Category Archives: New Testament

Gospel according to St. Mark

Mantegna’s Mark
image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/Andrea_Mantegna_087.jpg

Matthew’s gospel is well known for the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the powerful prophetic portions of Matthew 24-25.

Luke’s gospel is beloved for its parables like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

John’s gospel is a favorite of many for its “I AM” passages and poignant and pointed personal encounters.

That often leave Mark’s gospel out in the cold.

Yet, those who take the time to visit Mark and read through it find it has its own unique way to highlighting the vital message of Jesus.

For instance, take the rocket launch of the beginning of Mark in chapter 1:1-8 …

Mark 1:1-8 (NIV)

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

N.T. Wright put it this way in Mark for Everyone (2004):

You are sound asleep and dreaming, when suddenly the door bursts open and a bright light shines full in your face. A voice, breaking in on your dream world shouts, “Wake up! Get up! You’ll be late!” And without more ado, the speaker splashes your face with cold water to make the point. Time to stop dreaming and face the most important day of your life.

First Look – Ephesians 2:1-10

Studying the Bible can be intimidating. But it is worthwhile to dig in and allow God to transform us through His Word!

We plan to make a series of short (~ 5 minutes) videos with Bible passages where some guidelines will be shared that will hopefully help you get started in understanding the Bible.

In this episode, we will look at Ephesians 2:1-10 and highlight how asking the question of “Who?” can help us get started in studying this portion of the Scriptures.

Below is the text as discussed in the video for those who prefer to do their learning via reading rather than watching.

Ephesians 2:1-10
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Now, take a look at WHO is the key subject of each section of the Bible text …

In vv. 1-3
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

In vv. 4-7
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

In vv. 8-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

In summary:
Ephesians 2:1-3
Our situation before we are saved
Ephesians 2:4-7
What God has done to offer salvation to us
Ephesians 2:8-10
Our new reality: (1) Saved by grace (2) Saved to do good works

What evangelical protestants could think of Mary?

As Protestant Evangelicals, we view the emphasis in Catholicism on Mary as somewhat strange. However, might there be some lessons we could gain from a closer look at Mary?

Check out this podcast over at Christianity Today.

In the discussion, what comes across is how Mary is an incredible model of discipleship.

Check and out and see what you think?

Did Jesus Exist?

With Christmas just around the corner, there are usually feature articles in magazines or television shows that examines the historical aspects of Jesus. Some will be quite skeptical while others may give the Biblical version of events a fair hearing.

Linked here is an item from Bible Archeology Review that tackles that question in somewhat longer form than your typical items in a popular magazine.

Here are a few excepts to whet your appetite to look over the whole thing:

The sources normally discussed fall into three main categories: (1) classical (that is, Greco-Roman), (2) Jewish and (3) Christian. But when people ask whether it is possible to prove that Jesus of Nazareth actually existed, as John P. Meier pointed out decades ago, “The implication is that the Biblical evidence for Jesus is biased because it is encased in a theological text written by committed believers. What they really want to know is: Is there extra-Biblical evidence … for Jesus’ existence?” Therefore, this article will cover classical and Jewish writings almost exclusively.

[………]

Tacitus’s terse statement about “Christus” clearly corroborates the New Testament on certain historical details of Jesus’ death. Tacitus presents four pieces of accurate knowledge about Jesus: (1) Christus, used by Tacitus to refer to Jesus, was one distinctive way by which some referred to him, even though Tacitus mistakenly took it for a personal name rather than an epithet or title; (2) this Christus was associated with the beginning of the movement of Christians, whose name originated from his; (3) he was executed by the Roman governor of Judea; and (4) the time of his death was during Pontius Pilate’s governorship of Judea, during the reign of Tiberius. (Many New Testament scholars date Jesus’ death to c. 29 C.E.; Pilate governed Judea in 26–36 C.E., while Tiberius was emperor 14–37 C.E.)

[……..]

