Exploring the New testament Notes

Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
Unit 1
Translations of the Bible
One of the most important Bible translators was the Englishman William Tyndale (1484-1536), often called "The Father of the English Bible." Tyndale wanted to make the Scriptures understandable to all people. But due to the political and religious tensions that existed throughout Europe during the Reformation (14th-17th centuries), he was unable to get permission to do his translation in England. So he went to Germany, where he published his New Testament in February 1526. Though he experienced a great deal of opposition, he continued his work of translating the Old Testament from Hebrew, and he published the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis through Deuteronomy) in 1530.
Tyndale's work and influence is most readily seen in what is surely the most significant English Bible translation ever done, the King James Version of the Bible, published in 1611. The King James Version (also called the Authorized Version) was prepared at the request of King James I of England at a time when several Church-sponsored versions of the English Bible were in use. Although there was resistance to the King James Version at first (since many people felt a loyalty to their own Church's translation), it eventually won wide acceptance and became the standard English version of the Bible in the English-speaking world for three centuries. It remains one of the most widely-used English translations of the Bible today.
Christian Standard Bible (CSB, HCSB)
This is a 2017 update of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (2004), an original translation from Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Its scholars, most of whom are from conservative and evangelical church traditions, have aimed at a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation—as close to the original wording as possible while emphasizing clarity for modern English readers. It uses a seventh-grade reading level.
Common English Bible (CEB)
The CEB is a new translation (2011) optimized for smooth reading for a broad range of people. After the scholarly translation (a balance of dynamic equivalence and formal equivalence), the draft texts were reviewed for grammar, style, and consistency. It uses common equivalents for many traditional church terms. CEB translators come from a variety of denominations, mostly mainline or progressive Protestant. The translation has been released by a consortium of five church publishing houses. It reads at a seventh-grade level.
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
The CEV is a meaning-based (or functional equivalent) translation done in a contemporary style using common language. It is designed to be understood when read and heard out loud, not just when it is read silently. It is one of the better Bibles for children and youth, as well as for new Bible readers who are not familiar with traditional Bible and church words. It was first published in 1995 and revised in 2006.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The ESV was published in 2001 (updated most recently in 2016) and is a revision of the Revised Standard Version (1971 edition), drawing on recent scholarship and following a formal equivalence approach. It is growing in popularity, particularly among some Protestant churches.
Good News Translation (GNT)
The GNT (also known as Today's English Version or the Good News Bible) was one of the first meaning-based (or functional equivalent) translations of the Bible into English. It was originally published in 1976 and revised in 1992. The GNT presents the message of the Bible in a level of English that is common to most of the English-speaking world. The GNT is still used widely in youth Bible study groups and in less formal worship services. Editions are also available for Roman Catholic readers.
King James Version (KJV)
The KJV (also known as the Authorized Version) is a word-for-word (or formal equivalent) translation originally published in 1611 at the request of King James I of England. It has been frequently reprinted and its spelling updated. Most copies today are slightly adapted from a 1769 edition. So many people have used the KJV over the centuries that it has become the single most important book in shaping the modern English language. Many of the best and most ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of Bible books have been discovered since 1850, so the KJV could not make use of them. In many cases, it is helpful to read and study the KJV alongside another more recent translation. The KJV is still the most widely owned and used English translation in the United States.
The Message
The Message is a popular paraphrase of the Bible by Eugene Peterson, who used the original Greek and Hebrew texts and tried to bring their “feel”—their tone, rhythm, and idiom—directly into contemporary English. It is presented as a Bible more for personal reading than for study or public reading. The Message is often useful to read side by side with other, more word-for-word translations. Peterson’s choice of words can help new readers unlock the sense of the text and can help seasoned Bible readers find fresh energy in passages that have become too familiar.
New American Bible (NAB, NABRE)
The NAB was originally published in 1970 as a meaning-based translation intended primarily for Roman Catholic readers. The New Testament was revised in 1986, shifting more toward a word-for-word or formal translation. The full Bible with a newly revised translation of the Old Testament and extensive notes was released in 2011 as the New American Bible, Revised Edition. The NABRE is useful for individual study. The older NAB is approved for public worship for American Catholics.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The NASB, first published in the 1960s, is an excellent example of a formal translation of the Bible in English. It is probably the most “word-for-word” type translation available today. Because of this, the NASB is a good version to use in Bible study where one is concerned with the form of the original Hebrew and Greek. The most recent edition of the NASB was published in 1995.
New International Version (NIV)
The NIV was a completely new translation, but it was strongly influenced by the tradition of the King James Version. The full Bible was published in 1978 and revised in 1984 and 2011. A blend of form-based and meaning-based translation types, the NIV is one of the most popular English Bibles in use today. It is equally useful for individual study and public worship, especially among more traditional and conservative denominations.
New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
The NJB is a 1985 revision of the older Jerusalem Bible (JB). The JB was translated from the original languages, but it developed out of a popular French translation done in Jerusalem, which is where it got its name. The NJB, like the JB before it, is known for its literary qualities. While the JB tended to more meaning-based (or functional equivalent), the NJB moved toward more of a word-based (or formal equivalent) translation.
New Living Translation (NLT)
The NLT is a meaning-based translation in the tradition of the Living Bible (LB), a popular 1971 Bible paraphrased from English. The New Living Translation involved comparing the LB to the original-language texts, and then making changes so that the NLT is now a true translation. The NLT is a good translation to use with youth and adults who have difficulty with the traditional language of a formal equivalent translation.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The NRSV is a 1989 revision of the Revised Standard Version. The NRSV is now the latest translation in the King James tradition. It aims at being readable, but it also tries to keep familiar words and phrases from the KJV. It is a blend of meaning-based and form-based translation types. The NRSV has become a standard translation for serious Bible study, especially in seminaries and colleges.
Revised English Bible (REB)
The REB is a 1989 revision of the earlier New English Bible (NEB, 1946), which was a bold and innovative translation from original texts with a considerable British flavor. The REB smoothed some of the NEB’s more unusual terms and aimed to be more accessible to an international audience. The REB is a meaning-based translation but has retained much of the traditional language and style. It is a popular English translation for public reading of Scripture.
Revised Standard Version (RSV)
The Revised Standard version (1952, revised most recently in 1977) is an update of the American Standard Version (1901), which was a revision of the King James Version. It is a mix of formal equivalence and functional equivalence in its approach. This translation has been widely used in mainline Protestant churches. A Roman Catholic edition was released in 1966 (and updated in 2006). Since its 1977 revision (which also removed the “thee” and “thou” language), this translation has also been widely used in Eastern Orthodox churches.

To: The Universal House of Justice
From: Research Department
In an email message of 23 September 1996 to the Universal House of Justice, Mr. ... requests clarification on "the principles that govern quoting from the Bible in English-language Bahá'í publications". He explains that he has heard an unsubstantiated view that only the King James version of the Bible may be used and observes that "this individual seems to give the King James version an authority greater than that of the original text in matters of interpretation". His queries were referred to the Research Department for study and the following is our response.
We have been unable to find guidance in the Writings which refers directly to quoting from the Bible in English-language Bahá'í publications. It may be helpful to ... to note, however, that, in an incoming letter dated 2 September 1949 to the Guardian, an English-speaking believer asked the following question:

Quite recently, the writer, in guiding at the Temple has been asked just what version of the Bible Bahá'ís use. May we have your directive on this, please?
The Guardian's response appears in a letter written on his behalf, where we read:
Shoghi Effendi himself uses the King James version of the Bible, both because it is an authoritative one and in beautiful English.
(28 October 1949 to an individual believer; published
in "Bahá'í News", no. 228, February 1950, p. 4).
It seems possible to us that this statement may underlie the impression held by some of the believers that the King James version of the Bible carries special authority in the Faith.
It is important to note, therefore, that in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in response to a similar question, the same statement of the Guardian appears and is then followed by this statement:
The House of Justice points out, however, that there is nothing in statements made by Shoghi Effendi to indicate that the friends may not use other translations of the Bible.
(2 December 1987 to a National Spiritual Assembly)
It is also worth noting in this connection that this translation, known as the "King James" version in the United States, is generally referred to as the "Authorized Version" in England, and in many editions the following statement appears on the title page:

The Holy Bible
Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated out of the Original Tongues and with the former Translations diligently compared and revised by His Majesty's special command, A.D. 1611. Appointed to be read in Churches.
In this context, one can understand the Guardian's reference to it as an "authoritative" version. Such a statement cannot imply, however, that this translation could be more authoritative than the original texts.
We also draw ...'s attention to the following response of the House of Justice to an inquiry from another National Spiritual Assembly concerning the permissibility of using versions of the Bible other than the King James for selecting readings in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar:
The House of Justice acknowledges your letter of October 30th inquiring whether it is permissible to read from other versions of the Bible than the King James Authorized Version. We are instructed to say that while there do not appear to be any grounds for limiting selected readings from the Bible to the Authorized Version only, the decision is left entirely to your discretion.
(13 November 1974 to a National Spiritual Assembly)
Based on the foregoing, it appears to us that the friends are free to use their own judgment about which English translations of the Bible to quote from in their published work.
Mar 2013
Edwardsville, Illinois, USA
I have used a Revised Standard Version "Common Bible" for many years, which includes the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonnical books. I like the fact that it was endorsed by Catholic, Protestand and Orthodox churches, and is also heavily footnoted to indicate that many original sources have alternate readings (the differ from one another).
Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
Unit 2: Jesus and the New Testament

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (The commentary here is not by a Baha'i but he still has some good ideas.)

