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Isaiah Bible Study

by on Saturday, July 17, 2010 3:04 under Christianity.

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Author: Isaiah
Date:  Eighth Century B.C.

The Book of Isaiah is one of the best-known books of the Old Testament. It is the book most frequently quoted in the New Testament and the one used most frequently by Jesus. Throughout the history of the church it has been used in worship, in hymns, and by theologians. The reason for its popularity is twofold.

First, it contains the clearest Old Testament presentation of the gospel. The depiction of sin, the helplessness of the sinner, the marvelous love of God, his provision of a Savior, and the call to repentance and faith are all to be found there. Second, the book abounds with memorable phrases and images which have become part of our general church vocabulary or hymnody.

Isaiah wrote during a period of impending doom in Judah, in his time the southern half of what had been the nation of Israel. The mighty Assyrian army was devastating the northern regions and Isaiah’s nation appeared to be next. Isaiah urged Hezekiah the king, against all logic, to cast himself on the Lord for protection, promising that God would be true to his word by sparing Judah. When Hezekiah dared to trust God, a plague broke out in the Assyrian camp, killing most of the army and forcing the Assyrians to withdraw. Thus, the tiny nation of believers was spared. Isaiah’s book covers those difficult times with messages, sermons, historical accounts, exhortations, and prophecies.

Theological Themes in the Book of Isaiah

The theological content of the Book of Isaiah is one of the high points of the Old Testament. Paramount in the book is Isaiah’s stress on the holiness of God: God is called “The Holy One of Israel.” God’s holiness is the foundation of all his dealings with the world. Because of this, Judah could rest secure; God would never do anything that was not just and fair. Isaiah tried to draw Judah’s attention to the covenant (binding agreement) that God had made with his people. They were His. He might find it necessary to judge them for their sins, but he would never abandon them. If they got carried away into captivity, a remnant would return to pick up where their ancestors left off. In wrath, God would remember his mercy. Perhaps the most prominent theme in Isaiah’s message has to do with the coming Messiah, God’s Servant. Four extended psalms, or poems, deal with the Suffering Servant of God. In them the ministry of Jesus is foretold; at another level they are descriptive of Judah, too, which as a nation was also God’s servant: 42:1-7; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12.

The Servant is to suffer for the world, establish justice, provide salvation for the nations, be a light to the Gentiles, teach the truth to all who will listen, give sight to the blind, offer release to the prisoners, be a covenant to the world, treat the weak with compassion and care, dispense God’s Spirit, bear the sins of the world, make intercession for sinners, provide the knowledge of God to those who seek it, and secure peace for all people. All of these dimensions have been fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

Finally, the Book of Isaiah offers a promise of salvation in some of the most beautiful imagery in all of the world’s literature. The message concerns God’s forgiveness and mercy, freely offered to all who respond in faith.

Outline for the Book of Isaiah

  1. Judgment pronounced on Judah Isaiah 1:1- 5:30
  2. The call of Isaiah as a prophet Isaiah 6:1-13
  3. Judgment and blessing pronounced on Judah Isaiah 7:1-12:6
  4. Judgment pronounced mainly on other nations Isaiah 13:1-23:18
  5. The apocalypse of Isaiah Isaiah 24:1-27:13
  6. Judgment and blessing on Judah, Israel, and Assyria Isaiah 28:1-39:8
  7. Future blessing and comfort for Judah Isaiah 40:1-66:24

Reading the Unified Books

by on Saturday, July 17, 2010 3:04 under Christianity.

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The suggested procedure is purposely detailed. It is unlikely that you will have time and patience individually to follow out all the steps. Make a selection of what you wish to do. If you work in a group, you may parcel out the steps and offer reports to the group on the results.

Survey the Whole Book

Individual books of the Bible have no table of contents or preface by which we can get an idea of the whole. We can accomplish this only by rapid reading or scanning. You should read books through at one sitting , if at all possible. Only thus can you gain a total impression. One writer has said that more than half of the sixty-six books printed in the traditional Protestant Bible can be read through in an average of about twenty minutes. The larger ones can be read selectively and scanned.

In this first survey of the whole book you should look for answers to the following questions:

1. What type of literature is this?

As noted in the previous chapter, literature must be interpreted in the light of its basic character.

