Day 2 Prayer

Father, thank you for another opportunity to receive the Word. Help me to focus. Empty my mind and heart of doubts and disbelief. Free me from my preconceived notions and ideas. Grant me a new beginning. Fill me with your light.

In Jesus name. Amen.

Preparing for Time Travel

Normally, you don’t read a book out of order (unless you skipped class and you’re cramming for an exam). In the Bible, the order of the gospels is Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Seeing Red, however, is a chronological study and the chronology (timeline) we’re following is the Life of Christ. That means that yes, we’re going to be jumping around in the four gospels, in Acts, and in Revelation.  Before we start that, you might need to understand a bit more about the gospels, their authors, and about the Bible.

How old is the Bible?  As a complete collection of scriptures? Not as old as you think.  In the time of Christ, there was no “Bible”. There were collections of separate manuscripts (scrolls).

  • 1,400 BC: The first written Word of God: The Ten Commandments delivered to Moses.
  • 500 BC: Completion of All Original Hebrew Manuscripts which make up the 39 Books of the Old Testament as we know it today.
  • 200 BC: Completion of the Septuagint Greek Manuscripts which contain The 39 Old Testament Books AND 14 Apocrypha Books.

Those manuscripts were not called a “Bible” and you couldn’t run down to Barnes and Noble and buy one (or 39 or 53).  You can learn more about the early Jewish/Hebrew texts at the Bible Odyssey.

What’s a “gospel”?  A gospel is the record of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

Who wrote the gospels? Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles, was a Jew, the son of a certain man named Alphaeus, and was a tax collector when Jesus called him. His original name was Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). As a tax collector under the Romans at Capernaum who was a hated publican, it is unthinkable that his name would have been attached to the first gospel had he not been the actual writer.

Mark is the evangelist who was probably the same as “John who was also called Mark” (Acts 12:12, 25). He was the son of a certain Mary in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and was, therefore, presumably a native of that city. He was of Jewish parentage, his mother being a relative of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). It was to her house that Peter went when released from prison by the angel (Acts 12:12).

Luke is the evangelist and author of the gospel bearing his name and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke was of Gentile origin. This is inferred from the fact that he is not reckoned among those “who are from the circumcision” (Colossians 4:11; cf. v. 14). When and how he became a physician is not known. (2) He was not one of the “eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1:2).  Luke traveled with Paul.

John, one of the twelve Apostles, is the son of Zebedee, a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, (Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:10), and Salome (Matthew 27:56; cf. Mark 15:40). We have no information respecting the religious character or personal participation of Zebedee in the events of the gospel history, but John’s mother was one of the women who followed Jesus even to His crucifixion. There is strong evidence that John is “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” who also leaned on His breast at supper (John 21:20, cf. 21:7). John was the youngest (some speculate a teenager) at the time.

For more information, visit bible.org

gospel-authors-annotated

Why are there four? The ancient Christian writer Origen (185-254 A.D.) said there are not four gospels, but one four-fold gospel. Each gospel gives us a different perspective of Christ’s life, and we need all four to get the full picture.

a.  John was probably the last one to write his gospel, and he probably wrote it after seeing what the other three had written.

b.  Matthew, Mark and Luke talk about significant events in Jesus’ ministry that John leaves out:  Jesus’ birth, baptism, temptation in the wilderness, the Last Supper, the agony he was in at Gethsemane, the Ascension, demonic confrontations, and his parables.

c.  The first three, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, focus on Jesus’ ministry in Galilee while John’s gospel centers on what Jesus said and did in Jerusalem.

d.  Each of the four gospels tells Jesus’ origin differently:

~ Matthew shows Jesus came from Abraham through David, and shows that He is the Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament (Matthew 1:1-17)

~ Mark starts out by telling that Jesus came from Nazareth, showing that He is a Servant (Mark 1:9)

~ Luke shows Jesus genealogy back to Adam to demonstrate that Jesus is the Perfect Man

~ John’s origin of Jesus is our topic and verse for today!

In the Beginning …

Normally when you hear that, you think about Genesis and the Creation story, right?