Occasion: By the early years of the second century the Christian movement had reached a point where it had become clear that the field of Christianity was the Greek world. Its public was to be the men and women not necessarily of Greek blood but of Greek speech and Greek culture. The long discipline of Greek civilization had prepared a people capable of appreciating the inward and spiritual values of the new religion. These people had, in fact, in no small degree already helped to shape its thought and life. To them, at any rate, Christianity was now addressing itself.
It is usually held that the Greek genius found its highest expression in the great days of the Athens of Pericles and Plato. But it was another great service of that same genius that it adopted the struggling Christian faith and became its standard-bearer for a thousand years.
There were, no doubt, among those of Latin speech and stock persons like the younger Pliny and Paetus and Arria [1] whose sensibilities were fine, but the whole trend of Roman life was the other way. While the Greek devoted his leisure to athletic sports, as he has taught us to do, and to witnessing great plays of Sophocles or Euripides or even Aristophanes in the theater, the Roman found his entertainment in the brutal spectacles of the amphitheater, where men fought with wild animals or with one another until they died. [1] It was not until two generations later that Christianity began to find a Latin public.
To meet the needs of this Greek public some adjustment had to be made. Christianity was addressing it in Jewish terms. A Greek who felt like becoming a Christian was called upon to accept Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. He would naturally ask what this meant and would have to be given a short course in Jewish apocalyptic messianic thought. Was there no way in which he might be introduced directly to the values of the Christian salvation without being forever routed, we might even say detoured, through Judaism? Must Christianity always speak in a Jewish vocabulary?
The old books of Christianity were unsuited to this new situation. There was, of course, the great Gospel of Matthew. But how unpromising its beginning would be to a Greek! The great masterpieces of Greek literature knew so well the importance of the opening sentence. "I have often wondered," the Memorabilia of Socrates began, "by what possible arguments the accusers of Socrates persuaded the people that he deserved death at their hands." Here was an opening sentence the world has never been able to forget. The opening lines of the Iliad and of the Odyssey lay before the reader the great theme of each poem in a short paragraph. This was the kind of approach the Greek mind demanded. Twenty-five or thirty lines of Jewish genealogy made quite a different impression upon the Greek inquirer, just as they do upon us. Was there no way in which Christian truth could be stated in forms that would be immediately intelligible and welcome to the Greek mind? The times demanded that Christianity be transplanted to Greek soil and translated into universal terms. [1] The Gospel of John is the response to this demand. .

