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New Testament Survey: Gospels - Lesson 22

Introduction to the Life of Jesus

The Chronology of Jesus' life in the Gospels begins with his birth and ends with his resurrection. How you explain the miracles of Jesus depends on your presuppositions. He performed miracles to heal sicknesses and also miracles showing his authority over nature. 

Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Gospels
Lesson 22
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Introduction to the Life of Jesus

The Life of Jesus

Part 1
 

I.  Introductory Issues

A.  Miracles of Jesus

1.  Two Types

a.  Healings

b.  Nature miracles

2.  Approaches

a.  Rationalism

b.  Mythical Treatment

c.  Liberalism

d.  Demythologizing

B.  Chronology

1.  Birth of Jesus

a.  Matthew 2:1

b.  Events at birth

2.  Baptism of Jesus

a.  Exact year uncertain but ...

b.  Around 27-28 A.D.

3.  Length of His Ministry

4.  Resurrection of Jesus


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  • The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record some of the same stories and even use the same wording in sections. They also each have material that is unique, and the chronology is different in some places. Both the purpose of each gospel and the role of oral and written tradition play a role in understanding the similarities and differences.

  • The Gospel of Mark is shorter than the other Gospels and some of the grammar and theology is unique. There are also significant portions of Mark that are contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

  • Discussion of the extensive similarities between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It's possible that Mark was already written and they used that as a source. It's aslo likely that they had in common other oral and written sources of what Jesus did and taught. 

  • Some time passed between the ascension of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels because there was no need for a written account while the eyewitnesses were still alive. In that culture, oral tradition was the primary method of preserving history. Form critics also note that it is likely that it is likely that many of the narratives and sayings of Jesus circulated independently.

  • Form criticism is the method of classifying literature by literary pattern to determine its original form and historical context in order to interpret its meaning accurately. The Gospels were not written to be objective biographies. They omit large portions of the life of Jesus, they include accounts of miraculous events and they have a purpose to demonstrate that Jesus is both God and human.

  • Redaction criticism focuses on evaluating how a writer has seemingly shaped and molded a narrative to express his theological goals. Examining how Matthew and Luke used passages from Mark can give you insight into their theology and their purpose for writing their Gospel.  

  • Studying the background and theological emphases of the Gospel of Mark helps us to understand the central message of his Gospel. The central point of the Gospel of Mark is the death of Jesus when he was crucified. This event happened because it was a divine necessity in God's plan to redeem humanity. It's likely that the Gospel of Mark is a written record of the apostle Peter's account. 

  • The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes how Jesus' life, death and resurrection fulfilled prophecies that were made in the Old Testament. Matthew also shows concern for the church and has a strong eschatological emphasis. 

  • Luke emphasizes the great loving concern of God for the oppressed, such as tax collectors, physically impaired, women and Samaritans. He warns of the dangers of riches and emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

  • John's Gospel focuses on Christology and emphasizes dualism and eschatology.  John has long pericopes, clear statements about the identity of Jesus and a number of stories not found in the synoptic Gospels. 

  • By studying the background and comparing the text of the synoptic gospels, we can be confident of their authenticity. Many of the accounts in the Gospels appear in multiple Gospels and are confirmed by separate witnesses. Details in the narratives and parables are consistent with the culture and common practices of the time in that region.  

  • In order to understand Jesus' teaching, it is important to understand how he uses exaggeration and determine when he is using exaggeration to make a point. An exaggeration is something that is literally impossible and sometimes conflicts with teachings of the Old Testament or other teachings of Jesus. They often use idiomatic language that had a specific meaning to the original hearers. 

  • The Gospels record how Jesus used different literary forms to communicate his teachings. He communicated effectively with everyone including children, common people, religious leaders and foreigners. He used a variety of literary devices to communicate in a way that was effective and memorable. (This class was taught by a teaching assistant of Dr. Stein's but his name was not provided.) 

  • It's important to know how to interpret parables to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. At different times in history, people have used different paradigms to interpret parables. Each parable has one main point. To interpret the parable, seek to understand what Jesus meant, what the evangelist meant and what God wants to teach you today.

  • Dr. Stein uses the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of how to apply the four rules of interpreting parables. He also applies the four rules to interpret the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, the ten virgins, the unjust steward and the laborers in the vineyard. 

