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Historical backgrounds Archives

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

Matthew 11:2-3 reported that, while in prison, John the Baptist heard about what his Jesus was doing, and wanted to know more. What Matthew didn’t report was the conditions John endured in prison. Historians tell us that John the Baptist […]

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Matthew 10:1-42; Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

“They will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues…” Don’t gloss over Jesus’ promise of flogging that’s recorded in Matthew 10:17—you can be sure his disciples didn’t. Here’s what happened when one of Jesus’ […]

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Matthew 9:35-38; The Workers Are Few (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

We like to picture Jesus preaching and teaching multitudes on mountainsides—and of course he did that. But the bulk of his speaking ministry happened indoors, in smallish venues, in local synagogues all over Galilee (see Matthew 9:35). So what would […]

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Matthew 9:27-34; Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

Was Jesus Christ really just a shaman, a secretive sorcerer healing people with magic tricks and demonic help? That’s what many of his enemies believed, and continued to believe for hundreds of years. In ancient Jewish society, demons were credited […]

Matthew 9:18-26; A Dead Girl And A Sick Woman (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

The story of the “Woman with an Issue of Blood” is told in three of the four gospel accounts: Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-24, and Luke 8:40-53. In addition to Matthew’s details, Luke informs us that “no one could heal her” […]

Matthew 9:14-17; Jesus Questioned About Fasting (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

When examining the moment in Matthew 9:14 where John’s disciples questioned Jesus about fasting, it’s helpful to remember the historical context. At this moment in time Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, languished in prison as punishment for doing pretty much […]

Matthew 9:9-13; The Calling of Matthew (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

What if Matthew had said no when Jesus came calling (see Matthew 9:9-13)? We know that Matthew (also known as Levi) had mortgaged himself to gain a substantial portion of wealth in his world. We know that when Christ came […]

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

posted by Mike Nappa

The first thing that Matthew tells about the two demoniacs in 8:28 is that they were “coming from the tombs.” Mark, in his similar account of the event, reveals that at least one of these men actually “lived in the […]

Matthew 8:23-27; Jesus Calms the Storm (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

In the second century B.C. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Syrian Greek tyrant, ruled over the Jewish nation with an iron fist, claiming god-like power over all of nature. In the end, though, he was stricken ill and weak, prompting this […]

Matthew 8:18-22; The Cost of Following Jesus (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

“Lord, first let me go bury my father,” a disciple said to Jesus, asking to defer his commitment as a follower of Christ. There were three historical circumstances that could have prompted that request: 1) The man’s father had just […]

Matthew 8:14-17; Jesus Heals Many (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

Matthew 8:14-15 is testimony (again) to Jesus’ divinity and compassion, but it also reveals important historical background about Christ’s foremost disciple, Simon Peter. It’s because of this Scripture (along with Mark 1:29-34, Luke 4:38-41, and 1 Corinthians 9:5) that we […]

Matthew 8:5-13; The Faith of the Centurion (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

In the days when Jesus walked the earth, the Roman army ruled the land where he walked. Rome’s fighting forces were generally organized into legions, or the equivalent of about 6,000 soldiers. Within each legion, the troops were again organized […]

Matthew 8:1-4; The Man with Leprosy (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

Ever wonder what happened to the former leper after Jesus healed him? It probably went something like this: After healing the man with leprosy, Jesus told him, “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as […]

Matthew 7:13-14; The Narrow and Wide Gates (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

When we read about Jesus contrasting “wide” and “narrow” gates in Matthew 7:13-14, the modern assumption is to picture two separate gates at the end of separate roads. Historically speaking, that image is probably incorrect. In Jesus’ time, city gates […]

Matthew 6:19-24; Treasures in Heaven (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

In the ancient world, storing treasure typically boiled down to one of these two methods: hide it or guard it (or both). There were no banks or safety deposit boxes in those days, so a man’s wealth was, literally, only […]

Matthew 6:1-4; Giving to the Needy (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

In ancient Israeli society, giving to the needy ranked among one of the highest religious duties. As such, it was a regular, ordinary part of the Jewish person’s experience. Historians tell us that, “In every city there were collectors who […]

Matthew 5:38-42; An Eye for an Eye (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

The legal for basis for lex talionis (“law of retaliation”) that Jesus referred to in Matthew 5:38 was well established in Jewish history and in the Law of Moses. The “eye for an eye” concept first appeared in Genesis 9:6, […]

Matthew 5:31-32; Divorce (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

You may be surprised to discover that Old Testament Law did not codify the practice of divorce. In fact, biblical history indicates that divorce predated the time of Moses. As such, it was acknowledged by the Law (see Deuteronomy 24:1), […]

Matthew 5:27-30; Adultery (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

The accusation of adultery in ancient Israel was no light thing, so it was significant that Jesus emphasized it in this portion of his Sermon on the Mount. In effect, Christ said to his audience, “I accuse you of adultery. […]

Matthew 5:1-12; The Beatitudes (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus’ final beatitude (Matthew 5:11-12) differs from the earlier ones in its specificity and personal application. Up to this point, Jesus has used general pronouns as the object of blessing. For instance, “blessed are those…blessed are they…” Beginning in verse […]

Matthew 4:18-22; The Calling of the First Disciples (Historical Background)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus told Simon Peter and Andrew that he would make them “fishers of men.” The image there was grounded in the fisherman’s trade on the Sea of Galilee. Unlike our modern picture of a single man casting line off a […]

Matthew 2:19-23; The Return to Nazareth (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

Matthew reports that Joseph was afraid to live in Judea under the rule of Herod’s son, Archelaus—and apparently with good reason. After Herod the Great died, there was a power struggle among his sons over who would inherent his kingdom. […]

Matthew 2:13-18; The Escape to Egypt (Historical Background)

posted by Mike Nappa

Matthew reports that “Herod” was the bloodthirsty king who ordered the mass murder of all boys aged two and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. (2:16). History knows this king as “Herod the Great,” though “great” seems a stretch […]

Matthew 2:1-12; The Visit of the Magi (Historical Background)

posted by Mike Nappa

No one knows for sure who the Magi were that brought gifts to the baby Jesus, or exactly what their country of origin was. Matthew simply says they came “from the east,” first going to Jerusalem and then on to […]

Matthew: A Brief Introduction

posted by Mike Nappa

 “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet…”—Matthew 1:22 The gospel of Matthew is an eyewitness account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, written by one of the 12 disciples in Christ’s inner circle. […]

Previous Posts

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 »

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Historical Backgrounds)
Matthew 11:2-3 reported that, while in prison, John the Baptist heard about what his Jesus was doing, and wanted to know more. What Matthew didn’t report was the conditions John endured in prison. Historians tell us that John the Baptist ...

posted 12:00:42pm Apr. 20, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 10:1-42; Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Bible Difficulties)
  Matthew 10:23 quotes Jesus as saying to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” This appears to be a reference to the second coming of Jesus—and ...

posted 12:00:07pm Apr. 17, 2015 | read full post »

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