Contents: The Jew, once possessed of a truth, said that revelation had given it to him. The Greek, when he gained possession of one, said he had reached it by reason. Which was right? What would we say? We would say there was a truth in both. And so thought the author of the Gospel of John. Jesus is more than the Messiah of Jewish nationalistic expectation; he is the Logos—the Word of Revelation that came upon the prophets, and also that Reason by which Stoic philosophy found its way to truth. In this one word, which has both meanings and which John uses in both senses at once, [2] he performs the wedding of reason and revelation, of philosophy and religion.
In the Gospel of John the function of Jesus is not so" much sacrificial as to bring life and impart it: "I have come to let them have life," 10:10. "I am Way and Truth and Life," 14:6. "I myself am Resurrection and Life," 11:25. Salvation is, in fact, eternal life. Salvation is closely related to knowledge. Plato faced the question whether a man could be really good without also being wise. In John, Jesus is the Light of the World, the Light that makes knowledge possible, 8:12. But knowledge of what? Of the truth. "You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free," 8:31. Life, light, truth, freedom, knowledge—this is the atmosphere we know, and this is the atmosphere of the Gospel of John.
Jesus' work on earth is finished, not postponed. Paul, viewing Jesus as the Messiah of Jewish expectation and believing that the supreme function of the Messiah was to judge the world, concluded that Jesus would return to complete his messianic work. But in the Gospel of John Jesus declares that he has completed the work God had given him to do, 17:4, and his last words on the cross are, "It is finished!" 19:30.
Jesus' death has little of its old sacrificial meaning of which Paul made so much. Here it is the sign of his unfaltering, utter devotion to his followers: "He loved those who were his own .... to the last," 13:1. It is also to be the signal for his followers in all the world to rally to his standard: "If I am lifted up from the ground, I will draw all men to myself," 12:32.
But what then becomes of his expected return of which Paul had spoken so confidently? It has already been realized. He was himself Resurrection and Life, 11:25. In John, Resurrection, Second Coming, and the gift of the Spirit are made one. John substantially returns to Matthew's picture of Jesus restored as a spiritual presence to his disciples.
This is the meaning of the "little while" so repeatedly emphasized in 16:16-19, where the expression occurs seven times. "In a little while you will not see me any longer, and a little while after, you will see me again." There is to be no long absence, only a short one—a few hours or days comparable with the interval between his last discourse and his death the next afternoon. Jesus himself after the Resurrection imparts the holy Spirit to the disciples, 20:22, in contrast with Luke's account, where it comes upon them after the Ascension at Pentecost, Acts 2:4. So Resurrection, Return, and the gift of the Spirit are identified.
What, then, becomes of Judgment, of which Paul had made so much as a messianic function? We remember Matthew's gigantic canvas of the general Judgment, so stupendously pictured in the final parable of Jesus' last discourse. It disappears as a future expectation, to be replaced by another profounder kind of judgment within the human soul. "God did not send his son into the world to pass judgment upon the world, but that through him the world might be saved," 3:17. "No one who believes in him has to come up for judgment," 3:18a. "He has committed the judgment entirely to the Son," 5:22b. "He has given him the authority to act as judge, because he is a son of man," 5:27. "I have come into this world to judge men," 9:39a. "The judgment of this world is now in progress," 12:31.
Judgment is just a terrible, perpetual, automatic process by which men by their own choices convict or acquit themselves. It is particularly for the sin of unbelief: "The helper will bring conviction to the world about sin, .... as shown in their not believing" in Christ, 16:8, 9. Sin in John is rather shadowy, at least as compared with Paul's idea of it. With Paul it was a terrible reality, haunting his life with a deep sense of guilt. "What a wretched man I am," he cried. "Who can save me from this doomed body?" Rom. 7:24. With John sin is chiefly unbelief.
For in John faith has become belief. It means intellectual assent; the old mystic side—trust, fiducia—has fallen away from it. With Paul it had both aspects; now it has only the intellectual meaning. And with this comes the creation of an intellectual approach to Christianity that was of enormous value to the church. For the Gospel of John set the new religion upon the rails of thought and theology upon which it was to run for a thousand years. The Greeks called it the Gospel of John the Divine [1]—the Theologian—as we speak of the "Great Divines." So clearly did they recognize this great quality in it.
But great as was the service of the Gospel of John to theology, its service to Christian devotion was no less. If we pause to consider what are the world's great classics of devotion, we think at once of certain Psalms, notably the twenty-third. What has the New Testament to set beside it? Nothing in Paul; he is always too argumentative for that mood, even in I Corinthians, chapter 13 or 15. Not the Sermon on the Mount; it is too didactic. But when we turn to the Upper Room discourses in John, chapters 14-17, we are satisfied. Of all New Testament literature they alone possess that great devotional quality: "Your minds must not be troubled; you must believe in God and believe in me."
This balance, this poise, is a marked characteristic of John. Just as his sacrifice of the old idea of a Final Judgment was for the Greek mind, and for the modern mind, more than compensated for by his doctrine of the inner judgment through our own choices, so his apparent neglect of one side of faith is fully made up by his splendid development of the mystical side of religion. He has here, in fact, in Greek fashion simply analyzed the older experience of faith into its two great aspects: the intellectual and the mystical, belief and trust.
On the ethical side the gospel has its great doctrine of love as a Christian virtue and of the love of God. Christians are to love one another. "I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must love one another. By this they will all know that you are my disciples—by your love for one another," 13:34, 35; compare 14:15, 21, 24. The great text of 3:16 only restates the thought of Rom. 5:1-11:
"God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that no one who believes in him should be lost, but that they should all have eternal life." All this, of course, culminates in the great climax in the First Epistle: "Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love," 4:8. "God is love, and whoever continues to love keeps in union with God and God with him," 4:16b. "There is no fear in love but perfect love drives out fear. .... We love because he loved us first," 4:18a, 19a.
John never mentions the church or its officers, but no gospel lays more stress on both. The Good Shepherd, willing to lay down his life rather than lose a single sheep, is the pattern for all Christian shepherds (Lat. pastor) who must enter the sheepfold through him who is also the door—that is, through a vital sharing of his experience of complete devotion to the protection and welfare of the sheep. The responsibility of the Christian ministry has never been more finely set forth, 10:8-16.
While the church is never mentioned in John, it is symbolized in Jesus' circle of personal followers and in the group of disciples in the Upper Room, chapters 13 f. It is shown silhouetted against the dark background of the brutal and hostile world: "It is because you do not belong to the world, but I have selected you from the world, that the world hates you," 15:19. "In the world you have trouble; but take courage! I have conquered the world," 16:33. "They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world," 17:16.
The church is also sharply distinguished from the Jews. Of course, Jesus and all his personal followers were Jews, but John constantly pictures him and his followers as standing over against "the Jews" who oppose and misunderstand him. This is so foregone a conclusion, indeed, that it sometimes seems that Jesus does not wish or expect them to understand him. "Why do I even talk to you at all?" 8:26a. More than sixty times in the gospel "the Jews" appear as the opponents and enemies of Jesus. Their animosity to him and the animosity felt by the evangelist for them plainly reveal the stage of opposition that had developed between church and synagogue when the Gospel of John was written. Church and synagogue are at war.
The church is sharply distinguished not only from the world and the Jews but from the sects which were now emerging into clearer light. The Docetists who held that Jesus was too divine to suffer agony and death are opposed in the gospel's insistence upon the reality of Jesus' death. The soldier's spear thrust left no room for doubt on that point, 19:33, 34. Yet Docetic notions of his immateriality continued to appear in the Gospel of Peter and the Acts of John. [1] There were still those who regarded John the Baptist as the Messiah, or at least as the new Elijah of Mal. 4:5, like the men Paul found at Ephesus, Acts 19:1-7. Justin mentions Baptists among the Jewish sects, Dialogue lxxx. 4, and in the third century the Clementine Recognitions speaks of people who declare John to be the Messiah. Against this view of John, the gospel repeatedly emphasizes his subordination to Jesus: "He who was to come after me is now ahead of me, for he existed before me," 1:15. "He admitted—he made no attempt to deny it—he admitted that he was not the Christ," 1:20. Of Jesus, John says, "He must grow greater and greater, but I less and less," 3:30.
The warning against the sects culminates in the Intercessory Prayer, which forms the climax of the Upper Room discourse, chapter 17. The one request Jesus makes for his followers is that they may be one, 17:11. For them and for all who through their message later come to believe, Jesus prays again, "Let them all be one," 17:21. "That they may be one just as we are, .... so that they may be perfectly unified," 17:22, 23. This repeated emphasis upon the need of unity among believers points unmistakably to the time, early in the second century, when the sects were beginning to honeycomb the churches.
The approach to the gospel reflects the characteristic Greek disposition to announce the theme of a book in its opening lines. In a lofty and somewhat abstract Prologue the writer seeks to place Jesus in philosophical, eternal, and cosmic relationships. He is the Word of Revelation, the Reason of Philosophy. It was to him that God said, "Let us make man." He is that divine Wisdom through which creation was effected. He was the light of mankind, the bringer of life to men. These are no mere narrow national terms; they are so broad that they have never been outgrown.
Dr. Henry B. Sharman used to say that the Gospel of John is a book of a few great ideas to which the writer returns again and again. These ideas are laid before the reader in the Prologue. They are Revelation, Incarnation, Regeneration, the Impartation of Life. It is to present them that the gospel is written. They are of more importance in the writer's mind than mere historical facts. He is, in short, one of those men who care more for truth than for fact. The eyewitness testimony to what happened here or there is subordinated to the testimony of religious experience. Jesus says to Thomas, "Is it because you have seen me that you believe? Blessed be those who believe without having seen me!" 20:29. It is the inward appreciation of Jesus that supremely matters. It is written on behalf of those mystic later followers, those beloved disciples, who may enter more deeply into Jesus' life and spirit than did the eyewitnesses themselves.
The form in which this Christian theologian-mystic put his teaching was a gospel narrative. In form it is the story of Jesus' revelation of himself to his disciples and his followers.
The new narrative differed from the older ones in many details. In it Jesus' ministry falls almost wholly in Judea instead of in Galilee and seems to cover three years instead of one. The cleansing of the Temple stands at the beginning instead of at the end of his work. Nothing is said of his baptism, temptation, or agony in the garden. His human qualities disappear, and he moves through the successive scenes of the gospel perfect master of every situation, until at the end he goes of his own accord to his crucifixion and death. He does not teach in parables, and his teaching deals, not as in the earlier gospels with the Kingdom of God, but with his own nature and his inward relation to God.
In his debates with the Jews he defends his union with the Father, his pre-existence, and his sinlessness. He welcomes the interest shown by Greeks in his message, 12:20-23, prays for the unity of the future church, chapter 17, and interprets the Lord's Supper even before he establishes it, 6:48-58. His cures and wonders, which in the earlier gospels seem primarily the expression of his overflowing spirit of sympathy and helpfulness, now become signs or proofs to support his high claims. The writer has, in short, read back the Jesus of experience into the Jesus of history. Jesus is made to declare, in what has been termed the "I style," the church's developing views of his nature and person.
The gospel contains no parable like those of the Synoptists, unless, as Professor Moulton said, the Vine and the Branches is to be considered one. But in a sense the gospel is itself, much of it, parable. Much of it is so disturbing and difficult historically and so luminous figuratively. Certainly, no one can carry through a literal interpretation of the whole gospel; such efforts invariably shatter on the command to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, 6:53, 54.
It is not simply the physical difficulties with the Johannine wonders that perplex us; it is their moral difficulty. The water made wine—if fact, what a use of supernatural power—to replenish the refreshments at a party; as if there were no crushing burdens and dreadful sores on the world's life that such power might have been used to heal! Taken symbolically, however (and that is the way in which everybody really takes it), the story teaches the gospel's power to transform and enrich human life.
While the Gospel of John is a narrative, yet, when it is properly paragraphed in the modern fashion, the fact emerges that it is very largely dialogue. It is mostly conversation. This broad literary fact about it (which all standard English forms of it completely obscure) is of great significance, for it at once places it as a literary type in the tradition of the most characteristic form of Greek philosophical literature—the dialogue. This is just what the author intended it to be—a combination of gospel and dialogue. As such it may be regarded as standing between the Platonic dialogues and the dialogues between Jews and Christians of which Ariston of Pella (ca. A.D. 140) wrote the earliest example known to us and Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 160) the earliest that is extant.
This trait stamps the Gospel of John again as distinctly Greek in feeling and method. In fact, the gospel may be said to be intensely Greek from Prologue to Epilogue in every fiber of both thought and language. [1] Paul looked down the long vista of existence and saw a trial before the court of Christ awaiting every man, II Cor. 5:10; John saw reunion in a Father's house, 14:2. Paul declared himself the slave of Christ, Phil. 1:1 etc.; but Jesus says in John, "I do not call you slaves any longer, .... now I call you friends," 15:15. This is the substitution of the Greek idea of religion as friendship for the oriental idea of religion as servitude. Before the Christian believer stretched a broadening way to larger powers and fuller knowledge: Jesus' followers are to do greater works than his, 14:12; their helper, the Spirit of truth, will guide them into the full truth, 16:13.
The Gospel of John is a charter of Christian experience. For the evangelist, to know Christ through inner experience matters more than to have seen him face to face in Galilee. "Blessed be those who believe without having seen me," 20:29. What supremely matters in religion is not so much what men said or did, here or there, but the power of the Christian experience to create itself anew in the human heart, no matter where or when. Without that what would all the dogmas, all the liturgies, and all the literatures be worth to us?
Our mistake has been that we have dealt with John as though it were just another Mark or Matthew. It cannot be measured by those standards. It is something altogether apart. It is a great creative work of religious genius that has lighted the way for Greek Christianity and for universal Christianity ever since. Its theology may not be ours, for it was a bridge between its faith and its world-view, just as ours must be. Historically, it is less convincing than Mark; ethically it is less exalted than Matthew. Yet it Strikes beyond any of these to the very heart of Christianity, as above all an inner spiritual life of sonship to God and friendship with Christ.

