GPR S2 E01: Background of the New Testament, Matthew and Mark
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We begin our 8 week overview of the New Testament. Beginning with The Gospels Written by Matthew and Mark.

GPR INTRO NEW TESTAMENT

WEEK ONE

NT WORLD-MARK

SEGMENT ONE:

INTRO– Designed as a general intro to the New Testament…not as an in-depth study of each book. Reality is that most Believers do not know these things and I hope it will give them more of an appreciation of God’s Word. More in-depth with classes this Fall.

THE NEW TESTAMENT WORLD

  • Jewish nation had reached its apex under David. Self-rule; militarily powerful; prosperity;…what went wrong? What always goes wrong. Sin.
  • You can trace the beginning of the demise of Israel as a sovereign nation to David’s sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. Nathan- “sword….”
  • David’s dying advice to Solomon. But he did not listen. Married pagans and adhered to their gods. The kingdom split Judah and Israel…the rest is history.
  • As the people continuously disobeyed God, He punished them beginning with the Babylonians.
  • Babylonians 50 years; Persians…Cyrus allows them to go home a rebuild temple…200 years.
  • Then…Alexander the Great…165 years…Alexander’s religion was Hellenism. Greek culture, economy, writing. Ever wonder why Jews who spoke Aramaic and read Hebrew wrote the NT in Greek? Hellenism…huge impact on Christianity.
  • Something interesting happened. After Alexander’s death, that [art of world in two: Seleucids (Syria) Ptolemies (Egypt). Both ruled over Israel at one time…but Seleucids were the last and the worst. Personified in Antiochus Epiphanes IV Seleucid ruler.
  • Persecuted the Jews and defiled the Temple which led to the Maccabean Revolt and for about 100 years the Jews had somewhat self-rule again. But in-fighting and corruption caused the nation to erode from the inside out. By 63 BC, the Romans basically just annexed Israel who was in no shape to resist…barely fired a shot. And they remained that way until Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.
  • So as the New Testament opens with the birth of Christ, the Jews (with the exception of that 100 years) had been under the yoke of conquerors since 587 BC. Nearly 600 years. And for the last 400 years there were no prophets.
  • So-called 400 silent years between Malachi and the birth of Jesus. They didn’t listen to them anyway. So…at the time Jesus was born…the people had to have been hopeless. They knew the OT had promised a Messiah…and they believed He would come…but their desperation led them to come to a conclusion that did not include Jesus.
  • MAIN PLAYERS:  Pharisees– rural areas; middle class; synagogue; obedience through the Law. Sadducees– Jerusalem; middle class; temple; obedience through sacrificial system. Zealots– Radical insurgents; armed rebellion; guerilla warfare. …zealous one. Tax Collectors– Jews who worked for Rome collecting taxes. Pay was according to how much you could cheat from the tax payers. Were generally wealthy. Hated by their Jewish brethren. . Others called him Levi and not Matthew. Matthew wanted people to know it was him and how Jesus could save the lowest. Lepers- not only a physical affliction; but a cultural and spiritual one. Had to be separated from everyone else…unclean…probably the worst thing that could happen. Women– Marginalized; ignored; patriarchal society. Gentiles– Non-Jews…often identified with the word “sinner” after their designation. Samaritans– Semitic people but not Jewish. Hated by Jews because they were deemed as half-breeds. Traitors to their faith. Divided kingdom Israel was on a northern major trade route which exposed them to people outside of their culture. They intermarried and diluted the bloodline. As we go through…we’ll see their hatred of each other.
  • ROMAN RULE. Terrible; confiscatory taxes; no legal Roman standing; forced conscription at times; iron fist; horrible punishments like crucifixion. BUT…roads to travel and engage in commerce; roads were protected; order was key aspect….Romans did not like disorder and kept order viciously. Herod the Great– Puppet “king” who served because Rome allowed it. Holdover from the Alexander strategy; Paranoid…great builder…half-Jewish…was supposed to present the veneer that the Jews were allowed to keep their “king”. He had power, but only what Rome would allow.
  • That’s it. That is the world that Jesus was born into…it was the world that opened the New Testament. Every single one of the people we will read about in the NT lived in this time under these circumstances. Ask…what might their circumstances have done to shade their theology and their understanding of God and the Messiah…because they did. Back with Matthew in just a moment.

SEGMENT TWO

MATTHEW- The first of the Gospels we come to in God’s Word, but more than likely NOT the first Gospel written from a chronological standpoint. Let’s take a brief introductory look at this amazing book.

