Matt Williams (Professor of Biblical & Theological Studies) recently released a new DVD Bible study series titled Last Days of Jesus. You can learn more about this new series here, and by reading the brief interview with Dr. Williams below:
When you started creating the Last Days of Jesus series, who did you have in mind? Who is this series for?
Up until about ten or fifteen years ago, Bible scholars mostly wrote for other Bible scholars, rather than for the church. In creating these Bible studies, I wanted to take the knowledge that Bible scholars know and deliver it directly to the church in a creative and understandable way. So, my audience is those in the church who are looking for a better understanding of the Bible and how to apply it to our own lives today. The series is taught by six New Testament Bible scholars who also teach the material in an interesting way. We also taught these Bible studies in visually creative ways in order to help us understand the text better. So the resurrection is taught from a cemetery, the triumphal entry is taught from a ranch with a large victorious horse in the background, etc. I have used these studies with success from Junior High age all the way up to adults in their 80s.
Why is it so important to study the Bible in the three contexts the series teaches (historical, biblical, and modern)?
It is important to study the Bible in its historical context of the first century because we are 2000 years removed from the biblical text and do not understand its culture. Thus, a good portion of our teaching focuses on the background for Jewish culture and how that particular people group would have understood Jesus's teachings and actions in the first century historical and biblical context. We are sometimes naïve to think that we can understand the deeper meaning of the Bible when we do not understand the culture in which it was written. It makes sense to us that we easily misunderstand someone who moves to the United States from Eastern Europe because of the cultural differences, but we forget that the Bible was also written in a different context, and it is important to study that context in order to faithfully interpret the Bible. Part of the reason that each of the studies begins with a four minute introduction from Israel is to allow us to see the biblical, historical context in which Jesus walked and taught.
Once we have done our work to understand the historical and biblical contexts, we can then correctly apply the text to our modern context. So often in the church we apply the Bible incorrectly; so we take a full third of the teaching and concentrate on application to our context today. These studies will challenge the way that we live today, just as they challenged Jesus’s listeners in the first century, to follow our King Jesus faithfully.
What do you hope viewers will walk away knowing and feeling from the Last Days of Jesus series?
My hope is that those who use the Last Days of Jesus Bible studies will know the meaning of some of the important texts about Jesus’s life. Since Easter is so near, I think it is important to understand these texts that talk about Jesus’s death and resurrection correctly. Correct knowledge of the Bible leads us closer to our Lord.
In terms of feelings, it is my prayer that we will feel closer to Jesus and more in love with him as a result of these studies. I hope that we feel how utterly good Jesus is—in his coming to earth to teach, live, die and then resurrect from the dead—all for our benefit. He came to give us eternal life: a life that lasts forever, and a life that is filled of purpose, joy, peace, forgiveness and hope in these uncertain days.