Your web-browser is very outdated, and as such, this website may not display properly. Please consider upgrading to a modern, faster and more secure browser. Click here to do so.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I created 1J134 to spread the Gospel to everyone on the internet so go check it out.
This blog used to be called "Thoughts of a Fairly New Christian", but I realized that I'm not really fairly new anymore (It's been four years in 2013) so I decided to choose a new name.
Want to go back in time? Read some old posts and smile.
Milliken does a nursing home service the first Sunday of every month. The past three months I have spoken at it, giving them words of comfort as they face each day. Two months ago, I was thrown a curve ball when I was asked to do the benediction since I hadn’t prepared one or ever given one but this month I was prepared. Here it is:
May the Father who loves you
The Son who saved you
and the Spirit who guides you
Bless you this week. Go in peace.
The following is a short story I had to write for my fiction class that I took last semester. The task outlined that we had to write a short story about a spiritual experience that we had as a child, and as I had very few to choose from this one made the cut. Keep in mind, this is fiction, and the only thing that is accurate about it is it happened at a summer camp. The professor described the ending as “delightfully ambiguous” so enjoy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The hot July sun beamed down on us as we sat in a small circle around our leader. After a day of activities and sports with friends, sitting down in the hot sun was the last thing any of us wanted to do. The bell rang marking the end of our time with our team and I looked over at Brent. He was pulling the grass, which was already yellow and dry, and throwing it, then watching it fall in the hot, still air.
“Stop pulling the grass. It’s God’s creation and you should be respecting it. Pulling it out kills it,” piped up the counselor, who couldn’t have been over fifteen herself, “Just pay attention for a little longer and we can go back inside the chapel.” The chapel was the last place I wanted to be. I gazed across the lawn at the younger kids who were doing free swim. How I longed for the cool water to lap over my body and take away the searing pain of my sun burn. They seemed to be having more fun at camp than I was, but really who wouldn’t? Sitting around listening to a leader drone on about the importance of some book my grandmother read to me was not my ideal way to have fun. Our leader had gone over time, and all of the other groups had gathered in lines to purchase their snacks at the Tuck Shop. The buzz of excitement could be heard as children all over the camp convened in front of the shop. Those kids were the lucky ones. They got to stand underneath the awning of the shop, in the shade, and see their friends. I was just stuck here listening to this girl, who I was forced to call “Aunt Sarah”. I never understood why I had to call her aunt, she was of no relation to me. I decided to interrupt her and ask.
“Why do I we have to call you Aunt? You’re not my aunt,” I asked.
“It’s a form of respect,” she replied, responding more patiently than a teacher would have at school, “It’s less formal than calling me Miss.” Her answer was satisfactory, but all my interruption did was keep us in the sun for a few more seconds. I gazed over at the children swimming. Life for them was so simple, they seemed to not have a care in the world. The only reason I was at this bible camp was there was nothing else to do in the summer. It was free babysitting for my father who worked shift work. Ever since the divorce I had been pawned off to different people, whether it be baby-sitters, friends of my father’s or this day camp. I wondered why he chose this camp, where the bible was taught since he didn’t believe the bible to be true, and he made that very clear. The sound of the children at the tuck shop was ebbing and flowing as the head counselor chose which group would go first into the store to buy their snacks. They must be having a cheering competition. I decided to turn my attention back to ‘Aunt’ Sarah.
“And Jesus laid a bridge for us to have a relationship. It was only through him that we can be made right with God,” ‘Aunt’ Sarah told us. Why did we need saving? I didn’t do anything wrong this whole week at camp. I didn’t act out like William during team time, and I didn’t get in trouble for being in the girls change room like Douglas. In fact, I was the main object of bullying over the week, but I chose to just ignore it. Sometimes you’re just dealt a bad hand and needed to deal with it yourself. Sometimes you just make sure you’re a little late for swimming so you’re the only one in the change room but sometimes you ask questions so at least the leader likes you.
“How do I cross the bridge,” I said suddenly, catching ‘Aunt’ Sarah off guard.
“Does anyone else want to know?” ‘Aunt’ Sarah asked, looking around the group. I looked around the group and saw by their blank expressions the answer was no. Brent was still pulling grass and tossing it in the air, but now he’d stumbled upon a few maple keys and started dropping them and watching them glide to the ground like nature’s little helicopters. The rest of the children on my team were anxious to get out of the sun and get in line for tuck. Slushies were the special for Wednesday. “You guys are free to go, don’t forget your memory verses.” She turned to me, and said “Did you want to know more about crossing the bridge?”
This wasn’t going like it was supposed to. Instead of being sent off to tuck with the other children I was still here sitting in the sun, but now alone. I was in too deep now, I had to finish what I had started.
