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Why Study Christian History? (Part 3)

And now for something a little different, at least for this occasional series on why we should study history. Veering from specialists in American history, we’re turning to an American-born scholar of Jewish history, Rabbi Ken Spiro, whose subject today is “The Bible as History.” Rabbi Spiro did graduate studies at the Pushkin Institute in Moscow; he holds an advanced degree in history from Norwich University; and he received ordination to the rabbinate in Jerusalem. He currently lives and works in Jerusalem, where he is a senior lecturer and researcher on Aish HaTorah outreach programs. Here he explains why Jews care passionately about history.

Of course, I believe that Christians should be no less passionate about the study of the past, especially when we turn to the Scriptures and the Fathers. For us, as for Jews, history has a meaning, a narrative; it follows a discernible pattern.

We assume that people throughout human history always studied history, but that’s not true. As a matter of fact, if you go back more than a couple of thousand years you’ll find people had no interest in history. The first historian in the West is Herodotus, a Greek who lived in the 5th century BCE. And he’s given the title: Father of History.

Columbia University historian Joseph Yerushalmi who wrote an excellent, highly-praised book called Zahor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, says that “If Herodotus was the father of history, the father of meaning in history was the Jews.”

This is a profound idea.

First, not only were Jews recording history well before Herodotus, but while Herodotus might record the events, the Jews were looking at the deeper meaning, and that deeper meaning can be found most importantly and most significantly within the Bible itself.

You can read the rest of Rabbi Spiro’s article right here.

This is the third in a series of brief reflections on history by historians. The first installment was Victor Davis Hanson, and the second by David McCullogh.

One thought on “Why Study Christian History? (Part 3)

  1. This is beautiful. One of the things that led to my conversion to Catholicism, after having been an Evangelical for some years, was the study of Christian history. I began it because I had a feeling that, if it is true that there is a mystical Body of which I am a part, a Body which spans history, then the history of that Body is my history, and I should know it.

    I think the study of Christian history, for a Christian, is not only an intellectual endeavor. I believe it is a deeply mystical endeavor, one of the things that links us, even more inseparably, and with deep love, to the whole Body of which we are a part. To study each part, each period, each person, it to study, and come to appreciate and to love, yet another part in the beautiful fabric of God, which He is weaving from eternity to earth, from earth through history, and back up into eternity.

    Thank you for this beautiful series. It is wonderful.

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