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Leonard Lamina

Dr. Roudkovski
Life and Teachings of Christ: Final Exams Essays
May 2, 2016

Question:
Discuss Jesus Galilean ministry. What kinds of activities characterized Jesus
Galilean ministry? What kind of miracles did Jesus perform? What was Jesus
purpose behind those miracles? What was at the heart of Jesuss message?
A central aspect of Jesus Galilean ministry was his powerful preaching and teaching,
accompanied by several miraculous escapades. His Galilean ministry comprised of key
not least of which is the introduction and demonstration of the nature of his Kingdom
the kingdom of heaven/the kingdom of God (Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17). This period is
also known as the period of popularity, marked by a bevy of travelling and miraculous
activities, the calling of his disciples and the growing relationship between his disciples
and his ministry, kingdom parables, and mixed responses by differing groups about his
burgeoning ministry.
In his Galilean ministry, Jesus preaches that the kingdom of God is at hand, meaning the
kingdom of God is breaking-in into the world. Jesus preaching of the in-breaking of the
kingdom of God is a staggering claim that signifies a termination of the old age, and the
beginning of the new age, signaled by the in-breaking kingdom of God. Thus, the term
the kingdom of God is a comprehensive term that would have quickly resonated ideas
in his audience about Gods victory over the present cosmic and human evil, and the
ultimate institution of a new age on earth, where God will rule over all the forces of
darkness and chaos, forever.
As Jesus went about preaching the arrival of the Kingdom of God, he demonstrated and
affirmed his message through many wonderful signs and miracles not least of which
included casting demons and healing the sick. For instance, Matthew 12:28: But if I cast
out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you, clearly
establishes the core concept of the realization of the kingdom of Godalbeit in a partial
manner in the midst of his miraculous activities. As Wright puts it well in his book
Simply Jesus, Jesus was living the statement: God is in charge nowand this is what it
looks like!(Wright, 59). The healing of the sick and the casting of demons fall in line
with the principles of the kingdom of God, as Jesus demonstrates his power over evil and
human suffering, and the establishment of holistic renewal and restoration (social,
physical, emotional) to the world. Jesus healings are very important to his ministry
because they also carry the idea of Jesus as the forgiver of sins, as demonstrated in the
healing of the paralytic (Mk 2:1-12). Even as forgiveness and healing go together, Wright
captures the essence of forgiveness when he equates forgiveness to the restoration of
Israel out of exile, linking forgiveness and redemption together (Wright 73).
Jesus miraculous activities also point to his power, Messiahship and divinity. Exodus 3
shares multiple characteristics with the account of Jesus walking on wateras Yhwh
appears to a terrified Moses in the form of a burning bush and reveals his name (I am
who I am), Jesus appears to the terrified disciples on walking on water and answers to
them: It is I.

As the gospels also convey, Jesus most dominant method of teaching was in the form of
parables. His parables were brief, pithy, and extremely provocative, as he crafted them
purposefully to make people rethink their presuppositions about the kingdom and to
compel them to make a decision. As Jesus preaches, the twelve disciples learn from a
great deal about Jesus power and his kingdom, and, thus, are also commissioned by Jesus
on multiple trips to preach about the Kingdom (Matthew 9:35-10:42, Mark 6:7-13, Luke
9:1-9).
While Jesus gains positive interest and popularity among the social outcasts, hes also
responded with various negative views by other groups. Upon seeing the great stir he
caused, his family claimed that he was out of his mind (Mark 3:21). Most importantly
Jesus ministry clashes with the views and practice of the religious elite of the day, as he
associates himself with the undesirables of the society such as tax collectors, sick people,
and goes against standard ways of living such as picking grain with his disciples on the
Sabbath, healing on the Sabbath, etc. However, in all of these situations, Jesus comes up
as a defender of his ministry and as a rebuke of the customary practices of the religious
elite such as the Pharisees and scribes. The climax of Jesus Galilean ministry involves
Peters confession of Jesus Messiahship. This is major turning point in Jesus life because
it is here that Jesus is specifically identified by anyone as the Jewish Messiah. From here,
Jesus would go on to spend more private time with his disciples, clarifying the nature of
his Messiahship, as not a conquering-militaristic hero, but the suffering Messiah, and
the bearer of suffering and shame for the sake of victory over evil and death.
The heart of Jesus ministry should be found in the fact that Jesuss ministry involves
good news for the whole worldJesus is the inaugurator and the bearer of the good news
of Gods reign on earth. While his ministry affirms the ongoing reality of Gods reign,
they also represent a foretaste of the ultimate realization of the kingdom of God to come
in his second coming.