“Yes, I want to cross the bridge. I want to go to heaven. I want to be friends with Jesus.” I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. My hair started to stand on end.
“I’ll be right back, I have to go get a book,” she said as she got up and left me sitting alone in the middle of the field under the beating sun. I looked down to the lake where the children were swimming. That’s the real reason I was here, I just wanted free swimming lessons and to hang out with my friends all day. I didn’t want to cross the bridge or learn about Jesus. I wanted to swim. I saw ‘Aunt’ Sarah running across the field towards me.
“Ryan, I got this book for you,” she said, handing me a small booklet. It was printed on orange paper and used red ink. The front of the booklet contained a drawing of a man walking across a bridge shaped like a cross. Above the bridge were the words “Walking on the Bridge to Life” in big block letters. The book didn’t look like it had been printed in this decade, and it definitely wasn’t aimed at children.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” I asked sincerely. I couldn’t think that having a relationship with the creator of the universe could be achieved by simply reading a poor man’s comic book. She looked at me with a dumbfounded look. She took the book from me and started going through it page by page, asking me if I understood. I did understand. How could I not? It was so simple. We reached the end of the booklet.
“Are you ready to say the prayer?” she said as she put her hand on my back and for the first time since I went swimming earlier that day, I felt coolness come over me. I didn’t know what the prayer was, but she assured me she would lead me through it.
“I am a sinner,” she started, “who has fallen short of God’s standards to get into heaven.” I repeated after her. She continued, “I am sorry for sinning against you and I want to become your child. I need your forgiveness.” I repeated after her again, even though I didn’t really know what I was saying. The sound of the children at the tuck shop had settled down and I hoped I hadn’t missed it. The thought of the cold, cherry flavoured ice sliding down my throat as I drank the slushie almost made me get up and run away from her. She continued, “I’m turning from my sins and want to follow you, I want you to be the Lord of my life and my savior…” She paused to let the words sink in, “In Jesus name, Amen.”
“I’m turning from my sins and want to follow you, I want you to be the Lord of my life and my savior, Amen,” I repeated, not fully understanding what I had just done. I looked up at her and she smiled at me. She asked me how I felt, but I didn’t know how she wanted me to answer. I didn’t feel any different than I did before. I looked over to the lake where the children had been swimming. They weren’t there anymore. The sound of the children at the tuck shop had died. The camp bell rang for chapel. I looked at Aunt Sarah and she took my hand and helped me up. My legs were covered in imprints from the dead grass on my legs. The world seemed calmer now, quieter, more serene. I had made a friend that day.
The title of this post is awkward, but this is a list of things that relate directly to us from the first chapter of James.
Pretty convicting stuff but also pretty uplifting seeing the promises that are in God’s Word to us.
After doing an inductive study on my own on James chapter one, these are some things I learned and was reminded of about God. Not much of this was new knowledge, but it serves as a good reminder.
A lot of these things are good reminders to have and have helped me throughout the week. In the next coming days, I will post my findings about us.
I recently attended a Precept Ministries weekend conference and learned about the Inductive Study method for reading and studying my Bible. While I was there I took a three hour “fast track” training session on how to do the method and lead a bible study of my own. The point of this method is to use the Bible as a primary source, gleaming all we can from the Bible before we go to commentaries and other extra biblical resources. Tthere are three mains actions in this study method:
Now it is impossible to sum it up in one post, but here are some basics.
The first things you do in this method of study is to pray. Taking time to speak to God so he will speak to you is important in diving deep into the Word.
The second step is to read the passage. I read it the first time looking for key words. The second time I read it, I mark out any references to God. The third time I look for references to me, man, the people, etc, to see what in the passage is directed to us, the reader. Marking the text also makes us slow down. The teacher of the workshop suggested “interrogating the text” by asking Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.
The third step is to go back and look at your markings and write down things you notice. For example, after marking everything about God, I make a list on the side of the page called “What does this say about God?” then list the things. I do the same for what the passage says to us.
The fourth step is to look for contrasts and comparisons, like where the word “but” is used. I found that a passage will list a bunch of things we are to avoid, say but, then list what we are supposed to do.
Katie, the workshop trainer, also told us to look for “Lessons for Life”, and mark them in the Bible with LFL. These are things that will bring us comfort in our day to day lives.
I was blown away by the method the first time I attended one of their conferences, but it wasn’t until this year, after attending two prior, that it really sunk in. I have decided to go through the book of James, one chapter a day, using this in depth study method. I will be posting my findings for the next couple weeks of the things I have gleamed from the text. I’ve already done James 1, and was surprised to spend 30 minutes on one chapter (it may not seem like a lot to most, but I am an efficient skim reader). I look forward to sharing my findings with you!