Problems: Modern learning has sometimes felt that, by a few judicious transpositions, the narrative of John and particularly the movements of Jesus might be made somewhat more plausible. These transpositions—such as that of 7:15-24 to the end of chapter 5; of 10:19-29 to the end of chapter 9; of chapters 15 and 16 to the middle of 13:31; and of 18:19-24 with 18:15-18—are conveniently exhibited in the text of Moffatt's The New Testament: A New Translation. There can be no doubt that such rearrangements, which have long been advocated by Burton, Warburton Lewis, and others, relieve the narrative of John of certain material difficulties. But it must be remembered that topography and chronology were among the least of the author's concerns. His head was among the stars. He was seeking to determine the place of Jesus in the spiritual universe and his relations to eternal realities. These were the matters that interested and absorbed him, not itineraries and timetables, so that practical mundane considerations that might apply to Mark, Matthew, or Luke have little significance for his work. Nor has any probable explanation been offered for the origin of these supposed disarrangements.
The "I style" so characteristic of the Gospel of John is a way of stating ancient belief about Jesus in a fashion well known in antiquity. Various inscriptions exhibit the same use of the first person in describing Isis:
I am Isis, the mistress of every land. .... I gave and ordained laws, .... I divided the earth from the heaven. I showed the path of the stars. I ordered the course of the sun and moon. I devised business in the sea. I made strong the right. I brought woman and man together. .... I revealed mysteries to men. . . . .[1]
There is, therefore, something almost liturgical in sentences like "I am the bread that gives life," "I am the Good Shepherd," "I am the door," "I am the Light of the World," "I am Resurrection and Life," "I am Way and Truth and Life." They are in the religious style of the mystery religions.
The gospel begins with the very phrase that began the Greek version of the Jewish scriptures, "In the beginning." It gradually rises to lofty liturgical levels, chapters 14-16, and culminates in the Intercessory Prayer. It is the most considerable prayer in point of length in the New Testament and possesses a liturgical quality so potent that it actually obscures for most readers the main point of the prayer—union against the sects. There is thus an unmistakable literary crescendo about the gospel from the point of view of liturgical values.
The place of the gospel's origin has generally been recognized as Ephesus, and everything seems to confirm this opinion. It shows acquaintance with the collected letters of Paul—Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and probably Philippians, Philemon, and I and II Thessalonians [1]—as well as with Mark and Luke-Acts; perhaps also with Matthew, but that is much less certain. (It is an anachronism to talk of its use of Luke; Luke was not yet separated from its companion-volume Acts, and it was Luke-Acts that John used.) Its opposition to Docetism and the sects and its great concern for a unified Christianity remind us forcibly of the interest of Ignatius of Antioch in just these matters when he passed through Asia Minor sometime between 107 and 117 on his way to martyrdom at Rome. It was here in the province of Asia that he wrote his seven letters, vehemently urging unity against the sects, and especially against the Docetists, upon the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Philadelphia, Smyrna, and even upon the far-off church at Rome where he was soon to appear. There is every reason to believe that the Gospel of John belongs to the same place and period that witnessed the writing of Ignatius' letters, that is, Ephesus or the vicinity of Ephesus about A.D. 110.
The Gospel of John ends with the twentieth chapter, which closes with what is manifestly the Finis of the gospel:
There were many other signs which Jesus showed before his disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these have been recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and through believing you may have life as his followers.
Chapter 21 forms an epilogue later added to the completed gospel, probably when it was combined with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke to form the great quartet of gospels which soon became the Scripture of the churches and later the nucleus of the New Testament. Verse 24 shows that the writer of the Epilogue, who must have been one of the editors of the Fourfold Gospel collection, is not identical with the author of the gospel. In the gospel the beloved disciple is an ideal figure—such a follower of Jesus as would have seen him in his true greatness and in his larger relationships. But in the Epilogue the author, who has evidently passed away, is identified with this beloved disciple: "It is this disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down, and we know that his testimony is true." The new conclusion that now ends the book, verse 25, is even more appropriate as the Finis of the Fourfold Gospel: "There are many other things that Jesus did, so many in fact that if they were all written out, I do not suppose that the world itself would hold the books that would have to be written." It said, in effect, to those previously attached to one gospel or another: "Do not be surprised to find in this collection words and acts of Jesus that you never heard of before. He did more than even these four narratives contain, and if all he did were recorded, the books would fill the world."
The Epilogue is added to meet objections to the new gospel, to bring it more into harmony with its companion gospels, to commend it to their adherents, and to, enforce its message by a strong indorsement.
In harmony with Matthew an account of a Galilean reappearance of Jesus is now added, 21:1-14. The miraculous catch of fish and the breaking of bread recall scenes in Luke, 5:1-10; 24:30-35. The second half of the Epilogue, 21:15-25, includes a recognition of the leadership and pastoral office of Peter more in line with the Synoptic representation and fitted to commend the gospel to those who cherished his memory; an allusion to his martyrdom as foretold by Jesus, like those of James and John, 21:18, 19 (cf. Mark 10:39); and a reference to the beloved disciple as once supposed to be destined to survive until Jesus' coming. Such a disciple—a man with such insight and sympathy—the writer of the Epilogue declares was the author of the Gospel of John, 21:24.
From the time of Irenaeus (A.D. 180-89) certainly, and probably from the time of the making of the Fourfold Gospel corpus (115-25), the name of John has been attached to the gospel, doubtless from the fact that John the Elder was the writer of II and III John and very probably of I John, also. The question of the identity and personality of John the Elder belongs, however, to the discussion of the Johannine letters.
But the thoroughly Greek character of the thought and interest of the gospel, its literary (dialogue) cast, its thoroughly Greek style, its comparatively limited use of the Jewish scriptures (roughly about one-fifth of Matthew's), its definite purpose to strip Christianity of its Jewish swaddling clothes, its intense anti-Jewish feeling, and its great debt to the mystery Religions [1]—combine to show that its author was a Greek, not a Jew. [2] In the Gospel of John the Greek genius returns to religion.
Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
Do we have the Original New Testament?

• The answer to this question has a lot to do with the nature of “publishing”
• At the time of Jesus there were no printing presses; no paper (just papyrus); no books yet (just scrolls); no small letters; no standard punctuation
• Texts were often blocks of letters with no spaces between words
• Books were hand copied; many people made their own copies and then they only copied the parts they wanted • Since it was their copy, they might add their own notes inside the text
• Others might copy that version
• People were taught to read and to write separately
• Some professional scribes could copy text, but could not read it!
• Scribes often made mistakes, leaving out letters, words, even sentences or blocks of text
• Each scribe copied many of the errors of the previous scribe and introduced new ones
• Some tried to fix errors, thereby introducing new errors
• Some scribes saw contradictions between texts and tried to harmonize them
• We have the same problems with Greek and Latin literature in general
• “Original Autograph”: This is the very first copy of a text. For the Bible and other words of that day, they are all lost
• We don’t even have copies of copies of copies of the autographs; our oldest copies are often centuries later
• We do have a few fairly old manuscripts that appear to be fairly reliable
• We now have 5,700 manuscripts or fragments, mostly from the Middle Ages, and know of hundreds of thousands of variants of the biblical text!
• Most of the variants can be dismissed, but there are still a dozen or two places in the biblical text where we really aren’t sure of the original
• We have a tiny papyrus scrap of the Gospel of John dated to about 125 CE, only 30 or so years after the original autograph
• We have a complete Gospel of John from about 200 CE
• The first complete New Testament we have dates to about 350 CE
• The earliest texts were copied by scribes with no training and they made the most mistakes
• The oldest fragments of Luke date to 200 CE; oldest complete copy, 350 CE
• Accidental Mistakes: Misspellings or dropped words and sentences and lines
• Intentional Errors: Did Jesus suffer terribly on the cross and “sweat blood” or not? The oldest texts do not have the phrase. Was it later added to emphasize his suffering, or taken out to diminish his suffering?
• Scholars have to devise criteria for including or excluding words and passages
• You can’t use simple “text democracy” and go with the majority of texts; maybe the minority reading comes from the oldest texts
Criteria for Establishing the Text
• This art is called “textual criticism”
• Age of manuscripts
• Distribution of Manuscripts: Local variants are probably less reliable
• Style: Every author’s style is distinct. If a variant text does not match his style, it is less likely to be genuine
• The More Difficult Reading: changes to texts are usually made to make them read better or to harmonize, so the more difficult reading is probably older
• Quality of the manuscript: Some manuscripts were copied more reliably than others, and we can tell by spelling and other criteria