2. What occasioned the writing of the book?

Is the author’s name given, and are there any indications concerning the author’s whereabouts and circumstances? Are there any references to datable historical events that may offer a clue to the time of writing? Are there references to the condition and circumstances of the original readers and therefore to the author’s reason(s) for writing?

3. What are the writer’s characteristic words, phrases, concepts, and moods?

What words and phrases are most repeated and most central to the writer’s thought? Was the writer joyful, angry, reflective, argumentative, hopeful as the writing was done?

4. What gives the book its unity?

Is the unifying factor a subject, a person, a group of people, a problem, an event of the past, present, or future? Attempt to state the unity in a sentence or a short paragraph.

The Bible Character Study Worksheet is an example of one way to format a Bible character worksheet as a guide to studying the books of the Bible.

5. What is the structure of the book?

Has the writer anywhere stated a plan or outline? What are the major blocks of material, and where are the turning points or shifts in subject matter? Make a brief outline of the book.

6. What impact has the reading of this book made on you?

What do you like and dislike about it? What is puzzling? What message of value has come through to you?

7. How do your results from firsthand reading compare with the conclusions of others who have studied the book?

Correct and supplement your conclusions by going to the Introduction to the Old Testament or Introduction to the New Testament.

Examine the Parts of the Book

The Chapter Anaylsis and Outline Worksheet shows one way to format a chapter study worksheet.

After you have determined the general layout of a book from your initial survey you should consider the individual parts which make up the whole.

Be selective in using the steps presented here for examining the parts. Not all parts are worthy of the same depth of scrutiny. The richer and more closely packed a book is, the more detailed the examination should be. Some books should be studied by major divisions only; others should be studied by the sections that comprise the major divisions; and still others deserve a careful analysis of paragraphs and sentences.

Books are like people. Some intrigue and some fatigue. The initial survey should indicate how much time and effort you want to spend on each. In examining a part of a book consider the following questions:

1. What type of material is contained here?

The type may vary in the different parts. It is always important to be aware of the character of the material.

2. What important variations in the wording do the footnotes offer on the basis of ancient manuscripts and versions?

How do the alternate words affect the meaning of the passage?

3. Is the part composed of smaller units?

A major division will usually break down into sections and paragraphs. The logical parts are not necessarily identical with the traditional chapter divisions. These divisions were made in the thirteenth century and frequently do not break the material at logical points.

Many contemporary English translations assist the reader by printing the text in paragraphs and by indicating the larger divisions through the use of captions (headings). Rather than relying entirely on the printed captions, you should construct your own. This will help you summarize the material and see the relationship of the parts.

Give special attention to connecting words, such as and, but, because, for, since, so, therefore, hence, however, nevertheless, finally. These words help you dissect the thought a passage at the joints. You must develop X-ray eyes so you can see the skeleton of a book. When you have discovered it, you should put it down in the form of a chart or outline.

4. What use, if any, is made of figures of speech (similes, metaphors, symbols)?

What idea is each figure attempting to convey?

5. What are the key words around which the thought of the section or paragraph revolves?

To discover the key words of a short unit of biblical material, you should strike out every word that can be eliminated without sacrificing the basic meaning, as we do when we compose a telegram. Examine the remaining important words in the light of the flow of the thought of the passage. It is often possible to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words simply by the drift of thought around them.

It is helpful also to locate through the use of a concordance other usage of important words in the biblical book under consideration. Read them in their contexts. And finally, consult a lexicon, a Bible dictionary, or a commentary on the meaning of the words in question.

6. What in the passage is still unclear?

Unfamiliar customs, institutions, events, people, and world views may still remain puzzling to you after the above steps have been taken. Here you should consult a good commentary. A reader of the Bible is only cheated by sliding over things that are not understood.

7. What was the writer’s purpose in this part or section?

To answer this question the situation of the first readers must be brought into focus again. What did the writer want to tell them and why? What would they have missed if the part under consideration had been left out?

8. What does the passage mean in your own words?

As a clinching act, write out the thought of the passage in your own words. If the passage is short, paraphrase it; if long, summarize it.

9. What is the significance of this passage for you and your contemporaries?

Review the Whole Book

The Book Study Worksheet is an example of one way to personalize your studies of the individual books of the Bible.