  • BASICS. We will begin with some of the basic aspects of the letter that might help us understand it a bit more. Author– The text doesn’t tell us…unlike Paul…who wrote any of the Gospels. Technically they are anonymous but the early church fathers touted them as having been written by the people whose names are attached to them. Matthew– Who was he? We saw earlier he was a tax collector…Levi…part of a hated and despised people who used Rome to cheat his own people. Was saved and called by Jesus…could not have been a popular decision…even among his fellow disciples? Date- Probably before the destruction of the Temple…before 70AD…some say as early as 50AD. Could be the first Gospel written, but that Mark fragment recently found in Egypt seems to suggest it was first. 90% of Mark’s material is in Matthew. But could go either way.
  • THEMES. Most Jewish of the Gospels– Interesting to note that Matthew only traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Abraham. Why? It is clear that Matthew’s original audience was Jewish and the he was trying to let his people know that Jesus was the Messiah talked about in the OT. Why? Their circumstances had led them to bad theology of the Messiah. Matthew wanted to fix that. He references the OT more than any other Gospel writer…by a long shot. Jesus as Son of God– While all of the Gospels mention this, Matthew places more of an emphasis on this. Why? . The Jews wanted to kill Him for calling Himself the Son of God…made Him equal with God…Matthew to a Jewish audience…and emphasized Son of God…to show Who He truly is. Jesus as Teacher– Again, all Gospels do this to an extent…but Matthew emphasizes this even more. There are 8 full chapters of nothing but Jesus’ teaching discourses (5-7;10;13;18;24-25). Discipleship– The center point of Jesus’ teaching is discipleship. The Sermon on the Mount; Parables; Eschatological teachings; Great Commission; Sending of the 12 (Matthew 10) all focus on living the Godly life…but that can only be lived by Christ living it through us. Hostile to Jewish Leaders– All of the other Gospels actually contain examples of “good” Jewish leaders…not Matthew. Not sure of the level of dislike other than maybe that they were the source of persecution for he and his fellow Believers. Material unique to Matthew– Genealogy back to Abraham; Magi; leaving for Egypt; pearls before swine; extended treatment of the Sermon on the Mount; Leaving out the Gentiles (10); Peter walking on the water; Proclamation of Peter (); 8 parables; one of few times where Jesus gives an in-depth discussion of eschatology (sheep and the goats); Pilate washing his hands; death of Judas; Great Commission.
  • SELECTED EVENTS. Can’t do any real in-depth stuff here. But what makes Matthew Matthew…a few of the more poignant moments in the Gospel of Matthew. Sermon on the Mount- Two Gospels don’t really mention it. The other makes some reference to it. Matthew gives us three full chapters…111 words…amazing teaching including the Beatitudes (6); Love (5); and Divorce (5). Cool part () “astonished” to be hit so hard that you are literally knocked over from the blow. Jesus as Teacher. Sending of the 12- Matthew 10; verse 5 “don’t go to the Gentiles”. Disciples at the well; Disciples call down fire; demon and Samaritan; Jesus using the Good Samaritan…antithesis of the priest and the Levite. Sheep and the Goats– Not works but grace. Great Commission– Make disciples is in the imperative, call for all Believers. Will be back with Mark…just a moment.

SEGMENT THREE

MARK- Probably the first Gospel written. Certainly the shortest Gospel written. 16 chapters and 678 verses compared to longest Gospel Luke with 24 chapters and 1151 verses. Let’s take a brief look at this amazing book.

  • BASICS. Basic aspects of the latter like we did with Matthew. Author- Technically anonymous but Mark wrote it. Mark- Who was he? Start with who he was NOT. He was not one of the original 12 Disciples. Luke 10 tells of Jesus sending out 72 followers on a mission trip. Believed Mark may have been one of those 72. Close friend of Peter. 1 Peter 5:13 Peter calls Mark “his son”. It was Mark’s mother’s house Peter went to when he was released from prison in Acts. Is believed the Gospel was basically dictated by Peter to Mark…often referred to as Peter’s Gospel. Mark is actually John Mark who is mentioned regularly in the NT. Perhaps best known (besides this Gospel) for abandoning Paul and Barnabas (Mark’s cousin) on Paul’s first missionary journey. A considerable dispute arose over Barnabas wanting to take Mark on their 2nd Missionary journey…but Paul would have none of that. Interesting that Paul didn’t hold a permanent grudge. Last letter . So we know quite a bit about Mark. Date- Almost certainly the first Gospel written. Traditionally it was seen as the early 50s. But the Mark fragment found in Egypt has been dated to 50…which could push the Gospel back to the late 40s. Earliest of the Gospels.
  • THEMES. Most Roman of the Gospels. It seems clear that the original audience for this Gospel was the average Roman. There are several reasons we think this. One, it quotes the OT less than any other Gospel. A Roman audience would not have known the OT well if at all. It also reflects the Roman culture which was easily bored, craved action and wanted to move narratives along quickly. Eg…shortest Gospel; starts with a bang Jesus baptism; ends abruptly; “immediately” 17 times; Mt-6; Lk- 13; John 5; not to mention other phrases showing movement and action. Also Mark’s explaining things that Jewish people would have known. The Cross is the point. Of course all Gospels contain extended Passion narratives. But let’s look at this in perspective. Mark is half as long as Matthew and Luke, and yet Mark’s Passion narrative is the same length. Meaning that the Cross is more of a percentage of Mark’s Gospel than the others 20%; Mt. 14%; ; synoptics. Interesting…what did the crucifixion mean to Romans? Not any more according to Mark. Took defeat and made it a victory. The Humanity of Jesus. All Gospels did this…but Mark emphasized it. The humanity of Roman gods was rooted in selfishness. Wanted to show his audience and us that we can never think that Jesus doesn’t know what we are going through. Storyteller. Mark seems to try to communicate Who Jesus is with a vibrant narrative and through storytelling which was a key aspect of Hellenism. I believe Mark’s Gospel reads more like a traditional story than any other Gospel. Material unique to Mark– Not much considering that 90% of Mark’s material is in Matthew. But there are a few. Parable of the seed that grows secretly; Healing of the deaf and “dumb” man; Healing of the blind man in Bethsaida; Jesus’ teachings on salt; the escape of the “young man” during Jesus’ arrest…could have been Mark himself especially since it seems and odd addition; the prologue of .
  • SELECTED EVENTS. No in-depth stuff…but a couple of things. Reluctant Miracle Worker- . Mark does talk about miracles a lot…but he wanted people from the very beginning to keep them in perspective. Not an end…but a means to an end. That Curious Prologue– . Poison drinking and snake handling. Hyperbole? But what about the other things that are not hyperbole? Interesting passage.
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