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Notes on the Sabbath Grain-Field Controversy

Mark 2:23-28 is a passage worthy of an entire book and much has been said about it. It is a riddle wrapped in a riddle smothered in enigma. Questions include everything from the mundane to the mysterious. Did Yeshua’s disciples actually break the Sabbath? Did they merely break an interpretation of the Sabbath rules according to some Pharisees? Is this ultimately about the Peah or corners of the field issue in Jewish law? Since the example of David is not a perfect match for what happens with the disciples, why does Yeshua use it? What does it mean, in the context of Second Temple Judaism, that the Sabbath is made for humankind? Is the Son of Man in vs. 28 Yeshua or humanity in general? … Read entire article »

Filed under: Applying the Gospels, Background to Gospels, Discipleship - Formation, Judaism Today & Yeshua, Law, Torah, Teaching of Yeshua

Other Jewish and Christian Writings from Biblical Times

We have found over the centuries a number of “other” writings from the time of the Bible by Jews and Christians. These writings were preserved and found a number of ways including: preserved in Syriac and Ethiopic by eastern churches, the Cairo Geniza find from the 19th century, and non-biblical writings preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Bible itself mentions many lost books? What are they? How does Jewish literature from before and during New Testament times help us? Where can people get more information? … Read entire article »

Filed under: Apocalyptic Literature, Apocrypha & Apocryphal, Background to Gospels, Pseudepigrapha

Mark 2, The Riddle of the Son of Man’s Authority

Is it easier to say “your sins are forgiven” or “get up, take your pallet, and walk”? There are two interpretations of the paralytic story and the saying about “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” which would take Yeshua’s words in a lesser manner, not as a self-claim to such great authority. There is also a profound wisdom lesson in Yeshua’s riddle. This is a story that carries more complexity and meaning than many realize. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Forgiveness of Sins, Identity of Yeshua, Son of Man

Storytelling in the Gospels: The Disciples’ Call

Are the stories in the Bible straightforward reporting of fact? It is possible that there is no such thing. Hopefully most readers (and movie viewers) understand that the way you tell a story shapes the message. That is, the same events can be told by different storytellers and different morals and themes can be emphasized. Everyone reporting an event or telling a story must choose things like what to include and exclude, what order to tell it in, what parts to emphasize, and how to comment on the story beyond simple reporting. The call of the first disciples is a perfect example of the difference the storytelling can make. You’d almost think Mark and the Fourth Gospel are telling of completely different events. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Aims of Yeshua, Disciples & Named Characters, Discipleship - Formation, Literary Features

Three Pillar Stories in Mark

Mark’s gospel is organized as a series of short scenes in a style similar to the chreia of Greek rhetoric, descriptive scenes that show something about the character. Scene after scene, Mark’s chreia serve the purpose introduced in Mark 1:1, to show that Yeshua is Messiah and Son of God. I think the demonstration of Yeshua’s identity has a double edge: to the Jewish and Greco-Roman world. The following is a clue to Mark’s organization. C. Myers (Binding the Strong Man, Orbis, 1988) calls the baptism event one of three “pillar stories” around which Mark organizes his gospel. The other two are the transfiguration (9:2-8) and crucifixion (15:33-41). What do these stories have in common and how to they organize Mark’s gospel? … Read entire article »

Filed under: Gospel Genres, Literary Features, Reading Strategies

Women as Eyewitnesses

One of the distinctive features of the death, burial, and resurrection accounts of Yeshua is the presence of a number of women, some named and some not named. This gets even more interesting when you compare the four different accounts. Only one woman is named in all four gospels: Mary Magdalene. The other women who appear include: Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, the other Mary, and Joanna. Many who have written on the resurrection stories and considered whether they describe a real event in history have made a simple point: women’s testimony was not considered valid or desirable in ancient courts. The evidence for this point is not lock-tight, but it is probably true that female testimony had less value to … Read entire article »

Filed under: Eyewitnesses, Resurrection of Yeshua

Pharisees in Josephus

It is important not to take Josephus at face value in his descriptions of the Pharisees. Nonetheless, his descriptions are some of the best information we have. Josephus is prone to the following in these descriptions: (1) to describe Jewish sects in terms understandable by his Roman audience, such as calling them “philosophies,” (2) exaggerating the influence and political power of the Pharisees, the party he aligned with and which still had a strong purpose after the war (unlike Essenes and Sadducees, whose reason to be faded). E.P. Sanders says of Josephus’ bias that he “assigns so much power to the Pharisees, more than they had” (Judaism: Practice and Belief, 409). The Pharisees simplify their standard of living, making no concession to luxury. They follow the guidance of that which their … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Pharisees

Notes: Background to Yeshua’s Kingdom Talk

The following is not really a blog post, but more like notes or source information to help grasp the background of “kingdom of God” as it might have resounded in the ears of Yeshua’s generation. Anne Moore, “The Search for a Common Understanding of God’s Kingship,” in Wayne O. McCready and Adele Reinhartz, ed., Common Judaism: Explorations in Second Temple Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008). Marc Zvi Brettler, God is King: Understanding an Israelite Metaphor (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989). What are the underlying beliefs of people in Israel in Yeshua’s time about God’s kingship that resonate when he speaks of the “kingdom of God”? What does Yeshua’s generation think of when God’s rule is raised as an issue? … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Kingdom Present, Spectacular Commentary, Teaching of Yeshua

Disciple-Fail in Mark

I’m not sure if the Fail Blog will take notice, but the gospel of Mark has a strong theme of disciple-fail. Is this simply a relic of the past or is disciple-fail a live option for modern disciples too? What are the types and symptoms of disciple-fail in Mark? It is an illuminating topic to delve into. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Disciples & Named Characters, Discipleship - Formation