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Cultural commentary Archives

Matthew 9:27-34; Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Who is the “prince of demons” referenced in Matthew 9:34? Jesus’ enemies were pretty familiar with that guy—so much so that they felt confident accusing Christ of being his evil pawn. So who were they talking about? The “prince of […]

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Matthew 9:14-17; Jesus Questioned About Fasting (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Christ’s culturalized references (in Matthew 9:14-17) to a bridegroom, cloth, and new wine all held spiritual significance, but the understanding of those symbols was grounded in the practical, commonsense life of an ancient Israelite. Consider these everyday insights from Bible […]

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Matthew 9:9-13; The Calling of Matthew (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Why all the hatred toward “tax collectors” in Jesus day? Sure, nobody really likes paying taxes, but everybody does it anyway. So why were tax collectors so universally despised? Tax collectors in that time were so reviled that their occupation […]

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Matthew 9:1-8; Jesus Heals a Paralytic (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

The mysterious relationship between sin and sickness is a question that’s brewed for hundreds of generations. Is a man sick because he sins, or is physical sickness independent of spiritual and moral cause? Ancient Judaic thought had settled on the […]

Matthew 8:28-34; The Healing of Two Demon-Possessed Men (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

What was the deal with the drowning pigs? When Jesus healed two demon-possessed men in the region of the Gadarenes, the demons begged to be exorcised into a nearby herd of swine (Matthew 8:29-33). Jesus granted that request, so the […]

Matthew 8:18-22; The Cost of Following Jesus (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

In Jesus’ time, it was customary for a would-be disciple to pick the rabbi who would become his mentor/teacher. He would scout a “master” much the same way an aspiring student today picks a college, studying his options and picking […]

Matthew 8:14-17; Jesus Heals Many (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

In both the Jewish and pagan cultures of Jesus’ time, exorcising demons was a strict ritual, fraught with risks. Magical incantations (preserved for us today in some ancient texts) were used in many attempts at exorcism. Other efforts to expel […]

Matthew 8:1-4; The Man with Leprosy (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

The simple fact is that Jesus broke the law when he healed the man with leprosy identified in Matthew 8:2-4. Jewish law in the time of Jesus regarded leprosy as a grave offense. Upon diagnosis by the priest, the leper’s […]

Matthew 7:7-12; Ask, Seek, Knock (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus frequently pointed to God’s place as our Father to emphasize the idea that God cares for us—but that imagery meant something different to his first-century hearers than it does to our so-called “progressive” 21st-century culture. In today’s American culture, […]

Matthew 6:25-34; Do Not Worry (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

A few random thoughts about Matthew 6:25-34… In Jesus’ time, poverty was the norm, not the exception. Add to that vagaries of crops and crime and war and more, and you can see why people would worry about what they […]

Matthew 6:16-18; Fasting (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Generally speaking, fasting was never intended to be used as a badge of honor or as a mark of super-spirituality. It is almost always associated with sorrow for sin and an expression of humility before God alone. In spite of […]

Matthew 6:5-15; Prayer (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

If Jesus’ description of flamboyant, hypocritical praying sounds like grand theatre, that’s because it probably was. “And when you pray,” Jesus said in Matthew 6:5, “do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues […]

Matthew 5:38-42; An Eye for an Eye (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Why was Jesus so adamant about mentioning “the right cheek” when he gave his command for followers to “turn the other cheek”? The answer lies in the social norms of that time in ancient Israel. In Western society today, one […]

Matthew 5:33-37; Oaths (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

In ancient Israel, an oath was both a ritual act and a binding promise. Oaths were invoked in court cases to (supposedly) ensure that witnesses would tell the truth. They were also given as proof of an unbreakable pledge of […]

Matthew 5:27-30; Adultery (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus’ New Testament teachings on the topic of adultery could be considered by his hearers as rabbinical commentary on Old Testament law—specifically on the seventh commandment found in Exodus 20:14. As such, at this point in his Sermon on the […]

Matthew 5:17-20; The Fulfillment of the Law (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

In the modern practice of the Christian faith, we often live as though the New Testament has abolished the Old Testament, and therefore the Old Testament can be ignored. That was not Jesus’ view. “Not the smallest letter, not the […]

Matthew 4:23-25; Jesus Heals the Sick (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee by “teaching in their synagogues” and healing people there (Matthew 4:23). According to the tradition at the time, a synagogue could form wherever there were 10 adult men, so chances are good that […]

Matthew 4:18-22; The Calling of the First Disciples (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus’ choice of his first disciples was surprising, to say the least. For starters, in that time, religious students chose their mentors, not vice versa. As the famous Rabbi Gamaliel instructed, “Find a teacher and lose your ignorance,” and that […]

Matthew 3:1-12; John the Baptist Prepares the Way (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

It is significant that John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers,” which basically meant he viewed them as poisonous children of snakes. In the ancient world this was an especially contemptuous insult because of a […]

Matthew 1:1-17; The Genealogy of Jesus (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

One unexpected aspect of Matthew’s genealogy is the deliberate identification of four women (in addition to Mary) in Jesus’ family tree. In the intensely patriarchal Jewish society of Jesus’ time, it was it unusual for any woman to be heralded […]

Previous Posts

Bible Resource Spotlight: Matthew: A Theological Commentary on the Bible
Reader Appeal: Pastors, Bible teachers Genre: Commentary FBSN Rating: B+   It seems strange that asking a theologian to write a Bible commentary would be considered, well, strange. But in the “academic silo” world we live ...

posted 12:00:18pm May. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Bible Resource Spotlight: After Acts
Reader Appeal: Bible teachers, students, Bible Study Nerds Genre: Christian History FBSN Rating: B   Dr. Bryan Litfin is a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He also holds a Ph.D. in the field of ...

posted 12:00:16pm Apr. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Bible Resource Spotlight: Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament III: Luke
Reader Appeal: Pastors, Teachers, Seminary Students Genre: Commentary FBSN Rating: A   The risk with Christian history and theology is that voices from our shared past are often drowned out by the voices of today’s popular ...

posted 12:00:14pm Apr. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Inductive Studies)
“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” It’s interesting that John asked an academic question, recorded in Matthew 11:3, and Jesus responded with a legal answer (Matthew 11:4-6). John’s question really ...

posted 12:00:44pm Apr. 24, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Bible Difficulties)
When John the Baptist was in prison and heard that Jesus was nearby, he sent his disciples to ask of Christ himself: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). Why did he ask this ...

posted 12:00:43pm Apr. 22, 2015 | read full post »

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