The World of Early Christian Traditions
• Where to begin? With the first gospel (Matthew)? The oldest book (1 Thessalonians) and Paul? With Jesus?
• It is best to begin with Jesus’s world, the GrecoRoman world of the 1st century
• Low literacy; maybe 10% in cities
• Low urbanization; most people lived in villages
• Death rate in cities exceeded birth rate
• Short lifespans; in Egypt, life expectancy was either 5 years or 29 years (Half the children died by age 5. Those who survived had a life expectancy of 29)
• Most women were married by 16 or 18 and bore 5 children
• Extreme wealth and poverty
• Most died within 20 miles of birth place
• Inefficient and capricious government
• Slow transportation; 60 days from Rome to edge of Empire
• Apollonius of Tyana lived about the same time as Jesus, cast out demons, raised people from the dead, performed miracles, uttered wisdom, and was acclaimed the Son of God
• All religion was local; there were no inter-city organizations
• Pagan religions were patronized by the local wealthy people; that and sacrifice were their main source of wealth
• Pagan religions placed no day to day ethical demands on people, who were not congregants
• There were no scriptures or creeds
• The state encouraged worship of the gods and political leaders played important roles in patronizing temples
• Local gods sometimes became regional or international
• Local gods merged with each other sometimes
• Only the Jews were monotheists
• Polytheists were very tolerant, generally, of each others’ religions; the more gods one worshipped, the better
• The emperor himself was considered a god and one sacrificed to him in court proceedings
• An “atheist” was someone who rejected belief in the gods (This included Christians)
• Everyone believed in spirits, ghosts, dreams, astrology, demons, and miracles
• Most “old religions” involved community worship of a patron god who was concerned about the community, not the individual
• Many “new religious movements” were springing up to fill people’s needs for a direct relationship with the divine
• Many felt attracted to the god of Judaism, but not to its laws
• Healing was heavily associated with temples, prayer and sacrifice (doctors had very limited skills)
The Divine Pyramid
• Philosophers often argued that Zeus or Jupiter was the supreme god and the others were lesser gods
• Some argued that the supreme God was beyond comprehension and all the others were lesser deities
• The “Great Gods” usually were seen as above local daimonia or lesser gods
• Households had their own Penates or family gods and their Lares or ancestral gods
• Then there were divine beings, demigods, immortals, and heroes
• It was in this last category that the Roman emperor, Apollonius of Tyana, and Jesus fell
• Most did not believe in an afterlife, or saw it as a shadowy existence
• Religion had nothing to do with afterlife; it had to do with making this life better through obtaining divine favor (“this-worldly” rather than “other-worldly”)
• Belief was irrelevant; practice (“cult”) was important
• Prayer and sacrifice were the key
• Daily sacrifice of wheat or wine to the family god
• Animal sacrifice sometimes involved eating part of the animal
• Festival days celebrated the worship of state gods
• One could determine whether the gods accepted a sacrifice through the practice of extispicy (I think this means whether it had the desired results. Since the Christians didn't sacrifice to the gods, they were blamed during bad times)
• Divination , dreams, and oracles allowed one to determine the divine will
• The gods brought peace and prosperity to the Empire if they were pleased
• Leading families and Senators were honorary priests
• They often had to pay personally to rebuild or expand temples and pay salaries of priests
• Temples were built and maintained by the state and the state celebrated victories in them
• Sacrifices paid for part of the upkeep of temples, also, but temples did not have “congregations” and most people felt no obligation to support them
• In some places there was regular worship of the emperor or of his “genius” as a god
• Magic was widely practiced, including potions, spells, and ritual curses (similar to voodoo)
• It was mixed in with religion and not separate from it
• Mystery cults involved various secret rituals that led to desired results, often focusing on the afterlife
• They often involved lifelong exclusive dedication to one deity
• They often involved myths of a dying and rising god, reenacted in the ritual
• The mystery cults often had initiation rituals and were hard to join
• The initiation may involve ritual washings
• Mystery cults centered on Demeter in Eleusis, Greece; Isis and her husband Osirus (from Egypt); Dionysus/Bacchus; and Mithras
• Their concern for community and afterlife anticipates aspects of Christianity
• Philosophy and religion were not separated in the ancient world
• Philosophers could be priests or emperors; few were professionals
• Philosophy was concerned with how to live life well
• Philosophers often stood on the street corner and preached, so their ideas were known to the illiterate populace
• At the time of Jesus, Stoics, Platonists, and Epicureans were the 3 most common types
• Each defined “wellbeing” differently but emphasized inner peace that comes from living in conformity with nature
• Stoics said this meant living in harmony with a world structured by the gods
• Epicureans felt the divine realm was irrelevant to inner peace and localized it in the simple pleasures of daily life
• Exercising reason was important to all 3
• Education and mental discipline were emphasized by all three
• They emphasized doctrine (what to believe) and ethics (what to do) in contrast to pagan religion
• They were not totally tolerant of each other because doctrine and ethics are either right or wrong!
• They sought to convert people to their views
Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
UNIT 3: The New Testament and the Gospels I:
Context and Canonization

The New Testament is the traditional scripture of the Christian dispensation. None of the authors of the books of the New Testament set out to compose scripture; they were writing down their own understandings of Christianity, in response to the needs of their communities. The first two or three generations of Christians wrote hundreds of works, a hundred of which have survived, and about a quarter of which were accepted into the New Testament. Of the New Testament's twenty-seven books, four are about Jesus Christ, His life and teachings; they are called gospels. The Book of Acts, a companion work to the Gospel of Luke, describes the actions of Christ's apostles after His death.
No church council ever finalized the contents of the New Testament; rather, its contents were gradually settled by tradition. The collection of works did not even have a name until about 200 C.E., when the Latin theologian Tertullian coined the term New Testament. Many independent Christian groups had other collections of writings that they considered foundational to their beliefs, but which were never considered sacred or even correct by the mainstream of Christians. The Nag Hammadi library, a collection of forty-six works buried in southern Egypt about 400 C.E. and found in 1945, is the best example.
Since the early and mid nineteenth century, sophisticated techniques for examining the language, style, and historical context of the New Testament books have developed and are collectively referred to as higher biblical criticism (where "criticism" refers to analysis of the New Testament, not criticizing it). There are several important aspects of higher biblical criticism. One is comparison of biblical texts describing the same topics side by side, so that differences of language and content can be studied carefully. Another important technique involves comparing biblical texts to other Christian nonbiblical texts of a similar age, on the assumption that nonbiblical texts also contain important information about Jesus and His early disciples. A third important aspect of the approach involves minute study of non-Christian texts of the same age, to gain a more detailed understanding of the usage of common biblical terms and phrases in the language of the day. A key assumption throughout is that when apparent contradictions between biblical texts are noted, the contradictions should not be glossed over or reconciled theologically, but should be studied rigorously and thoroughly to determine what they tell us about the range of assumptions held by the early Christians. In short, higher biblical criticism assumes that scripture is the product not only of a revelatory process, but also of a social process, and the social component of the composition of scripture can be studied rigorously using the modern techniques of sociology, psychology, and literary criticism.
One of the most important conclusions of higher-critical biblical scholarship is that not one book in the New Testament was written by an individual who met Jesus Christ. All of them were written later, usually by the second and third generation; the latest books in the New Testament were composed about 140 or 150 C.E. Many of the books are pseudonymous—that is, they claim to be written by someone other than the real author. Examples are First and Second Peter, the Epistle of James, and the Epistle of Jude; the quality of the Greek and the theological issues addressed indicate the authors were native Greek speakers and writers, composing decades after Peter, James, and Jude died. First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus are attributed to Paul but are very different in vocabulary and theology from Paul's genuine letters. The Book of Hebrews is anonymous, that is, its author is not given at all; it was attributed to Paul very early, but the attribution has been questioned since the third century.
It may seem strange to modern people that so many books of the Bible were pseudonymous or anonymous, but the process of writing books in the first and second centuries was very different than it is today. Ancient books had to be hand-copied and thus were incredibly expensive; consequently unknown authors often attributed their works to great men long dead to give the books weight and increase the likelihood they would be copied. Ancient books did not have copyrights or title pages; often the only place the author's name would be mentioned was in the text itself.
Closely related to this conclusion is another, that the stories about Jesus and accounts of His words were transmitted orally for one or two generations. Detailed study of the gospels has shown that the miracle stories, parables, and sayings of Jesus were preserved not because the first generation of Christians realized they had an obligation to posterity to serve as impartial and thorough transmitters of the Jesus tradition, but because of the stories' usefulness in the mission to convert others to Christ. Preserved in the missionary context, the stories about Jesus were gradually written down as brief collections of sayings or miracles, and these short documents were later incorporated into the gospels, either completely or in part.
A third major conclusion of modern biblical scholarship is that the New Testament is not theologically unified, but contains within it diverse and conflicting opinions about the nature of Christianity. This is an extremely important discovery because it shows that Christianity was never a single united religion, but always contained sharp disagreements and diverging tendencies—the sources of its sects. Bahá'ís, used to thinking of their own religious community as being in theological agreement, must understand that never in its history did Christianity experience similar unity. It had no golden age of unity in the first generation, from which it fell away. Paul's letters, which constantly complain about and warn against the teachings of rival Christian groups, make this clear (see I Cor. 1: 10-17; Gal 2:1-21). The Bahá'í Faith has a Covenant that maintains its unity. According to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Christianity never had a Covenant:
At most, His Holiness Jesus Christ gave only an intimation, a symbol, and that was but an indication of the solidity of Peter's faith. When he mentioned his faith, His Holiness said "Thou art Peter"—which means rock—"and upon this rock I will build My church." This was a sanction of Peter's faith; it was not indicative of his (Peter) being the expounder of the Book, but was a confirmation of Peter's faith.[8]
According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, Christianity had about 1900 sects in the year 1900; by 1985 the number had increased to about 22,190; and currently sects come into existence at the rate of 270 per year, or five per week![11] There is no reason to assume that Christianity's fragmentation will slow down or reverse in the near future. Indeed, many Christians believe that sectarianism is good: Liberals argue that it allows greater diversity of expression of the Christian truth; conservatives maintain that it permits the "true" believers to be separated from the "false."

