Ready for Paul?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Birth of a King?

So, after last week's study, you might or might not start the Jesus story with Christmas. Matthew and Luke do though, and if we're going to go through the gospels chronologically, we'll probably have to start with them.

(3) Miracle Births

As we saw last week, Mark starts his story with the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus. John the Evangelist starts his story with creation and the position of Jesus in the story of God and man. Both gospels leave off the details of Jesus’ birth.
1.       Why might details of Jesus birth not seem relevant to Mark?
2.       Why might they not seem relevant to John?
Which begs the question, why do they matter to Matthew and Luke? Let's start with Matthew.
1.       Read Matthew 1:18-25
1.       Betrothal was a legal agreement, and families would generally keep the betrothed couple apart.  Matthew has already started with genealogies. Why does he go on to legalities?
2.       How well do you suppose Joseph knew Mary at this point?
3.       What might Joseph lose by not publically denouncing Mary? What does this tell us about the man who would stand in as Jesus’ father?
4.       Was it normal to see and believe angels? Why is Joseph so “easily” persuaded?What persuades us that we are hearing the truth about God?
5.       Why isn't Jesus called Immanuel? Read Isaiah 7:14,9:6
2.      Luke starts in rather a different place. Read Luke 1:5-11.
a.       Luke starts his story with John the Baptizer, and details of Temple rules and worship. What does this tell us about his intended audience?
b.      Why might he have chosen these particular details?
3.       Zechariah learns his wife will be pregnant, says no way, and is rendered dumb. Then... read Luke 1:26-35.
a.       Would Luke’s audience be familiar with angels?
b.      Are we familiar with angels? What do we imagine when we read this? (Has anyone read how Madeleine L’Engle imagined it?)
4.       Read Luke 1:39-42
a.       Luke is believed to have been a physician. What significance does that give to this passage?
b.      The Catholic church uses Luke 1:28,42 in a prayer known as the “Hail Mary.” In what sense do you view Mary as blessed among women? In what sense is Luke 1:48 fulfilled in our generations?
5.       Luke goes on to describe the birth of John the Baptist, which would have occurred a few months before the birth of Christ. He mentions circumcision on the eight day (Luke 1:59-65) and the unexpected choice of John’s name.
a.       John’s name comes from Yochanan meaning God is gracious. How is this meaning important to the story?
b.      Zechariah goes on to prophesy who John will be. Read Luke 1:76-79, Malachi 3:1,4:2 Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 9:2. Do you think Luke is familiar with older prophecies, or is he quoting a new one?
6.       Read Luke 2:1-3 Augustus is the great-nephew of Julius Caesar. He was emperor from 27BC to AD14. Quirinius didn’t have the title Governor until around 6AD, when he held a census. Luke’s mention of the first census suggests there was more than one, so this one could easily occur at the time of Christ’s birth (around 5BC)
a.       How do Luke’s historical references help us?
b.      How do they hinder us?
c.       How would they have seemed to his first readers?

Before moving on beyond the birth, can you come up with one word to sum up who each of the Gospel writers says Jesus is?

Monday, October 30, 2017

If you wanted to write a Gospel, where would you start?

We're on our second visit to the Gospels this week, and we're still nowhere near Christmas, so I guess that's good. Instead, after looking at where and when the Gospel story takes place, we're going to look at where and how the different versions of the story begin. Enjoy!

(2) Who Do We Say That He Is?