I was at a Transform Canada conference this past weekend called “Doctrine”, and this was handed out to my friend Lucas, a fellow leader at Milliken in one of the sessions and he passed it onto me. These questions were questions Wesley gave to those around him to keep them accountable, and to make sure they were striving to live a holy life. These questions show that a Holy life is more than just spiritual discipline, but discipline in every area of your life. Pretty convicting stuff.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?
4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work , or habits?
5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
6. Did the Bible live in me today?
7. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
8. Am I enjoying prayer?
9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
12. Do I disobey God in anything?
13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
16. How do I spend my spare time?
17. Am I proud?
18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?
20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
21. Is Christ real to me?
This is a paper I wrote for my Old Testament class on the Tenth Commandment, which is thou shall not covet. I have removed all footnotes so future students can learn as much as I did by doing their own researching. This was my first university paper, and looking back I have no idea what citation style I was using. It seems to be a mix of MLA and Chicago.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Moses said to the people, ‘Do no fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20
The Ten Comandments have held an important place in Judeo-Christian society since Moses was given them over four thousand years ago on Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments were kept within the Tabernacle, which was the central place of worship and society within the Hebrew Camp. Placed within the Holy of Holies, the place where God Himself resided among his people, the Ten Commandments were, the centre of Jewish culture. They were placed within the golden Ark of the Covenant and was symbol of God’s covenant with Israel forever. Although, throughout history, they were in the hands of invading armies, lost and forgotten, and eventually destroyed and lost forever in the destruction of the Second Temple. They still today hold a special place in Jewish society, with many Synagogues having them displayed in Hebrew at the front, being the focus of the eyes. Within the Ten Commandments, also known as the decalouge which literally translated means “ten words” (asert hadevarim; aseret hadibrot)), we find that the commandments cover most, if not all of the social, moral, and spiritual problems that humans have faced since the start of time and because of this, they are the basis of the legal code of most countries in the west. Within these ten commands we find one that is vastly different from the ones that preceded it. The final commandment tells humanity to not covet and the difference from all the others is the fact that it is not a physical act like the ones before, but rather, is an issue of the heart. Through careful examination of the text, we will highlight and dissect the tenth commandment, find similar laws found elsewhere in the Torah, and look at historical examples of coveting and the consequences within the biblical narrative.
The tenth commandment, which is found in Exodus 20:17, is very different from the ones that precede it because those are all wilful, physical actions such as bowing down to an idol or taking someones life. The tenth commandment deal with the heart. As stated by Rev. Ezekiel Hopkins “For God had it in his other commandments forbidden the acts of sin against our neighbour he well knew that the best means to keep men from committing sin in act would be to keep them from doing so in their heart”. Due to the placement of the commandment at the end of the decalouge, a person can go down the list and say that they have not committed any sin, reached the final commandment, and realized that they too have sinned. This is what happened to the apostle Paul in Romans Chapter Seven, after going through the law he saw he had not committed any of the outward sins, but once he read the tenth commandment not to covet he knew he had sinned. The tenth commandment is a “motus primo primi” which means the first shadow of an evil thought. These evil thoughts, or desires can come from Satan, which if we can resist them, help us to bring glory back to God, which is the purpose of each of these commandments. These covetous thoughts can lead us to even a greater sin if we act on the desires of the heart, which might lead to violating the other commandments. The focus is not on the items that are listed, but in the act of coveting, as stated by John Peter Lange in his Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, “The emphasis lies on coveting, not on the several objects of coveting. The emphasis of the inward state is made secure by reckoning the commandment as one”. The law is also found else where in the scripture which highlights it’s importance in the way that humanity is called to live their life.
The decalouge is restated in Deuteronomy chapter five, but the order of the things that they are told to covet changes, with Deuteronomy listing coveting your neighbour’s wife first. One reason this could happen is as the generations wandered the desert, the covenant had to be renegotiated. The emphasis on coveting certain things might have needed to be made more clear as time went on to keep it relevant to the issues of the time. Another hypothesis for this change in the order is the most important thing was thought to be the house which was the total sum of domestic life, that the family unit is more important that the individual, but in Deuteronomy, the wife is felt to be superior to the house, making the wife the sum of domestic life.The biggest change in the retelling of the Ten Commandments in the actual word that the writer chose to use instead of covet. In Exodus, the original Hebrew word that is used is means to covet, but in Deuteronomy, the word that is used means to desire. The decalouge lay the foundation for the covenantal relationship between God and Israel which is the central message of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy, the Tenth Commandment places emphasis on the desire of wanting things that are not ours, without needing to act on the desire, showing that the actions of the heart are just as important as the actions of the body. The reasons for coveting are for self gain, which would have been detrimental to a close knit society such as the nomadic tribe when Israel wandered the desert, which can be seen in the last five commandments which all talk about how to treat your neighbor, and then ending with how to think about your neighbor. The clearest indication of coveting your neighbor’s possessions can be seen in 1 Kings, chapter twenty one, with the story of Naboth and his Vineyard.
