Ben Witherington III Lecture Discusses How the Earliest Christians Approached the Bible Differently

April 5, 2016
Ben Witherington III

Ben Witherington III courtesy photo.

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WACO, Texas (April 5, 2016) – Renowned Bible scholar Ben Witherington III will give a lecture on "The Social Identity of the Earliest Christians" from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in the Paul Powell Chapel of Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

He will lecture on how modern readers of the New Testament operate with very different assumptions from the first Christians. Nowadays, people approach the text in strongly individualistic terms, in contrast to their ancient predecessors, who identified as a group.

"Ben Witherington is one of the academic superstars in the study of the New Testament, and we are incredibly fortunate to have him at Baylor this semester," said Philip Jenkins, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of History in the Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) at Baylor. "This particular talk takes passages that modern Christians might know well, but shows how very differently they might have been read in the early church. That point matters so much for anyone who cares about the Bible."

Witherington argues that this distinction even applies to a matter as critical as salvation itself, and states that without understanding these different cultural and psychological assumptions, people run the risk of seriously misunderstanding the New Testament, particularly the writings of Paul.

"If we do not understand how the original recipients of the New Testament's books and letters would have interpreted them, we are at risk of just imposing our own cultural views on the Scripture," said Thomas Kidd, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of History and associate director of ISR. "Students will find Dr. Witherington a deeply informed and engaging lecturer on these issues, which are of such great importance to all Christians."

Witherington is the Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and is on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. He has published six books with Baylor University Press.

The lecture is free and open to the public. George W. Truett Theological Seminary is located at 1100 S. Third Street.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.