If you look at more than one “chronology” of the New Testament, you’ll probably find different verse references, changes in the order of events, some events combined while others are split… etc. Yet the Gospels all tell one story.
1.       Can you think of any reason why it might be hard to combine them into a single account?
2.       Can you think of any advantage we gain from having several accounts?
3.       Does the fact that the accounts aren’t the same make them more or less believable?
4.       Do you wish there were more than one account of other events too—creation for example? (Look at Genesis 1:1-4 vs Genesis 2:4-7. Do you think maybe there is more than one account of creation?)
And, thinking of creation, John’s Gospel starts at the beginning of time. Read John 1:1-5, 14
1.       What would Greeks have thought of when they heard the word Logos/Word?
2.       What would Jews have thought of?
3.       What do we think of?
4.       What is different about John’s description of the Word?
Read John 1:6-13, 15-18
1.       What is the connection between Word and wisdom?
2.       Between Word and information?
3.       Between Word and creation?
4.       Between Word and science?
Without checking, do you remember where the other gospel accounts start, or which include and which fail to include which details of “the beginning”?
Matthew starts with a genealogy. Read Matthew 1:1-17
1.       What’s the significance of 14 (verse 17)? Or of there being 3 groups of ancestors?
a.       Are we meant to take the numbers of generations literally?
b.      How else could we take them?
2.       What’s the significance of genealogy?
3.       What are the high points of this genealogy? And the surprises? Read Matthew 1:3,5,6
a.       How do you, as women, react to these surprises?
b.      How might these surprises be significant for everyone?
c.       How might these surprises be important in the story Matthew’s telling? Read Matthew 28:18-20
Luke starts with a dedication to Theophilus and a statement of purpose Read Luke 1:1-4
1.       Who is Theophilus, or who might he be?
2.       What is Luke’s purpose in writing?
3.       How might this be different from Matthew’s and John’s?
a.       What do you think Matthew’s focus might be, given how his Gospel starts?
b.      What do you think John’s focus might be?

c.       Read Mark 1:1-4 How might his focus be different?

If you wanted to understand the gospels, where might you start?

We've shortened our Bible study meetings, so I'm trying to shorten the lessons. This is the second half of the original first lesson. It looks at what we know about the places and people of the gospel, and why we know these things.

(1) Where do the Gospels take Place?

Caesarea was an important harbor for international trade and a Roman fortress (for protection of Roman borders on the outskirts of the empire). Excavations have uncovered a stone inscribed with Pontius Pilate’s name.

1.       What Biblical events happen at Caesarea?
A fishing boat dating from Jesus’ time was uncovered by the sea of Galilee during a drought. Digs beneath the 4th century synagogue in Capernaum have probably revealed the foundations of Peter’s house where Jesus stayed.

2.       What happened at Peter’s house and in the Capernaum synagogue?

Steps have been uncovered at the Southern end of Temple Mount. These were probably how poor people entered the Temple. Jesus may well have sat there to preach. Pools on the North side of Jerusalem probably include the one where Jesus healed. Remains of the house of Caiaphas near the Essene Gate include a dank basement where Jesus was probably imprisoned and a courtyard where Peter might have denied knowing Jesus.

3.       Is saying nothing the same as denying our faith?

4.       Would we prefer to listen to a preacher on the steps or a preacher in the Temple?

Archeologists have found the remains of a crucified man, verifying Biblical accounts of the crucifixion.

5.       Archeologists have found the site of Calvary and identified a tomb. Then faithful people built churches. Do you delight in church buildings or resent the loss of authenticity?

The Nabateans lives outside Judea and Galilee. The daughter of their king married Herod Antipas, but he divorced her to marry his brother’s wife Herodias, causing war between Antipas and the Nabateans , and later causing the beheading of John the Baptist.

1.       Why did John the Baptist oppose Antipas’ remarriage?

2.       Why doesn’t the Bible mention war with the Nabateans?

The cities of the Decapolis were between Galilee and the sea. They weren’t a political grouping, but rather a Hellenistic Greek cultural group.

1.       What cultural groups do we think of as opposing religious faith?

2.       What cultural groups do we think oppose our faith?

3.       What cultural groups might we think of as distorting our faith?

Samaritans lived in Samaria between Galilee and Judea. They’d been hating Jews since 722BC.

1.       Who does our culture treat like Samaritans?

Sadducees were a priestly aristocracy with a blend of religious and secular power. They kept the peace with the Romans and maintained the pride of Jewish nationalism.

2.       Is nationalism a good thing, a bad thing, or a neutral thing?

3.       Is peace good, bad or neutral?

4.       Do we blend religious and secular power?

Pharisees were laypeople devoted to religious law. They believed if everyone obeyed the law for a day, the Messiah would come.

1.       Do any groups in our world have similar beliefs about how to bring about the end times?

2.       Are we devoted to religious law?

3.       Is God pleased by devotion to law?


Zealots were an underground group of nationalist rebels. What cause do we serve?