Reclaiming the Reputation of the Pharisees

Two rabbisThis post is written in response to “Freeing the Church from Pharisee Influence“, but also to Christians in general. As a scholar on first-century Judaism and the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), I get pretty tired of people beating up on the Pharisees. I’m also a Christian and I want people to read the New Testament appropriately. And so, I decided to write this article.

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The Call of the Prophets

If you were writing a letter to a friend, trying to convince him or her that some very supernatural events were real, what would you do?  I think that a probable course of action is to link it to something in reality to make it more believable and understandable.  You might also link it to the religion of your friend so that it fits into their worldview.  When Luke tells about Paul’s (the text still refers to him as Saul at that point) vision of Jesus (Acts 9) this is precisely what he does.

The Apostle Paul seemed to constantly be fighting an uphill battle in regard to his apostolic authority.  He writes in multiple letters about this topic because some doubted his authority, teaching, and even his motives.  One way for him to link his authority to Jesus, to the prophets, and to God was the retelling of his commission.  How did Paul use this true story to speak to the faithful?  Let’s dig in.

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Paul’s Journey to Rome

Every time you read a Bible story, ask yourself: where else in the text can this story be found?  And also ask: how does knowing where this text is coming from help in my understanding of it?  The Bible frequently plays upon and expands upon itself.  Why is this relevant?  A substantial portion of the entire New Testament is written in this manner.  Time after time, Jesus uses the Tanakh (Old Testament) as a foundation for what he teaches and the stories he tells.

Join me today as we look at an interesting story in the New Testament which expands upon at least three other stories in the Bible!  Is this a story about Paul having a hard time getting from one place to another?  Or is there something deeper going on?

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The Good Shepherd

If you are a first time reader of my blog or if you have read every article I’ve ever written, there is a very important concept to understand about the Bible that I continue to reiterate: the text plays and expands on the text.  Over and over again we see this happening.   When you see a story in the text, ask first: where else in the text is this coming from?  Let’s look at an example, in Jesus’ brilliant exposition in Luke 15.

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 5)

This is the fifth part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each builds on the previous.

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

Part 2 – The New Tenants

Part 3 – Give to Caesar…

Part 4 – A Silly Question

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 4)

This is the forth part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each builds on the previous.

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

Part 2 – The New Tenants

Part 3 – Give to Caesar…


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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 3)

This is the third part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each builds on the previous.

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

Part 2 – The New Tenants

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 2)

This is the second part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each one builds upon the previous:

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

In post will cover the question “who are the ‘new tenants’ mentioned in Jesus’ parable”?

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 1)

Note: This was originally one post, but since it’s over 4,000 words, I decided to break it up into several smaller posts.  I’ll be posting the next parts one per day over the next few days.

Introduction

One of the ministers at my church, Bob Chisholm, told this story to the congregation not too long ago.  He was at a conference on Biblical studies attended by people from many different denominations when he went to a lecture given by a Jewish rabbi.  The rabbi got up to speak and began by telling everyone that what he was about to say would revolutionize his listeners’ studies.  Bob was naturally very intrigued by the idea and listened with great anticipation.  What secret, what kernel of Jewish wisdom would this rabbi impart to him?  The rabbi said something akin to, “When you study to Bible, in order to get the best understanding from it, do not ask merely ‘What does this text mean today?’ but rather ask yourself, ‘What did it mean to its original hearers?'”  Bob was stunned, but not because it was so revolutionary, but because he’d been taught that all along at the Harding Graduate School.  However, he noticed it was apparently quite shocking to many in the room.  Was it really that foreign of a concept to try to understand what the written Word meant to its original readers?  Apparently so.

In this series of posts I want to show you what understanding the original context of the Bible does for you by taking you through Mark 12.

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