We can learn quite a bit about Jesus from Tacitus and Josephus, two famous historians who were not Christian. Almost all the following statements about Jesus, which are asserted in the New Testament, are corroborated or confirmed by the relevant passages in Tacitus and Josephus. These independent historical sources—one a non-Christian Roman and the other Jewish—confirm what we are told in the Gospels

[……..]

As far as we know, no ancient person ever seriously argued that Jesus did not exist.33 Referring to the first several centuries C.E., even a scholar as cautious and thorough as Robert Van Voorst freely observes, “… [N]o pagans and Jews who opposed Christianity denied Jesus’ historicity or even questioned it.”

What to make of the Genealogies of Jesus?

In the video below, Professor Craig Kenner of Asbury Theology Seminary discusses the significance and meaning of the genealogies of Jesus.

Sean McDowell – the Fate of the Apostles

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JanStyka-SaintPeter.jpg

Was listening to a Stand To Reason archive podcast because the title caught my eye: “Sean McDowell – the Death of the Apostles” (November 6, 2015).

Apparently, McDowell worked on the topic as a dissertation and turned it into a book. Alas, the book is an academic print run and costs $119.95 and not likely to be purchased by the average reader!

McDowell has blogged about some of the content of the book at his web page and one can listen to the STR podcast.

Briefly, the premise of his project was that he (and most of us) have often heard that most of the Apostles died for their faith. McDowell decided to try to track down the historical data to see if this assertion is born out.

As one might imagine, trying to find evidence for something that happened 2000 years ago isn’t easy. In the podcast, he discussed the nature of the evidence for the deaths of Peter and Paul, James the brother of John, and James the brother of Jesus. He, along with other history scholars, rate the evidence for these as pretty good.

The support of what happened to Thomas and Andrew is not as strong but on balance is plausible. The data on the remaining apostles is not conclusive and sometimes contradictory.

He and Greg Koukl also discussed the data on the Apostle John. The main view is that he died of old age on while in exile on Patmos or shortly after leaving Patmos. However, there is a subset of scholars who cite some suggestive evidence he might have died for his faith somewhere in the time period covered by the Book of Acts. He appears active in early chapters in Acts and then suddenly isn’t mentioned. That is an argument from silence but scholars point to some external (non-Biblical) sources that also point to a possible early death.

Whether all the Apostles actually died as a direct result of their faith, is not knowable from the historical data. However, what can be said is the following:

(1) The NT writings suggest that suffering for the faith was something the believers should expect and in some case had already experienced.

(2) The message of the faith and the motivation to persevere was the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.

This does NOT prove the resurrection of Jesus but it does prove that the resurrection was central to the early Christian message and motivation for the faithfulness of the first Christians.

 

Interpretation – translations and context and the meaning of words?

In Bible study, observation is gathering the facts about a Bible text one is looking at. Interpretation is figuring out what it means. One key thing to do is determining the meaning key words in the text. Sometimes the Bible translators will help out with that task.

Let’s take a look at Colossians 2:18-23 (NIV) …..

18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. 20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Let’s take a look at Colossians 2:18-23 (NASB)

18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence .

As you can see here, the NIV translation uses two different words while the NASB uses only one word.

What is going on?

The Greek word in question is: σαρκὸς. This is Strong’s Greek word number 4561 sarx. Thus, in the Greek text, there is only one word in question. Depending on context, that word could have different shades of meaning. In v. 23, the meaning is “the animal nature with cravings” while v. 18, the meaning is “the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence.”

As you can see the two translation teams made different choices in terms of English words. In the NASB case, they opted to stick closer to the Greek word and used the same English word. While the NIV opted to get at the meaning of the word and thus used two different English words to render the one Greek word. This is a decision that is constantly in front of Bible translators to balance translating the thoughts and the words.

As such, it is always a good idea, if possible, when studying the Scriptures, to have two translations at different points of the spectrum of the word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation spectrum. And, if you feel ambitious, be ready to go to the internet and find the Greek or Hebrew behind the English translation!spect

Image source: http://www.christianbook.com/page/bibles/about-bibles/about-translations