This post is an assignment in a Sociology course that I am taking through Global University. I need to write about something that I have learned through this course. Then I will be having a couple people review it and give me feedback on the content of what I have shared.
When starting in Bible College there is so much emphasis of learning about the culture of people in the Bible. Obviously the culture changes throughout the Bible and where the characters in the Bible are at in that time. Knowing the culture of the people in the story you are reading gives you context. Context is extremely important. It helps you realize that in the time the Bible was written they did not have electricity or light bulbs. So that meant when the sun went down you went to sleep because you could not do much without light. It is a trivial example, but it makes my point that without knowing this information you may not know that they lived quite different from us.
However, what I had not considered was how important it is to study the Sociology of the people in the Bible. Now, it is true the culture and society are used interchangeably even though they represent different things. We can separate these two ideas by saying that Sociology is the day-to-day interactions people have with one another. Whereas the culture “consists of (1) tangible, human-made objects that reflect the nature of society and (2) abstract entities - such as ideas - that influence people” (Thio 2007, 51).
For an example of culture, if we were to find out that one people group had quite a few ploughs and other farm equipment, we could assume that farming was a big part of their culture. In addition, if we knew that they thought the earth was flat, or that doing a certain ritual would bring prosperity, we could gain insight into how the culture worked.
However, when we look at the society we look at interactions between humans. When there are interactions with other humans, there are statuses involved. Statuses can be given by birth, (i.e. male, female) or earned (i.e. teacher, judge). These statuses are important to giving society structure and order.
Within those statuses are ‘roles’. These would be the rights and obligations that a certain person is to perform. For the judge, they are obligated to rule in a fair and just manner.
This is an extremely brief look at the subject but it makes my point that it is crucial to know and understand these statuses and roles in the ancient biblical times. Jesus interacting with the pharisees would be a great place to look as an example. Jesus had a certain status as a common citizen and carpenter. He then changes his status to teacher and lead a large following of people. Now as a teacher of a new way he has a certain role to play.
Of course we know that the pharisees had a high status in those days and because of that they were expected to play a certain role as well. They were teachers of the way of Moses. They were to uphold and teach the Law to the Jews.
Knowing all of this is adds to the drama of Jesus (a Jew) challenging the Pharisees and their teachings by introducing new ways to live (i.e. eye for an eye vs turn the other cheek). This is something you just would not have done in those days because of the status of the Pharisees and the weight their status carried. One could then understand the outrage the Pharisees experienced by Jesus’ teachings.
Today, Pharisees are known as these bad men that were too unintelligent to understand Jesus’s teaching. In reality, however, they were well respected and smart community leaders that were angry about this common man who turned into a teacher of a different way and lead many people with him.
By studying the sociology of the times in the Bible we can get a more full picture of what the Bible says and the context in which they were said. Also the expectations of certain status and how Jesus disrupts them as he ushers in his new kingdom.
I sometimes wonder if Jesus were alive today, how many of us as Christians would be upset when he starts to challenge the way we live and teach a new way. It can certainly help us in our Christian walk to consider these things.
Works Cited: Thio, Alex. 2007. Society Myths and Realities: An Introduction to Sociology Pearson Education, Inc.