Category Archives: For reflection

Prof. Ben Witherington and The Historical Jesus

In a wide ranging talk, Prof. Ben Witherington discusses the portrait of Jesus that the Bible paints. He does so with an eye toward our Christian faith but also in light of the methods of historical inquiry. Thus, he spends part of the time dismantling the confusion about Jesus caused by the best selling novel The DaVinci Code.

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Nashville Statement

You may have seen the Nashville Statement on the news.

Not surprisingly, outside of the Christian faith community, it was not received well but even within there has been some debate.

If you are interested in hearing some varied perspectives, here are a few podcasts you may want to check out.

Here is a Mere Fidelity podcast specifically about the Nashville Statement where the group (four theologians) discussed their reactions to it and how they decided to sign or not sign onto the statement.

Dr. Preston Sprinkle described his reactions and feelings to the Nashville Statement in his podcast, Theology in the Raw.

Though not specifically about the Nashville Statement, here is a lecture by Dr. Alastair Roberts that addresses some of the issues in a broader discussion about Genesis 1-3.

All the presenters in the three above referenced podcasts are supporters of the traditional Biblical definition of marriage. However, they have differing opinions on the usefulness of the Nashville Statement.

Simon, the Zealot


Image source:  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/Rubens_apostel_simon.jpg

In the New Testament, there are four places where the disciples were named in list form: Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16, and Acts 1:13.

In this ongoing series on the 12 Disciples, we have looked at Matthew, the tax-collector and James, son of Alphaeus and when we last left off, we mentioned that one other disciple besides James, son of Alphaeus appeared only in the four lists.

Simon, the Zealot; and that is all we know about him!

In First Century Judaism, there were four notable sects: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots. In the Gospels, Jesus has dialogs and disagreements with the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were the keepers and defenders of the Law while the Sadducees’ center of power was the running of the Temple. The Essenes were the separatists and it is thought that some inhabited the Qumran community near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found leading to the theory that the scrolls were collected and prepared by the Essenes. Lastly, the Zealots were the rebels who wanted to oppose Rome militarily. This group is probably best known for the Siege of Masada.

There are two possibilities for the “zealot” designation of Simon. One, of course, was that he was part of the Zealot sect. The other possibility was that he was a zealous individual.

John MacArthur offered some interesting lessons one might draw from the story of Simon the Zealot.

Whether Simon was a Zealot in the sense of being part of the sect or zealous in a sense of zeal for God and the Law, he was without doubt a passionate individual and he was won over by Jesus! Quoting from MacArthur’s sermon transcript:

Now a man like Simon to attach himself to them must have been a man with a tremendous passion, a tremendous capacity for zeal. And you can imagine that he must have been a fireball when it got to the work of the Lord. He found a better leader and a greater cause.

Another consideration MacArthur brought up was what kind of tension might have been within Simon and for that matter within the group towards the former Roman collaborator, Matthew, the tax-collector. Another excerpt:

Simon believed and was transformed, Judas did not, and so no one names anything Judas. Simon became Christ’s man. Think of how wonderful it must have been for him to get along with Matthew who collected taxes for the Roman government. I wonder if he ever had just little anxieties about Matthew.

The 12 Disciples were an interesting collection of diverse individuals. Yet, they had in common being called by Jesus and loved by Jesus and sent by him to start the daisy chain of communicating the Good News of the Gospel to all the world down the ages.

We started this series with Matthew, a social outcast as a tax-collector who became part of the fabric of the new community in Jesus. Though, we only have his name in the lists and the one episode of his calling by Jesus, his recollections became Scripture in the Gospel according to Matthew. James, son of Alphaeus, possibly Matthew’s brother and Simon, the Zealot who may have had nothing but contempt for tax collectors and anyone connected with one, yet, in Christ, they were united!

Next up, the disciple whose voice is heard in one question in the four Gospels.

