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Remember, we have your assignments due at the end of Week 9 (Fri Sept 30). If you are picking the first option: The focus in the Gospels assignment is that you would imaginatively engage with the story by retelling it from a different perspective. Through your retelling, you need to show you have done some research to inform your imagination. Some people, it’s all imagination and no research. Others, it is all research and no imagination And for a precious few, it is no research and no imagination. If you are picking the second option – today will help explain what I am looking for.
Moving into the Letters
Gospels Stories of the Life of Jesus
• Matthew • Mark • Luke • John
Stories of how the news about Jesus spread around the world Letters (or Epistles) Written by apostles to young churches
• Paul (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon). • Peter (1 Peter, 2 Peter) • John (1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation) • James, Jude, Hebrews
The first four books of the New Testament are four separate accounts of Jesus: o His life, his ministry (deeds and teaching), his death, and his resurrection.
Lecture 7 – Introduction to Paul’s Letters http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3176820 This story of Jesus is seen by Christians as good news (the word gospel simply means good news). o They see in the events of Jesus life the hope for forgiveness of our sins, and resurrection to eternal life. o The news about Jesus needs to heard and believed. The fifth book of the New Testament (Acts) tells how the news about Jesus first went out into the world, and new churches were established. o A church is simply a gathering of people who believe the story of Jesus and have committed their lives to live under his rule.
The remainder of the New Testament is predominantly letters, written by authorised Christian leaders to these young churches.
When you read the Gospels, it becomes clear that Jesus specifically selected a group of special leaders to be the ones who would acts as his authoritative witnesses and leaders. We call these people “apostles”. o Some of the apostles focus on writing our Gospels – the four accounts of Jesus’ life. o Other apostles focus on writing letters to the young churches, guiding them in what they should believe, and how they should behave as followers of Jesus.
Even though these letters were written to specific situations, and specific churches, it was quickly recognised they had universal value – that the teaching contained within was ultimately relevant to everyone.
The Gospels tell the Story Acts shows us how the Story spread The Letters shows us how to live the Story.
The main letter writer is an apostle named Paul. He becomes an apostle in the book of Acts (Acts 9:1-9) when he meets the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. He is then authorised by Jesus to be the leader who watches over the Gentile (non- Jewish) churches. Over the years, as recorded by the book of Acts, Paul goes on many different missionary journeys to both spread the word and to encourage young churches.
Lecture 7 – Introduction to Paul’s Letters http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3176820 The letters that Paul writes are written at different times in his life, from different places.
It’s like reading someone else’s mail.
God speaks to us through what Paul wrote to them.
The letters are often a favourite source of quotes for both Christians and nonChristians.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in
Lecture 7 – Introduction to Paul’s Letters http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3176820 wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:1-13)
What are we trying to do when we are reading Paul’s letters?
Our first task is to discover the original, intended meaning when they were first written.
a. The simple principle we work by – the text cannot mean what it never meant.
What are the things we need to know in order to discern the original meaning of a text?
Paul’s writes arguments, not verses.
Therefore, you need to THINK PARAGRAPHS.
Verses are not a reading guide, they are a finding guide.
You also need to think in terms of the whole book. The question is not just – what does THIS PARAGRAPH mean on its own….the question is also – what does THIS PARAGRAPH contribute to the whole letter? The best way to start doing this is just to sit and read the thing – multiple times.
Lecture 7 – Introduction to Paul’s Letters http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3176820
As you read make notes about the flow of thought. How do the paragraphs connect? What paragraphs make no sense at all?
It is only by reading the whole, and not just the parts, that you will find out the overall shape that the author really intended. This will increase application (example, 1 Corinthians 13)
Next, go see what someone says in outline. Here, you should consult Fee and Stuart in their book How to Read the Bible Book by Book. They give a summary outline of every biblical book in a few pages, which will orient you to the flow of the argument. Another good source would be Mark Dever, The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept.
Paul writes letters to particular situations. The letters are what we might call “task theology”, because it is Paul thinking thoughts about God and the Christian life, and applying them to some particular need. Why is Paul’s discussion on speaking in tongues only in 1 Corinthians? Why is Paul’s only teaching on communion/Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians? Why does Paul talk about justification by faith only in Galatians and Romans? Why does Paul talk a lot about the second coming of Jesus in 1 Thessalonians, but not in Romans?
Historical Context means answering questions like:
What was going on in the life of the church that needed a response? What was going on in the life of Paul that might have contributed to his needing to send a letter?
Lecture 7 – Introduction to Paul’s Letters http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3176820 Your own reading will suggest things, but it is good to consult something like The Lion Handbook to the Bible, or the New Bible Dictionary or How to Read the Bible Book by Book.
For those wanting more advanced information, this is to be found in the commentaries, which will have a section called “Occasion” or “Situation” in their Introductions. Historical Context will help explain why Paul says what he says.
Studying the Content of the Passage.
How does the passage itself work within itself.
Are there particular words or phrases that need explaining.
Basically, you need to explain what Paul is saying, within context, and the commentaries will help you turn your educated guesses into thoughtful analysis.
Philippians 4:13 as an example
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 1. First, read the whole passage (THINK PARAGRAPHS):
10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you
Lecture 7 – Introduction to Paul’s Letters http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3176820 sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 2. What is the historical context of Paul and the Philippian church? Paul is in jail As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. (Phil 1:13) The Philippians sent a man named Epaphroditus to give him a gift from them: 18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. (Phil 4:18)
But on the journey from them to Paul, Epaphroditus became sick, and the church heard of it and became saddened, but God was merciful to Epaphroditus, and so Paul is now sending Epaphroditus back to them: But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. (2:25-28) 3. Literary Context – Think the Whole Book Paul’s purpose in sending Epaphroditus back with a letter is that Philippians will know: How he is (1:12-26) To thank them for their gift (4:10, 14-19) To encourage them to obedience in the matters of unity (1:27-2:17) and avoiding certain heresies (3:1-4:1) In light of this, the key to reading verse 13 – is found in verses 11 and 12
If you were explaining the whole paragraph, and not just verse 13, it would be about showing Paul’s thankfulness for his gift, the importance of Christians supporting one another materially, and the power of learning to be content in Christ whatever the circumstances.
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