Question:
Discuss Jesus Jerusalem ministry. Focus on Jesus symbolic actions/object lessons
such a triumphal entry, fig tree, cleansing of the Temple. What was Jesus intent
behind those actions? Summarize some of Jesus teachings that follow Jesus
symbolic acts(Mark 11-13 pars)
Jesus Jerusalem ministry is be marked by an intensification of the conflict between him
and the religious establishment that started in Galilee. The full scope of Jesus ministry
will gradually unravel as significant encounters such as the triumphal entry into
Jerusalem, the cursing of the fig tree, and the cleansing of the Temple will point to Jesus
role as not only the fulfillment of Israels promises, but the pioneer of a new era,
governed by a redefinition of Israels Temple program and its mission.
First, Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey pictures him as meek and mild
messiah, over against a violent, forceful militaristic hero. The image is also reminiscent
of the image of the lowly coming King of Zion as described in Zechariah 9:9, who is
coming to bring salvation to Zion/Israel.
Yet, Jesus entry to Jerusalem does not simply portray him as the Messianic King;
entering into Jerusalem on a donkey is also a calculated act aimed at eliciting a response
from Israels leaders (Strauss, 480). No wonder that In Marks gospel, Jesus entry into
Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-10) is immediately followed by Jesus entry into the temple (Mark
11:11). Thus entering into the temple will not turn out to be a smooth encounter between
Jesus and the religious establishment, for all his actions at this time will be specifically
aimed at pointing at the corruption of the Temple, and redefining the significance of the
Temple around himself and his new kingdom. Marks portrayal of the Jesus attack on the
Temple program is particularly instructive, as he uses a sandwiching device to frame
Jesuss cleansing of the Temple with the cursing of a fig tree: fig treeclearing of the
templefig tree. After Jesus enters into the temple to drive away the money changers
and the seats of those selling doves, the fig tree that Jesus cursed the previous day is said
to have been withered. Thus, the cursing and withering of the fig tree most likely points
to the ultimate destruction of the Temple in AD 70 by the Romans (a symbolic act of
judgment against Israel(?)). In any case, Jesus cleansing of the temple should be
understood as Jesus in dispute with the corruption of the Temple as he cries: Is it not
written my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a
den of thieves. It is not explicit from the text what exactly is the corruption of the
Temple, but obviously Jesus goals are meant to redefine the mode of operation and
significance of the existing temple around himself and the dawning of the new age. The
temples sacrificial system of animal sacrifice will no longer be necessary as Jesus would
give his life as a once-and-for-all sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. In this sense, Jesus
is announcing that he will be the New Templehes the one through whom Gods power,
anointing and presence rests.
The Pharisees and scribes, unsurprisingly are irritated by Jesus actions, and question his
authority, but their inability to answer Jesus counter-question shows Jesus authority over
the Temple elite. Their next encounter with Jesus, in the gospel of Mark, would be to
question him whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus responds by saying that
render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods. The

