Early in the book, Piper established some excellent points of caution. Given our several laments (here and at Pyro) over the increasing meaninglessness of a particular term, I thought this worth excerpting and emphasizing:
A second reason why an external first-century idea may distort or silence what the New Testament teaches is that while it may accurately reflect certain first-century documents, nevertheless it may reflect only one among many first-century views. Whether a New Testament writer embraced the particular way of thinking that a scholar has found in the first century is not obvious from the mere existence of that way of thinking.My, that sparks some scary thoughts. Like....
As an analogy, one may only think about all that flies under the banner “evangelical” in our own day—and hope that no historian in a thousand years will assign any of those meanings to us simply because we bore that label. Therefore, one must be cautious in saying on the basis of one’s interpretation of extra-biblical texts that this is “how first-century Jews understood the world.” Sweeping statements about worldviews in first-century Judaism are precarious (pp. 35-36)
The writer who used the name "Dan Phillips" identified himself as an "evangelical." Research has now revealed that the twenty-first century "evangelical" believed that the Gospel guaranteed health and prosperity, that walking with God necessarily involved a sporadic flow of low-octane semi-revelation, that truth was in the eye of the beholder, that God did not completely know the future nor control the present, that the notion of penal, substitutionary atonement was a form of "cosmic child-abuse," that Mormons and Roman Catholics were Christian brothers, that abortion was a peripheral issue, that knowledge of actual Biblical teachings was optional, that Adam might be a mythical figure like Paul Bunyan, and that engagement with the culture was more important than pursuit of the eternal. This gives a completely New Perspective on Phillips' writings. For instance, in spite of first-impressions, what he really believed was.....AIIEEEEEEEE!