In February and March we are finishing the New Testament.
Together Matthew, Mark, and Luke form the Synoptic Gospels (viewed together). As we read you will notice some common material amongst these three texts and you will notice common material between Matthew and Luke. The common material between Matthew and Luke is known as Q (quelle is the German word for source). Scholars believe that Q was an oral collection of the sayings of Jesus that was well-known to early Christians.
Scholars believe that Paul wrote II Corinthians. Paul continues to instruct the church in Corinth- he is not thrilled with their behavior and desires for them to do better. Paul’s reprimand of the congregation works! Paul continues to collect money for the church in Jerusalem.
Scholars believe that Paul wrote Romans. The letter to the Romans is well-loved by many Lutherans. The first half of the text (chapters 1-8) serves two purposes. The first is Paul’s theological statement (everything he has said up to this point about Jesus et al) is summarized in these verses). The second is to persuade the Romans to support Paul’s mission in Spain. The remainder of the text is Paul instructing the church in Rome.
Scholars debate if Paul wrote Colossians. Some argue that Paul and an unnamed scribe write the letter together and others argue that Paul was not involved in the writing at all. The author(s) of Colossians is concerned about certain teachers negatively influencing the Colossians. The tension between Christianity and Judaism is evident in this text. On one hand, the text relies on Jewish theology. On the other hand, the text condemns Jewish ritual practice in Christianity.
Scholars believe that Paul wrote Philemon. Paul writes this letter while imprisoned. While in prison he meets Onesimus, Philemon’s slave. Paul teaches Onesimus about Jesus and Onesimus becomes a believer. Paul is unclear in what he asks of Philemon. This lack of clarity has caused contention throughout history about Christianity and the practice of slavery.
The Pastoral Epistles
Titus along with I and II Timothy are known as the pastoral epistles because of their concern for Christian communities.
I and II Timothy are addressed to Paul’s loyal (I) and beloved (II) child. I Timothy is concerned with true teaching and II Timothy addresses discipleship.
Titus focuses on the commissioning of Titus and the workload Paul has assigned to him.
Most scholars do not believe that Paul wrote Ephesisans. Early manuscripts of this letter do not include an address to the church in Ephesus, leading scholars to believe that the letter was circulated amongst many Christian communities. Central to Ephesians is the vision of a universal church with Christ as Lord. Ephesians has been used by many theologians including Luther, to create their view of the church and the “mission” of the church.
Scholars believe that Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians. Paul and the church in Philippi have a great affection for one another; Paul does not have to correct them in the way he corrects other congregations. Paul, writing from prison, encourages the Philippians to be united and not to let partisan interests divide them.
I & II Peter
Scholars do not know who wrote these letters, but they were not written by the same person. Some scholars argue that I Peter was a baptismal homily while others argue that it is indeed a letter. I Peter argues that Christians will and should suffer as Jesus suffered. In this letter, Christians are called to respect government authorities. Believers are told (encouraged) to stay in submissive and oppressive situations because they might be able to convert their oppressors through their good examples. Whereas II Peter urges its audience to escape the corrupt world because it will be destroyed when Jesus returns and establishes a new heaven and a new earth.
Scholars do not believe that Paul wrote Hebrews. Many scholars also argue that Hebrews is an example of an early Christian sermon rather than a letter to a community. The text addresses both Jewish and Gentile suffering and persecution. Hebrews can be broken down into four sections: 1:1-4:13, 4:14-10:31, 10:32-12:29, and 13. Luther was not fond of Hebrews. He placed it alongside James, Jude, and Revelation in a separate section of his New Testament that was published in 1522. Luther opposed these texts because he believed they were in opposition to his theology.
We don’t know who wrote Jude nor do we know whom Jude was written to.The text is concerned with God’s judgment on a sinful people and God’s mercy on the faithful.
The Johannine Epistles
The author(s) of these texts are unknown. It is evident that they were familiar with John’s gospel. They frequently use the phrases “beloved” and “little children” in reference to their audience. The author(s) want to make sure the recipients know they are loved and that they don’t falter in their faith because there are false teachers among them.
Contrary to what popular culture and popular bad Biblical scholarship would have us believe Revelation is an pastoral letter. Sure it’s apocalyptic, but it is first and foremost a pastoral letter from a Bishop to the congregations under his guidance.
