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Yeshua in Context » Literary Features

Applying Messiah’s Kingdom Parables, Part 2

. . . birds came along and devoured it . . . it withered away . . . it yielded no grain . . .” -Mark 4:4, 6, 7. Parables are usually connected to a scripture text or several of them. They often explain something puzzling about God and his relation to his people, or something unstated or mysterious in a text. Yeshua understood a startling truth found in Isaiah 6, one that naturally leads any thoughtful reader to ask questions. Modern readers of the Sower parable (Mk 4; Mt 13; Lk 8) tend not to realize that the parable is commenting on a text. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Aims of Yeshua, Applying the Gospels, Besorah/Gospel/Good News, Discipleship - Formation, Gospel Genres, Kingdom Future, Kingdom Present, Literary Features, Parables, Paradox, Teaching of Yeshua

PODCAST: Lamb of God #2

Sometimes we understand a story best only after we have read to the end. Like a detective story, the Gospel of John has some revelation that waits until 21:24. And when we read a second time, once we understand, there are some connections between Messiah, Passover, Temple sacrifices, and the eyewitness experience of the Beloved Disciple that add new layers of meaning to Yeshua as our Passover. Lamb of God #2 … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Cross, Detailed Commentary, Eyewitnesses, Hebrew Bible as Testimony, Literary Features, Passover, Podcasts, Sacrificial System, Yeshua as

“My Son” as Midrash

It’s a famous example of what seems to be the unusual, perhaps questionable, use of the Jewish scriptures by the apostles. It occurs in a very noticeable location — the birth narrative of Yeshua in Matthew. Some parts of the Bible get very little traffic, but the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are pretty much highways and not little goat trails. So people are bound to notice some odd things about Matthew’s “this happened in order to fulfill” sayings. One of the two weirdest (there is one that is even weirder) is Matthew 2:15. Is Matthew able to read and understand the Hebrew Bible? Is he guilty of a strange and arbitrary reading simply to justify his belief in Yeshua of Nazareth? Of course the author of Matthew knows what … Read entire article »

Filed under: Background to Gospels, Detailed Commentary, Formation of the Gospels, Gospel Genres, Hebrew Bible as Testimony, Ideal Israel Theme, Intertextuality in the Gospels, Literary Features

VIDEO, Where did the gospels come from?

People make some assumptions based on pious tradition about where the gospels come from. The truth is more interesting. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Beginners, Disciples & Named Characters, Eyewitnesses, Formation of the Gospels, Gospels as History, Literary Features, Study Tips, Video

The Purpose of Parables

As part of a presentation I gave on September 18 at a “Studying the Jewish Gospels” event here in Atlanta, I developed an outline of “20 Ways to Read the Life of Yeshua.” Among my twenty pointers were things like, “Forget that you know the end of the story,” followed by examples in which onlookers and disciples can only be understood within the story as confused, as people who don’t know for a second that Yeshua is to be the dying savior and rising lord. And another of my pointers, which forms the basis for this post: “Understand the genre of parables in rabbinic literature.” And the golden text for learning about this subject: David Stern, Parables in Midrash (note: this is not the David Stern who is famous in the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Applying the Gospels, Background to Gospels, Beginners, Community in Yeshua, Discipleship - Formation, Erasing Anti-Judaism, General, Gospel Genres, Literary Features, Parables, Study Tips, Teaching of Yeshua

The Lamp-Measure-Seed-Mustard Sequence, Part 1

Could familiarity with Matthew cause you to miss a powerful sequence of meaning in Mark? Could some of Yeshua’s sayings be used in different contexts to mean very different things? Are they multi-use? Mark 4:21-34 is an important sequence of sayings whose meaning in the context of Mark is often obscured by readers who are more familiar with the sayings from Matthew. That is to say, the order in which we read the gospels sometimes affects our interpretation. How does this happen? The different synoptic evangelists (Mark, Matthew, Luke) often include the same sayings in different contexts. The context of the saying often influences interpretation. The modern reader might wonder if: (a) the sayings are all given in arbitrary contexts with the evangelists rarely if ever knowing what context they may have … Read entire article »

Filed under: Formation of the Gospels, Literary Features, Reading Strategies, Study Tips, Teaching of Yeshua

Gematria in the New Testament?

Sometimes I can’t resist skipping ahead in a book. Preparing for the “Eyewitnesses in the Gospels” seminar coming up June 5, 2011, here in Atlanta, I decided to start a second book by Richard Bauckham, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John. When I saw the final chapter, “The 153 Fish and the Unity of the Fourth Gospel,” I had to skip ahead. And here are some interesting facts that sound like a combination of the show Numb3rs and biblical scholarship . . . Gematria is the rabbinic term for finding numerical patterns in the biblical text. It is not a term that was used in the time the New Testament was written. But numerical patterns are definitely part of the biblical … Read entire article »

Filed under: Featured, Gematria, Literary Features

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

John 14:31, Why Close Reading Helps

The disciples are with Yeshua at the Last Supper from John 13:1 up to 14:31. The Last Supper in John has some similarities, but is on the whole quite different than the Last Supper accountsin Mark, Matthew, and Luke. But what matters here is that most readers don’t notice something unusual in John 14:31. Here it is and some comments on it after the jump: John 14:30-31 (RSV) I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go hence. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Literary Features, Reading Strategies, Study Tips

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