Tuesday, November 25, 2008

December Quiz


1) What issue does Peter's vision address prior to his visit to Cornelius in aesarea?
a. Gentiles receiving the word of God
b. The stoning of Stephen
c. The appointment of a new disciple
d. The preaching of the Gospel

2) Which of the following phrases continues the story beginning with the words: "And a woman in the city, who was a sinner..." (Luke 7:37)?
a. "began to bathe his feet with her tears."
b. "begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter."
c. "came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak."
d. "put in two small copper coins."

3) Which of the following concerns does 1 Timothy address at length?
a. Children
b. Drunkards
c. The rich
d. Widows

4) What is the conclusion of this retrospective view of Paul's career: "I have fought the good fight..."?
a. "and Christ has given me the victory."
b. "and my strength is made perfect in weakness."
c. "I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
d. "and my head is bloody but unbowed."

5) What is the issue that prompts the gathering in Jerusalem in Acts 15?
a. the debate over circumcision and salvation
b. the rejection of Jewish law by Paul
c. the replacement of Judas
d. the way to preach the gospel in synagogues

6) According to the book of Acts, what sparks a riot in Ephesus?
a. The local Jews were offended by Paul's disregard for the law.
b. The local silversmiths thought their business was in jeopardy.
c. The local citizens claimed that Christians were advocating customs unlawful for Romans.
d. The local priests of Zeus wanted to offer sacrifices to Barnabas and Paul.

7) In Luke, who says, "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles..."?
a. Anna
b. Elizabeth
c. Simeon
d. Zechariah

8) In the Gospel of Mary, why did Peter reject what Mary told them about Jesus?
a. Because her words were strange.
b. Because she was a woman.
c. Because she heard these things in private.
d. All of the above.

Short Answer:

Why do scholars think the author of Luke is the same as the author of Acts?

Is the book of Acts more like history or fiction or some combination? Why?

What do the pastorals (Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy) have to say about women and slaves?

Do you think Paul wrote Titus and 1 & 2 Timothy? Why or why not?

Longer Answers:

Why do you suppose the Gospel of Mary was not included in the Bible?

Do you think it could be a resource for the church as are those texts that are in the Bible? Why or why not?

December Quick Guide


1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are called the pastoral epistles. They are supposedly letters by Paul to his followers, Timothy and Titus. For various reasons, many scholars doubt these letters are in fact by Paul, but come from a much later time in the church. The concerns reflect matters of established communities.

I Timothy: This letter written to Timothy is advice from an old pro to a rookie in ministry. “Fight the good fight of the faith.” (6:12)

II Timothy: This is more personal than the first letter, and quite fatherly: “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands...” (1:6)

Titus: This is the third of the pastoral letters (I & II Tim. and Titus). “Paul” writes to Titus, who is “my loyal child in the faith” and reminds him to do the job in Crete, which includes putting things in order there.

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is not found in the Bible. This text was discovered in the 19th century in Egypt. It is not a complete text. In this text, Mary is closer to Jesus than the other disciples. Jesus tells her things he does not tell the other disciples. When she reveals to them what she has seen and heard they do not believe her. It is intriguing to compare the Gospel of Mary with the pastoral epistles and other letters of the New Testament, especially in terms of attitudes toward women. In the Gospel of Mary, Jesus says: “Do not lay down any rules beyond what I appointed you, and do not give a law like the lawgiver lest you be constrained by it.”

The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were written by the same author. It is helpful to read the two as one complete narrative. The Gospel of Luke takes Mark's Gospel (and possibly Matthew's Gospel or a source common to Luke and Matthew) and embellishes it with memorable events and parables. Luke contains two of the most famous parables of Jesus that are not found in the other gospels: the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is Luke's gospel that forms the narrative basis for the church year from Advent to Ascension.

