Somebody on an email list I'm on asked about the credibility of Ray VanderLaan (RVL
). I thought I'd post my thoughts here.
RVL is deeply devoted to the text of Scripture. Many academics believe that most of what passes for knowledge of 1st century Jewish culture and thought comes from post-NT rabbinic sources. I am not well-versed in this academic debate, but RVL would say (I think) that the Jewish oral tradition is so consistent that it is sometimes legit to extrapolate it back into Jesus' time. He has been shaped by modern Jewish readings of Scripture and Jesus (studied with Jacob Neusner at Hebrew Univ in NYC), which can bring significant insights to us. Key verse here is Rom 1:16; 3:1-2. Paul went to the Jew frst, because they had the context and anticipation for Messianic promises, not just to make the self-righteous prigs jealous. They've been reading Scripture for 2000 years longer than we have. That line of thought. Out of this, I bought and reference the JPS Torah commentary now and then, and it is useful.
Without trying to pick a fight, I'd say that a more Lutheran academic training may prejudice against much of this. I'm not saying 1 Tim 1:13 isn't true, though some in RVL's circles certainly underplay the unbelief of 1st century Jews. I won't defend them doing that. But there's a spectrum. I think there were many godly Jews who honored Scripture, forming a text-honoring culture - John 5:39. But they weren't just misguided in rejecting Jesus - they didn't believe because their pride and sin and nationalism, etc got in the way.
As far as the videos, they are great. There are occasional leaps of Scriptural logic in them, but overall they are solid and useful. For instance, he surmises in "Iron of the Culture" that David obtained the best Philistine technology while in exile with Achish, and then used it against them when he became king of Israel. Application: we need to use the iron of our culture to do 2 Cor 10:4. Pretty good. Do we know for sure David did this? Probably not. Is it a safe and sound inference? Maybe...