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For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

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 demons” was a title for a high-ranking, fallen angel derisively named “Beelzebul” by the ancient Jews. He appears in the Jewish pseudepigraphical work the Testament of Solomon, where he is overpowered and imprisoned by King Solomon.

The name itself originates from the insulting Hebrew term, “Baalzebub,” which referred to the false god, Baal, and means alternately “Lord of the flies” and “Lord of the dung heap,” Some have assumed Beelzebul to be another name for Satan, which could be the case, but that assumption is inconclusive; the name could also refer to a lesser demon in the service of Satan but who wields some measure of authority over the demonic realm.

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In any case, this “prince of demons” is a vile, contemptible being, a force intent on wreaking evil—and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day knew that. Given that knowledge, it’s unlikely that their accusation of Jesus was a serious one. Beelzebul would never free people from demonic possession and captivity; it simply isn’t that being’s nature, nor is it consistent with the goals of the supernatural enemies of God. (Jesus made clear that obvious thinking in Matthew 12:25-29.)

It’s much more likely the Pharisee’s accusation was simply a desperate smear attempt by people who hated Christ. Convincing people that Jesus was associated with the infamous “prince of demons” would have been both a contemptuous personal insult (calling Jesus lower than a big pile of feces) and an attempt to discredit his reputation as a holy man and prophet.

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The tragic irony was that, in calling Jesus a slave to Beelzebul, the Pharisees discredited themselves instead of Christ—and entrenched themselves as allies of the so-called “prince of demons” that they claimed to despise.

 

Works Cited:

[BKB, 249; ZP1, 505-506]

 

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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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Matthew 9:27-34; Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute (Word Studies)

posted by Mike Nappa

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Jesus is recorded asking two blind men in Matthew 9:27-30. When they responded, “Yes Lord,” he said, “According to your faith will it be done for you.” And their sight was instantly restored!

That’s a lot riding on one little word, “Faith.” So what exactly does it mean? Theologian Lawrence O. Richards offers insight from both the Old and New Testaments:

When we read “belief” and “faith” in the OT…the original usually has the Hiphil stem of the Hebrew word ˋāman. The root indicates firmness and certainty; in this stem, the verb means “to be certain,” “to believe in,” or “to be assured.” … This powerful OT term, which captures the biblical meaning of faith, affirms certainty.

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Pistis (“faith,” “belief”) and related words deal with relationships established by trust and maintained by trustworthiness…These words are used in the NT in a variety of constructions. For instance, to “believe” is used with the accusative to mean, “be convinced of,” or “entrust.” … The most important construction is unique to the NT, an invention of the early church that expresses the inmost secret of our faith. That construction links faith with the preposition eis, “to” or “into.” This is never done in secular Greek. In the NT it portrays a person committing himself or herself totally to the person of Jesus Christ, for our faith is into Jesus.

It’s no surprise then, that Jesus didn’t ask the blind men, “Do you believe God can do this?” but instead asked, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They responded with certainty of Christ’s intention, and placed full faith into his personal will (and ability) to act.

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Today it seems we often try to manufacture faith out of hope that God will do our will rather than letting faith arise out of our certainty of his will. Perhaps, from these blind men, we can glimpse a little better what it really means to have rock-solid faith into Jesus—no matter what the circumstance.

 

Works Cited:

[EDB, 113, 116-117]

 

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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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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 as the “causes of various ailments, such as blindness, deafness (and muteness), and a host of other maladies.” It’s no surprise, then, that Matthew 9:27-34 lumps together accounts of Jesus giving sight to the blind and healing a deaf-mute along with the exorcising of demons. None of Jesus’ enemies could deny that these things had happened—the evidence of empirical and obvious.

Rather than accept the evidence for what it was—and what it meant in regard to the deity of Jesus—they searched for another, more plausible explanation. And so they accused Christ of sorcery, which meant being a trickster in league with the devil (Matthew 9:34). This accusation stuck around for centuries.

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Later rabbinic literature tried to discredit Christ’s healing miracles by saying, “Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic, and led astray and deceived Israel.” A second-century critic name Celsus also preached that Jesus was a phony and a sorcerer, saying, “It was by magic that he [Jesus] was able to do the miracles that he appeared to have done…He was brought up in secret and hired himself out as a workman in Egypt, and having tried his hand at certain magical powers he returned from these, and on account of those powers gave himself the title of God.”

The historical evidence doesn’t bear out any of these absurd claims. In fact, there’s no evidence at all that Jesus practiced magic—he never used incantations or spells or called on any power other than himself to heal. This hearsay appears to be a case of Christ’s enemies deliberately deceiving themselves in order to justify their presupposed disbelief. Very sad.

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Works Cited:

[BKB, 200-201, 247]

 

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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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Bible Resource Spotlight: Instant Small Group

posted by Mike Nappa

Reader Appeal: Small Group Leaders

Genre: Bible Studies

FBSN Rating: A

 

OK, yes, I’m talking about my own book in today’s column, so if that offends you feel free to skip to the next column. But this is the book that inspired “For Bible Study Nerds,” so I thought you’d like to hear about it.

The idea behind Instant Small Group is that you don’t have to be a genius to help others learn about the Bible. All you have to be is somebody who’s curious enough to ask questions about what’s inside the pages of Scripture. That’s it—and that’s why it helps people grow in faith and understanding of the Bible.

Instant Small Group features guided discussions for a year’s worth of Bible study meetings, broken into four main categories: Christian Essentials (study guides on theology and doctrine); Personal Growth (study guides about individual spirituality); Family and Community (study guides about Christian relationships); and Holidays. All 52 guides here require zero pre-session preparation—any nerd can literally “open and go” when it’s time to begin the discussion in a small group. And anyone in the group can lead…group members can even take turns leading from week to week. Bible Study Nerds can also use it as a personal devotional journal, which is kind of cool.

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So how did this book inspire “For Bible Study Nerds?” Well, for each discussion guide I added a little “Bible background” information about the Scripture beings studied. I liked that so much, I started writing more Bible background bits about the book of Matthew—and those became the basis for this column.

Instant Small Group combines biblical depth with entertaining, educationally-sound Socratic teaching techniques anyone can use. This book will both challenge and inspire any Bible Study Nerd toward spiritual growth. Easily recommended.

 

Instant Small Group by Mike Nappa

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(Baker Books)

 

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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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Matthew 9:27-34; Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute (Cultural Commentary)
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 demons” was a title for a high-ranking, fallen angel d

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