A Lesson Given To The
STERLING PARK WARD
GOSPEL DOCTRINE CLASS
WARRENTON, VA STAKE
Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. Sister Moon is taking her daughter
down to So. Va. College and asked me to substitute. I want to thank my son
Stan for agreeing to watch my rugrat, Trevor, during this lesson. Feel free
to help Stan out if you see he needs it.
II. SHOW AND TELL
Let me begin the introduction with a little show and tell.
O'Sullivan, Thomas D. (1986) New Testament (Barrons's Book Notes).
NY: Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Andersen, Todd G. (1986) The Gospels Made Whole. Provo, Ut: Best
LDS Gems New Testament Series
Church Educational System. (1979) The Life and Teachings of Jesus &
His Apostles. SLC, Ut.: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
III. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
586 BC - Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple destroyed. Babylonian captivity
537 BC - Cyrus allows Jews to return to Jerusalem. Temple of Zarubbabel
400 BC - Last book of Old Testament written (Malachi)
332 BC - Alexander the Great conquers Palestine, along with the rest of the
Middle East -- introduces Greek culture (Hellenization). After Alexander's
death, Palestine becomes part of Greek Egypt, under the Ptolemys.
200 BC - Greek Ruler of Syria (Antiochus IV aka Epiphanes) conquers Palestine.
Destroys Jerusalem and Zarubbabel's Temple. Thousands slain and thousands
sold into slavery. Judaism practices outlawed under penalty of death.
166 BC - Jews free themselves from Greek Syrian rule under leadership of
the Macabees. Israel is a free, independent state.
66 BC - Palestine made subject to the Romans, through intrigue. Antipater
first king, followed by his son, Herod the Great. Herod's Temple is built.
Herod orders the slaughter of all the males less than two, just after Christ's
(See Map 14) Upon Herod's death Palestine was divided into three administrative
areas. During Jesus's ministry these area were ruled by: Herod Phillip (Ituraea
and other parts northeast of Galilee; Pontius Pilate (Judea, Samaria, and
Idumea); Herod Antipas (Galilee and Perea). Herod Antipas was responsible
for the execution of John the Baptist.
IV. IMPORTANT GROUPS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Scribes and Lawyers - From the time of the Babylonian captivity, common speech
as conducted in Aramaic, a language common throughout the Middle East. The
scriptures, however, were written in Hebrew. A class of people arose whose
job it was to read, understand, copy, perpetuate, and teach the Hebrew
scriptures. Because these activities had become and academic and legal, rather
than a spiritual activity, the scribes and lawyers were often at odds with
Sadducees - Favored Hellenization, that is, the importation of Greek culture,
language, and philosophy. Small, wealthy, priestly class that controlled
the Temple and the sale of sacrificial animals. The did not like Christ's
intrusions (physical and spiritual) into the Temple.
Pharisees - Because the Northern Kingdom (10 Lost Tribes) were taken away
because of disregard for the Law of Moses; and because Jerusalem and Solomon's
Temple were destroyed because of disregard for the Law of Moses, a group
of people wanted to be sure it didn't happen again. They really opposed
Hellenization and the Sadducees. Christ criticized them because they put
the interpretation of the Law before the law itself.
Sanhedrin - The Council of Seventy (-one). Political and Ecclesiastical ruling
body underneath first the Greeks and then the Romans. Had judicial, legislative,
and administrative power. Made up of Scribes, Lawyers, Sadducees, Pharisees,
and Elders. There were local Sanhedrins in addition to a national
V. WRITING THE NEW TESTAMENT
Remember at this time, common speech was Aramaic. The scriptures (Old Testament)
was written in Hebrew. The intellectual and diplomatic language was Greek.
Greek was understood throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean, regardless
of the local language. The official government language was Latin.
Because many people were illiterate, a literate person would be appointed
to read the scriptures and lead the discussion on the Sabbath day--a custom
that continues today in Sunday Schools around the world. The leaders of Christian
Sabbath meetings would write down sermonettes--based on the teachings of
Jesus and the Apostles--they could use from week to week. These sermonettes
were designed to be used, not as history.
When a visitor from another city was converted, they would make a copy of
these sermonettes to take home with them. These copies were made in Greek,
so they would be (near) universally available/useful. Many of these copies
were NOT exact.
This is the situation that confronted Paul. As he traveled from place to
place he noticed heresies (especially Greek philosophy) had crept into the
doctrine. He wrote his Epistles to the 7 Churches and others starting in
about 50 AD.
Sometime shortly after 70 AD, Mark (sometimes called John Mark) decided to
make a comprehensive compilation of the Savior's teachings. It was designed
to be used by the faithful.
About 10 years later, Matthew extended Mark's writings, as a missionary tract,
with a focus of convincing the Jews that Jesus was the fulfillment of Hebrew
About the same time (in the mid 80's), Luke extended Mark's writings, as
a missionary tract, with a focus on convincing the Greeks that Jesus was
divine. Luke is the first half of a two volume set--the other half is Acts.
Neither Mark, nor Matthew, nor Luke seem to be aware of Paul's letters.
Ten years after the Matthew and Luke accounts were written, John wrote the
Book of Revelations (in the mid 90's). It is clear that John had access to
Paul's letters when he wrote Revelations. He opens Revelations with a literary
device that mimics Paul letters to the 7 churches.
Then after the turn of the century, the John wrote the Gospel and his three
letters. John's Gospel appears to be a personal witness
Scholars believe 1st and 2nd Timothy, as well as Titus and 1st and 2nd Peter,
were written by imitators of Paul and Peter late in the 2nd Century.
Note: there were other Christian writings (sermonettes) circulating during
these times. Over time, they have not been classified as authoritative.
VI. ASSEMBLING AND TRANSLATING THE NEW TESTAMENT
In about 140 AD a devout Greek Christian from Asia Minor named Marcion went
to Rome. He had collected a large segment of the Christian writings. He preached
that these were sufficient, and Christians no longer needed the Hebrew Scriptures
(Old Testament). This put him in conflict with the church elders, who were
at a disadvantage because they did not have a similar collection of Christian
writings. He was expelled from the Church at Rome.
Probably in response to Marcion, the Church leaders compiled a set of authorized
Christian writings, which was complete about 170 AD. Over the next 200 years,
the authorized set was modified--with much debate over whether to include
Hebrews and Revelations.
In 320 AD, under the Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the state religion
of the Roman Empire. In 370 AD, Jerome, at the request of Pope Damasus I,
standardized the variants of the Christian writings and translated them from
Greek to Latin. This is known as the Latin Vulgate. The New Testament has
been, for the most part, unchanged since then.
The King James version of the New Testament, was translated from early Greek
manuscripts, but used the English found in earlier English bibles (Tyndale's,
Matthew's, Coverdale's Whitchurch's, Geneva) if the language was consistent
with the meaning of the Greek.
More modern English translations benefit from earlier and more reliable Greek
texts, as well as being formulated in comfortable English. They, however,
are more guided by scholarship than by the principle that the New Testament
testifies of Jesus Christ, as the King James scholars were.
We believe the Bible to be the word of God, insofar as it is translated
correctly. The imperfections of the New Testament provide us with great
opportunities. These imperfections are personal revelation just waiting to
happen. The New Testament's central mission is to testify of the mission
and divinity of Jesus Christ. It does that mission well.
Finally, let me bear you my testimony. I have had personal revelation that
tells me the teachings in the New Testament are true. As the result of studying
the New Testament, the Holy Ghost has borne witness to my that Jesus is my
Savior. To this I add my witness to those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul,
and Peter. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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