For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

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 historian, Craig S. Keener:

  • A wedding celebration, when the bridegroom was present, was an extended affair that “required seven days of festivity.”
  • “One was not permitted to fast or engage in other acts of mourning or difficult labor during a wedding feast. Jesus makes an analogy about the similar inappropriateness of fasting in his time.”
  • “Older clothes would have already shrunk somewhat from washing.” Thus, putting a new, unshrunk patch on pre-shrunk clothing would’ve been a waste of resources. After washing, the unshrunk patch would shrink and tear away, making a bigger hole.
  • Wine was usually kept in either jars or leather wineskins. “Old wineskins had already been stretched to capacity by fermenting wine within them; if they were then filled with unfermented wine, it would likewise expand, and the old wineskins, already stretched to the limit, would burst.”

 

Works Cited:

[BBC, 70]

 

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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 the same things (minus the miracles) that Jesus was doing. John’s ministry had emphasized obvious elements of asceticism, including the traditional practice of fasting two days a week. His disciples mimicked that practice—considered a basic part of holy living—plus they fasted as a sign of mourning because their beloved leader had been cruelly taken from them.

Meanwhile, Jesus was favored with abundance and popularity. He moved about freely, working miracles, preaching and teaching, and challenging the religious elite. He carried on like he was oblivious to John’s predicament, eating and drinking as if life were a celebration. To John’s disciples, that seemed incongruent. If Jesus were indeed the Messiah—as John had seemed to declare—then it should’ve been natural for he and his disciples to fast as they did, including fasts in mourning over John’s imprisonment. It was an incongruence they couldn’t explain, so give them credit for asking Jesus about it instead of simply condemning him for it (as Pharisees did).

In that historical context, Jesus took time to help John’s disciples understand that both fasting and feasting were holy expressions. First, notice that Jesus didn’t condemn John’s followers for fasting; in fact, he acknowledged their expressions of mourning as appropriate in circumstances similar to theirs (see Matthew 9:15).

Next, Jesus pointed out that, unlike John’s followers who had been separated from their leader, his disciples were still in the presence of the, messianic “bridegroom”—a situation that warranted celebration, while it lasted. Emphasizing his point with parables of wine and cloth, Christ plainly explained to John’s disciples that fasting and feasting weren’t meant to be one-size-fits-all patches to place arbitrarily on anyone’s life. They were, and still are, tools meant to be applied in specific circumstances, to be used in the right times and places. In that way, both are suited to the lives of all holy followers of God.

 

Works Cited:

[MAT, 204-205]

 

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Bible Resource Spotlight: The Case for Grace by Lee Strobel

posted by Mike Nappa

Reader Appeal: Parents, Teens, Pastors

Genre: Christian Living

FBSN Rating: B

It’s tempting to think of Lee Strobel as a one-trick writer, simply because he keeps publishing random books titled “The Case for…” That temptation gets even stronger when you see the title of his latest book, The Case for Grace. After all, no one is really arguing against grace, no one is demanding that grace be abandoned as irrelevant or unhistorical, and no great apologist is actually needed to rise up and make a case that grace is a pretty good thing. So what to do with Strobel’s new book?

Well…resist temptation.

The Case for Grace may indeed be awkwardly titled, but let’s blame the publisher’s marketing department for that. Strobel himself has created a warm, insightful, personal glimpse at the transforming power of God’s grace in a person’s life. No, it’s not really an apologetic book as it claims to be—but so what? It still delivers a fascinating glimpse at life in the hands of faith.

Like all of Strobel’s books, this one relies on journalistic interviews and reporting to tell its story. Uniquely, this one also includes the story of the author’s own struggle with a life-threatening health condition. (You’ll have to read the book to find out more about that!). Strobel’s own story is painful, deeply personal, and ultimately redemptive—a rare treat. Additionally, he’s included tales of redemption of seven other real-life grace-addicts, people who have experienced firsthand the transforming power of Christ’s love. These stories include: A Korean orphan, a teenage drug addict from Texas, a homeless felon in Las Vegas, a humiliated pastor in South Carolina, an aide to a war criminal, and more.

