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Future Hope vs. Present Distress

Mark tells the story of Yeshua focused on future hope. Luke tells the story of Yeshua focused on present distress. What I mean is this: in Mark's gospel, we see the theme of the identity of the veiled Son of Man. He is much more than he appears to be. Those who remain close to him see this gradually more and more. The coming Son of Man (Yeshua in his Second Coming) will bring all of that future hope to reality. So Mark is apocalyptic (interested in showing how the Eternal breaks through into the Present). In Luke's gospel, the reality of a disciple-community spread throughout the empire dealing with the problems of an absent Lord and an unbelieving Roman populace, is more obviously in the background. So Luke emphasizes the present ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Applying the Gospels , Discipleship - Formation , Kingdom Future , Kingdom Present , Literary Features

Jewish Names in Galilee and Judea

Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses makes a case that many named characters in the gospels were eyewitnesses whose testimony was specifically known to the Yeshua-community. One of Bauckham's interesting streams of supporting data comes in comparing the names in the gospels with broader lists of Palestinian Jewish names (as opposed to Diaspora Jewish names). The survey of names is from Tal Ilan's Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity: Part I: Palestine 330 BCE-200 CE. It includes the gospels, Josephus, ossuaries, and Dead Sea Scrolls (ossuaries provided the most results). What were the top men's names in Yeshua's time? The top women's names? How does this relate to the overall theory of named characters as eyewitnesses? ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Background to Gospels , Disciples & Named Characters , Eyewitnesses

Jewish Jesus

If you prefer listening, you can listen to the podcast here (or subscribe to "Yeshua in Context" on iTunes). I read an interview with a scholar recently in which he talked about the patronizing concept of the Jewishness of Jesus. I'm not precisely sure what he had in mind as the interview did not get specific enough on this point and I have not read enough of this scholar's work to be sure what opinions he holds. I do know one complaint he had: people who say their historical presentation of Jesus is a Jewish Jesus and then proceed to explain how Jesus is radically different from their notion of the Judaism of his time. He seemed to be ready to dismiss the value of speaking of the Jewish Jesus completely, and ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Background to Gospels , Gospels as History , Judaism Today & Yeshua , Temple and Torah

Chronicling the Formation of the Gospels #1

How did the things we read now in the books of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John get written down in the form we now have them? There are many decisions to make if we try to reconstruct a possible or probably story of gospel transmission. I'll try to make the story interested, not too bogged down with long lists of sources and proofs. I'll keep that kind of writing short and refer the reader to various scholars such as Mark Goodacre, Richard Bauckham, Paul Anderson, and others that I know I will find along the way have added something significant to an understanding of gospel transmission. I'm already leaning against some ways of conceiving gospel transmission. Goodacre has me nearly convinced that Q is a too-convenient scholarly chimera. Bauckham has me ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Formation of the Gospels , General , Gospels as History

The Temptation in Luke

LUKE 4:1-13 Yeshua, filled with the Spirit, is tempted (1-2), desert-bread (3-4), world-kingdoms (5-8), Temple-pinnacle (9-12), the devil waited for an opportune time to test him again (13). The commentary that follows is about the specific emphases in Luke's version on the filling with the Spirit, the different order from Matthew, and the overall meaning of the three temptations. See the other articles categorized under "Temptation" for a fuller view of this important scene in Yeshua's life. ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Identity of Yeshua , Messiah , Temptation

Poor in Spirit

How important is it to interpret a biblical text well? Obsession with details of theology, which is at least close to the same thing as obsession with a good interpretation of a sacred text, has been compared to speculating about how many angels fit on the head of a pin. Cliches like splitting hairs, chopping logic, quibbling over details, or making fine distinctions come to mind as the probable result of insisting on a good interpretation of a few words from an ancient saying. After all, do the differences really amount to much? Well, I think they do. Take the phrase "poor in spirit" for example. ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Aims of Yeshua , Applying the Gospels , Beatitudes , Kingdom Future , Kingdom Present , Paradox , Teaching of Yeshua

