The public reading of Christian books took place for the most part in assemblies for worship. Justin Martyr, describing the procedure of Christian assemblies in the middle of the second century, says: And on the day which is called the day of the sun there is an assembly of all those who live in the towns or in the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read for as long as time permits. Then the reader ceases, and the president speaks, admonishing and exhorting us to imitate these excellent examples. Then we all rise together and pray and, as we said before, when we have completed our prayer, bread is brought, and wine and water, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings according to his ability and the people assent with Amen; and there is a distribution and partaking by all of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And those who collected is deposited with the president, who gives aid to orphans and widows and those who are in want on account of illness or any other cause, and to those also who are in prison and to strangers from abroad, and, in a word, cares for all who are in need (Apol. 1.67).
The reading mentioned here as a vital part of weekly assembly was by that time an established and probably universal Christian liturgical custom.
title: Books and Readers in The Early Church author: Harry Y. Gamble
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25 (ESV)
A plausible purpose for retelling the Jesus tradition was because it comprised the foundation of the early church’s self-understanding. The Jesus tradition would have been crucial for the earliest disciples with respect to their identity formation and reason for being. Such a tradition would be needed to explain why the group existed and how it was to subsist. As Bailey notes, “Those who accepted the new rabbi as the expected Messiah would record and transmit data concerning him as the source of their new identity.” The first believers saw themselves within a meta-narrative of which they were key characters: the ekklesia, the “elect,” the “Nazarenes,” the “Israel of God,” the rebuilt temple, and they were constituted as such strictly by virtue of their relationship with Jesus the Messiah. It was inevitable that they would look back to Jesus – his life, death, and resurrection – as the epicenter of their own story. The retelling of the story of Jesus and the beginning of church potentially kept alive their vision and hope and justified their existence under adverse conditions. For a Jewish sect whose relationship to mainstream Judaism, both in Palestine and in the Diaspora, was becoming increasingly strained the Greco-Roman society, the Jesus tradition enabled Christian communities to interpret the significance of its own adverse situation by remembering the past of Jesus. In other words, the Gospels “seek to remember in order to make Christian identity in the present possible.”
An often underrated factor that undoubtedly contributed to a conserving of the Jesus tradition was the presence of eyewitnesses of Jesus within the earliest communities in the 30s-90s A.D. The role of eyewitnesses in shaping the tradition has been emphasized in recent decades by three scholars, Samuel Byrskog, Richard Bauckham, and Martin Hengel. All three have drawn attention to the presence of eyewitnesses in the early church and the importance of eyewitnesses in ancient historiography. A point validated by the observation that the only way one can affirm the Jesus tradition as both a living oral tradition that was constantly renegotiated and rehearsed anew as well as containing a stable core amid on-going performance of that tradition is through what Markus Bockmuehl says is “the (largely personal) apostolic vihicles of that stability.” title: The Gospel of The Lord by: Michael F. Bird
The exclusivity of Jesus’ sonship actually becomes the means through which others may receive the life and freedom that characterizes the true “children of God.” Ultimately it will be through Jesus’ death and resurrection that others are empowered to enter into such a relationship. The command of the risen Jesus to Mary makes clear the new situation: “Jesus said to her ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and sisters and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'” (Jn 20:17). This is the first use of “brothers and sisters” (adelphous) to refer to Jesus” disciples, and the first and only reference to God as “your Father” in a positive way (contrast 8:41, 42, 44). Still there is no reference in John to God as “our Father” in which Jesus includes the disciples together with himself in such address. The differences between the relationship of Jesus to the Father remain, but, through the life-giving work of the Son, the disciples – and others – enter into the relationship of kinship granted to them by the Son. Not surprisingly, after Jesus’ resurrection, his disciples are referred to with the familiar NT designation adelphoi (‘brothers and sisters”; 21:23), a term that plays an important role in 1 John as the basis for the call to unity and love (1 John 3:13-16). Book: The God of The Gospel of John auther: Marianne Meye Thompson
When early Christians included Jesus himself, a human being, humiliated and exalted, in the identity of God; when they told the story of Jesus, whether in summary form in Philippians 2:6-11 or in extended detail in the Fourth Gospel, as the story of God’s own human obedience, humility, degradation and death, were they not saying something radically new about the identity of God? If so we must press the question of its consistency with the known identity of the God of Israel. An important point to make in this connection is that the identity of the God of Israel does not exclude the unexpected and surprising. Quite the contrary, this is God’s freedom as God requires his freedom from all human expectations, even those based on his revealed identity. He may act in new and surprising ways, in which he proves to be the same God, consistent with his known identity, but in unexpected ways. He is both free and faithful. He is not capricious, but nor is he predictable. He may be trusted to be consistent with himself, but he may surprise in the ways he proves consistent with himself. The consistency can only be appreciated with hindsight.