A literary scholar has written: “In the case of the higher literacy forms the whole is a different thing from the sum of the parts. It is quite possible to have considered every detail of a literary work and yet to be far from understanding the work as a whole”
(R.G. Moulton, The Bible at a Single View [1919], p.103).

The investigation by major divisions, sections, and paragraphs will lead you to more mature conclusions about the whole book than the initial survey produced. Therefore, a final survey is in order.

1. Investigate the special themes that run like threads through the book.

Locate every passage dealing with one theme. It is best to find these passages by rereading the book. A concordance can help if you look up the principal words used in presenting the theme. Group the passages according to what they contain and consider them together. Consult commentaries for help on difficult passages.

2. Restate the theme or message of the book and show how the major parts contribute to its presentation.

You can do this by a logical outline or a chart of the book’s content. How detailed you make it will be determined by the extent of your interest in those contents.

3. Relate the message of the entire book to the situation of its first readers.

How did it speak to their needs?

4. Summarize the meaning of the book for your own life and its possible significance for our times.

As pointed out before, the Bible evaluates us quite as much as we evaluate it. Here we must pray for understanding, that we neither fall into credulous acceptance of everything we read in the Bible nor proudly and self-righteously reject what does not meet our preconceptions. Perhaps three questions will help here.

How does my life look from the standpoint of this book–my personal beliefs, my emotions, my attitudes toward myself and toward others, my actions, my goals?
How would contemporary life be affected if the message here were universally accepted and acted on?
How does the teaching of this book check out with truth from other sources: from science, psychology, sociology, philosophy?

The Individual in the New Testament

by on Saturday, July 17, 2010 3:04 under Christianity.

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The teachings of Jesus stress human values; the spiritual worth and freedom of each individual. He said, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”(John 3:16); that salvation depends upon one’s being “born again” of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8). Jesus’ ministry was to the lost (Matt. 18:11;Luke 15:24), to the sinner (Mark 2:17), and to Jew and Gentile alike (Matthew 10:6;12:17-21). He said that he did not come to condemn the world but to save it, and each person who does the truth “comes to the light” and his or her deeds become manifest as being done through God (John 3:17-21).

Some very specific spiritual and material blessings or rewards were declared by Jesus for true followers: forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:47-48); answered prayer (Matt. 7:7-8;Mark 11:24); provision of necessities (Matt. 6:31-33); prosperity now, both spiritually and materially, eternal life (Mk. 10:28-30); receiving measure for measure as one gives (Luke 6:38); living with peace and joy (John 14:27;John 15:11); freedom from anxiety and fear (Luke 12:32;Rom. 8:15); receiving the spiritual power to do works as Jesus has done (John 14:12); and being seated with Christ in heaven (Rev. 3:21;John 14:3).

Jesus also taught the concept of a spiritual oneness; a unity of the Father and the Son with each believer, and of believers with each other. A believer also receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit whose indwelling endows him or her with spiritual gifts (Mk. 1:8;Matt. 3;11;Acts 1:5;2:4,I Corinthians 12-14).

It is stressed that the risen Christ has a special affinity for each individual, having empathy for human weaknesses, since in his earthly walk, he had been in “all points tempted as we are, yet without sin”(Heb. 4:15). “Wherefore, he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them “(Heb. 7:25). A believer need have no fear of physical death, for he or she will enjoy a resurrection to a higher life, being raised with a spiritual body in power and glory (Matt. 22:30;Luke 20:36;I Cor. 15:42-44).

Bible Study of Nahum

by on Saturday, July 17, 2010 3:03 under Christianity.

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Author: Nahum
Date: Seventh Century B.C.

Nahum, born in Elkosh, in Judah, was a prophet whose primary ministry was to the city of Nineveh. Jonah had been sent by God about 100 years earlier to preach repentance to the Ninevites, and a large portion of them had responded favorably. The intervening years, however, brought a change of heart as well as a change of government, and Nineveh went back to its old ways. God therefore gave Nahum the task of preaching judgment to the Assyrian capital sometime between 664 B.C. and the city’s fall in 612 B.C. Although his message was directed to Nineveh, there is no evidence that Nahum ever went there in person.