Traditions of Jesus in Their Greco-Roman Context

• The gospels were not the first written records of them
• Stories would also have been modified to fit the needs of spreading the gospel
• “Luke” says he used earlier written material and stories
• Jesus was crucified about the year 30; Mark’s gospel was written between 65 and 75; Matthew and Luke, 80-85; John 90-95 CE
• Those are our best guesstimates at the moment (the guesstimates change from decade to decade!)
• After the crucifixion, there were maybe 15 to 20 followers of Jesus left
• By the year 100, there were churches all over the Eastern Roman Empire
• By 100 CE, there were thousands of Christians
• Most Christian mission work was conducted one on one, not in public
• Thus the teaching effort had to focus on the concerns of the day (wisdom, healing, miracles, raising the dead)
• Moral truth was more important that historical truth
• Different gospels often tell the same story, with significantly different details
• Mark has Jesus crucified on the morning after Passover begins; John on the afternoon before Passover
• If Jesus and Pilate were alone, who told the gospel writers what Jesus said?

The Christian Gospels

• The “gospel” was a new literary genre that resembled the genre of biography in some ways
• Every author has a point of view and a reason for writing what he/she wrote; a “take” on the subject
• The old view: the gospel was a totally new and unique genre
• Now as we study GrecoRoman biography, we see the similarities
• Written before the rise of psychology, they have little concern about development of the personality
• Little about the inner life
• Experiences demonstrates character; it doesn’t develop character
• Biographies existed to demonstrate proper behavior and show what greatness was
• Chronological order was less important
• Miraculous signs were used in many biographies, especially of religious figures
• Gospels are a kind of ancient biography
• The gospels can’t be taken at face value to determine “what really happened”
• Problem: What we can be sure happened is not itself adequate, because a lot may have happened that was important, and we can’t be sure without a time machine

Jesus, Suffering Son of God (The Gospel of Mark)

• Author: a Greek speaking Christian
• The story is deeply rooted in Judaism
• “Messiah” had 2 principal meanings: the messianic king who would deliver the Jews from occupation and establish Israel as a sovereign state; or a cosmic deliverer who engages in a supernatural war with Israel’s enemies
• Jesus was neither of these two kinds of messiahs; he was crucified!
• So Mark has to explain what sort of messiah Jesus was
• John the Baptist, a prophet, proclaims baptism as a rite of forgiveness of sins
• He resembles Elijah in dress and diet
• Jesus is baptized by John and a dove descends from heaven and voice proclaims him “my beloved Son”
• Jesus then goes into the wilderness and confronts Satan, returning triumphant
• Begins his ministry proclaiming the advent of the Kingdom of God
• “Son of God” in Jewish context denoted a special relationship with God
• In pagan contexts, a demigod
• In chapter 1, Jesus is portrayed as authoritative; he speaks, people obey; people say he speaks this way in the synagogue; he casts out demons; he heals people; as a result, he attracts crowds
• But rather than being universally acclaimed as Son of God, he is misunderstood by followers and hated and opposed by religious and political leaders
• Much of Mark’s gospel thus is an explanation for why the son of God was crucified
• But Pharisees, scribes, temple priests are offended by what he says.
• Mark 2:1-3:6 is a collection of conflict stories
• First they question his actions, take offense at his associations and activities, then protest the actions of his followers, and finally decide to execute him
• He refuses to follow their practices of purity or follow the Sabbath the way they do
• Jesus betters them in argument, but they convince the governor to execute him because of his popularity and his criticism of the temple worship, and because he is God’s Son
• Who realizes Jesus is the Son of God? God; demons; “Mark”; and the reader That’s it!
• The disciples don’t know who he is, either, even after seeing him walk on water and feed multitudes
• Then the disciples begin to understand as well. Peter says he is the Christ (the anointed one)
• Jesus orders the disciples not to spread the Word, though
• He tells them he will be crucified and raised from the dead
• Jesus says “Get behind me, Satan!” He can’t be understood as a Messiah in the popular sense, as Peter does
• Jesus is the Suffering Son of God
• Three times (8:31, 9:2-34, 10:33-34) Jesus says to the disciples he must die, and each time they don’t understand
• After the three statements, the story marches on toward the Passion Narrative
• Jesus is taken off to be crucified
• In Gethsemane he prays 3 times not to have to undergo his fate
• On the cross he says “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Then cries out and dies
• The curtain in the Temple is then torn in half; it separates the Holy of Holies, the inner chamber where Jehovah dwells, from the rest of the world
• God now dwells in the entire world
• The ultimate sacrifice for all humanity has been made
• A Roman centurion confesses Jesus is the son of God; even the gentiles will know, now
• On the day after the Sabbath three women go to prepare the body and are told by a young man that Jesus has risen from the dead
• He tells them to tell the disciples
• The women flee away and tell no one, however!
• The book ends there!
• Some copyists added 12 more verses to the gospel to give it a “fitting” ending
• Maybe the last page of the original manuscript got lost
• Mark’s audience would have been Greek speaking Christians outside Palestine, mostly gentile (he has to explain Jewish customs to them)
• Mark may not have been Jewish himself; he seems not to understand Jewish customs completely, either
• The Markan community may have been in dialogue with a local synagogue; some members may have converted from it
• This may explain Mark’s frequent references to the opposition of the Pharisees
• Following Jesus is not a ticket to glory, but to suffering
• Many scholars suspect the gospel was written early in the Jewish war (late 60s) and thus it hints that this war is the beginning of the end
• The Markan community may have been persecuted, but expected imminent relief when the Son of Man comes
Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
UNIT 4: The Canonical Gospels II:
Origins and Content

Luke 2
[1] And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
[2] (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
[3] And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

There was no universal census at the time of Jesus' birth. However there could have been a local census according to a short course that I had recently. Also Cyrenius was governer of Syria at the wrong time. However in the original greek, the word that said "first" could have meant "before". There was no requirement to go back to your original place of birth in the Roman empire. However Augustus reorganized the Roman empire so that the census would have been taken according according to local law according to the short course.
Luke 2
[46] And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
[47] And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

This is just like the Bab and Baha'u'llah.

Luke 3
[2] Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
[3] And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
[4] As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
[5] Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
[6] And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

The 5th verse is metaphorical of course. The valley that will be filled refers to the lowly of the earth. The mountain or hill are the divines and leaders of the time that will be brought low. In the 6th verse it says all flesh will the salvation of God, though this is not literally true. It impacts on the prophecy that says all eyes will see the return of Christ.

Luke 4
[1] And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
[2] Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered

Forty is often used in the Bible, so this number is symbolic and not literal. If He ate nothing for forty days He would die.

Matthew 10
[40] He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
[41] He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward.
[42] And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

John 20
[20] And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
[21] Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
[22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

In this version the disciples receive the Holy Spirit before pentacost. The breathing on them is symbolic.