Nehemiah 9:6 (ESV) “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.
For this understanding of the unique divine identity, the unique sovereignty of God was not a mere ‘function’ which God could delegate to someone else. It was one of the key identifying characteristics of the unique divine identity, which distinguished the one God from all other reality. The unique divine sovereignty is a matter of who God is. Jesus’ participation in the unique divine sovereignty is, therefore, also not just a matter of what Jesus does, but of who Jesus is in relation to God. Though not primarily a matter of divine nature or being, it emphatically is a matter of divine identity. It includes Jesus in the identity of the one God. When extended to include Jesus in the creative activity of God, and therefore also in the eternal transcendence of God, it becomes unequivocally a matter of regarding Jesus as intrinsic to the unique identity of God. Jesus and the God of Israel by: Richard Bauckham
At first sight, one might think the contrast between the Jewish authorities and Jesus is simply this: the Jewish leaders seek honor from other people, Jesus seeks honor from God. But the difference is more profound. Whereas the Jewish leaders are concerned only with their own reputation, Jesus seeks to promote not himself but God. The Jewish leaders are self-centered; Jesus is God-centered. He lives for the honor and
praise of God–that is, Jesus’s own honor given by God. By seeking only the glory of God, he wins God’s approval. What goes largely unsaid in these particular passages (Jn. 8:48) but certainly is implied is that Jesus, by seeking God’s glory and not his own, actually incurs dishonor and disgrace in the eyes of humans but approval from God. Seeking God’s glory is the path of self-humiliation that Jesus follows to the cross. Elsewhere in the Gospel Jesus says, “I seek not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn. 5:30), a statement reminiscent of Jesus’s prayer in Gethsemane in the Synoptic Gospels.
This aspect of the Gospel story is probably the most theologically important way in which the Gospel depicts Jesus as God incarnate in humanity.. It is strangely missed by those who find the Jesus of this Gospel more divine than human. It is in this thoroughly human love of Jesus for his friends that the divine love for the world takes human form. In this way “the Word became flesh…full of grace” (1:14).
The kingdom of God, therefore, is to be understood as the reign of God dynamically active in human history through Jesus Christ, the purpose of which is the redemption of his people from sin and from demonic powers, and the final establishment of the new heavens and the new earth. It means that the great drama of the history of salvation has been inaugurated, and that the new age has been ushered in. The kingdom must not be understood as merely the salvation of certain individuals or even as the reign of God in the hearts of his people: it means nothing less than the reign of God over his entire created universe. “The Kingdom of God means that God is King and acts in history to bring history to a divinely directed goal.” It should be added that the kingdom of God includes both a positive and a negative aspect. It means redemption for those who accept it and enter into it by faith, but judgment for those who reject it. Jesus makes this abundantly clear in his teachings, particularly in his parables. He whor hears the words of Jesus and does them is like a man who built his house on the rock, whereas he who hears Jesus’ words but does not do them is like a man who built his house on the sand-and great was the fall of it (Matt. 7:24-27).
What are the signs of the presence of the kingdom? One such sign is the casting out of demons by Jesus.
Another sign is the fall of Satan. Still another sign of the presence of the kingdom was the performance of miracles by Jesus and his disciples.
