Tuesday, September 23, 2008

October Quiz: Seven Authentic Letters of Paul

October Quiz on the Seven Authentic Letters of Paul

1. "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever" occurs in which book?

a. 2 Corinthians
b. Galatians
c. Ephesians
d. 1 Thessalonians

2. In which letter does Paul say, "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ"?

a. Romans
b. 1 Corinthians
c. 2 Corinthians
d. Galatians

3. In Romans 9-11, as Paul discusses the fate of the Jewish people and their place in God's plan, which of the following statements does he make?

a. "Your house is left to you, desolate"
b. "All Israel will be saved"
c. "Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles"
d. None of the above

4. How does this quotation from Philippians end: "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling..."?

a. "for faith without works is dead."
b. "for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
c. "for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."
d. "for the one who is righteous will live by faith."

5. How does Paul answer the question, "Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?"

a. "By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?"
b. "You will fulfill the law of Christ."
c. "Sin boldly! Grace will abound."
d. "Love covers a multitude of sins."

6. Freedom in Christ is a major theme of which book?

a. 1 Corinthians
b. Galatians
c. Philippians
d. Colossians

7. Where was Paul when he wrote to Philemon?

a. in jail
b. in Nicopolis
c. on board a ship
d. In Crete

8. In which chapter does Paul emphasize the “election” of God’s people?

a. Romans 9
b. 1 Corinthians 15
c. Philippians 2
d. 1 Thessalonians 4

9. Which letter contains the following quotation: “…and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me’”?

a. 1 Corinthians
b. 2 Corinthians
c. Galatians
d. 1 Thessalonians

10. Which of these claims is found in 1 Corinthians?

a. “. . .work out your own salvation in fear and trembling. . . .”
b. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . .”
c. “Three times I was shipwrecked. . . . “
d. “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.”

11. In which letter does Paul commend “Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae” to his readers and describe a female co-worker named Junia as “prominent among the apostles”?

a. Philippians
b. 1 Corinthians
c. Galatians
d. Romans

12. ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited’ is found in which book?

a. Romans
b. 2 Corinthians
c. Ephesians
d. Philippians

13. To which church did Paul write ". . . I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue?"

a. Corinth
b. Ephesus
c. Galatia
d. Jerusalem
e. Rome

14. Onesimus was a

a. disciple
b. magician
c. soldier
d. politician
e. slave

15. "If there is a physical body," Paul says, "there is also ___________."

a. a terrestrial body
b. a spiritual body
c. a perishable soul
d. an immortal soul

Short Answer:

Fill in the blank from Paul’s letters:

“If I speak in the tongues of mortal and of angels, but do not have love, I am ______________________________________________.

“Bless those who ____________________.

“If your enemies are hungry, __________________.

“If your enemies are thirsty, _____________________.

Do not be overcome by evil, but _____________________.

Longer Answer:

Some have said that Romans is about faith and I Corinthians is about love. Which do you think is most important?

Why are these seven letters considered the seven authentic letters of Paul?

What does Paul mean when he uses the phrase “In Christ?”

Find examples in Paul’s seven letters of women in leadership.

October Synopsis: Seven Authentic Letters of Paul

Bible Cover to Cover for October: The Seven Authentic Letters of Paul

1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and Romans

These are the seven letters that scholars all agree were written by Paul. Disputed letters (Ephesians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus) will be read later. We begin with Paul’s seven authentic letters (the earliest writings in the New Testament) rather than Acts which is written a half century after Paul. The Paul of Acts is a legendary character that serves the purpose of the author of Acts.

In these seven letters written on the road to particular congregations, we get insight into the struggles and the convictions of the early Jesus movement as understood by Paul and his communities. Paul mythologizes Jesus for a Greek and Roman audience. There is little about the historical person of Jesus in Paul’s letters. Paul is mostly concerned about the death and resurrection of Christ (the Messiah) and what it means for his readers to live “in Christ.”

It is in these seven letters that we find the “real” Paul. One of the challenges is to seek to uncover what is coherent in Paul’s message and what is contingent upon circumstances. We find in the authentic Paul a radical message of personal and social liberation and egalitarianism between women and men, between slave and free, and between Jew and Greek.

