For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 3:1-12; John the Baptist Prepares the Way (Personality and Character Studies)

posted by Mike Nappa

John the Baptist was a notable figure who shows up in both Bible history and Roman historical records from the time of Jesus. Here’s what we know about him:

His father Zechariah was a temple priest, and his mother Elizabeth was a relative of Jesus’ mother, Mary. In that sense, John and Jesus may have been cousins of some sort. He was miraculously born to elderly parents who had been previously unable to have kids, linking him symbolically to Old Testament heroes like Isaac, Samson, and Samuel. His impending birth was announced to Zechariah by the angel Gabriel, the same angel who announced Jesus’ coming to Mary. He lived like a monk in the Judean desert along the Dead Sea, dressed in rough, camel-hair clothing, and ate mostly bugs (locusts similar to our grasshoppers) and honey from wild bees.

John conducted himself in the mold of Old Testament prophets, preaching for people to repent of their sins. As a symbol of repentance, he urged people to be baptized—a ritual he apparently adapted from the Jewish religious practice of a purifying bath before worship. Most importantly, he served as the prophesied “forerunner” who announced the coming of the Messiah to the world (see Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3). John was eventually executed by Herod Antipas, who ruled Galilee during the time of Jesus.

 John the Baptist by Alexander Andrejewitsch Iwanow

Works Cited:

[WWA, 216-218]

 

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Bible Resource Spotlight: The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times

posted by Mike Nappa

Reader Appeal: Students, Pastors, Youth Pastors

Genre: Cultural / Historical Reference

FBSN Rating: B

 

One big obstacle to understanding the Bible, especially for younger Christians, is the enormous cultural differences between our modern society and the lives of the ancients. In an age of international democratization, media saturation, and moral intolerance, how are we supposed to understand throwback references to wineskins and casting lots, or to shearing sheep and obsolete Pharisaical laws?

With The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times, John A. Beck aims to help us bridge that experiential gap in our cultural understanding. Organized topically from A-Z, this book delivers historical background and cultural commentary on 100 different concepts from biblical times. Unlike other similar books, Beck doesn’t pick out a cultural setting (such as “family” or “work”) and expound on that. Instead, he focuses on keywords or key phrases that might be overlooked or misunderstand by an average reader of the biblical text. As such, his editorials cover unique subjects such as “Bury the Dead,” “Clap Hands,” “Flog,” “Greet,” “Shave,” “Wash Clothes,” and so on. That often makes for the discovery of an interesting, unexpected observation—but it also makes the book difficult to navigate as a whole. The keywords and phrases are so specific at times (for instance, “Naked” or “Smelt”), that it’s hard to set this next to your Bible and move seamlessly from one book to the other. Still, if you are willing to take the time to browse, Beck has valuable insight to share.

Recommended for casual reading, particularly for Bible history-lovers in your family.

Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times

The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times by John A. Beck

(Baker Books)

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

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Matthew 3:1-12; John the Baptist Prepares the Way (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

It is significant that John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers,” which basically meant he viewed them as poisonous children of snakes.

In the ancient world this was an especially contemptuous insult because of a common belief regarding the circumstances of viper births. Many thought that some breeds of viper babies ate their way out of the stomach of their mother, killing the mother in the process. In that context, John’s insult is a horrifying characterization of the religious elite.

“It was bad enough to be called a viper,” one theologian comments on John’s preaching, “but to be called a viper’s child was even worse—killing one’s mother or father was the most hideous crime conceivable in antiquity.”

 Cobras

Works Cited:

[BBC, 52]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

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

Matthew 2:19-23; The Return to Nazareth (Word Study)

posted by Mike Nappa

The Greek word for “Nazarene” is Nazōraios. Some theologians believe that word has its root in the Hebrew term, Nezer, which is used in the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 11:1 and is typically translated “branch” (as in a tree branch that bears fruit). Others say it points to the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 49:6 where the Hebrew word Nezorai refers to “Him who shall both restore Israel and be a light to the Gentiles.”

Additionally, some Bible historians think Nazōraios (“Nazarene”) was actually a derogatory term when first used as a description for Jesus and his disciples. According to this theory, Jewish Christians later changed the word to Nazarenos, a title of honor which translates as “Nazaraean.”

 Olive Branch

Works Cited:

[ABC, 958]

 

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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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