God, it seems, is still spreading grace to the most undeserving of us every day—and still changing lives moment by moment. If you’re looking for a new apologetic book, this is not it. But if you want a reminder that Jesus really does make a difference in your life and the lives of  others, then The Case for Grace is waiting to lift your spirit and encourage your soul.

 

The Case for Grace by Lee Strobel

(Zondervan)

 

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Bible Resource Spotlight: The Christian Faith by Michael Horton

posted by Mike Nappa

Reader Appeal: Seminary students; Professors; Pastors

Genre: Theology

FBSN Rating: A

The first thing you say when you see Michael Horton’s book of systematic theology is “wow.” That’s because, at over 1,000 pages, this brick-sized tome gives new meaning to the digital revolution. Yes, you might want to buy the e-book version of this one, if only to save the wear and tear on your wrists.

However, if you get past the size of the book and open up its pages, you’re going to say “wow” again, though likely in a more humble way. Michael Horton has taken the deep things of God and given them a careful, organized explanation for 21st century folks like you and me. Yes, he tends toward the academic (using words like ectypal, preexistence, ecclesiology, and so on). But that’s OK – sometimes I need to learn a new word or two in my growing understanding of God and his love for me. And yes, Horton delivers copious footnotes and bibliographies that his scholarly colleagues will expect and demand. In case you don’t know him, Michael Horton is a lauded professor at Westminster Seminary California and an associate pastor at a church in Santee, California. He’s also editor of Modern Reformation Magazine, and co-host of the international radio broadcast show, White Horse Inn.

But for those who were always curious about going to seminary but never took the leap, or for those who simply feel that love of learning and a passion for Christ, Mike Horton offers something more than just footnotes and strange words. He delivers an opportunity to dig deeply into the history and orthodoxy of our faith with a trusted, knowledgeable guide by our side.

No, this book is not for everyone. And honestly, no one is likely to read the whole thing unless he or she is an OCD scholar who can’t stop turning pages. Still, this comprehensive work is fascinating and valuable simply because of its breadth, collected all in one place.

Here’s how an ordinary Bible Study Nerd would use The Christian Faith:

  • Your teen comes home feeling uncertain and disillusioned. Can she actually trust the Bible? Is it really true? Instead of fumbling for your own answers, you’ll turn to chapter 4: “The Bible and the Church: From Scripture to System” and let Mike H. brush you up on how and why this Holy Book has survived all attacks and changed billions of lives over the past two thousand years.
  • At church, your pastor diverges into a confusing, 20-minute, one-size-fits-all discussion of the end times and Christ’s return. Afterward, you might actually know less than you did before the sermon. So you’ll pick up Michael Horton’s reference book and jump straight to chapter 28: “The Return of Christ and the Last Judgment” where you can go through the topic piece by piece, at your own pace, until you feel comfortable that it makes at least a certain amount of sense in your head.
  • Your elementary-aged child asks you to explain what the Lord’s Supper really means…it seems so weird to say we’re “eating” Jesus’ flesh and “drinking” his blood! So you turn to chapter 24: “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper” where you can educate yourself on the true history and meaning behind this sacrament–and then explain it in a meaningful way for your child.

You get the idea. Anytime you have a question of faith or Christian history (and if you’re like me, that’s about every other day), then Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith is a great book to pull from the shelf to look for answers. It even includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter, a glossary of all those crazy academic words and phrases (“ordo salutos” anyone?) and several helpful indices.

Research has shown that a majority of Christian families don’t really know what they believe or why. With The Christian Faith nearby, Bible Study Nerds can change that statistic for the better.

 

The Christian Faith by Michael Horton

(Zondervan)

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

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

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