Theological Themes in the Book of Nahum

Nahum’s message is one of coming judgment for the Ninevites. Their sins will be punished: specifically their idolatry (1:14), arrogance (1:11), murder, lies, treachery, superstition, and social sins (3:1-19). For all of this the city will be destroyed. Nineveh was, he said, a city filled with blood (3:1), a graphic description of the awful depths to which the nation of Assyria had sunk.

The foundation of Nahum’s message is that God rules over all the earth, even over those who do not acknowledge him as God. Nineveh’s gods and goddesses were nothing according to Nahum. The only God who exists holds us all accountable, whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or not. God alone is God. The Ninevites would soon see that to trust in idols is to trust in wood and stone.

Nonetheless, Nahum pointed out, God was willing to save the city if they repented. God is always seeking the lost, is slow to anger (1:3), is good (1:7), and is a stronghold to those who trust in him (1:7). God sends good news to those who will listen (1:15), a theme later taken up by the New Testament writers when describing the work of Jesus and the preaching of the gospel (a word that means good news).

Outline for the Book of Nahum

  1. A prophecy of judgment Nahum 1:1-15
  2. The fall of Nineveh Nahum 2:1-13
  3. The reason for Nineveh’s fall Nahum 3:1-19

Bible Study Galatians

by on Saturday, July 17, 2010 3:03 under Christianity.

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Author: Paul
Date: c. A.D. 48

The letter to the Galatians is probably the first letter the apostle Paul wrote. He had made a missionary trip to the churches in that region (Galatia), which was described by Luke in Acts 13-14. The major cities Paul preached at were Antioch, Lystra, Iconium, and Derbe, important centers of population and trade. Paul felt it important to preach the gospel to such strategic crossroads. That way travelers could be reached who would carry the gospel back to their own countries. Paul was not received well by those cities, however. The Jews listened at first because Paul was also a Jew, but their willingness to listen changed when Paul began speaking about Jesus as the Messiah. The Gentiles became hostile when Paul rejected their paganism. At Lystra Paul was savagely attacked and left for dead. In spite of that, a number of people believed and the church was established in the region of Galatia.

A serious problem arose, prompting the writing of this letter. Some strong-minded Jewish Christians had arrived in Galatia to undermine Paul’s authority. They were of the opinion that a person could not be saved if he were not circumcised according to Jewish custom. They said that Paul was arrogant, a liar, had not told the Galatians the whole truth, was weak and sickly, and a coward. The Galatians were beginning to waver in their allegiance to Paul and in their acceptance of his gospel preaching. Because of those circumstances, Paul wrote the letter now titled “Galatians.”

Theological Themes in the Epistle of Galatians

The central message of the letter to the Galatians is that a person is saved by faith alone; being saved means being free. Being saved by faith alone is the heart of the gospel. Paul made his case by showing that Abraham was saved by faith (a good example because the Jews considered Abraham the father of their nation). This is the way God has established the salvation of humankind. Jesus died so that we would not have to earn our own salvation–which we could not do even if we wanted to. To deny that we can be saved by faith is to deny God himself.

When a person believes, that person becomes free–free from the penalty of sin, from useless rules, from the law, from evil powers, from himself or herself. It is a message that opens the door to meaningful life and joy. The Holy Spirit enters, bringing “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance” (5:22-23). A person can then live for others, loving them and bearing their burdens. Freedom to be what God wants and to serve others is the heart of the Christian life.

Paul defended his point that we are saved by faith and made free by an elaborate set of arguments. He showed that his apostleship entitled him to speak with authority, that the risen Jesus had revealed the truth to him, that the other apostles in Jerusalem agreed, that the Old Testament taught what he was teaching, that the Holy Spirit affirmed the truth of his message by working miracles, and that this gospel worked in life. Anyone who did not agree should be careful so as not to be fighting against God. Whatever persons sow, that will they reap. A life of faith brings life. A life of self-seeking and evil brings death. The choice is always before us, and Paul urges that we choose life.

Outline for the Epistle of Galatians

  1. Introduction Galatians 1:1-9
  2. Paul’s defense of his apostleship Galatians 1:10-2:10
  3. Paul’s defense of his gospel Galatians 2:11-21
  4. Salvation and its benefits Galatians 3:1-4:31
  5. The freedom that Christ brings Galatians 5:1-6:18

What the Bible Says About Hell

by on Tuesday, March 23, 2010 23:19 under Christianity.