Naboth had a vineyard that was beside King Ahab’s palace and the king wanted it, but because it was not his to have, he was coveting. His wife then created a plot against Naboth, setting up a feast and having two people accuse him of treason in front of the elders. At the feast, two people brought charges against Naboth and he is taken outside and stoned, giving Ahab the possession of the land because the king received the land that was owned by the executed criminal. Ahab then recieved the vineyard he was coveting, but this did not come without consequences. God sent the prophet Elijah down to visit Ahab in Naboth’s vineyard with a dire message for him. Elijah went the the vineyard and told him “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick up your blood”. The consequences for killing a man for another man’s possessions carried heavy consequences as seen by the curses laid out, even if the killing was not done by the person who was coveting. As noted earlier in the paper, these sinful desires can bring about the breaking of the other commandments but we also see in this passage that those who humble themselves before the Lord and have authentic repentance are able to stave off the curses that have been set against them as Ahab turns to fasting, wearing sack cloth, and walking around dejected to show his remorse in his actions. The act of coveting, or desiring what is not ours is a theme throughout Israel’s history which can be seen in many narratives including David and his coveting and ultimate adultery with Bathsheba and after the fall of Jericho Achan coveted some of the belongings and these sinful desires caused him to break another commandment and steal them.
In closing, coveting is a very different commandment from the rest of the ones found in the telling of them in both Exodus and Deuteronomy because of the way it deals with an issue of the heart, rather than dealing with an actual physical action. These sinful desires can sometimes lead to sinful actions, as was illustrated by the story of Ahab coveting to have Naboth’s vineyard, where the covetous actions lead to the death of an innocent man. We also see that the tenth commandment is repeated in Deuteronomy in a slightly different form, renegotiating the law to make it relevant to the society in which it was being used to govern, showing the changes that had been made in ancient Hebrew society in the short time they had wandered in the desert. The Ten Commandments had and are still currently having a large influence in not only the Jewish society and culture, but most of the western world. These timeless commandments are the foundation of the legal system and have set the moral law into stone.
This is a paper I wrote for my New Testament class on the Epistle to the Colossians. I have removed all footnotes so future students can learn as much as I did by doing their own researching. The biggest thing I learned was how to spell Colossians consistently correct.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Bible is one of the oldest and most widely available book in the Western World and has shaped culture for the past two thousand years. Within the Bible there are two large divisions, the Old and New Testament. Within the Old Testament we see the Israel Story, the story of how God chose the Israelites as his vessel to bring salvation to the world. This salvation is in the form of Jesus Christ, and the New Testament chronicles his life. Within the first four books, called the Gospels, we see Jesus’ life and ministry. After the Gospels, we find the book of Acts, which tells the story of the first century church and commissioning of the Apostle Paul into the world on his missionary journey. Paul, during his journeys around the ancient near east, planted churches and kept in touch with them to make sure they were not being lead astray. He would send epistles, commonly called letters, to these churches to instruct them. These epistles, written by Paul and other apostles, make up the majority of the remainder of the New Testament. One of these epistles was written to the Colossians and John Calvin said that it “ distinguishes the true Christ from a fictitious one”, a problem that plagued the early church, but by understanding the historical, literary, and theological issues and circumstances of the epistle, we can have a more clear understanding of it’s contemporary relevance.
Knowing who authored an epistle is essential to having a more complete understanding of the letter. As with most books in the New Testament, there are debates over who wrote what books that form the canon of the New Testament. Although it was widely accepted that the Apostle Paul wrote the epistle for the first two thousand years of church history, doubts over the authenticity of Pauline authorship were raised by F.C. Baur over one hundred years ago, but these claims have since been rejected. The basis of these doubts were that the vocabulary and sentence structure were uncharacteristic of other Pauline epistles, and there seems to be a higher importance on eschatology. The style of the letter is loose, lacks infinitives and has a heavy use of participles, which is not Pauline in nature. The way that the argument is laid out is un-pauline and so is the doctrinal and teaching segment of the letter.
The amount of information available for attribution to Paul is far greater and of better quality. Although some of the words do not appear in any of the other writings that are known to be written by Paul without a shadow of doubt, the majority of these words fall within the description of the heresy. Another refutation of non Pauline authorship is the fact that this letter was written later. It is possible for Paul to change his theology into something more robust. The biggest refutation is that the early church ascribed the book of Colossians to the Apostle Paul. There is very little evidence for non Pauline authorship, and it is widely accepted that it was written by Paul.
