In the Fullness of Time
Paul L. Maier
Christianity, as Dr. Maier points out, embeds itself in history. Everything from the Fall to the life of Paul is given in the context of a historical narrative, rather than a fairy tale; these stories don’t happen in a galaxy far, far away, and in a time that is so unlike ours as to defy understanding. Further, even though Dr. Maier doesn’t make this point, these stories are filled with theological implications. How can we understand how God deals with men except through the actual relationship between Abraham and God? The importance of history to the world of Christianity, then, cannot be overstated.
The drumbeat in the popular press, however, is that history is not kind to Christianity. All of Genesis 1 through 3 can be replaced by evolution, there was no global flood, Abraham isn’t a real person, Joseph never went to Egypt, there was no seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, there was no exodus, Jericho wasn’t destroyed by Israel in conquering the Land, King David didn’t exist, the empire of Israel wasn’t ever as large or important as the Bible says, Jesus might not have even lived, the Gospels are chock full of factual error, the Gospels were written hundreds of years after the events they purport to described, Paul shaped a new religion out of whole cloth —on and on the droning accusations of the world batter themselves against the Scriptures.
Dr. Maier, writing this book as a historian, examines the evidence available from a purely historical perspective, and comes to a completely different set of conclusions in the realm of the New Testament. His travels through the Gospels, Acts, and various other books of the writings of the Apostles leave the reader with a much broader scope of the real historical evidence for the truthfulness of those writings —and the evidence is both broad and deep. The author works chronologically from the birth of Christ to the travels of Paul, providing facts and figures that back up the Biblical account. Everything from the culture to the financial affairs of the world in which Christ and the Apostles lived is examined in the light of historical evidence, and found true to the Biblical record.
The author does slip in a couple of places; he gives short shrift to the evidence that Herod died in 1 B.C., rather than 4. The case is much larger and stronger than he proposes. He minimizes the visit of the Magi in some respects —this was clearly a military incursion, as well as a diplomatic one. He places Jesus as a worker in wood, when it’s just as likely (if not more) that Jesus was more of a stone mason, or that the trades of working with stone and working with wood were commonly seen as one career field in those times.
Overall, however, this is a compilation of information and support you will not be likely to find in many other places. Images scattered throughout the book provide emphasis and context for each of the author’s points, the prose is very readable, and the organization is well done. Well worth reading.