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For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 9:35-38; The Workers Are Few (Cross-Reference Comparisons)

posted by Mike Nappa

Matthew 9:36 records that when Jesus went on a preaching tour through Galilee, he found the people he met to be “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Most commentators agree that Matthew’s phrasing, “like sheep without a shepherd,” was a deliberate allusion to similar phrasing in Numbers 27:16-17 (“May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”), 1 Kings 22:17, (“Then Micaiah answered, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd…’”), and Zechariah 10:2 (“The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.”).

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In all three of these passages, the people of Israel (“sheep”) are found in to be a state of danger and distress that comes from either an absence of godly leadership (“shepherd”), or a corruption of authority placed in leaders. Eduard Schweizer explains, “The image suggests a flock that is tormented and almost totally exhausted, or is at least being led astray and neglected by careless shepherds.”

“Matthew 9:36 thus also implies,” Bible historian Craig Keener says, “that those charged with shepherding Israel, its leaders, were failing.” And theologians John Walvoord and Roy Zuck add, “Like sheep bothered by wolves, lying down and unable to help themselves, and having no shepherd to guide and protect them, the people were maligned by the religious leaders, helpless before them, and wandering about with no spiritual guidance.”

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By connecting Israel’s current circumstance with Old Testament warnings about “sheep without a shepherd,” Matthew gave tragic commentary on the religious leaders of his day—yet also offered hope for change in the person of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd.

 

Works Cited:

[BKB, 201; GNM, 233-234, BBC, 72; BKC, 41]

 

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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 that have been like? Here’s what we know:

  • Synagogues began in the homes of Jewish captives living in exile in Babylon. Since the Jerusalem temple had been destroyed, these synagogues were vital in keeping alive the Jewish faith and some forms of worship.
  • By the time of Jesus, “house synagogues” were common anywhere a significant population of Jews lived, even in places as far-flung as Rome, Parthia, North Africa, and Asia Minor. In larger cities, particularly in Israel, the synagogue had also evolved into a formal assembly held in a public building—generally the tallest structure in the community.
  • Jesus likely taught in both “house synagogues” and community synagogue buildings.
  • There had to be at least 10 men present in a synagogue before public prayers could commence. “God-fearers,” or gentile men who aligned themselves with the Jewish faith, might also be in the synagogue audience.
  • The primary function of a synagogue was to provide lifelong education in the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament), or “instruction, public worship, and prayer.” To that end, men read aloud and discussed Scripture, rabbis delivered oral commentary and sermons, and everyone participated in traditional expressions of worship such as prayer, singing, and almsgiving.
  • An additional function of the synagogue was as a community center of sorts. As the central gathering place of Jewish society, people would congregate here to discuss local affairs, make announcements, collect and distribute funds for charity, and occasionally share meals. Legal proceedings could also take place here, with the synagogue elders serving as judges.
  • During a synagogue meeting, women weren’t typically allowed to speak, though they could sit in and listen. Any man over the age of 13 could lead in prayer, or request permission to speak, or be invited to speak. When Jesus appeared at a synagogue, it was likely he was often invited to speak in this way, simply because he was so famous.
  • Typically, a synagogue meeting ended with the recitation of Numbers 6:24-27 as a benediction: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

 

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Works Cited:

[NUB, 358; JHT, 156-159]

 

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Bible Resource Spotlight: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians

posted by Mike Nappa

Reader Appeal: Pastors, Sunday School Teachers

Genre: Bible Commentary

FBSN Rating: B

 

The distinctive aspects of the Christ-Centered Exposition series are two-fold. First, as the editors say, “The Bible is a Christ-centered book … We purpose to exalt Jesus from every book of the Bible.” Second, “We desire to provide a commentary busy pastors will use.” Those two goals drive every facet of Mark Howell’s Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The results are interesting.

On the downside, the exclusive focus on pastors (and related, to Sunday School teachers) makes this commentary a bit unwieldy for Bible Study Nerds who are not in a teaching capacity. Also, like all the books in this series, this one is exclusively a Baptist commentary, written by a Baptist for other Baptists. In that sense, when combined with its pastors-only agenda, Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians sometimes feels insular in tone and message. Still, if you can get past those things. or if you are a Baptist preacher yourself, you’ll find much to admire in Howell’s work.

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First, Howell writes with a pastor’s heart, inviting readers to do more than just learn facts and history about Paul’s letters. For instance, when discussing 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Howell begins by saying, “Read verse 14 very carefully and allow it to soak in.” That’s refreshing, because it sometimes turns study of these letters into devotions about the letters. When Scripture becomes personal like that during study time, it shows up in the sermon—and in a life.

Second, Howell isn’t afraid to ask the “why” question—as in, “Why would Paul say that?” Asking the question engages us in a discovery of the answer. In this way, Howell avoids simply dumping theology on the reader and instead brings us along in our understanding, and ability to explain to others, answers to the typical questions that arise from a study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

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Additionally, Howell’s commentary is solidly evangelical, which I tend to prefer, and appears well-grounded in the scholarly traditions.

Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians isn’t for every Bible Study Nerd, but then again it wasn’t meant to be anyway. Regardless, pastors and Sunday School teachers in most of the evangelical denominations will be glad to discover this uniquely human commentary on two of Paul letters.

 

Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians by Mark Howell

(Holman Reference)

 

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Bible Resource Spotlight: Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary

posted by Mike Nappa

Reader Appeal: Small group leaders, Sunday School teachers, Pastors

Genre: Bible Dictionary

FBSN Rating: A-

 

OK, yes, this is the “New and Enhanced Edition” of Herbert Lockyer’s 1986 original, and an update of the 1995 update of the same book. And sure, not much has changed in the Bible since 1995, so one could argue that a “New and Enhanced Edition” is unnecessary.

Of course, anyone who would argue that is probably not a Bible Study Nerd, so let’s ignore that guy and get on to the good stuff.

Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (New and Enhanced Edition) is a lot of fun for nerds who, Biblically speaking, want to have it all, in concise format and at your fingertips. The sheer breadth of knowledge in this heavy tome is invaluable There are over 7,000 entries from A to Z here, covering biblical topics in near-comprehensive scope, including Bible doctrine, Bible peoples and history, Bible places and society, word studies, and so on. Outlines of every Bible book are included, and helpful (especially when preparing sermons or Sunday School talks), as is an extensive cross-reference system that actually acknowledges different translations instead of grounding itself in one exclusive Bible version.

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The “illustrated” part of the book is also nice, with over 500 full-color photographs that help facilitate better understanding of topics discussed. As expected, the book also includes tons of maps, charts, and a Bible history-at-a-glance “Visual Survey” that might come in handy.

The publisher promises that “Every entry in the dictionary was reviewed, revised, corrected, replaced, rewritten, and updated as needed to provide the most comprehensive, current, and dependable Bible dictionary available.” To which I can only say:

Dude, you had me at hello.

So, yes, it’s basically a third edition of a 1986 Bible reference book, but you know what? I’m excited about it, and I think any Bible Study Nerd who actually looks at this one will share my enthusiasm. My advice? Go ahead and add Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, New and Enhanced Edition to your bookshelf; it’s worth it.

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Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, New and Enhanced Edition by Ronald F. Youngblood, general editor

(Thomas Nelson Publishers)

 

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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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Matthew 9:35-38; The Workers Are Few (Cross-Reference Comparisons)
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