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Lessons 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 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.


From the New Testament: The Gospels 


The Gospel according to St. Luke

The Gospel of Luke was probably written between 80 and 90 C.E. after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 C.E.). The books of Luke and Acts were written by the same person, possibly an educated Hellenic Jew, fluent in Greek with a fine literary style, who had become a follower of Christ. Scholars refer to the books as Luke/Acts and treat them as a double volume, meant to be read and studied together, because the story of Christ told in Luke then broadens into the story of the early Church in Acts. Luke's gospel ends with Jesus' ascension and the disciples in the Temple, waiting to begin their ministries; Acts begins with the ascension and the return of Jesus' Spirit, guiding the disciples to the successful completion of their mission. Luke shows how the beliefs and prophecies of the Jews had pointed to the coming of the Messiah. His leading characters, including a young woman named Mary, are all faithful Jews who know the promises of God and are ready when he returns to dwell with his people and usher in his Kingdom on earth; but the promise is not exclusively for them. The Jewish faith expected that when God's glory was revealed, all people would see it. That's Luke's point: the Messiah is good news for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, and all of creation. Harold W. Attridge, the Lilian Claus Professor of New Testament at Yale University Divinity School says, "Luke's Jesus is very much interested in instilling compassion and forgiveness in his followers.... Jesus is probably at his most powerful in the gospel of Luke, from a variety of perspectives, as prophet, as healer, as savior, as benefactor."


From 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.