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The word “hell” found in the King James and other English versions of the Bible, has its origin in Anglo-Saxon and Nordic words meaning “to cover” or “to conceal.” It is akin to the Nordic word “Hel” which denoted a place for souls of the dead in Norse mythology. “Hel” was said to include Valhalla, an eternal home for warriors, and Niflhel, the place for the souls of the wicked. In the King James Version, “hell” translates the Hebrew word “sheol” 31 times in the Old Testament, and “hell” is used 22 times in the New Testament to translate the Greek words “Gehenna,” “Hades,” and “Tartarus.” In the Old Testament, “sheol” usually denoted merely the grave, and one does not find a precise concept of the afterlife of the soul. The Ecclesiastes passage (Eccl. 12:7) affirms that upon physical death of a person, his or her soul returns to God who gave it. “Sheol” is used many times to indicate a dreary presence and future existence remote from God.

The Greek word, “Gehenna” refers to the Valley of Hinnom just south of Jerusalem which had been used on Old Testament times as a site for human sacrifice to the pagan god Molech. It later became a burning dump for Jerusalem and, during the intertestamental period, many Jewish people regarded it as a symbol of punishment. “Hades” in Greek mythology was the place where all souls of the dead went, and it was also the name of the god who rules the underworld.

The mythical Hades included a place called “Tartarus” where the souls of the wicked dead were punished. The word “Tartarus” appears only once, in II Peter 2:4. Because there are differences in the meanings of these words, many modern English translation do not encompass them all in the one term “hell,” or they use the word sparingly. Also, many study Bibles have marginal notes or footnotes setting out or explaining the original words. As we have seen, when Jesus wanted to underscore the sorry spiritual state of a person who is in enmity with God, he used very descriptive language, such as, ” thrown in the fire,”(Matt. 7:19;13:49-50; Mk. 9:41-48); “outer darkness,” “eternal punishment,” and condemnation. Many of these expressions are parts of parables; thus, they are symbolisms in human terms to express a spiritual thought.

During the intertestamental period, the Jewish term, “Gehenna” and the Greek mythological terms just mentioned, were popularly used in Palestine to refer to a place of judgment and punishement. Many theologicans have therefore concluded that Jesus was referring to a place in which lost souls will reside and suffer punishment forever. Other scholars are of the opinion that Jesus was indicating more a condition of “lostness” or a status estranged from God, rather than designating a particular place. Both views recognize the principles of judgment, rewards and/or punishement, as previously discussed.

What is the Bible?

by on Tuesday, March 23, 2010 23:18 under Christianity.

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The bible is a book which, if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power.The Bible is a library of books about God and the relationship between him and his human family on the planet Earth. The Bible reveals God as the all-powerful, all-knowing creator and sustainer of all things; that every man, woman and child is made in God’s image and likeness. It outlines God’s covenants and promises which set out the principle of mankind’s freedom of choice. In the Bible one finds passages dealing realistically with the conflict between good and evil including that which is in each individual. A general truism is found to the effect that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. God promises that he will visit his people in the flesh through a virgin woman in order to reconcile all people to himself, to abolish sin through his own son’s death, and return in the spirit to dwell within his children. The Bible sets out principles and guidelines for human conduct and people’s interaction with each other. These principles are calculated to assure an anxiety-free life on earth and in the hereafter in harmony and right-standing with God. These revelations are set out in the Bible in 66 books of varying types and lengths written over a time span of about 1500 years.

What the Bible is According to the Bible

One cannot read the Bible without soon discovering that it claims to be the word of God. God speaks. He speaks out directly; he speaks through angels; he speaks through prophets. God directs Moses to write his words, and he directs the prophets to be his spokesmen. His words are spoken by Jesus Christ of Nazareth and recorded by the gospel writers. The epistle writers convey God’s messages of instruction and encouragement. The apostle Peters sum up the Bible’s view of itself when he says, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (II Peter 1:21)

The apostle Paul in writing to his aide, Timothy, defines the nature and purpose of scripture in these words: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (II Timothy 3:15-16)

Why Should We Read the Bible?

