Erica Wiggenhorn writes Bible studies and teaches biblical principles for life change. She's passionate about God's Word and its ability to transform us personally, along with our relationships. Her latest release by Moody Publishers: Unexplainable Jesus: Rediscovering the God You Thought You Knew, is currently available with an optional DVD teaching series to accompany the study! This study delves into Luke's Gospel, painting a vivid picture of the culture and customs of Jesus' day - following Him into a life unimaginable.
Q: Thank you Erica for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: tell us a little about your background. And how and when did you start writing?
When I first became a Christian as a young teen, the pastor who shared Jesus with me told me I needed to have a "quiet time". If you knew me, you would know there are two things I don't do very well- sit still and be quiet! But I wanted to learn more about this amazing Savior who had died for me! So I tried to have a "quiet time" but I struggled to understand the Bible- it didn't make sense to me, I didn't know how it applied to my 21st century teen life and so it felt boring and disconnected.
Most of the time it set on a shelf more than it became opened on my lap and I got caught in a cycle of guilt and shame. Guilt when I didn't read it and then shame when I did and didn't feel any close connection to God or spiritual awakening when I did. The longer I've followed Jesus, the more I meet Christians who are stuck in this same cycle and so I felt compelled to provide tools to help them break that cycle. The very best feeling after someone completes one of my studies is when they come back and say, "For the first time I finally feel like I understand the Bible and that God personally spoke to me through it!".
Q: Congratulations on the release of your new book "Unexplainable Jesus," briefly can you tell our readers what is the book about?
This book was born in my heart during my trip to Israel a couple of years ago. Studying under a Jewish tour guide, he explained Jesus' teaching styles, His figures of speech and word pictures, the cultural, historical and religious context, all from the Jewish perspective, shedding brilliant new light and application on the Scriptures I had never understood before. I remember standing on the shores of Galilee and the temple square in Jerusalem praying to God, "I wish everyone of your followers could learn and experience this!". This study is an answer to that prayer and I also created a free downloadable photo journal on my website entitled "Come to the Table" so people can see in living color these places Jesus mentions in Scripture!
Q: One of your major concerns that this book addresses well is Biblical illiteracy. Why is it important for us to know our Bibles? Isn't it enough for us just to love Jesus?
When I first became a follower of Jesus and struggled with my quiet times I remember saying to Jesus, "How am I supposed to follow you if I don't even understand you?!". Reading the Bible is our invitation to relationship with Jesus- to understand Him- know what He loves, what He is passionate about, what He wants us to do and experience as His followers.
Q: In this book, you have revisited many of the stories about Jesus and situate them in their first century context. Why is the historical context important? Can you give us an example where the historical context actually shapes our understanding of the text?
As a woman I was taught the story of Mary and Martha for years. As a woman I needed to spend time with Jesus and prioritize that over my "to do list'. That is all true and a needed application in our busy lives. But, understanding the rabbinic word picture in Luke 10 of sitting at someone's feet opens the application profoundly wider! To sit at a rabbi's feet was something only offered to men. And you sat at the feet of a rabbi to become a rabbi yourself. And Jesus commends Mary for this choice. Mary takes her seat in a man only world saying, "I want to learn from you Jesus about your Kingdom, so I can teach others about your kingdom too!" and Jesus applauds this choice. When we understand Jewish culture we realize what Luke is telling us in this scene goes way beyond "to do" lists!
Q: You chose to study the life of Jesus from the book of Luke rather than survey His life throughout all the Gospels. Why Luke? How does Luke's Gospel compare with that of Matthew, Mark, and John?
What I love about Luke's gospel is how he comes right out with his purpose in its construction- "That you may know with certainty that things you have been taught!" Jesus is fully God and fully man come to save the world! In a culture where Christianity is often presented as a religion that lacks intelligence, Luke offers us a systematic presentation of Jesus' life, teaching and works so that we can be assured that we hold a reasonable faith!
Also, as a Greek, he writes in a style that we are used to. He starts with his thesis that Jesus is both God and man and then proves it with persuasive arguments! It is easy for us to follow his writing style, because we still write in this style today!
Q: How is Luke as a storyteller? What do we know of him through his narration?
What we have to remember is that when the NT was written, it was constructed on large, very expensive scrolls. So, if you were going to tell someone's entire life story, you needed to make sure you had enough room to make it all the way to the end. Kind of like Twitter- you get so much space and you've got to fit it all in. This lets us know that Luke carefully chose each and every word- so any little aside he puts in there is significant! He uses humor, mostly irony, which I love and presents Jesus as a man you would want to invite to a dinner party for excellent and clever conversation while at the same time paints Him in all of His wisdom and glory.
Q: How is the format of the study set up? Does it work best in a group, or can an individual do this herself? About how long will each lesson take to complete?
The study makes its way verse by verse through the gospel of Luke! There are 5 sections of study per day that take about 20 minutes to complete. There is a DVD or downloadable piece that covers a few portions of the gospel that are not addressed within the study book. But by the end of the study, any reader will know and understand Luke's gospel with confidence. It can be completed in a small group, church Bible study gathering or individually.
Q: Tell us something unexpected or surprising you learned while working on this study.
I somehow never put it together how controversial Jesus was- I knew the story about Him overturning tables in the temple, but I didn't every put it together how many times He got in people's faces for being judgmental, hypocritical and lacking compassion. It made me look in the mirror and wonder what Jesus would get in my face about if He stood before me- and what He would say to our churches on a Sunday morning...