  • Jesus used different literary forms to communicate with people. It's important to know how to interpret these literary forms, including parables, to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. The rule of end stress is one factor in determining the main teaching of a parable. Dr. Stein describes two parts of a parable as the, "picture part" and the "reality part." 

  • The kingdom of God is God's kingdom invading the earthly kingdom. In the Gospels, there are both "realized" passages and "future" passages. There is a tension between the "now" and "not yet" and it is important to emphasize each aspect equally.

  • Jesus' teaching about the fatherhood of God reveals for us a tension between reverence and intimacy. Jesus shows his reverence for God by not using the name of God even when referring to God. When he refers to God as Father, it is an indication of a personal relationship. 

  • Jesus does not provide an organized ethical system, but his ethical teachings are scattered throughout the Gospels. Sometimes they seem to be contradictory, until you look at them more closely. He emphasized the need for a new heart and the importance of loving God and our "neighbor." Jesus upheld the validity of the Law but was opposed to the oral traditions. 

  • Implicit Christology is what Jesus reveals of himself and his understanding of himself by his actions words and deeds. Jesus demonstrates his authority over the three sacred aspects of Israel which are the temple, the Law and the Sabbath. 

  • Explicit Christology deals with what he reveals concerning his understanding of himself by the use of various titles. Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word, Messiah. The titles, Son of God and Son of Man refer both to his human nature and divine nature. 

  • The Chronology of Jesus' life in the Gospels begins with his birth and ends with his resurrection. How you explain the miracles of Jesus depends on your presuppositions. He performed miracles to heal sicknesses and also miracles showing his authority over nature. 

  • The birth of Christ is an historical event. The virgin birth of Jesus is a fundamental aspect of his nature and ministry. The details of the birth narrative in Luke are consistent with historical events. 

  • Except for the accounts of a couple of events in Jesus' childhood, the Gospels are mostly silent about the years before Jesus began his public ministry. Luke records the story of 12 year old Jesus in the temple to show that already, you can see something different about Jesus. Jesus' public ministry began when John the Baptist baptized Jesus publicly in the Jordan River.

  • The three temptations that Satan put to Jesus were significant to him and instructive to us. Jesus had a specific purpose in mind in the way he called his disciples and the fact that he chose 12.

  • After Simon Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, Jesus begins teaching about his death and focuses his efforts on teaching the twelve. The Transfiguration was a significant event because the pre-existent glory of Jesus broke through and it was also a preview of future glory.

  • The events surrounding Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem were the beginning of the week leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. When Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, he was rejecting the sacrificial system, reforming temple worship and performing an act of judgment.

  • At the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated with his disciples by eating the Passover meal. He reinterpreted it to show how it pointed to him as being the perfect Lamb of God, the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all people. When we celebrate the Lord's supper, there is a focus of looking back at the significance of what Jesus did and how the Passover pointed toward him and of looking forward to the future. 

  • The night before his crucifixion, Jesus went to Gethsemane with his disciples to pray. Judas betrays Jesus there and Jesus allows himself to be arrested.

  • The trial of Jesus involved a hearing in the Jewish court conducted by the high priest and the Sanhedrin, and a hearing in the Roman court conducted by Pilate. The Jewish leaders brought in false witnesses against Jesus and violated numerous rules from the Mishnah in the way they conducted the trial. 

  • Jesus died by crucifixion. The Romans used it as a deterrent because it was public and a horrible way to die. The account of the crucifixion is brief, likely because the readers knew what was involved and it was painful to retell. Jesus was buried by friends.

  • The historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus is compelling. Jesus appeared physically to people, many of whom were still alive when the books in the New Testament were written. Rising from the dead confirmed that Jesus has power over death and gives hope of eternal life to people who put their trust in him. 

  • The Gospels are eyewitness accounts that clearly show that Jesus claimed to be fully human and fully God, and what he did to back up this claim. Some people try to reinterpret the Gospels to make Jesus out to be a moral teacher with good intentions, but not God in the flesh.

This is the first part of an introductory course to the New Testament, covering the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The synopsis Dr. Stein refers to is the Synopsis of the Four Gospels, English Edition, published by the American Bible Society. You can click here to order it from American Bible Society or click here to order it from Amazon

The lecture notes you can download (to the right) are for both NT Survey I and II. In some of the lectures, Dr. Stein does not cover all the points in his outline, but we include the additional outline points for your benefit. 

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes for both sections of Stein's NT Survey class (to the right). Note that they do not cover every lecture.