Why are you interested in reading the Bible? Whatever reason you may have for reading it is a good reason. What a person receives from the Bible quite often is governed by the point of view, the problem, or the question motivating the reader at the time. For example, are you a believer or a nonbeliever? Are you interested in it because it is ancient literature? Are you merely curious about what it says? Do you believe that the Bible is the word of God, or do you regard it merely as the ideas of men? Regardless of the particular circumstance causing you to read the Bible, you will feel its challenge, for one must come to grips with what it claims for itself and the fact that it demands a response. You may respond by acceptance or rejection, but you will form some kind of response to the views and principles which it set forth. Perhaps the biggest challenge to our minds is that the Bible speaks in the spiritual realm, and we are not always ready to “shift gears” and leave our materialistic frame of reference to contemplate the idea that we are spiritual beings with a future in a totally spiritual setting.

Spirituality

Our English word “spirit” comes from the Latin word spiritus which means “wind” or “breath.” In the Greek language, the word is pneuma and in Hebrew, ruah. The World Book Dictionary says that “spirit” refers to the aspect of every human which is not material. It is equated with “soul” or “personality”. Webster’s Dictionary defines “spirit” as “the breath of life” or “life-giving force,” connecting it with mind and emotions. These definitions show a universal awareness of our spiritual nature which we recognize or suspect whether or not we deem ourselves to be very “spiritual.”

A starting point for gaining a sharper conception of our nonmaterial makeup is to reflect upon the variety of well-known human characteristics. Consider, for example, such attributes as personality, thought, ideas, reason, belief, intellect, emotion, and intuition; also, love, hate, wisdom, character, right and wrong, anxiety, humility, pride, compassion, peace, joy, and happiness. None of these elements is physical; yet each one is very real. There are, of course, many more than these, and it might be both interesting and revealing if you would make a list of those qualities, attributes, and capabilities which apply to you. Others you might also consider are talent, creativity, language, insight, and mystique. These aspects of our being are invisible, but we know that they exist, and we have words in our language describing them. They give us clues to understanding our personal identities which are not confined to the limits of a three-dimensional world. If these attributes are in another dimension, that is, a nonphysical, perhaps fourth, dimension, is not our real identity in the same dimension, which we may refer to as the spiritual dimension? Every civilization has had a concept of this realm as evidenced by a belief that a person lives on after the demise of the physical body. The person in this continuum is referred to as a “spirit” or “soul”. A realization of this status, whether consciously or subconsciously, moves mankind to seek a supreme being who has power and authority over the universe and who through his love and concern communicates with and helps his people.

Ugarit

by on Tuesday, March 23, 2010 23:17 under Christianity.

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A large mound, Ugarit, on the Syrian coast about 25 miles South of the mouth of the Orontes river marks the site of an ancient Canaanite cultural center known as Ugarit. Perhaps the most important finding there for biblical archaeologists has been the writings in Ugaritic, a language closely related to biblical Hebrew and fundamentally important for Old Testament study.

Ugarit’s culture reached a peak in the fourteenth century B.C., and then declined and disappeared. It was rediscovered in 1928 when a Syrian farmer struck the top of a rich tomb while plowing. The mound was then excavated systematically, yielding gold objects, a surprising range of Greek pottery, a set of weights, and several bronze images. Some bronze tools and weapons were also recovered in excellent condition.

The discovery of the Ugaritic language came about when archaeologists uncovered many clay tablets written in a strange cuneiform script of alphabetic rather than syllabic character. When deciphered, the tablets showed a close linguistic relationship to Phoenician and biblical Hebrew, but also indicated that the people of Ugarit used an alphabetic script long before the Phoenicians, who probably inherited the idea.

The Ugaritic language contains literary forms that occur also in Hebrew poetry, and study and comparison have helped clarify a number of difficult Hebrew passages. Now such expressions as “rider of the heavens” (Ps. 68:33) are seen to be Canaanite in origin, indicating that Ugaritic and Old Testament Hebrew are somewhat variant dialects.

The recovered writings have revealed that at Ugarit similar ceremonies to those of the Hebrews were observed such as the wave (Exod. 29:24), trespass (Lev. 5:15), whole burnt sacrifice (Lev. 6:15), peace (Lev. 22:21), and tribute (Deut. 6:10) offerings.