In the Qur’án it is said: “And We sent Our Spirit to her, and He took before her the form of a perfect man”,73 meaning that the Holy Spirit assumed a human form, as an image appears in a mirror, and conversed with Mary.

Man cannot free himself from the onslaught of vain and selfish desires save through the confirming grace of the Holy Spirit.

The Synoptic Problem

• Matthew, Mark, and Luke have a lot of stories and sayings in common, but some significant differences as well
• Together, however, they are quite different from John
• Why? This is called the “synoptic problem”
• “Synoptic” means “seeing together”
• This problem is studied via the “literary-historical method”
• “Redaction criticism” is analysis of how and why a text was redacted or edited.
• How does an author use the sources available to him/her, and why? Why include this and exclude that?

Common Texts in the Synoptics
• Entire texts are shared verbatim by 2 or even all 3 of the gospels
• What was the common source? Oral tradition? A preexisting written text? Or did they borrow from each other?
• If they borrowed from each other, why did they NOT borrow some stories?
• There are many possible theories

Four Source Hypothesis
• The consensus view of scholars today is that Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke used it as a source
• They also used Q, a lost sayings source
• They also used oral traditions available to them (called M and L by scholars)

Markan Priority
• Sometimes Mark and Matthew share a phrase in common
• Sometimes Luke and Mark share a phrase in common
• But it is very rare to find Matthew and Luke sharing a phrase in common and differing from Mark’s phrasing
• Therefore, both borrowed from a preexisting Markan text
• Matthew and Luke share material in common that is not found in Mark and it is usually sayings. That also suggests that Mark is older; if Mark was younger and had borrowed from Matthew or Luke, we wouldn’t see a body of sayings in Matthew and Luke missing from Mark
• The order of stories on Matthew and Luke is often the same and often the same as Mark’s
• The sayings missing from Mark, however, are NOT in the same order in Matthew and Luke

Characteristics of the Changes
• Sometimes Mark uses awkward Greek or unusual words. Matthew and Luke typically “clean up” these problems
• If Mark copied from one of them, why would he make the grammar and phrasing worse?
• Mark is shortest. If he was copying from Matthew or Luke, why cut out all those good stories? Especially the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer!
• When Matthew and Luke use a Markan story, they often shorten it; Mark’s version is often the longest! So Mark is not taking Matthew or Luke and condensing it.

Q (Quelle, “Source”)
• Once Markan priority is established, what to we do with the common material in Matthew and Luke not found on Mark? Did Matthew borrow it from Luke? Vice versa? Or did they use another source?
• One couldn’t have gotten it from the other because the order of the Markan stories is the same, but the Q material is not in the same order
• Matthew and Luke used Mark as their template and added Q material where they thought it fit best
• We can’t be sure of the content of Q, except what Mt and Lk have in common from it
• It is almost all sayings, though it had three stories
• It was a written document, similar to the Gospel of Thomas
• Matthew gathered Q sayings together; Luke seems to have used them in order

“M” and “L”
• We can’t know much about M and L because we have only one source for each
• They may not have been a single written source, but multiple written and oral sources
• They are often memorable stories
• Once we have these theories established, we can ask: how did Matthew (or Luke) use Mark, and why?

Jesus, the Jewish Messiah: The Gospel of Matthew
• Matthew, the tax collector, is mentioned in Matt 9:9; he is traditionally the author of the gospel
• Why would a follower of Jesus write a gospel that is 2/3 derived from Mark, including the account of “his” calling?
• We can say that “Matthew” was a Greek speaker, probably outside Palestine
• He used Mark and Q and his own “M” sources
• Probably wrote in the early 80s
• We will look at how Mt reused Mk to make his points (redaction criticism)

Importance of Beginnings
• He begins by emphasizing Jesus’s descent from Abraham and David (whose descendants will include the Messiah)
• Mt uses a genealogy to make this point
• He includes every major figure in Jewish history
• He then has to note that Joseph is the husband of Mary, because it links to her for the virgin birth
• 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile in Babylon, and 14 from Babylon to Jesus
• This makes Jesus inevitable, a divine culmination
• Matthew had to cut out some of the kings of Israel to come up with 14 generations, linking sons to grandfathers!

Birth of the Messiah
• Mt’s Birth Narrative is designed to include fulfillment of biblical prophecies
• Mt uses a “fulfillment citation,” such as “this occurred in order to fulfil what was spoke of by the prophet x” and he then quotes the passage from the Septuagint
• Only Matthew uses “fulfillment citations.”
• Micah 2:6: the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem; Isaiah 1:23, born of a virgin
• There are also indirect references, like Hos. 11:1, “out of Egypt I have called my son” that did not originally refer to Jesus
• Much of the birth narrative makes Jesus’s life a parallel with Moses’s
• Jesus is the new Moses
• What sort of Messiah will Jesus be? Not a king or a cosmic deliverer
• He will be like Moses, a man who suffered from ignorance and distrust
• If you accept Moses, you must also accept Jesus
• The scribes and Pharisees oppose Jesus in Mt just as the priests opposed Moses
• They debate Jesus more fiercely in Mt than in Mk and Jesus responds more vigorously as well

Rejected King of the Jews
• Even in birth, Jesus is rejected; Herod hears of His birth from the Magi and seeks to kill every newborn boy (rather like Pharaoh)
• The Magi—Gentiles— know the Messiah has been born when the Jews do not!
• Jesus often fulfills scripture but is rejected by his people anyway, who plot his death
• But others come to worship him
• We see this in many of Mt’s stories

Jesus and John the Baptist
• Mt changes Mk’s account of the baptism in a number of ways
• John condemns Pharisees and scribes in Mt; not in Mk; they are too wicked to be baptized
• This emphasizes their wickedness more strongly than did Mk
• John refuses to baptize Jesus at first; he is not worthy
• The voice from heaven addresses everyone “this is my beloved son” rather than just Jesus
• In Mk, no one recognizes Jesus’s true nature until after the crucifixion; in Mt, many do, including John
• Jesus’s identity is public, not private
• Mt curtails the secrecy found in Mk

Why the changes?
• When Jesus walks in water in Mk, the disciples wonder who he is; in Mt they say he is Son of God
• Mt may be emphasizing the guilt of Jewish leaders for the crucifixion
• The Q material for John the Baptist is more apocalyptic
• John says divine judgment is coming
• Mt is more apocalyptic than Mk, overall

Portrayal of Jesus in Matthew
• Sermon on the Mount is the first of five blocks of material of Jesus’s teaching (ch. 5, 10, 13, 18, 23-27)
• Jesus’s teaching is 43% of Mt, 20% of Mk, 37% of Lk; 34% of Jn
• Like Pentateuch; Jesus as the new Moses
• The Q material is gathered together in Matthew for the Sermon on the Mount, but scattered throughout Luke
• Moses provided the guidance of the children of Israel; now Jesus provides the guidance for Christians
• Jesus does not replace Moses, but supplements and fulfills him
• The theme of the Sermon is the “kingdom of heaven”
• The Beatitudes emphasize the poor and downtrodden

The Kingdom of God (basileia theou)
• The kingdom is at hand
• Near? Present among us now? Coming in the future?
• When the kingdom comes, the poor will be fed, the mournful will be happy, those yearning for justice will be satisfied
• Mt does not see Jesus as abandoning Jewish law
• “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill”
• Jesus’s entire life seen as a fulfillment of prophecy
• Jesus requires his followers to follow the Law, too.