1 In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below. Here’s what happened: 2 At first the earth lacked shape and was totally empty, and a dark fog draped over the deep while God’s spirit-wind hovered over the surface of the empty waters. Then there was the voice of God. Genesis 1:1 The Voice

nothereyet

The Gospel of John starts out with “In the beginning …”.  But John has a goal in mind in writing his gospel.  Where Matthew, Mark and Luke were all about focusing on what Jesus taught and did,  John wants you to know who Jesus is. He shows us that by:

  1. Showing Jesus came from heaven, and that Jesus is God (we’ll come back to this in a moment).
  2. Highlighting seven signs (miracles) of Jesus, six of which aren’t even mentioned in the other three gospels.
  3. Allowing Jesus to speak for Himself in seven very dramatic “I Am” statements.
  4. Recording the testimony of witnesses regarding the identity of Jesus, four of which are in the first chapter alone.

John is doing this for a specific purpose: that we might believe.  And he was successful.  The oldest surviving fragment of the New Testament is a portion of John 18 that was found in Egypt and dates to well before 150 A.D., indicating that his gospel had wide circulation by that early date.

Back to that Beginning …

OK, before we can dig into this, you may need to take a minute and clear the mini-movie from you mind’s eye. Don’t give God a physical human form (you did, didn’t you?).  No giant hands reaching down and touching the cosmos to create the earth and everything on it. No face-replaced-with-brilliant-light barefoot guy in a long white robe walking through the heavens.  A physical (by our definition) form of any kind would be hard-pressed to be in more than one space or place. Try not to give Him any defined “physical form” at all.

When you give God physical human aspects, you put a limit on God. God has no limits. God is everywhere all the time.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5 NIV

beloved-discipleJohn’s gospel places “In the beginning” as that timeless eternity before Genesis 1:1.  John is telling us that when the Creation was started, the Word and God were already there. The Word is older than time (as we know it) or Creation. To quote David Guzik, John makes it clear that the Word isn’t the beginning, but the beginning of the beginning. The Word was there before anything else. Ever.

In the beginning was the Word the actual name John used was not “Word”, but Logos. Logos is an ancient Greek word that carries a variety of meanings, all relating to the act of speaking. It could be translated “word,” a thought that comes to expression, message, declaration, reason, or the content of preaching.

David Guskin explains in his commentary on the Gospel of John that “Jewish rabbis often referred to God in terms of His word. They spoke of God Himself as “the word of God”. If you were to look at ancient Hebrew editions of the manuscripts that became the Old Testament, you’d find Exodus 19:17 – Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God – reads “Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet the word of God”.

Guzkin goes on to explain that “Greek philosophers saw logos as the power which puts sense into the world, making the world orderly instead of chaotic. The logos was the power that set the world in perfect order and kept it going in perfect order. They saw the logos as the “Ultimate Reason” that controlled all things.”

Why is this important? Dr. Eliyahu Lizorkin-Eyzenberg of the Israeli Study Center explains that the “entire original text of the document we have come to know as the New Testament was written by Christ-following Jews (in the ancient sense of the word) … written “in Greek by people thinking Jewishly”.

John was writing his gospel to both Jews and Greeks. Going back to Guzkin’s commentary, “For centuries you’ve been talking, thinking, and writing about the logos.  Now I will tell you who He is.”  John understood where the Jews’ and the Greeks’ heads were so to speak, and he used that knowledge to explain Jesus in a way they would understand … Logos.

And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  In that statement, John lays out the Trinity: God the Father (God), God the Son (the Word, Logos, Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.

As the Logos, Jesus Christ is God in self-revelation (Light) and redemption (Life). He is God to the extent that he can be present to man and knowable to man. The Logos is God, … Yet the Logos is in some sense distinguishable from God, for “the Logos was with God”. God and the Logos are not two beings, and yet they are also not simply identical. … The Logos is God active in creation, revelation, and redemption. Wikipedia

free-the-trinityI know, heavy stuff, but hang in there with me.

John 1:1-2 teaches us that:

God is the only God.

God has three divine Persons – Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

The three divine Persons are coequal and coeternal.

