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Scriptures in Context

Martin Luther described the Bible as the cradle that holds Christ. Christians read the whole of Scripture and find meaning through Christ.

From the New Testament: The Gospels


The Gospel according to St. Mark

The first of the gospels to be written (c. 70 C.E.), and attributed to the companion of Peter and Paul (Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37-39; Colossians 4:10; Tim 4:11), the book of Mark is also the only one to declare itself a “gospel.” The author assembled various stories that were being told about Jesus and wrote them down. It is structured around Jesus’ baptism, transfiguration, and crucifixion. The gospel is meant to create and strengthen faith in Jesus and to develop disciples. Mark focuses our attention on the cross and Jesus' Godly identity realized in his servant life, suffering and death. It is on the cross that he makes God’s kingdom present and experiences his coronation. His disciples, too, find their true meaning in service and even suffering, for the cause of justice and mercy in the world.


The Hebrew Scriptur​es/Old Testament: The Prophets


The Book of Jeremiah

The Book of Jeremiah is attributed to Jeremiah who was "only a boy" when he received God's call to be a prophet. He played his major prophetic role during the last forty years of Judah's history; however, there is no clear chronological ordering of material in the book. It also jumps from topic to topic. It is written in both poetry and prose, with biographical narratives thrown in for good measure, the latter which are attributed to Jeremiah's secretary, Baruch. It seems to be a collection of varied material. This could be, in part, because when Jeremiah died in about 586 B.C.E., Baruch retold some of Jeremiah's sermons. This underscores that pre-exile prophets tended to be preachers rather than writers; many of Jeremiah's teachings were most likely passed down in oral form. Furthermore, what we have today reflects two forms, the Masoretic text (Hebrew) and the Greek text (Septuagint), which differ from one another. For example, the Septuagint Jeremiah is about 2,700 words shorter than the Masoretic text's Jeremiah. Jeremiah seems to be an "outsider," not part of the Jerusalem religious establishment as is his rival Hananiah. They do not preach the same message, the inference in Jeremiah being that Hananiah does not speak for God and is, therefore, a false prophet. Jeremiah believes that a prophet must challenge the people's collective conscience. He admonishes the nation to repent and assures them that God wants healing and reconciliation, not punishment. There is hope for a future beyond disaster and captivity (which Christians believe became a reality in Jesus Christ). Chapters 30–31 are often called the “book of consolation” because in them are gathered Jeremiah’s oracles of hope for an eventual renewal and restoration for Israel.


The New Testament: General Letters 


The Book of Hebrews

The book of Hebrews, composed about 70 C. E., is written in excellent and beautifully phrased Greek, possibly by someone living in Rome. In any case, it was written to Greek speaking Hebrews outside of Palestine. Tradition often assigns authorship to Paul, but this has been disputed from the first. Martin Luther, for instance, thought that the author might have been Apollos (Acts 18:24). Others have suggested that it could have been written by Prisca (Priscilla), a Roman woman and a Jewish convert to faith in Christ, who was also the teacher of Apollos (Acts 18:1-2, 18, 24-26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). (Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, as Jews, had been banished from Rome by Emperor Claudius because of troubles blamed on conflicts between Jews who believed in Jesus and those who did not. Claudius was relatively tolerant of other religions, but he balked at proselytizing.)


Hebrews warns and encourages. God's word brings both judgment and mercy - law and gospel. God extends a new covenant given through the sacrifice of Christ to the world. Martin Luther spoke of the "theology of the cross." Hebrews teaches that God is revealed on the cross.

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