Jesus’s Followers and the Law
• Jesus offers six antitheses to the Law, each of which requires more rigorous obedience to its spirit
• The Law says not to murder; Jesus says don’t even get angry
• The Laws says not to do adultery; Jesus says not to even think in an adulterous fashion
• The law says an eye for an eye; Jesus says turn the other cheek
• Is he serious, though???
• Is he just saying that it is impossible to obey the law and everyone therefore is a sinner? But he doesn’t say that
• Jesus is not giving a detailed list of prohibitions; If anything, he is opposed to creating such a lengthy list

The Golden Rule; Jewish Law
• It is widespread in all ancient traditions and world religions
• Jesus says it is the essence of the Law
• The core of the Law is love for others and love for all
• This is also universal, not particularly Jewish
• Mt never says whether Christians should circumcise or follow the Sabbath
• Jesus does say that tithing should be observed
• Jesus says the Son of God is not obliged to pay the Temple tax, but does anyway

Jewish Law
• Mt says to pray the Judgment day does not come on the Sabbath
• Mt does not say that all foods are clean, though Mk does
• The Pharisees, he says, are more concerned with sacrifice than with helping others
• Thus it appears in Matthews’ community, many Jewish practices were still followed, but not emphasized

Jesus Rejected by Jewish Leaders
• The gospel portrays many strong clashes between Jesus and Jewish leaders
• He uses parables against them
• He even uses a parable in Q and refers to the destruction of a city, perhaps Jerusalem (22:7)
• Chapter 23 has seven woes against the Pharisees
• He condemns them in no uncertain terms

The Passion
• In Mt, the Jewish leaders are fully responsible for the crucifixion
• Pontius Pilate offers to release a prisoner for the Passover and the leaders get the crowd to demand Barabbas
• They also say to crucify Jesus
• Pilate washes his hands of the murder
• This is the source of much anti-Semitism
• Jesus never condemns Jews for being Jews

Matthew and His Readers
• Mt sees Jesus as continuing Jewish piety
• The Matthean community would have been partly Jewish in background
• The community would have had gentiles, too
• Book ends with the Great Commission
• Antioch, perhaps? Syria?
• Mt’s community probably experienced continued opposition from Jews
• Mt was very literate and knew the Septuagint well

Jesus, Savior of the World (The Gospel of Luke)
• We used the historicalcritical method to examine Mk and the redactional method to examine Mt
• Now we will use the literary-historical or “comparative” method to look at Luke
• It relies on comparing Luke’s text to Mark and Matthew to see what the author chose to include or change
• It’s very similar to the redactional method
• The redactional method looks at what the author changes, but NOT what the author preserved intact
• The redactional method also assumes we know what the source was. If Mt did NOT use Mk, for example, the redactional method collapses.
• But the comparative method does not; one can compare Mt with Mk even if ones doesn’t assume Markan priority
• We can compare Lk with Mt also

Comparative Overview
• Lk is also a kind of GrecoRoman biography
• Also anonymous
• Also be a Greek speaking Christian living outside Palestine
• Attributed to Luke, traveling companion of Paul
• First of a 2-volume work (including Acts)
• Books were written to be read together and have literary parallels with each other
• First volume focuses on Jesus; the second on the early Christian community and particularly on Paul

The Preface
• The gospel begins with a formal preface, unlike the other gospels but similar to other Greco-Roman works
• The Greek style is much better than Mk or Mt, also
• Historiographic prefaces in the ancient world usually mention sources used, say the result s better than anything else written on the subject, and may include the author’s name
• Luke similarly mentions sources, especially reliable oral sources “(eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word”)
• He says his account will be orderly; is this a criticism of Mk?
• Dedicated to “most excellent Theophilus”
• Usually Luke uses “most excellent” to refer to Roman governors, so maybe his patron was a governor
• This might explain his mild treatment of Pontius Pilate and his many historical references
• The gospel maybe an apologetic work to defend Christianity against government opposition

• But Roman officials are not always shown in favorable light
• Pilate is a weak administrator who bows to pressure from his subjects
• One cannot easily imagine the gospel and Acts being written for delivery to an official who doesn’t know Luke
• More likely, this is “inhouse” Christian literature • “Theophilus” means “beloved of God”
• It was a common name
• Or it could just refer to Christians in general, not to a patron
• The gospel is more like a biography than either Mk or Mt
• Acts is in the genre of “general history”
• Biographies rarely had prefaces, but histories usually did
• The preface thus is probably for the overall 2-volume work

Birth Narrative
• The birth narrative is parallel to Mt; Mk has none
• Mt and Lk have Jesus born in Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary betrothed to Joseph
• But the differences are many
• Lk has shepherds, Mt has Magi
• Lk has journey to Bethlehem, Mt to Egypt
• Mt has angel speaking to Mary, Lk has angel speaking to Joseph
• The differences are hard to reconcile, also
• Mt has Joseph and Mary living in Bethlehem; Lk has them living in Nazareth and journeying to Bethlehem
• The Magi find Jesus in a house, not in a manger in a stable

More Birth Narrative
• Herod orders the slaughter of all boys up to age 2; Joseph and Mary must have lived in Bethlehem quite a while before fleeing to Egypt
• In Egypt, Joseph has a dream and decides to return to Bethlehem, but then changes his mind and relocates the family to Nazareth
• In Lk, Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem because of the census
• Jesus is born in Bethlehem; then they return north to Nazareth
• Quirinus was not governor until 6 CE, 10 years after Herod’s death and Jesus’s probable birth
• Censuses are in the place of residence, not place of ancestry

Luke’s Orientation to the Temple
• Lk associates Jesus with the Temple, also
• John the Baptist’s father is a good observant priest in the Temple
• He first receives the news of salvation from an angel there
• Jesus is circumcised on the 8th day and taken to the Temple, where a holy man and a woman recognize him as the Messiah
• At age 12, Jesus stays at the Temple 3 days while his parents anxiously search for him
• Jesus thus has a close association with the Temple from the beginning, in Lk
• In Lk, the devil takes Jesus to the Temple in the 3d and last temptation; in Mt it is the 2d temptation
• Half of Lk is the trip to Jerusalem and the Temple
• The disciples go to the Temple after the crucifixion, not to Galilee

Luke’s Orientation to the Whole World
• Lk’s genealogy is strikingly different
• In Lk, Jesus is descended of David via Nathan, NOT Solomon (as in Mt)
• The genealogies disagree about name of Joseph’s grandfather
• Lk’s genealogy occurs after the baptism, not at the very beginning
• The baptism AND the genealogy make Jesus “Son of God.”
• The voice from heaven after the baptism says this
• Adam’s father was God; so through Joseph, Jesus is Son of God as well!
• Lk’s genealogy goes back to Adam, not just back to Abraham, emphasizing Jesus’s humanity, not his Jewishness
• For Lk, Jesus is Savior of the world, not just of the Jews

Jesus as Rejected Prophet
• Jesus’s sermon in the Nazareth synagogue occurs half way through Mk and Mt
• Lk moves it to the beginning and makes it longer
• Jesus reads from Isaiah about the next prophet and the audience is favorable to the idea it is He
• Then Jesus recounts stories of Elijah and Elisha helping gentiles rather than Jews, who reject them
• The audience is furious, kicks him out of the synagogue, and tries to take him to a nearby cliff and throw him off • He escapes and leaves town
• Thus Jesus’s ministry symbolically begins with its rejection by the Jews and its implicit extension to the gentiles

Luke’s Distinctive Emphases
• Mk, Mt, and Lk all portray Jesus as a prophet
• Lk emphasizes this in various ways
• The birth narrative in Lk 2 closely resembles the birth narrative of the prophet Samuel, including a song by the mother
• Jesus says he is an anointed prophet in Nazareth
• His raising from the dead of the only son of the widow of Nain parallels an act by Elijah
• Jesus’s companions then say “a great prophet has arisen among us”

Jesus, Prophet of Death
• A long-standing Jewish tradition said that prophets were opposed or martyred by their own people
• Jesus says this; that he can’t be martyred outside Jerusalem; that Jerusalem is a place of opposition to prophets • The Passion narrative reflects this understanding as well
• In Mk, Jesus is uncertain about his death, but not in Lk
• Jesus shows no misgivings or doubts in Lk
• Jesus often speaks in Lk; not in Mk
• While being nailed to the cross, Jesus asks God to forgive them
• While on the cross, he speaks to the thieves
• Jesus’s last words in Mk are of anguish and doubt; not in Lk
• These differences of tone cannot be harmonized easily

Jesus’s death; Gentile Mission
• The curtain in the Temple tears before Jesus’s death in Lk, not after; it symbolizes destruction of the temple
• For Lk, Jesus is an innocent martyr who will be vindicated at the resurrection
• No references to Jesus’s death as a ransom for many
• Jesus must die because he is a prophet, not to bring salvation
• Salvation comes from repenting sins and turning to God
• Mk and Mt also see a mission to the gentiles and knew many gentile Christians, but for Lk, it is important
• In Lk, the disciples remain in Jerusalem, not in Galilee
• In Mk and Mt, Jesus predicts the imminent destruction of the world
• Lk postpones the end time
• References to imminent events are seen as already having happened in Jesus’s speeches
• Jesus comes at the “midpoint of time.”

Social Implications
• Lk emphasizes the social ills of the day more than Mk and Mt
• There is time to deal with them, after all
• The Beatitudes stress literal poverty, not spiritual poverty (and hunger, and wealth in the woes)
• Lk has a bigger role for women; Jesus associates with them and they witness his death
• Lk emphasized Jesus as a Jewish prophet rejected by his people
• His message is for the whole world
• The mission to the gentiles will have time before the end of the age comes

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