For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Bible Resource Spotlight: A Visual Guide to Gospel Events

posted by Mike Nappa

Reader Appeal: Pastors, Bible Study Leaders, Seminary Students, History Buffs

Genre: Historical Reference

FBSN Rating: A

 

Who knew ancient public archives were important for biblical understanding?

Well, James Martin, John Beck, and David Hansen did—and that’s why their very interesting book, A Visual Guide to the Gospel Events, starts with a trip to just that location. It was here that Matthew and Luke likely went when researching and retracing the genealogies of Jesus that appear in their respective books. And it was the public archive that proved to skeptics of the gospel writers that they’d accurately reported their claims of Jesus being descended from the King David himself. Kinda cool.

In fact, this whole book is kinda cool—at least for Bible Study Nerds. Printed in full color and featuring over 350 photos, maps, and illustrations, it really is a “visual guide” to the entire life of Christ.

The authors say their goal was to “show the important relationship between the events and teachings of Jesus and the places they occurred.” Safe to say they’ve succeeded.

Each short, accessible chapter here takes the reader on a “visit” to a specific location in the ancient Middle East where some event from the life of Christ occurred. The book is comprehensive, covering every major moment recorded in the gospels in chronological order. As such, there are sections on Jesus’ birth and early years (Bethlehem fields, Judea, the Jerusalem Temple), the beginning of Christ’s ministry (Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, synagogues), Jesus’ parables and teachings (narrow roads, sheep herding in open country, the Jerusalem-Jericho road), as well as the Gentile world at the time of Christ, the makeup of ancient Jerusalem, the cross, and Christ’s resurrection.

The best word to describe A Visual Guide to Gospel Events is one Mr. Spock made popular: “Fascinating!” Placing Jesus’ life and times in literal geographical space really does bring a new perspective on familiar stories. And, thankfully, the authors have written this book to be read by just about any Bible Study Nerd—pew sitters and pastors alike. Some highlights for me were the archaeological and sociological exploration of the Pools of Bethesda (where Jesus healed an invalid), the glimpse of what a “house with many rooms” might have represented to hearers when Jesus used it to symbolize heaven, and images of Gethsemane olive trees that date back over 1500 years! And believe me, this is just scratching the surface of what’s in this book.

You can use A Visual Guide to Gospel Events as a reference for Bible teaching on specific gospel passages, or just read it straight through. Either way, you’ll find it an interesting, and sometimes thought-provoking, glimpse into your Christian history.

A Visual Guide to Gospel Events

A Visual Guide to Gospel Events by James C. Martin, John A. Beck, and David G. Hansen

(Baker Books)

 

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About: Mike Nappa

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Matthew 5:21-26; Murder (Geographical backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

With increasingly hyperbolic language, Jesus addressed the issue of unchecked anger and its potentially disastrous results as part of his Sermon on the Mount. He even went so far as to declare that angrily insulting another by calling that person a fool (raca) could lead to the punishment of Hell.

The reference for Hell that Jesus used here (a derivation of gehenna) was a literal place that his hearers would have known well. It referred to the Valley of Hinnom, “a deep ravine outside of Jerusalem.” In ancient days of Judah, evil kings Ahaz and Manasseh had used this valley as a place for despicable religious brutality, offering human sacrifices to the fake god, Molech. In the ages after, the Valley of Hinnom became home to the literal refuse of humanity, a constantly burning-and-smoking garbage dump. Corpses of executed criminals were tossed into this place as a final insult, where they burned and decomposed to ashes.

In Jesus’ time, this gehenna was so awful, it was commonly used as a metaphor for final, devastating judgment. As such, Jesus’ mentioning of this place during his sermon on anger would have evoked immediate understanding—and revulsion—in his hearers.

 

Works Cited:

[QST, 1339]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

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Matthew 5:21-26; Murder (Cross-reference comparisons)

posted by Mike Nappa

In Matthew 5:22, Jesus is quoted as saying that anyone who is “angry with his brother” has committed a sin that’s equivalent to murder.

Bible scholar and teacher, Warren Wiersbe, offers this insight on that teaching: “There is a holy anger against sin (Ephesians 4:26), but Jesus talked about an unholy anger against people. The word He used in Matthew 5:22 means ‘a settled anger, malice that is nursed inwardly.’”

Other theologians see Jesus making a reference here to humanity’s first murder—Cain’s killing of his brother, Abel, as recorded in Genesis 4. Cain’s criminal actions were not simply preceded by his jealous anger toward his brother—that is to say, his anger didn’t simply lead to the act of murder. Rather, the act of murder was actually begun in Cain’s sin of “malice that is nursed inwardly.” The killing of Abel itself was the final, outward expression of the murderous sin that Cain had already been nurturing within himself, out of public view.

It is in this sense that anger, unchecked, becomes equivalent to murder. Just as the seed of a rose contains all the DNA of a full-grown rose, unholy anger is the sinful seed that contains all the DNA of murder. Jesus thus strongly encourages his hearers to deal immediately with anger toward others—pursuing reconciliation and forgiveness without delay. In this peaceful pursuit, the sinful seeds of anger are rooted out and rendered ineffective in a person’s life.

Taken in the context of today’s often-divisive political atmosphere, we followers of Christ would do well to heed Jesus’ warning about anger when pursuing our otherwise admirable goals.

Works Cited:

[BEC, 23; BKB, 115]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

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Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 5:21-26; Murder (Theological commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus’ teaching on murder, referencing the 6th of Moses’ Ten Commandments, was more than just a difficult standard to achieve. It demanded that his hearers view him as either God himself, or at the very least, as equal with God.

In ancient days, all teachers of Scripture used “borrowed authority” as the means of justifying their teachings. Rabbis quoted the Law and the prophets, and cited esteemed rabbinical leaders of the past to support their opinions. Prophets spoke as ambassadors of God, couching their every message in phrases like, “Thus says the Lord.” Had Jesus been simply another teacher or prophet of that kind, he would have done the same.

But he didn’t.

Jesus declared, “You have heard that it was said…but I tell you…” to emphasize his total authority as the human incarnation of the divine. The “I” in this phrase is rendered as an emphatic utterance, which could almost be interpreted as “I!” As one classic theologian explained, “Christ claims for his words the same authority, and more than the same authority, as for those once spoken by God.” That was, and still is, a very serious claim.

Jesus apparently saw no need to appeal to any other authority but himself while teaching the true meaning of God’s Word, because he considered himself to be God who authored that Word.

 

Works Cited:

[IB7, 295; PC15, 159]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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