A Review of David Croteau’s Book – Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions.
On multiple occasions I’ve mentioned to my husband that I wanted to go back to college and earn a degree in Old Testament Theology. However, after reading David Croteau’s book, Urban Legends of the New Testament, I’d like to revise that goal to also include a degree covering the New Testament.
Even though I’ve heard countless sermons throughout my life, have read the Bible from cover to cover, and have read portions of the commentaries lining my bookshelves, there is still much to learn from Scripture. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize how little I know about the Bible. And, I know even less about the culture of that time period, which, if I did, would assist in my Biblical understanding.
While reading Urban Legends of the New Testament I was reminded how important it is to not only read Scripture, but also to peer behind the curtain. This book does just that as David takes a deeper look into specific passages as he addresses 40 of the most common misinterpreted Scriptures.
David’s interpretation of these 40 passages comes from a multifaceted approach. He brings to the forefront period specific background information, and enlightens the reader about cultural and social customs of the day. He references multiple Bible translations, commentaries, historical documents, and other pertinent books and articles. Furthermore, he takes into account the passages before and after the Scripture being discussed, thus keeping the verses in context.
Because it would be impossible for me to examine each chapter in depth in this post, since Christmas is upon us, I’ve chosen to spotlight a portion of Chapter 2 – “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”
From an early age, Christmas Carols, such as We Three Kings, have been seasonal favorites of mine. Perhaps those songs as well as the viewing of live nativity scenes influenced my ideals that three wise men, or three kings, or three magi came to visit baby Jesus. Although I’ve read Matthew’s account of the Christmas story multiple times, I never picked up on the fact he never mentioned a specific number of visiting individuals. And, it never crossed my mind that there could have been more than three guys who traveled from the Orient to worship the newborn babe. I did, however, question the wise men’s wisdom of conversing with Herod about baby Jesus, since we find out later on in the chapter that Herod wanted to kill the child. Croteau offers some insight regarding these ideals as he wraps up one of the paragraphs of this chapter in this manner: “There may have been three wise men, or there may have been thirty. They weren’t kings, but astronomers, astrologers, and dream interpreters. They were from the east, but the term Orient is misleading.”
How could one misinterpret Scripture passages? Sometimes we skip over context clues, unknowingly ignore facts, or lack knowledge of social customs and period history. Fortunately, books such as David’s assist the reader in their pursuit of understanding scriptures by adding those unknown pieces, which helps clarify misconceptions.
To be honest, when I selected this book to review, I was a bit intimidated at the thought of actually reviewing it. However, I am truly glad I chose this particular title. Throughout the review process, my thinking has been challenged, I have learned more about the Bible, and several misconceptions have been clarified.
Urban Legends of the New Testament is not a light-hearted read, but one to be read slowly and devoured chapter by chapter. It’s a book that enlightens the readers understanding of period culture, social customs, and history, and in turn, helps the reader grasp the intended meaning of the Scriptures in question. If you want to enhance your knowledge of the Bible, grab a copy of this book.