James, son of Alphaeus

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3d/Saint_James_the_Less_%28Menologion_of_Basil_II%29.jpg

In Mark 2:14, a tax-collector named Levi was described as the son of Alphaeus. This event is very similar to the calling of Matthew found in Matthew 9:9-13 such that we believe Matthew and Levi are the same people.

As for as James, son of Alphaeus (Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15, Acts 1:13), the only data we have on him are these four verses!

Was he the brother of Matthew?

Perhaps.

What else might we say about him?

If we apply our process of observation-interpretation-application, what do we come up with for James, son of Alphaeus?

We should understand that following Jesus is not likely to make us famous. Ultimately, our lives are not for the praise of humankind; rather, our lives are ultimately to be lived for an audience of ONE and if we are indeed good and faithful in following our Lord, we will be welcomed into His joy when we meet Him!

This series on the 12 disciples will continue bit by bit in the coming weeks. To see previous posts on this, go to the 12 Disciples tag.

In case if you wonder if anyone has ever preached about James, son of Alphaeus, Pastor John MacArthur offered these thoughts in a sermon about this little known disciple.

The deaths of the various apostles have varying degrees of historical documentation. Not surprisingly, the stores of the lesser-known apostles have less certainty in terms of documentation. Excerpt from link: Few, if any of the traditions can be proved, but for some, the circumstantial evidence appears quite strong.

In the next post, we will look at the other disciple who only appears in the lists.

Matthew’s Story, Part II


Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_the_Apostle#/media/File:Giuseppe_Bernardi-Matthew-BMA.jpg

Previously, in part I, we highlighted that Matthew’s name appears in 4 lists: Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. And we posed the question as to whether we could see some differences in the lists.

Did you notice that in three of the four, Matthew is listed with his name only and no descriptor. But in Matthew 10:3 we see: Matthew the tax collector.

Isn’t it interesting that only in the list that Matthew wrote that his occupation is highlighted?!

Flip back to Matthew 9:9-13 the one other place in the Gospel of Matthew that Matthew mentioned himself.

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

What did Matthew feel when he began to follow of Jesus? Though we can’t read Matthew’s mind when he penned the Gospel passages here, but it probably isn’t too much of a stretch to suspect that Matthew had an overwhelming sense of the grace of Jesus in allowing him into the company of his followers. Tax collectors were hated people! Yet, Jesus had the audacity to talk to them and dine with them. This was scandalous! And so Matthew probably felt a mixture of joy and unworthiness. And indeed, isn’t that what grace is: unmerited favor?

And so when Matthew got to writing the episode of the selection of the Twelve, he remembered: Jesus called me to be one of the Twelve, yes me, a wretched hated tax collector.

The story of Jesus’ meeting with Matthew was also described in Mark 2:14-17 and Luke 5:27-32.

What do you notice there?

Answers below the artwork.


Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/80/Matthaeus_San_Giovanni_in_Laterano_2006-09-07.jpg

We find out that Matthew was apparently also known by the name Levi.

We find out the party of “tax collectors and sinners” was at his home.

And we find out that he is the son of Alphaeus which might mean he was the brother of one of the other 12 disciples.

To be continued …

Matthew’s story, part I

image

Image above is from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/The_Evangelist_Matthew_Inspired_by_an_Angel.jpg

There are 4 places in Scripture where the disciples are named in list fashion. Take a look at how Matthew is described:

Matthew 10:3

Mark 3:18

Luke 6:15

Acts 1:13

Do you notice any differences? What do you make of it?

To be continued …..

Kevin Vanhoozer “Inerrancy and hermeneutics”

105

If you take the Bible seriously, how would you describe its significance to your life and to the life of your community?

Theologians have selected certain words and concepts to explain what the Scriptures are and what the role of the Bible should be in our lives. For example: inspiration, inerrant, and infallible. What do these words mean?

Certainly, the meaning can vary with who is offering the definition!

The podcast link below is with Kevin Vanhoozer offering his perspective.

https://go.efca.org/podcasts/episodes/episode-105-inerrancy-and-hermeneutics-kevin-vanhoozer