While it is illuminating to compare similar references in written records of the two cultures the languages are not identical, so we can not automatically equate the terms or references being compared. For example, the legislation in Exodus 23:19 prohibiting the boiling of a young goat in its mother’s milk was thought to have been illumined by a similar offering recorded in the Ugaritic texts. This is now uncertain, since the Ugaritic word rendered “cook” actually means “slaughter,” and there are other problems with the text as well.

The tablets at Ugarit record the depraved and lewd forms of ritual worship indulged in by the Canaanites showing the threat these practices posed to traditional Hebrew faith and indicating that the Old Testament condemnation of such religion was justified.

Bible Study Titus

by on Tuesday, March 23, 2010 23:15 under Christianity.

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Author: Paul
Date: c. A.D. 64-66

Between Paul’s two imprisonments in the early A.D. 60s, he traveled throughout the Mediterranean area. He went at least once to the important island of Crete but was appalled by what he found there. The church was weak, disorganized, corrupt, and under the influence of the society around it. After he left, Paul wanted to stay in touch. His letter is short, personal, and filled with practical advice.

Theological Themes in the Epistle of Titus

One of the fundamental problems facing the church concerned authority. It simply did not work when there was no reasonable organization. As a result, Titus needed to explain to the congregation how elders were to be chosen and how they were to function. But it was not just the church elders who needed instruction. All those whose lives had an impact on the church were in need of correction, from older adults to young people. To be Christians means that Christ has changed our lives. Those attitudes ought to be evident by our actions and attitudes.

Paul continued his exhortation by stressing that Christians are to be good citizens. We are not to give in to evil rulers, but we are to be willing to live according to the laws of whatever land we live in. Not to do this is to bring discredit on the gospel.

Paul concluded with a series of ethical exhortations in the light of Jesus’ coming again. He came once to provide salvation for the world; he will come again to bless his people and judge the world. In the light of this, we are to be pure and zealous for good works (2:11-14). We have been saved by God’s mercy, not according to our deeds, but in order to do good deeds. The order is important. We do not live Christian lives in order to be saved, but when we are saved, we live godly lives.

Outline for the Epistle of Titus

1.Greetings TITUS 1:1-14
2.Qualities required of an elder TITUS 1:5-9
3.Qualities required of others TITUS 1:10-2:15
4.General instruction for all believers TITUS 3:1-15

Bible Study Timothy

by on Tuesday, March 23, 2010 23:14 under Christianity.

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Author: Paul
Date: c. A.D. 64

After Paul’s release from prison in A.D. 62, he spent about two years traveling (some early sources say as far as Spain), both preaching the gospel and encouraging the churches that were in existence. He was rearrested in 64 and probably died in that year. Sometime between his two imprisonments Paul wrote three letters (I, II Timothy, and Titus) called the “pastoral letters” to his associates in Ephesus and on the island of Crete. Timothy seems to have been the younger of the two men and with a single church; Titus appears to have been an ambassador of some sort whose job it was to appoint elders and oversee the affairs of many churches.

Paul’s first letter is basically practical, dealing with matters related to living a Christian life. There is also important doctrinal material. False views were developing. Some individuals wanted to establish little empires for themselves independently of the established churches.

Theological Themes in the Epistle of I Timothy

In a short summary of who Jesus was, Paul outlined some essentials of the faith (3:16). Christian faith is a profound mystery; God alone knows all there is to know. Our job is to trust God and not worry about things over which we have no control. Christ’s incarnation and resurrection are at the heart of what we believe. Jesus could have remained forever one with the Father in all his eternal glory, but that would have meant our eternal loss. But because of his love for us, he was willing to leave all that temporarily behind so that he might bring us to salvation. Paul’s short doctrinal abstract ends with an emphasis on Christ’s ascension and the preaching of the gospel to the world.

Paul also reiterated other theological points such as the place of prayer, the resurrection, the nature of God, and the benefits of the death of Christ.

The practical material in this letter covers two areas, public church life and private existence. The material about church life should be studied carefully by anyone who aspires to be a church officer. Paul listed the requirements for those who want to serve as bishops (or elders) and deacons. There are some differences in the requirements but basically they require that a person be wholly committed in life and heart. There is also a leader designated to look after the widows, an unusually large category of women in antiquity. The fact that there are church officers indicates that we all have a need for order and regularity. Just as a household or a business cannot run well without leaders and regulations, so the church must have its officers, guided by the Spirit and answerable to God and the people.

