In November we are finishing the Old Testament and beginning the New Testament.
Joel packs massive amounts of destruction into its three chapters. Joel doesn’t directly blame the people for the crisis but makes it clear that the sovereign God is the one bestowing out the punishment.
Scholars think Joel was written during the Persian era because the text references the Greeks and earlier Biblical texts.
Many of us are familiar with the story of Daniel in the lion’s den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In addition to well-loved stories, Daniel contains apocalyptic texts.
Chapters 1-6 are court tales that entertain and uplift the audience. While chapters 7-12 are made up of a series of visions that warn of national conflict.
If you have a Bible with an Apocrypha, Daniel continues in the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon. “…dating makes the work the last book in the Hebrew Bible. Its author may have been one of the ‘wise’ who emphasized confidence in a divine plan to redeem Israel from idolatrous leaders, even in the face of martyrdom, and who rejected the armed resistance of the Maccabees…in the end, the author believed, God would punish the wicked and redeem the faithful….” (Levine, Amy Jill, “Daniel,” The New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV, Oxford University Press, 2010, pg1233) .
Ezra and Nehemiah
Like many of the books we have read this year Ezra and Nehemiah were originally a single book. These texts tell the story of Jewish reconstruction under Persian rule.
The texts tell how the people were encouraged to live up to being people of the book.
Haggi is a short, minor prophet that contains a handful of oracles. Haggai addresses the high priest Joshua, the governor Zerubbabel, and the entire community.
The text provides us with yet another narrative on the rebuilding of the temple.
Zechariah is a minor prophet. The text is made up of narratives from various historical periods. Chapters 1-8 are about the historical character of Zecharaiah who is mentioned in Ezra.
Chapters 1-8 focus on how the sovereign God acts throughout the whole earth and chapters 9-14 focus on the day of the Lord.
Like the Song of Solomon, Esther does not mention God. Esther is the hero of this story! Esther is the only book of the canon not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Unsurprisingly Jewish and Christan scholars have argued about whether or not Esther should be included in the canon.
Luther argued that the text should never have been written…which should make us Lutherans pay even more attention to it. If you have a Bible with an Apocrypha you can read even more of the story.
Malachi is the last book of the Christian Old Testament and the last of the minor prophets. Scholars think that it was written after the reconstruction of the temple. The text focuses on God’s reign and temple rituals.
Notes on the Gospels
As we read through the Gospels it’s important to note that we are reading them in chronological order and not the order in which they were written.
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.
Much of Luke is based on Mark and Matthew, another source that scholars call Q (Quelle), and material found only in Luke which scholars call L.
Luke wrote this text so that Theophilus would have a better understanding of what he has already been told about Jesus. Scholars debated about the identity of Theophilus. Was he a rich patron sponsoring Luke or did Luke write his account for a faithful community of believers? Luke focuses on salvation, the kingdom of God, repentance, and Jesus as Lord of all, all of which tie into the overarching theme of Luke- what it means to be a good disciple.
While John is not a Synoptic Gospel it does contain stories found in those texts.
However, John presents us with a different timeline of events and more so than any of the canonical Gospels emphasizes Jesus’ divinity.
John’s audience and/or patron spoke Greek and were likely very educated, thus the text uses a Greek worldview to set the stage in the prologue. It’s in the prologue where we find the overarching theological theme of John…Jesus is eternal and one with God. Jesus says this about himself throughout the text and it is about him by others throughout the text. In John, you are either in the light and understand what is begging revealed or you are in the darkness and you have missed the point of what has been revealed. In John, Jesus isn’t a prophet sent by God, rather Jesus is God become flesh- he is divine because he is the divine.
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 Joel
- How does God being the source of the punishment make you feel?
Questions to Guide Us Through Daniel
- Were you surprised/shocked by anything you read in Daniel? If so, what? If you have a reading partner this makes a great discussion question.
- If you read the texts in the Apocraphya what did you think of them?
- Do you think we can learn anything from Daniel? If so, what?
Questions to Guide Us Through Ezra and Nehemiah
- What can we learn about faithful living from these texts?
- What is the role of prayer in these texts?
Questions to Guide Us Through Haggai
- What is the role of God’s sovereignty in this text?
Questions to Guide Us Thorugh Zechariah
- Did you find anything hopeful in this text?
- How do you think God acts throughout the whole earth?
- Questions to Guide Us Through Esther
- Do you agree with Luther that Esther shouldn’t be in the canon? Why or why not? This would make for a great discussion question with your reading partner.
- Do you think we can learn anything from Esther? If so, what?
Questions to Guide Us Through Malachi
- Did you find anything hopeful in Malachi? If so, what?
Questions to Guide Us Through the Gospels
- If you had to write your own Gospel what would you write? Think about what you would include, what sources you would use, and your writing style. If you have a reading partner this would make for a great discussion question.
- How is Jesus different in this Gospel than in the other Gospels?
- What does it mean to be saved in this Gospel?
- Summarize Jesus’ministry in this Gospel.
Questions to Guides Us Through Luke
- What do you think it means to be a good disciple in Luke? According to our faith tradition? According to you?
- Are there any stories in Luke that surprised you? If so which ones? If you have a reading partner this makes for a great discussion!
Questions to Guide Us Through John
- Are there stories in John that surprised you? If so, which ones?
- How does the high Christology in John make you feel? How does it compare to the Christology of our faith community?
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 for Ezekiel and Zechariah. Click here for a link to the podcasts for all of the readings…you can figure out what works best for you.
November 18|Reading One|Reading Two|Podcast
November 20|Reading|Podcast|Podcast Two
November 28|Reading|Reading Two|Podcast
November 30|Reading One|Reading Two|Podcast
*Bible Gateway has updated to the Updated Edition of the NRSV. If you would like to use the old NRSV you can find it online at oremus.