Tuesday, November 25, 2008

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.

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