Monday, November 01, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Hebrews 12-13, James 1-3

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through Hebrews, chapters 12-13 and James, chapters 1-3.


Chapter 12

  • Verse 1 - I remember a sermon at Fuller from a few years ago, where it was pointed out that the "great cloud of witnesses" from chapter 11 were all people with well-documented faults and sins.  Paul's instructions to "throw off" sin made in reference to these people must be understood in that light.
  • Verse 4 - Dr. Scholer has noted that Hebrews may have been written to a people experiencing persecution (although this verse definitely indicates that such persecution hasn't killed anyone yet).  The author seems concerned that the believers here might fall away, even despite the comparatively mild nature of the persecution.  I cannot help but wonder if he would have called them "wimps" if he were writing today.
  • Verses 5-11 - In fact, if this is written to a group experiencing persecution (however mild), it's worth noting that the author frames it as discipline from God.
Chapter 13
  • Verse 5: "Be content with what you have" - This one's a hard one for me (especially when I'm not sure how we'll make it to the time of our next paycheck).  Even allowing for the clar message that one should trust in God for one's income, when is it appropriate to ask for help?  Or is the act of asking a sign of not being content?
  • Verse 19 - Although the writer of Hebrews is anonymous, it seems the original audience must have known who it was.
  • Verse 23 - And the author apparently knows Timothy. 
James
Chapter 1
  • Verse 2 - Leaving aside the obvious oddity of being told to consider the facing of trials as "pure joy," I am reminded of the end of the beatitudes, where Jesus tells followers to rejoice in persecution because the prophets were so persecuted.
  • Verses 6-8 - I'd be lying if I didn't admit to having problems with this passage.  The insistence on being doubt-free makes prayer sound a bit too much like magic, and God a bit too much like a genie, for my tastes. 
  • Verse 13 - I wonder how the thought "God is tempting me" might be compared or contrasted with the thought "God is testing me."
Chapter 2
  • Verse 8 - How is "love your neighbor as yourself" a "royal" law?
  • Verse 26: "Faith without works is dead." - Much has been made of this line.  I think it bears emphasizing that the gist of this passage is not to advocate works in the sense of obeying a list of rules (as important as that may be for other purposes), but in living out one's faith in the manner of one's life--especially by treating people with respect and attending to people's needs.
Chapter 3
  • Verses 1-11 - I wonder which would be considered the greater sin for the would-be teacher; to know what is right, but fail to teach it fully or adequately, or to think that something "not right" is right, and to teach that falsehood as truth?



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