There is little debate as to where Paul was when he wrote his letter to the church in Colossae. Most scholars agree that Paul’s time in prison provides the best point of reference to place a date and time to the authorship of the letter, and say that it was written during his time in prison which is described in Acts 28:30. The letter itself says that Paul is in prison, and he talks about a fellow prisoner, Aristarchus, who was with Paul his journey to Rome. This places the writing of the letter around 60-62AD.
The letter was written to the church in Colossae, an important city in the Roman province of Asia and was located about 100 miles from Ephesus. There is nothing left there now but some ruins. It was mostly populated by Jews, Greeks and Phrygians. Not much is known about the town as it has not been excavated, but the town was located on a major trade route east of Ephesus. Besides Romans, Colossae was the only church that Paul wrote to but did not visit, and the church was planted by Epaphras after hearing Paul preach in Ephesus.
The epistle is unique, not only having twenty eight words not found in any Pauline work but also having 34 words not found anywhere in the entire New Testament. The letter is also missing another common Pauline feature, particles. It is not written in the combative style like Galatians was, and does not use the phrase “my brothers” as often as in other epistles. This could be because Paul didn’t actually know the congregation personally. Like other Pauline letters, some paragraphs are used as transitional tools and there is no point to try and associate them to other parts of the letter. The letter can be broken into three sections, the first being the salutation, which contained, as most ancient letters did, the identification of the author (and coauthor in this case, Timothy), and tells who the letter is written to, and then contains a brief greeting (1:1-2). The second section of the letter is the main body of the letter, which contains the prayer report (1:3-12), Christology (1:13-23), Paul’s goal and where he gets his authority to teach (1:24-2:5), the refutation of the false teaching (2:6-23), and his exhortation to Christian living (3:1-4:6). The letters third section is a conclusion and contains his closing words and his salutation. The work can also be split into two larger categories, the first being doctrine and theology and the second being practical of Christian living and holiness.
More important to understanding an epistle than the author and reason the letter was written is the theological significance within the letter. In the letter, there are two main focuses. The first is on the heretical teaching that is threatening the church and the second is how to live a Christian life. Both themes are connected because if one followed the heretical teaching they would not be living the Christian life. Chapter one of the epistle speaks to Christ’s role in the cosmos, how he is the highest ruler, ruling over everything, and everything was made by him for him. This lays the foundation for Paul’s refutation of the false teaching, or what he calls “empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense”. It seems because no direct opponent is mentioned, that the opponents that spurred Paul to write the epistle are more than one group but are similar in nature. The main point that the epistle refutes from the opponents is asceticism, which is why Paul talks about food and drink, circumcision, and calls them mere human teachings. The epistle also introduced the “household code” which tells Christians how to live their lives in a holy way. The things listed included carnal sins such as sexual immorality, impurity, and evil desires, as well as negative oral traits such as slander and dirty language. There are also rules for the Christian household which include submission and what the relationship between a Christian husband, wife, and child should look like. We are not to forget that although we are new creation spiritually, that we still live in our worldly bodies and have worldly relationships. All of what is written in the epistle, especially the household code and moral laws to live a holy life, can be used today.
Living a Christ-like life is a task that is tremendous to bear on our own, which is why we were given the Holy Spirit to assist us in this task. The law, for the lack of a better term, which can be found within this epistle, set a standard of living for the early believers to live by. This code is still applicable to us today, as the things that are listed are common of our modern culture. Just as the Colossians were threatened by outside sources, the modern Christian is too. With the wide use and availability of secular media, it is easy to be drawn into the traps of human ways. The moral code that is given by Paul to the Colossians is one that Christians should strive to model their life after, since it is modeled after Christ himself. We should “put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within us”, since we have been raised from the death with Christ and given new life. The things we are told to avoid are outward sins in our lives that the world can see and include greediness, anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, dirty language, and lying. All these things hurt our witness to non believers as they make us look like the people who are in the world around us. The second list includes sins that cannot be seen by others and are more private, and hurt ourselves as well as the people around us. These include sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. If we avoid these things we will be more Christ-like, and in turn a better witness to our secular relationships. It is because of the early church’s inability to not be swayed by outside forces that allows us to have these epistles be written so Christians in the modern context have a standard on which to live by that is eternal and unchanging and in a society where relativism is flourishing. It is essential that we have a objective standard to live our lives by, and the Apostle Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, has give nbelievers that standard to live by in the epistle to the Colossians.