question is particularly relevant, as it links to the role of the money changers in the
Temple. The money changers exchanged various currencies for Tyrian shekels that were
used to pay the temple tax to the Romans (Strauss, 480). In this sense, Jesus actions in
the temple might be emphasizing the temples lack of allegiance to God. But before this
encounter in Marks gospel, what comes before it is the parable of the wicked
vinedressers that Jesus gives. In the literary context of Jesus polemic against the Temple
establishment, the parable is most likely to be interpreted as Jesus coming to finally put to
shame the malpractices of a self-important religious elite who have sorely misconstrued
and misdirected their mission. In the same rhetorical atmosphere of argument and debate,
the Pharisees and the Scribes come against him again, question him of his knowledge,
and of course, doing so, so that they might find cause to accuse him and destroy him
(Mark 11:18).
A scribe asks Jesus about the most important commandment, and Jesus responds by love
God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself(my paraphrase). The
question is relevant because Jesus answer and the scribes response points to the fact that
the Temples activities were obsessed with burnt offering and sacrifices, rather than based
on the love of God. Jesus will now take the turn to ask a question about the teaching of
the scribes, followed by a strong critique of the scribes, who desire to go around in long
robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the beast
places at feasts, who devour widows houses, and for a pretense make long
prayers(Mark 12:38-40). The Temples corruption is further highlighted when Jesus
notices a poor woman giving all that she had into the treasury under the harsh governance
of the religious elite, whereas the rich flaunt their wealth ostentatiously.
After Jesus finishes his polemic against the temple establishment by prophesying of its
imminent destruction (Mark 13:2), Jesus gives his disciples a striking vision of an
apocalypse, that is meant to assure the disciples that despite the destruction of temple, the
the rule and reign of God will still prevail over all suffering and disorder. If Mark was
written to persecuted Christians in Rome in the mid-50s or late 60s AD (Strauss 202205), then Marks message would have been very fitting as it would have functioned as
comfort for Jewish Christians in the midst of suffering, or about to suffer. Jesus
resurrection would have been known by then, all the more signifying Gods triumph
suffering and evil.
From this point on in Jesus ministry, he will solemnly prepare and wait for his betrayal
and death.

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels and the Historical Jesus


The central thesis of this section argues that the New Testament gospels are generally
reliable in their historical sense. (Although there are four gospels, this essay will
specifically concern itself with the Synoptics). Since the Gospels are mainly concerned
with broadcasting information about Jesus, the question to be answered is do the gospels
produce a historically reliable portrait of Jesus? , or more generally, is the gospel
tradition a reliable source of historical information?
Centuries after the Reformation, the issue of the authority and reliability of scripture
began to be questioned in the wake of the philosophy of scientific rationalism. As biblical
interpretation slipped away from under the churchs arms, biblical studies has ever been
couched in an attempt to view the Bible objectively out from the influence of the church,
and to apply a set of critical tools that will uncover the true meaning of scripture. As
skeptics and curious academics ceased upon the bible, biblical interpretation began to be
drawn away from the churchs life and mission, to be re-analyzed and re-modeled by a
new caste of academics; thus, the rise of historical criticism. Scholars began to began to
apply the method of historical criticism to the study of the bible. Since then, the method
of historical criticism has dominated the primary method of the academic study of the
Bible. Concerning the gospels, the method of historical criticism led to the notion that the
gospels may be riddled with theological agenda as supposed to historical truth, and that
rigorous historical research is need to confirm the reliability of the events of scripture.
Over the years, the academic explorations of the quest of the Historical Jesus, and the
study of the genre and nature of the Synoptics have uncovered a wealth of data that
contribute to the understanding of the historical reliability of the gospels.
Contrary to earlier explorations of the historical Jesus in the nineteenth and early
twentieth century, whose insights espoused discord between the Christ of faith and the
historical Jesus, the contemporary dominant views resulting from the quests for the
historical Jesus have confirmed that the use of rigorous historical methodology does not
necessarily negate a portrait of Jesus in fundamental agreement with the Gospel
presentations of him. This means that what can be known through history about Jesus
can absolutely be found in the Gospel tradition.
Yet, the trustworthiness of the Gospel tradition does not stop in simply affirming that
historical Jesus is not averse to the portrait of Jesus of the Gospels. The historical
Jesus is strictly speaking, what can be known about Jesus through history, and not
necessarily about the general reliability of the gospel renditions as trustworthy documents
for the life and mission of the Church. In spite of the fact that scholars cannot absolutely
know everything about Jesus through the traditional quests of the historical Jesus, the
gospel traditions are reliable documents for the sake of the life and mission of the church,
as opposed to mere mythmaking or theological propaganda intended to propose a
particular view of Jesus other than one based on reality.
Several lines of evidence point to the reliability of the gospels as sources of information
that contain a great deal of information and knowledge about the world in which they
were written, and that the methods of historical enquiry of that day were used in their
authorship. For instance, the author of Lukes gospel claims to be writing authentic
history, validated by careful investigation and reliable source of historical data eye