I Thessalonians: This is Paul’s first letter and the oldest writing in the New Testament. There was concern that Christ had not returned. Paul reassures them that Christ will come again and the dead will be raised. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (5:2)

I Corinthians is written for the church that has lost its center in Christ. Fighting, division, competition, and self-aggrandizement rule the day for the Corinthians and Paul teaches them the meaning of community, of love, and of authentic spiritual maturity. Chapter 13 contains some of the most beautiful poetry in scripture. That is why you hear it during weddings.

II Corinthians: Relations between Paul and the people at Corinth had deteriorated. This letter reveals the hurt and frustration when people of faith have conflicts that cannot seem to be resolved. Paul tries to walk that difficult line of seeking reconciliation but needing to defend his ministry. “Make room in your hearts for us...” (7:2)

Philemon: Paul writes to Philemon who is the owner of a slave, Onesimus. Paul admonishes Philemon to grant Onesimus his freedom and to take him back not as a slave but as a brother.

Galatians: The Galatians have reverted back to their old ways by putting the demands of the law onto Christians. Galatians is an important letter which tells of the universal implications of the Christian faith. “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you!” (3:1)

Philippians: Paul writes this letter from prison and it is a powerful letter of faith and joy amidst struggle. It is a letter of confidence in Christ’s presence. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!” (4:4)

Romans is Paul's theological summa. Romans was the work that changed Martin Luther and inspired him to reform the church. "We are justified by grace through faith." Paul wrestles with the same questions we do today. How good do I have to be? What is the difference between the letter and the spirit of the law? Why do I keep doing the bad things I detest?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

September Quick Guide: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Thomas

For the period September 1 through September 30, read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Thomas.

The word "gospel" means good news. It comes from the Greek word euangelion where we get the words evangel, evangelist, and evangelism. Traditionally, "gospel" was a secular word. Governors would begin public announcements about military victories or state celebrations (such as Caesar's birthday) with the phrase "Good News!" Using this format, Mark's Gospel begins with a different kind of good news. The "good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God." (Mark 1:1)

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the synoptic gospels. Syn (similar) Optic (eye). These three proclamations about Jesus are similar in both form or narrative flow and in content. In contrast, the Gospel of John is quite different from Matthew, Mark and Luke both in the kinds of stories told about Jesus and the way in which they are framed. Each work brings its own interpretation about the significance of Jesus. That is why it is good as we read them to respect each author's integrity rather than to try to mix all the gospels into one life of Jesus. These gospels are proclamations about Jesus' significance rather than biographies of his life. John 20:30-31 explains: "Now Jesus did may other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name."

Most scholars agree that Mark is the first gospel written around 70 A.D. at the time of the Jewish War with the Romans and the destruction of the temple about 40 years after Jesus. The stories about Jesus reflect that contemporary situation. Luke and Matthew followed Mark, used his narrative flow, and added material of their own, completing their works ten to fifteen years later. The author of Luke also wrote Acts so these works should be read and interpreted as one book.

The Gospel of Thomas is a sayings gospel. It was found in 1945 in the collection at Nag Hammadi. Some of the Gospel of Thomas is similar to what is found in the synoptic gospels. Some is quite different. Thomas may have preserved some of the earliest layers of the Jesus sayings tradition.

Who was Jesus? Was he a real person? Did he even exist? We know next to nothing about Jesus outside what the Bible says about him. The Gospels are not reliable as historical biographies. They are theological proclamations. One can find antecedents to nearly all of the stories about Jesus in earlier literature. Miracles such as virgin birth, resurrection, walking on water, turning water into wine, healing people of illness, and ascending to heaven are common themes attributed to divine figures. Even many of the sayings and parables of Jesus are likely to have originated with philosophers, prophets, and sages before him. It is difficult if not impossible to determine what the historical person was like, even if there was one.

There are different ways to read these Gospels. One way is to read them as sources for information about the historical Jesus. In this way of reading we try to distinguish the mythological “gloss” from the historical person. Historical Jesus scholars such as the Jesus Seminar have developed methodology to do this.

Another way is to read each gospel as a story of Jesus in its own right. In this way of reading, we don't worry about contradictions of fact (who was actually at the tomb, etc.); rather, we try to determine who Mark's Jesus is, and how he compares to Luke's Jesus and Matthew's Jesus. In this way of reading, one brackets the questions regarding the historical person and steps into the story with all of its myth, metaphor, and magic. Then, the most important question will be from Jesus to you: "Who do you say that I am?"