The material devoted to practical Christian living covers human relationships and actions. There is material for children, parents, husbands, wives, and servants. There is also a stress on freedom properly exercised. Evidently there were some who wanted to run the lives of others, but Paul would not allow that. We are to make up our own minds about what to eat or drink, whether to marry and how to handle our affairs (4:1-10). Our basic human needs are not to be despised because God made us this way. But they are not to dominate us, turning us into gluttons, drunkards, or adulterers. Everything must be put in its proper place under the guidance of the Spirit and with an attitude of humility.

Outline for the Epistle of I Timothy

  1. Greetings and charge to Timothy I Timothy 1:1-20
  2. Church officers and worship I Timothy 2:1-3:16
  3. General regulations I Timothy 4:1-16
  4. Specific regulations and instructions I Timothy 5:1-6:10
  5. Final charge to Timothy I Timothy 6:11-21

II Timothy

Author: Paul
Date: c. A.D. 64-66

Paul’s second letter to Timothy was probably the last one he wrote. He had been arrested and was in prison (4:6), knowing that the end was at hand. It is a letter filled with courage and strength, showing us what kind of person Paul really was–or, better, what kind of person God can help us to be if we trust in him. The letter consists basically of four charges directed to Timothy from the aged Paul.

Theological Themes in the Epistle of II Timothy

In the first charge, Paul reminded Timothy of his godly heritage. His grandmother and mother had set a wonderful example and Timothy was to follow it. It is impossible to overestimate the influence of our homes and parents. As parents and others live godly lives, younger ones absorb that atmosphere and become like that themselves. When we are parents our task is to continue that pattern so our children will live before the Lord as well. It is significant that Paul singled out the two women for commendation, whether because the father was an unbeliever or deceased. In any case, by the grace of God, one parent can do it if necessary.

That charge continues with Paul reminding Timothy to rekindle his gift. We have all been given endowments by God, but they must be used. If they are not, they will wither and die, like an unused muscle. If we exercise our gifts, they will grow and be strengthened. In Timothy’s case this included defending the faith against error.

The second charge is in essence a command to be strong in God’s grace. Paul used a marvelous collection of metaphors to describe the Christian life. A Christian is like a soldier whose task it is to do his commander’s will. No soldier would dare go off on his own in the midst of battle, nor would a faithful Christian desert his post when engaged in fighting evil. Paul had used this metaphor before, describing it as the armor of God that we are to wear as we stand against the evil of our day (Eph. 6:1-17). The Christian is also like an athlete who prepares for the race, runs hard, and goes by the rules. We too must remember that, as Christians, discipline and honesty count for a great deal if we are to succeed. Finally, the Christian is like a farmer who breaks up the stubborn earth to bring out the best that is in it. A farmer’s life is never easy, but the rewards are worth it. So too, for a Christian, we put our hand to the plow and do not turn back. In all of those figures we have before us the example of Jesus Christ. The third charge is to be watchful over the flock and vigilant concerning the world. God has all kinds of people in his church and all must be cared for. As for ourselves we are to shun evil passions, live with a pure heart, and avoid controversies. The servant of God must not be quarrelsome and bigoted. If one is, that is a sure sign that God is not there. With respect to the world, God’s servant must be aware of its evil and refuse to be a part of it. In the world there will be greed, arrogance, hatred, and indecency. Those sins must be kept out of the life of the church and of Christians. The tragedy is that sometimes these very things are to be found even among believers. When that happens, they must be compassionately but firmly dealt with.

Paul’s fourth charge is to preach the word and be an example to the congregation. We are to be ready at all times to do whatever needs to be done to accomplish God’s will. Paul closed this section with the memorable words, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (4:7). Timothy was to remember that he was not alone. Others had gone before him, setting an example for him.

Outline for the Epistle of II Timothy

  1. Greetings II Timothy 1:1-5
  2. First charge: Remember your part; rekindle your gift II Timothy 1:6-18
  3. Second charge: Be strong in the grace of God II Timothy 2:1-19
  4. Third charge: Be watchful II Timothy 2:20-3:17
  5. Fourth charge: Preach the word II Timothy 4:1-8
  6. Concluding greetings II Timothy 4:9-22