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Week 2 – Background History and Introduction to the Gospels

The Back-Story to the New Testament

When the Old Testament closes in Malachi:

God’s Word is being written in Hebrew

The people who are ruling over Israel are the Persians modern day Iran

There are no Pharisees or Sadducees.

When the New Testament comes to be written:

It is written in Greek, even though Jesus probably spoke Aramaic as his primary language.

Jesus is in constant conflict with particular Jewish groups like Sadducees and Pharisees. And we know of other Jewish groups who aren’t specifically mentioned in the New Testament

The people who are ruling over Israel are the Roman Empire, which is all the way over in the West, not the East.

What happened?

who are ruling over Israel are the Roman Empire, which is all the way over in

What was the result?

Hellenism = the spread of Greek education, culture, and language

So this is great for world history, but how does it affect our reading of the New Testament?

The change in language to Greek

Political impact Israel between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies

The Maccabean Revolt (167-164 BC) Rome arrives in 63 BC.

The Maccabean Revolt (167-164 BC)

Rome arrives in 63 BC.

The Fragmenting of Judaism into Judaisms.



The problem of understanding Pharisaic legalism

Introduction to the Gospels – One Jesus, Four Stories

What do you mean there are differences between the portraits?

Matthew, Mark and Luke = Synoptics

Even amongst the three Synoptics, and even when they share a story, we sometimes find differences:


Differences in sequence (where an event is placed in relation to other events)


Differences in wording


Differences in length (i.e. Matthew often gives shorter accounts than Mark)

So what did Jesus exactly say?

Why the differences?

Different Gospels Different Emphasis.

How do we work out the particular emphasis of each Gospel? Through comparison:


Of sequence


Of wording


Of selectivity


Where do they put the stress?

The Gospels are four interpretations of Jesus ministry, but they are Spirit-inspired, authoritative interpretations of his life, ministry, death and resurrection. They don’t get him wrong, but they don’t paint him the same.

Tips for reading a Gospel:

1. Read the whole thing, preferably in one or two sittings

2. Do your best to note the narrative structure of the Gospel

a. does the writer clump certain types of events together?

b. There are many helpful books that will give you a basic understanding

of structure, but perhaps the best place to start is Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible Book by Book (Zondervan).

3. When reading an individual story or saying, remember to situate it within the context of the whole book and its perspective on Jesus.

a. If the individual story or saying has a counterpart in another Gospel, compare how it is recorded. Is there any particular emphasis you can pick up in the particular account you are reading.

b. If the individual story of saying is unique to the gospel, what emphasis

might this be making, given that this gospel writer included it, but the others didn’t.

4. There are special tips you need for understanding the parables, which we will do in the coming weeks.

The Centre of Jesus Teaching The Kingdom of God

Hardly anyone ever gets the central teaching: Kingdom of God

Mark 1:15; Matt 4:23; 9:35; Luke 4:43; 8:1).

Therefore, to miss this term, or to misunderstand it, may well be to miss Jesus altogether. The good news, the ‘gospel’, was the announcement of the kingdom of God.

How should we understand the kingdom?

The big thing is that it is not so much about a place as it is about a time. The kingdom of God is the time when God rules

Think the Lord’s Prayer – Matt 6:10 your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven)

When the kingdom came, when God brought his rule, it wouldn’t just be about saving souls – it would mean God’s saving rule over the whole creation – a whole new heavens and earth


Sin destroyed


Devil destroyed


Sickness and death destroyed


Positively it would be the age of the Spirit, righteousness, wholeness of body, end of enmity.


Hence the hope is not for immortality of the soul in the clouds of heaven, but a resurrected body in a new creation

The hope was that it would all go boom on one day the old age the new age.

The Difference Jesus Brings The Beginning of the End - Kingdom Now/Not Yet

Jesus talks about the kingdom as if it is here, and sometimes he talks about it as if it is not yet here.

God’s salvation has started, but it’s full benefit has not yet arrived.

The Christian life is filled with the tension – I’ve had the foretaste, but I long for the full meal!

This in-between time is where sinners can get in the kingdom