Remember the Council of Nicea from our Day 1 study? It was the meeting Emperor Constantine called because of a “schism” in the body of believers (global church).  The Trinity was what caused the schism. One group – the Arians – believed that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were separate and distinct from one another- not One God, Three Persons, but One God, and two lesser persons, and that disagreement broiled into riots, protests, graffiti wars and more.  In the end, though, with careful review of all the texts, the Council of Nicea concluded that God was, indeed,  Three Persons.

The Light and the Life

John 1:3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

When we read the creation story in Genesis, we read “God created” and are taught what was created each of the six days.  Rarely do we read deeper, and often we miss entirely something very important.  In verses 3-5 of the Gospel of John, however, we’re given cause to go back to Genesis and look deeper. When we do, we find:

1 In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below. Here’s what happened: 2 At first the earth lacked shape and was totally empty, and a dark fog draped over the deep while God’s spirit-wind hovered over the surface of the empty waters. Then there was the voice of God. Genesis 1:1 The Voice

The Trinity – God, God’s Spirit (Holy Spirit), and Logos (the Word).  God in all three Persons was there, and it was the Word (Logos) that spoke life into all of creation.

Pulling It All Together

Matthew Henry, a 17th century puritan theologian probably said it best: “1:1-5 The plainest reason why the Son of God is called the Word seems to be that, as our words explain our minds to others, so was the Son of God sent in order to reveal his Father’s mind to the world. What the evangelist says of Christ proves that he is God. He asserts His existence in the beginning; His coexistence with the Father. The Word was with God. All things were made by him, and not as an instrument. Without him was not any thing made that was made, from the highest angel to the meanest worm. This shows how well qualified he was for the work of our redemption and salvation. The light of reason, as well as the life of sense, is derived from him, and depends upon him. This eternal Word, this true Light shines, but the darkness comprehends it not. Let us pray without ceasing, that our eyes may be opened to behold this Light, that we may walk in it; and thus be made wise unto salvation, by faith in Jesus Christ.”

In the beginning, the Word spoke life into Creation. In Jerusalem 1,983 (give or take a couple) years ago, the Word sacrificed Himself to save me. And you. And you over there. All of us from ourselves, from sin.  Now and forever, the Word remains with us despite ourselves. Always.

Technical Stuff About Languages

The Aramaic language is a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. Originally this language of the Aramaeans, it was used, in many dialectical forms, in Mesopotamia and Syria before 1000 B.C., and later became the lingua franca of the Middle East. Aram is the Hebrew word for ancient Syria. Aramaic survived the fall of Nineveh (612 B.C.) and Babylon (539 B.C.) and remained the official language of the Persian Empire (539-337 B.C.). Before the Christian era, Aramaic had become the language of the Jews in Palestine. Jesus preached in Aramaic, and parts of the Old Testament and much of the rabbinical literature were written in Aramaic language. From “Aramaic Language,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000

Biblical Hebrew (Hebrew: עִבְרִית מִקְרָאִיתIvrit Miqra’it or לְשׁוֹן הַמִּקְרָאLeshon ha-Miqra), also called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of Hebrew, a Canaanite Semitic language spoken by the Israelites in the area known as Israel, roughly west of the Jordan River and east of the Mediterranean Sea. The term “Hebrew” was not used for the language in the Bible, which was referred to as Canaanite or Judahite, but the name was used in Greek and Mishnaic Hebrew texts. Biblical Hebrew is attested from about the 10th century BCE, and persisted through and beyond the Second Temple period, which ended in the siege of Jerusalem (AD 70). From Wikipedia – Biblical Hebrew

Koine Greek (UK English /ˈkɔɪniː/, US English /kɔɪˈneɪ/, /ˈkɔɪneɪ/ or /kiːˈniː/; from Koine Greek ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος, “the common dialect”), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek (Modern Greek: Ελληνιστική Κοινή, “Hellenistic Koiné”, in the sense of “Hellenistic supraregional language”), was the common supra-regional form of Greek spoken and written during Hellenistic and Roman antiquity and the early Byzantine era, or Late Antiquity. It evolved from the spread of Greek following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, and served as the lingua franca of much of the Mediterranean region and the Middle East during the following centuries. It was based mainly on Attic and related Ionic speech forms, with various admixtures brought about through dialect levelling with other varieties. From Wikipedia – Koine Greek

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