September Quiz: Matthew, Mark, Luke, Thomas

1. The Gospel writers attempted to
a. write objective biographies of Jesus designed to enable readers to reconstruct the life of Jesus
b. to interpret Jesus theologically for the communities they served

2. In studies about Jesus, scholars often distinguish between the Christ of faith and the Jesus of history. Which of the following is the best definition of the ‘Christ of faith’?
a. The Christ of faith is Jesus as proclaimed by the Christian community.
b. The Christ of faith is the very limited picture of Jesus that emerges when we use only data which can be ‘proven’ by using the historical method.
c. The Christ of faith is the real Jesus as we would see him if we could go back in time and listen to him teaching in Galilee.

3. Large amounts of information about Jesus may be found in non-Christian sources such as Josephus and Tacitus. In fact, we know almost as much about Jesus from these sources as from the Christian Gospels.
a. True
b. False

4. The criterion of dissimilarity asserts that
a. if an historical statement can be read as challenging the goals of the document in which it occurs or the goals of the community which preserved that document, then it is likely to be true.
b. if an historical statement can be read as challenging the goals of the document in which it occurs or the goals of the community which preserved that document, then it is likely to be false.
c. if an historical statement is not similar to other statements made in the same document, then it is probably false.

5. The criterion of multiple attestation asserts that
a. if an historical statement is supported by more than one source, it is probably true
regardless of what the literary relationship of those sources might be.
b. if an historical statement is supported by more than one source, and if the relevant sources could not be dependent upon one another, then the statement is probably true.
c. if an historical statement is supported by more than one source, the sources must be related to one another if the statement is true

6. The Jesus Seminar asserts that Jesus
a. preached a highly apocalyptic message, expecting the arrival of the Kingdom of God and the end of natural history shortly after his death.
b. preached a message that had little to do with popular eschatology.

7. Jesus grew up in __________.
a. Jerusalem
b. Bethlehem
c. Capernaum
d. Nazareth

8. Jesus was born sometime between
a. 40 and 27 BCE
b. 6 and 4 BCE
c. 1 and 12 CE
d. 27 and 30 CE

9. According to the canonical Gospels Jesus was born in __________.
a. Jerusalem
b. Bethlehem
c. Capernaum
d. Nazareth

10. Jesus was crucified in __________.
a. Jerusalem
b. Bethlehem
c. Capernaum
d. Nazareth

11. Which of the following is true about the New Testament claim that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist?
a. While the New Testament reports this event, we have no way to prove whether it actually happened or not. It must be accepted as a matter of faith.
b. Most historians would say that we have good evidence for this event. We can demonstrate that it is extremely likely that Jesus was actually baptized by John.

12. During Jesus’ public ministry
a. he attracted large crowds of both supporters and opponents.
b. he probably did not attract much attention. The Christian movement took on great force only after Jesus’ death.
c. he attracted large crowds, but the crowds virtually always opposed Jesus. He had few supporters.
d. he attracted large crowds of supporters. Strong popular opposition to his message arose only after his death.

13. Jesus’ public ministry lasted
a. between one and three years
b. about six months
c. between five and ten years

14. Who actually carried out the crucifixion of Jesus?
a. a group of Roman soldiers
b. an angry mob, without the help of the Romans
c. the Jewish temple leadership

Question Source:

Dr. Michael Palmer

Shorter Answer:

Of all Jesus' teachings, parables, or sayings, name one (or two or three if you can't decide on one) that is the most important for us as human beings to internalize? Why?

What title does Jesus use for himself more than any other? What do you think it means?

Matthew and Luke both include birth narratives. What are the differences between the two narratives? What does each author want us to know about the kind of person Jesus will be and the work Jesus will do through the device of the birth narrative?

Why was Jesus executed? What did it mean for his followers to claim he was “Resurrected”?

Longer Answer:

Imagine Jesus as a real person. Without using "theological jargon" describe in two or three paragraphs what kind of person Jesus is. Think in terms of personality, values, dreams, attitudes, and convictions. Don't worry about being "right or wrong" or orthodox or whatever; use your imagination and heart!