Birth Issues

This is a transcript for today's "Yeshua in Context Podcast." Note that I never recorded and posted last week's podcast on "Yeshua's Burial." Life had other plans. I should and will record the "Yeshua's Burial" podcast at some point. Meanwhile, later today, listen for "Birth Issues" on iTunes in the "Yeshua in Context Podcast" or at Only two out of four gospels have birth narratives about Yeshua. And the two birth narratives we have are so very different. They agree on major points, twelve of them, which I will list, but they are so different in other ways. It has often been said, and I think this is valid, that the gospel tradition developed backwards: the Passion and Resurrection narratives were first. Then the miracles, deeds, and sayings traditions developed. ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Answering Objections , Birth of Messiah , Divinity of Yeshua , General , Gospels as History , Virginal Conception

Birth Narratives: What Matthew and Luke Have in Common

If you've read and compared the Matthean and Lucan birth narratives and if you've read much secondary literature, you know that from the perspective of historical inquiry there are problems. I commend the view of Luke Timothy Johnson in The Historical Jesus: Five Views on matters of the gospel tradition and historical research. With the various problems the birth narratives present to us, it is reassuring to consider the common elements in Matthew and Luke's accounts, which suggest a tradition that pre-dated both of them. Fitzmeyer gives a suprisingly detailed list of the doubly attested traditions of Yeshua's birth and some of these elements may surprise you: ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Answering Objections , Birth of Messiah , Gospels as History , Identity of Yeshua

Yeshua's Burial

This is a rough transcript for today's Podcast. I will post the link to the podcast here as soon as it is uploaded. The burial of Yeshua is an early belief of his followers, cited, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15:4 as a longstanding tradition by the time of the 50's when Paul wrote the letter. In recent times it has been claimed that Yeshua's burial is a highly unlikely event, that criminals were generally refused burial or at most put in a shallow grave where carrion animals could disgrace the corpse. The burial of Yeshua has been the center of a number of rationalistic refutations of the resurrection: the body was lost in a shallow grave and the resurrection story resulted as a mistake, the body was moved by Joseph ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Answering Objections , Background to Gospels , Disciples & Named Characters , Eyewitnesses , Resurrection of Yeshua

Hebrew Bible in Mark's Passion Narrative

I may add more references later. The presence of the Innocent Sufferer theme from the Psalms and Isaiah in the Marcan version of Yeshua's trial and crucifixion is a good thing for readers to recognize. Would that the language of the Psalms and Prophets should pervade our imagination and language as it did for some in Mark's time! All Hebrew Bible verses (in bold) are given in the JPS translation (verse numbers in parentheses are Christian numbering). The Mark verses are from my favorite English version, the RSV (until the Delitzsch Hebrew-English version is released). Psalm 69:22(21) They give me gall for food, vinegar to quench my thirst. Mark 15:21-23 And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Cross , Hebrew Bible as Testimony , Passion Narratives

The Mockery and Abuse at the Cross

The following comments on Mark 15:16-24 are derived from Yeshua in Context, chapter 15. I felt that in this shorter version, these comments highlight the artistry of Mark, his way of showing but not telling. Note especially in this comments how Mark uses the innocent sufferer theme of the Psalms without specifically citing the references. No doubt the Yeshua-community knew these references and associated them already with Yeshua's death. Unlike the many statements leading up to the crucifixion, the story of how it happened itself is concerned less with theology than with presenting in stark reality the betrayal of a good man, the senseless mockery, the brutal misunderstanding of what his kingdom is all about. Meaning is between the lines, a midrashic retelling of the innocent sufferer theme in the Hebrew ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Cross , Intertextuality in the Gospels , Passion Narratives , Spectacular Commentary

Cool Feedback from a "Gospel Test" Taker

This should be a challenge to pastors and church leaders. Why are people able to get a better education from academic and even skeptical sources? A test taker says: Thanks for posting the quiz, it was challenging and enlightening. It's unfortunate that I probably only scored as well as I did because I read skeptic websites from time to time and have discussed the difficulties of inerrancy with my brother, who is a NT scholar. My church background (or devotional reading) alone wouldn't have prepared me for it. ... Read entire article >>

Filed under: Reading Strategies , Study Tips