While we might be caught off guard by the apocalyptic imagery of the text, the original audience would have been familiar with the concept. Apocalyptic texts were common in the ancient world and are a part of both Jewish and Christian tradition (Daniel and Ezekiel for example). Much like the other epistles we have read, Revelation starts with a greeting, followed by either praise and/ or correction for the congregation, followed by a lesson(s) for the congregation, and ends on a hopeful note. Revelation is not the doom and gloom text that it is often portrayed to be. Rather, like the other apocalyptic texts we have read it is meant to provide the audience with hope. Hope that Jesus would return. Hope that the Roman Empire would fall. Hope that life would get better (but until life got better Christ was abiding with the faithful in their suffering).
Below are a few questions to help guide you as you read. There are no right answers to any of these, they are here to help us reflect.
Questions to Guide Us Throughout This Practice
- What stood out to you in the readings?
- What did you notice about God?
- Did anything in the readings make you feel uncomfortable?
- How does what you read impact your life and your faith?
Questions to Guide Us Through II Corinthians
- Do you think Paul is too hard on the Corinthians? Why or why not?
Questions to Guide Us Through Romans
- If you had to summarize Paul’s theology in Romans what would you say? If you have a reading partner this makes for a great discussion question.
- Why do you think Lutherans love Romans? If you don’t think Lutherans love Romans, why do you think Lutherans have a reputation for loving the text?
Questions to Guide Us Through Colossians
- Do you think the tension in this text played a role in later anti-semitic statements and actions of the church? If so, why? If you have a reading partner this makes for a great discussion question.
Questions to Guide Us Through Philemon
- What do you think Paul is urging Philemon to do?
- Do you agree with Paul? Why or why not? If you have a reading partner this makes for a great discussion question.
Questions to Guide Us Through The Pastoral Epistles
- If you were writing a pastoral letter to a modern-day faith community what would you write?
Questions to Guide Us Through Ephesians
- What parallels do you see between Ephesians and Colossians?
- What, if any, is the tension between Gentiles and Jews in this text?
Questions to Guide Us Through I & II Peter
- How do you feel about Christians having to suffer because Jesus suffered?
- How do you feel about Christians having to suffer so that their oppressors might become believers?
- How do you think Christians should participate in secular society?
Questions to Guide Us Through Hebrews
- Do you agree with Luther about this text? Why or why not? If you have a reading partner this makes for a great discussion question.
Questions to Guide Us Through Revelation
- Do you agree with Luther? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Revelation is so often misconstrued?
- If you were writing a letter to the church of today would you write more like Paul, the authors of the Johannine epistles, or like John did in Revelation? Why? Which do you think is the most effective? Why? If you have a reading partner this makes for great discussion question!
Daily Reading and Podcast Links
The hyperlink for the reading will take you to Bible Gateway*. The hyperlink “podcast” will take you to the podcast that matches the reading. Please note that some of the Podcasts overlap with some of the readings this month and don’t exactly match our daily readings. Click here for a link to the podcasts for all of the readings…you can figure out what works best for you.
February 1 | Reading | Podcast
February 2 | Reading | Podcast
February 3 | Reading | Podcast
February 4 | Reading | Podcast
February 5| Reading One |Reading Two| Podcast
February 6 | Reading | Podcast
February 7 | Reading | Podcast
February 8 | Reading | Podcast
February 9 | Reading | Podcast
February 10 | Reading | Podcast
February 11 | Reading | Podcast
February 12 | Reading | Podcast
February 13 | Reading One |Reading Two| Podcast
February 14 | Reading | Podcast
February 15 | Reading | Podcast
February 16 | Reading | Podcast
February 17 | Reading | Podcast
February 18 | Reading | Podcast
February 19 | Reading | Podcast
February 20 | Reading | Podcast
February 21| Reading | Podcast
February 22 | Reading | Podcast
February 23 | Reading One|Reading Two| Podcast
February 24| Reading | Podcast
February 25 | Reading One|Reading Two| Podcast
February 26 | Reading | Podcast
February 27 | Reading | Podcast
February 28 | Reading | Podcast
March 1 | Reading | Podcast