In conclusion, the Epistle to the Colossians is a wonderful piece of writing by the Apostle Paul to the church in Colossae that has Pauline attributes and is a great example of how his theology changed over time, becoming something that is full and more complete. By better understanding the historical background of authorship, when, to who and why it was written, we can more fully understand how it matters to the modern day Christian. When we look at the literary style, structure and language used within the epistle, we can place it at a time in history and correctly say who wrote it. When we understand what the people who received the letter were facing, we can understand why it was written and how we can apply it to our lives. When you asses the letter from all of those angles, it is clear that the epistle is extremely relevant to the modern reader and can help to shape them into a more Christ-like person, who is not a slave to all the temptations of the world. By following this code that is throughout the letter and especially in chapter three, we can see how the Epistle to the Colossians is a shining example of how the bible is a timeless work of literature that is divinely inspired and relevant for eternity.
Ironside, Henry Allen, Lectures on the Epistle to the Colossians. New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers Inc, 1929.
Martin, Ralph, Colossians and Philemon. London: Oliphants, 1974.
MacDonald, Margaret Y., Colossians and Ephesians. Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2000.
Pao, David W., Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Colossians & Philemon. Michigan: Zondervan, 2012.
Turner, George A. “Colossians” in The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, ed. Charles W. Carter. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965.
Travis, Stephen and Marshall, Howard, Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Letters and Revelation. Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2011.
The devotional time that John and his companions spent both in private and community is extraordinary Sure, it would be easier to do this on a ship at sea for six months when there is nothing to do, but is it possible for this model to work in today’s modern world? I am sure it is with a little but of perseverance and discipline.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tuesday, [October] 21, .
We sailed from Gravesend. When we were past about half the Goodwin Sands, the wind suddenly failed. Had the calm continued till ebb, the ship had probably been lost. But the gale sprang up again in an hour, and carried us into the Downs.
We now began to be a little regular. Our common way of living was this: From four in the morning till five each of us used private prayer. From five to seven we read the Bible together, carefully comparing it (that we might not lean to our own understandings) with the writings of the earliest ages. At seven we breakfasted. At eight were the public prayers. From nine to twelve I usually learned German, and Mr. Delamotte, Greek. My brother wrote sermons, and Mr. Ingham instructed the children. At twelve we met to give an account of one another what we had done since our last meeting, and what we designed to do before our next. About one we dined.
The time from dinner to four we spent in reading to those whom each of us had taken in charge, or in speaking to them severally, as need required. At four were the evening prayers; when either the second lesson was explained (as it always was in the morning), or the children were catechized and instructed before the congregation. From five to six we again used private prayer. From six to seven I read in our cabin to two or three of the passengers (of whom there were about eighty English on board), and each of my brethren to a few more in theirs.
At seven I joined with the Germans in their public service, while Mr. Ingham was reading between the decks to as many as desired to hear. At eight we met again to exhort and instruct one another. Between nine and ten we went to bed, where neither the roaring of the sea nor the motion of the ship could take away the refreshing sleep which God gave us.
This is a paper I wrote for my New Testament class on Second Temple Judaism. I have removed all footnotes so future students can learn as much as I did on this interesting time in Jewish History.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Second Temple Judaism is a topic and a time period that many Christians do not know very much about but it is essential in understanding the historical and religious context that Jesus, and subsequently the early Church, was in. From the very Gospels themselves to the Jewish apocrypha books of Maccabees, as well as extra biblical sources by Jewish historians, we can find a very unique and exciting time within Judaism, a Judaism that had Messianic hope in the near future, and one where bondage and exile played a crucial role in the reforms of the Jewish way of life. Second Temple Judaism is essential in understanding the New Testament more clearly, and by examining the worldview of Judaism at this time through commonly held beliefs, Jewish sect that were around at the time of the Second Temple, and the very role of the Temple in Jewish worship, we can see the impact and relationship that the Second Temple had on the life and work of Jesus.
Judaism during the Second Temple Period had a core set of characteristics that every Jew living in the period held to. The first characteristic of Second Temple Judaism was the temple. Although the main focus was on the temple in Jerusalem, Jews who had been displaced because of the diaspora and exile of the Jewish people, set up smaller temples within their own communities, called synagogues, which were places to worship and pray if you were too far from the temple in Jerusalem. Even though some people who thought the temple had be corrupted by Roman control still thought that it was an important place within Jewish religious life.