Acts is possibly quite late, possibly 2nd century,and attempts to tell the history of Peter and Paul. While we often think of Acts as history, it is not history as we would describe it. It is more along the lines of historical romance or historical fiction. It paints a picture of how the author wants readers to see the development of the church. The main character in Acts is the Holy Spirit. In the tradition of travel narratives, Acts takes the reader on the adventure of the church in its earliest days. Much of the squabbles surrounded the role of the Gentiles in the church. Should Gentiles be required to become Jews before they could become Christians or could they simply bypass circumcision and the Law altogether? Arguably the author of Luke-Acts has done more to shape the church's understanding of itself than any other New Testament author. Historians are now deconstructing Luke-Acts and showing fairly convincingly that it is more fiction than history.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

November Quick Guide


The Gospel of John is unique among the four gospels in the way the story of Jesus is presented. The sequence of events is different (the temple is cleansed early in his ministry as opposed to later, he goes to Jerusalem three different times as opposed to one, he carries his own cross, etc.) Jesus delivers long monologues and this language is mysterious. He says one thing and means another. Things appear to be working at two levels in John. The reader wonders about details and whether symbolic significance should be read into them. For example, should one make anything of the fact that they caught 153 fish?

Revelation: This letter is of a genre called apocalyptic literature. Through symbolic language it is designed to inspire hope. Many symbols and references come from the Old Testament. It should not be taken as a prediction of the future but as a song of hope in God’s kingdom. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes” (21:4).

I John: This is an important letter about love for one another to show that we are God’s children: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (4:16).

II John: This a postcard warning about deceivers. Don’t welcome anyone who teaches the wrong stuff.

III John: This letter is a bit more paranoid than the others; the author defends himself against some guy named Diotrephes. “Beloved do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good.” (vs. 11)

Ephesians: This letter describes the great unity we have in Christ who is the head of the Church who can bring Jew and Gentile together: “For he (Christ) is our peace; he has...broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” (2:14)

Colossians: Paul has a concern that some goofy teachings have taken over “empty deceit” (2:8). He speaks of Christ as the head of the cosmos “the firstborn of all creation...in him all things hold together.” (1:15-17)

I Peter: This letter from Peter is encouragement in the face of persecution. “Live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.” (4:2)

II Peter: This letter is an attack on false teachers and a warning that Christ will come again for judgment. In the meantime: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (3:18)

Hebrews: This is a long sermon about how Christ is the perfect sacrifice done once and for all. Therefore, animal sacrifice in the temple is no longer needed. It contains a list of the heroes of faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (11:1)

James: This letter is about putting your works where your faith is. Not one for idle talk is James: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works?” (2:14)

Jude: Bad apples have entered into the barrel. Don’t listen to them and reject the true faith. “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (vs. 21).

November Quiz


1. Which book contains the following quotation: "You do well if you really fulfill the royal law
according to the scripture...For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become
accountable for all of it"?
a. Hebrews
b. James
c. 1 Peter
d. 2 John

2. In the book of Revelation, what causes John to weep bitterly?
a. Multitudes of people are left behind on the earth.
b. No one can be found to break the seals on a scroll.
c. The whole world follows the antichrist.
d. None of the above.

3. What does James say stains the whole body and is set on fire by hell?
a. pride
b. sexual passion
c. the love of money
d. the tongue

4. Which book contains the following: "Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house..."?
a. James
b. 1 Peter
c. 2 Peter
d. Jude

5. Who asked, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?"
a. Nathanael
b. Nicodemus
c. Philip
d. Thomas

6. The example of Melchizedek is used by the author of Hebrews in discussing what?
a. Christian tithing
b. Jesus' death as a sacrifice
c. the messiahship of Jesus
d. the priesthood of Jesus

7. The letters of John contain all except which of the following?
a. "For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments."
b. "Do not love the world or the things in the world."
c. "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them."
d. "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

8. Which of these themes may be said to be characteristic of Ephesians?
a. defense of Paul's authority
b. dissension in the church
c. explanation of the Second Coming
d. unity in Christ

9. What book contains the following quotation: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you"?
a. Titus
b. Hebrews
c. 1 Peter
d. Jude

Short Answer:
1) What are some of the differences between the way John tells his story and the way the story is told in the other three Gospels?

2) What metaphors does Jesus use to describe himself in John's Gospel? Which ones are most meaningful to you?

Long Answer:
1) The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye has sold millions of copies. It is uses the Book of Revelation as a code to understanding current events and predicting the future—the end of the world. Is LaHaye interpreting Revelation correctly? Why or why not?

2) There is apocalyptic imagery in the Bible. The Bible does on occasion seem to speak of an “end” of things, eternal life, heaven and hell, Jesus returning, a heavenly city, and so on. Is this imagery for you literal or poetic and what value might modern day folks take from it, if any?