posts on this site explore, tentatively, ways in which so-called "New Testament Backgrounds" might be woven together more cohesively with the histories that we can either observe or infer from the stories and discourses of the New Testament documents themselves.
About Bill Heroman: Bill is about 6'3" and about forty years old. A retired Math teacher, an amateur christian historian, and a full-time logistics implementation facilitator ("breaker breaker, good buddy"), Bill aspires to be the world's friendliest introvert, an inclusive conservative, and a laid-back uptight gringo. Religiously, Bill is post episcopalian, post evangelical, post radical-house-church, and dumb-as-a-post about religious politics. He hopes to exhaust this obsession with historical study sometime before Jesus returns... which should really be any century now.
Current Academic Status: Grad Student in New Testament at St. Mary's University, Twickenham
Anon then... I often sign off with these words to reflect that our studies are always ongoing, just like time itself. The last word on everything will be God's, and until then, we press on. "Anon" is also my homage to LSU's Don Moore, who taught Shakespeare with one eye on aspects of stage production. In Don's favorite anecdote from his own theater experience, an actor missed their cue to come onstage, which froze the actors (because "you can't ad lib Shakespeare") until Don said, "Anon my Lord!" and rushed offstage to find the straggler. "Anon" reminds me to be patient about what comes next, and also that texts about people in action convey far more meaning when we can properly infer the actors' contextual situation.
As much as anything, that sums up what I'm doing here.
I do hope you'll enjoy reading.