The second characteristic of Second Temple Judaism that was the same for all Jews was having monotheistic faith. The monotheistic nature of Judaism stood in sharp contrast with the religious of the neighboring areas and people, who had many Gods, each with varying amounts of power. Jews had only one God, the One True God, Yahweh, which means to be. This rejection of polytheism came from Moses and the Torah, a set of commandments divinely given by God to the Jewish people on how to live their lives. Within these commandments, Jews were un able to put idols, including other gods, before Yahweh. The God of Israel was both creational and providential, that is to say, Yahweh is creator of the world and everything in it and should be worshiped solely and that He is the God that reigns and rules all of creation.
The third characteristic of second temple Judaism is the election of the Jewish people as God’s chosen people. They believed that God had chosen them, and because of this they were bound together in a covenant bond. This covenant would be a blessing to the Jewish people if they followed God and a curse if they strayed. The obligations of the covenant were laid out in scripture, which the Jews thought to be divinely inspired. It is through the Jewish people that evil would be brought to an end by following these commandments. Some of these commandments included the right of circumcision, following food and purity laws, and observing special holy days and festivals throughout the year.
The final common belief was hope for the future which took the form of Messianic expectations. Since the Jews were not in control of their land, God had become a God of a people, not a nation. The Messiah was thought to come from God and deliver the Jews from be being under Gentile rule. The Messiah had to be descended from the kingly line of David, and many thought that the Messiah would be a military ruler who would lead the Jews from the Romans.
Although the majority of Jews held these common beliefs, there were still divisions between them in the form of different sect of Jews on how God would save them and who would be saved. The Pharisees and Sadducees where opposing forces to try and influence the non Jewish government and were formed around the second century BCE. The largest of these sects was the Pharisees who’s numbers swelled to over six thousand at the time of Jesus, even though they were a closed group. They were seen as highly religious and devout to God, and found their beginnings during the Babylonian Exile. Since there was no temple to sacrifice at during this time, reading and interpreting the scriptures became the replacement, and the Pharisees excelled at it. They also placed a lot of value in the oral tradition. They held little power politically, unlike the Sadducees, who held positions of power in the Sanhedrin, the main governing body of Judaism at the time. The Pharisees held mainline views on the future, and looked forward to the future messiah to rescue them, and were often leaders in revolts against the Romans. Their name comes from the word that means “separators”, as they wanted the Romans out of the land promised to them by God. They were progressive, and were able to update Judaism so it progressed at the same speed as society did.
The second group were called the Sadducees who comprised of upper class Jews who had powerful connections due to being connect with the priesthood and nobility. Unlike the Pharisees common Jews, the Sadducees did not have a belief in an after life or in angelic beings. The Sadducees held several prominent positions in Jewish society, including being priests, and only followed the written law, ignoring the oral traditions. Unlike the Pharisees, they were alright with having the Romans in power, as the positions they held were secured under them, and often worked with the Romans. The reason for being so close with the romans was the acknowledgement of the fact that the Romans appointed the High Priest and allowed for the Jews to do their sacrifices.
The third wing of Judaism, called the Essenes, was a radical one, who’s numbers were around four thousand adherents, placing them smaller than the Pharisees but larger than the Sadducees. They believed that they were the true holders of the covenant, and thus, were the only ones that would be saved. They thought that the priesthood, and by extension the Temple itself, was corrupt, and decided not to partake in any activities that involved the temple or the priest hood, including offering sacrifices to atone for sin. The Essenes set themselves apart from mainline Jews and set up closed communities with very strict rules. Within these communities they studied the scriptures almost exclusively. They longed for Yahweh to reform the temple and bring it back to it’s pure form.
The Temple was very important during the Second Temple Period, although it did take a different role during this time. The Temple in Jerusalem represented Jewish Statehood and was seen as a King’s Palace, the king being Yahweh, making Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish nation. The role of the Temple was extremely important because it is there that the Jews performed their sacrifices to God to atone for their sins, and it was the place that the Jews thought that God Himself, resided. Daily sacrifices were done by priests that were divided into teams with a total of twenty four thousand priests. The Temple was placed on a high point in the city and because of this could be seen from farther away than most structures in Jerusalem, placed upon Mount Zion like a jewel. The operations of the temple were were supported by a “temple tax” of about two days wages. As mentioned above, the temple held different importance and value compared between the different groups of Jews. The Sadducees thought the Temple was the most important part of Jewish ethnic and religious identify and held several high positions within the temple, such as priests, and held on to the ideal of a temple-state for Jewish law and way of life to be determined. The Essenes, on the other hand, thought the temple and the priesthood was corrupt and didn’t take part in the offering of sacrifices, and longed for Yahweh to return and reform the temple and bring it back to it’s pure form. Since the Jewish people had been spread out geographically from Judea, the temple become more of an ideal than a reality for those who did not live near it. For Jews that were no close to Jerusalem, it became an important pilgrimage to visit the temple at least once during a person’s life, and because of the distant, tradition temple worship changed, moving the focus from the temple to home and the family. Instead of doing sacrifices, the Jews in diaspora observed the law and important rites of the Jewish faith to replace not being able to sacrifice at the temple, having aspects of the law have greater importance than they would have had if the people lived near the temple. Since there was no king, the priesthood held the power that the king would have held, moving a religious position to a political one, with the Levites being used to administer because of their skills of being scribes. The majority of teaching and religious development happened at the temple. Local places of worship, called synagogues, which means house of gathering in Hebrew, acted like small temples where people could come together to pray and worship, especially after the Babylonian exile. These places of gathering allowed Jews who were not in Judea to have community and fellowship outside of the temple context.