Another sign, even more important than the last, was the preaching of the gospel. When Jesus said to the seventy, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20), he was restoring their sense of priorities.
The bestowal of the forgiveness of sins is a sign of the presence of the kingdom. “The presence of the Kingdom of God was not a new teaching about God; it was a new activity of God in the person of Jesus bringing to men as present experience what the prophets promised in the eschatological Kingdom.”
When the disciples ask Jesus a question about who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus asks a child to join the group and says, “Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4). title: The Bible and the Future author: Anthony A. Hoekema
The Thessalonians seem to have heard Paul loudly and clearly that his gospel was a summons to exclusive allegiance to the one God and his Son Jesus, and that such an exclusive kind of faith/faithfulness might have serious consequences-a kind of imitation of, or even participation in, the sufferings of Jesus. We cannot of course be sure of this-perhaps Paul is just interpreting their suffering after the fact-but the : “we” in the following text seems to include the Thessalonians.
And we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. (1 Thess. 3:2-4)
It is difficult to imagine that Paul would have predicted and experienced suffering for himself and, it appears, for the Thessalonian believers without interpreting it, and interpreting it specifically as a consequence of his and their own Christlike devotion to the true God, the true Lord. The story of Jesus is, in part, a story of persecution, and the good news cannot avoid that part of the story. Thus when Paul told the story of Jesus’ death, it seems, he did not fail to communicate its causes-and its likely consequences for those associated with Jesus. Title: Becoming the Gospel Author: Michael J. Gorman
There are three principal characteristics of Satan’s activity in John: The first is deception. The devil is called a liar and the father of lies. The Gospel says that there is no truth in the devil and that when he lies he speaks according to his own nature (8:44). Falsehood is a form of power, for by convincing people to believe a lie the devil can move people to carry out his designs. Second, the devil is implicated in the world’s hatred of God, Jesus, and the Christian community. God loves the world and sent his Son as the expression of his love (3:16). There fore, those who belong to God love Jesus, whereas those allied with the devil do not (8:42-44). Insofar as the devil rules the world, hatred characterizes his realm. Jesus tells the world the truth about its evil, and the world hates him for it (7:7). And since God is the one who sent Jesus to testify, the world’s hatred for Jesus is hatred for God (15:23). Third, the devil wields the power of death. He was a murderer from the beginning and seeks the death of those who oppose him. The adversaries of Jesus show the influence of the devil by seeking to kill Jesus for speaking the truth (8:44, 59). Later, Satan instigates the betrayal that leads to Jesus’ crucifixion (13:2, 27). When Jesus goes to the garden where he is arrested, he is met by a company of armed troops that serve as the agents of the ruler of this world (14:30-31; 18:1-3). God may give life through his Word, but the devil seeks victory by bringing about death. The book: THE WORD OF LIFE A Theology of John’s Gospel By: Craig R. Koester p.s. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 English Standard Version (ESV) Wisdom from the Spirit 6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe. John Calvin’s preface to: Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament (1534).
A distinction can be made between responses that would be expected of readers and responses that would not be. Let us imagine four people reading the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospel of Matthew:
Reader One is inspired by the story because it presents Jesus as a man of interity who is willing to die nobly for his convictions
Reader Two is traumatized by the story because it reveals the depth of human depravity on the part of those who denounce, betray, and torture an innocent man.
Reader Three is comforted by the story because it portrays Jesus’ death as an atoning sacrifice through which God offers forgiveness and mercy to the undeserving.
Reader Four is delighted by the story because it reports the gruesome execution of a meddlesome busybody who tried to tell everyone else how they should live.
Although all four of these responses are very different, I would put the first three in a separate category from the fourth. I can account for the first three readings without knowing much about the readers. All three of these readings pick up on clues within the Matthean passion narrative. The story seems to solicit such responses. I cannot, however, account for the fourth reading on the basis of Matthew’s narrative itself. I find nothing in the story that solicits or encourages such a response. Chasing the Eastern Star by: Mark Allan Powell