witness testimony. In this age where eye witness testimony does not pass for as a standard
for historical information, eye witness testimony was a reliable source of information in
the world of the gospels. The content of Luke, itself, contain various facts of names,
cities, people, places that have been confirmed through other historical sources and
archeological investigation. In addition to the reliability of eye witness testimony,
William Lane Craig in his book On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and
Precision, cites six positive criteria that scholars generally use for establishing historical
credibility of the gospels: historical fit, independent early sources, criteria of
embarrassment, dissimilarity, semitisms, coherence(194-195). Many aspects of the
events of the life of Jesus generally qualify. It must be noted that these criteria are
positive signs for increasing the probability of the credibility of the gospels, and not
otherwise. Thus, for example, if Marks gospel was written in the mid-50s or late 60s,
then the gap between the happenings of Jesus ministry and the written gospels are close
enough, rendering the probability of its historical reliability. The gospels also contain
embarassing information that would have been omitted from the gospels if the early
church had sought to conspire to propagate a particular agenda. For instance, since
women were not attributed the roles of validating the truth of historical information, the
earliest witnesses and proclaimers of Jesus resurrectionwomen would have been
omitted in the transmission of the gospels.
Despite the reliability of eye witness testimony and the overall coherence of the gospels,
a careful study of the form of the gospels in the current from would uncover a host of
discrepancies and differences. Thus, critics immediately jump to discredit the historical
reliability of the gospels because they contain discrepancies and differences. These
discrepancies take on the nature of differences in wording, order of events, and
differences of content used in the description of same events. However, such
discrepancies should not be a cause for alarm, as the gospels were never meant to be
videotapes of events or word-for-word transcripts (Strauss 388). Paraphrasing speeches,
summarizing, omitting details, and adapting information for purposes of the writer were
all normal methods of writing history in the world of the gospels. Thus, most supposed
contradictions or discrepancies should be properly understood through the lens of
normal Greco-Roman historiography.
Any exploration into the historical reliability of the gospel must consider its genre and its
nature of literature. The gospels reflect a different mode of writing than would have
expected by modern canons of history; thus, the gospels should not be declared unreliable
because of those differences in writing. In any case, such differences in the gospels
indicate that they were used for the purposes of clarification. Thus, such differences
generally do not reflect opposing teachings or claims. The gospels need not be exact in
wording in order to convey their meanings. On the contrary, the meaning of Jesus
teachings are preserved in different words. If Jesus words were inflexible, then it would
have probably been easier for the gospels to have been adapted for the purposes of
propagating false agendas by conspirators. Thus, having multiple gospels with different
ordering of events and different information is helpful for increasing the probability of
the reliability of the gospels. The gospel writers are clearly selective, using and adapting
information for their own narrative purposes. But this should not be feared, as all history
writing have an element of purpose and subjectivity espoused by the writer.

How about the gospel of John? The gospel of John is clearly different from the Synoptics
in its presentation of the life of Jesus. While, the author of the gospel claims to be an
eyewitness( John 2:6, 5:5, 18:10, 15-16), differences and discrepancies can mostly be
attributed to the fact that the writer of John certainly focused on different themes about
Jesus and thus had a different style, and elaborated on the meaning of Jesus ministry
more than simply retelling the events of Jesus ministry.
Considering the evidence and argumentation proposed in this essay, it can be fairly
concluded that the gospels are generally reliable historically. The gospels are not mere
mythmaking or theological propaganda; they most assuredly contain several lines of
useful historical data. Jesus life and message are both preserved in the historical and
theological form as the gospels present.

Sources:
Powerpoint Notes
Craig, William Lane. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision.
Colorado Springs, Colo.: David C. Cook, 2010.
Strauss, Mark L. Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels.
Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2007.
Wright, N.T. Simply Jesus: Who He Was, What He Did, Why It Matters. London: Society
for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 2011.