Knowing the historical and social context in which Jesus lived in is invaluable for having a full understanding of the Gospels, and to a greater extent the New Testament. After understanding the messianic expectations that the majority of Jews in the Second Temple Period held, we can see that Jesus was not the messiah that they were looking for. Jesus didn’t come to overthrow the Roman government as a military leader. Others thought the Jewish messiah would be a priestly figure, one who would reform the temple and bring back pure worship. The Pharisees sought a legal leader who could give correct interpretation of Torah so the Jewish People know how they were supposed to live. After one takes times to realize the lesser importance of offering sacrifices, and a heavier expectation of following the law, through the decentralization of the temple, we can see how radical Jesus really was, saying that the, both oral and written, could be fulfilled in the greatest commandment. Since Judaism had become strictly monotheistic during this time, the idea that God would come down as a man, would have been quite shocking, especially the doctrine of the trinity. The historical context helps us understand the gospels better since we don’t only have the portrayal of the groups within Judaism that we find within the gospels, but also secular writings that describe the actions of the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essenes, allowing us to better understand how Jesus responds to their questions.
In conclusion, the Second Temple Period in the history of Judaism has a huge impact on the life, ministry, and understanding of Jesus through the social and religious context that He lived in. After we understand the commonly head beliefs of Judaism at this time, the social and political groups, and the role of the Temple in worship, we can fully see the relationship between Jesus and the Second temple period. The period of full of revolts and unrest, with hopes of a messiah who would lead Israel out of Roman occupation, reform the temple back to it’s pure form, and fulfill the covenant between God and his chosen people. The Second Temple period ended in 70CE, and left the people without a temple, finishing the transition of Jews into local congregations in the synagogue. Overall, the Second Temple Period was a transition time into the new Judaism, one that would be sharing the stage of Palestine and Rome with Christianity.
Grabbe, Lester “History of Judaism Part II: Second Temple Times,” in Encyclopedia of Judaism, ed. Jacob Neusner, Alan J Avery-Peck et al. New York: Continuum Publishing Company, 1999.
Wenham, David and Walton, Steve, Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Gospels. Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2011.
Riches, John, The World of Jesus: First Century Judaism in Crisis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Schwartz, Daniel R, Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity. Tübigen: Mohr, 1992.
Sandmel, Samuel, Judaism and Christian Beginnings. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.
Second Temple Judaism by Ryan Genereaux is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Tuesday [January], 24, .
We spoke with two ships, outward bound, from whom we had the welcome news of our wanting but one hundred and sixty leagues of the Land’s End. My mind was now full of thought; part of which I wrote down as follows:
‘I went to America, to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me? who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near; but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, ‘To die is gain!’
I have a sin of fear, that when I’ve spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore
‘I think, verily, if the gospel be true, I am safe: for I not only have given, and do give, all my goods to feed the poor; I not only give my body to be burned, drowned, or whatever God shall appoint for me; but I follow after charity (though not as I ought, yet as I can), if haply I may attain it. I now believe the gospel is true. ‘I show my faith by my works’ by staking my all upon it. I would do so again and again a thousand times, if the choice were still to make.
‘Whoever sees me, sees I would be a Christian. Therefore ‘are my ways not like other men’s ways.’ Therefore I have been, I am, I am content to be, ‘a by-word, a proverb of reproach.’ But in a storm I think, ‘What, if the gospel be not true? Then thou art of all men most foolish. For what hast thou given thy goods, thine ease, thy friends, thy reputation, thy country, thy life? For what art thou wandering over the face of the earth?—A dream! a cunningly devised fable!’
‘Oh! who will deliver me from this fear of death? What shall I do? Where shall I fly from it? Should I fight against it by thinking, or by not thinking of it? A wise man advised me some time since, ‘Be still and go on.’ Perhaps this is best, to look upon it as my cross; when it comes to let it humble me and quicken all my good resolutions, especially that of praying without ceasing; and at other times to take no thought about it, but quietly to go on ‘in the work of the Lord.’’
Page 1 of 7