Word Wednesday! Today we are kicking off the very first Gracefully Collected Bible Study on Zoom (of course, because social distancing). I am so excited! It is an honor to get to lead women through God's word! This will be an introduction for some, and a review for others, which is so amazing--even the most experienced Bible readers can get a fresh message with a well-trod passage of scripture. That's the supernatural aspect of God's word. Reading the bible is different than your typical book--it is living and active, and God himself will speak to you through it. It’s okay if that sounds weird to you, but I assure you, it is true. Read this and then go try it out.
In order to give you some foundation as we continue with Word Wednesday, here are a few basics about the Bible:
+ It is not just one book--it is a volume comprised of 66 different books, written by more than 40 authors.
+ The books were written over the course of 1500 years.
+ Parts of the Bible were written by kings. Half of the Psalms, a good chunk of Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes seem to be penned by royalty. But other parts of the Bible are written by farmers, fishermen, a tentmaker, homeless prophets, a doctor, a professional scribe, vocational musicians, pastors, etc. (from overviewbible.com)
+ Authors wrote in one of three languages (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic).
+ Split into two sections: Old Testament (also known to Jews as the Hebrew Bible, or the Tanakh), and the New Testament (Christian books and letters).
+ The time in between what is recorded in the Testaments is about 400 years.
+ It is the most verified, well documented piece of ancient literature in the world, based on number of manuscripts and non-religious historical attestations which support its veracity (reality/truth). (feel free to completely nerd out here with the details of manuscripts)
+ It is likely that the last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was written before 95AD, which is much too early for any legendary (read: inflated, false) information to be included. There were still eyewitnesses alive who could have contested the information which was being circulated. The earliest were written between 35AD and 50AD, and more than likely, all of the New Testament books were written and circulated prior to 70AD.
Fundamentals: Four Gospels, four views.
Let's say you have four close friends (and I hope you do!). If they were to write about you after your passing, they would each have a slightly different perspective ; there would be overlap and difference in their understanding of your personality and message, and nuance to how they view you, based on the lens through which they view the world. We would expect that each person might recall different events from your life which they believed were most pivotal and best illustrated your personality, your message, and your character. If you and your four friends had been at an event all together, each friend's memory of the specific details of the event (the details of setting, people in attendance, and words spoken) and HOW they describe what had happened would agree on the major points, but still have some granular differences. And don't worry--people much smarter than me have described this--it isn't my own invention.
This is true of the Biblical Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are harmonious in their agreement on the major points, but there are some granular differences, such as one gospel stating that there were two women at Jesus' tomb noticing the stone was rolled away and his body was gone, and another gospel noting only one woman. Well, if there were two women there, then there was one woman.
See how that can work? This is how investigators make sense of eyewitness testimony. Generally speaking when multiple witnesses give their testimony in a court of law, if there is exact, perfect agreement, most attorneys will agree that there is some sort of collusion involved, and that the witnesses are either lying or have been coached to keep a story consistent. Most attorneys want to see the individuals note the major points being the same, but variation in the fine details is appreciated in court. I hope that helps, and doesn't cloud the issue more. Anyway--
Some background on the Gospel of John
So for the next few weeks, we will be looking at John's testimony, which he graciously recorded for posterity. He focuses his biography on the establishing the divinity of Jesus, making the case that Jesus is the Son of God.
Most scholars over the years believed that the book of John was written between 85AD - 95AD, but more recently scholars believe it was likely written in the 50sAD, and definitely before 70AD, since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem occurred in 70AD, and there is no mention of this extraordinary event anywhere in the New Testament. It would have been a life altering event for all of the Jewish people in the region, and the omission is certainly notable. It would be like someone writing a biography of Rudy Giuliani during his time as mayor and his life in New York City, and not mentioning 9/11 and the fall of the Twin Towers. Sort of unthinkable, when we put it in those terms. Therefore, many scholars conclude that the fall of Jerusalem had not occurred before the time the New Testament was written.
I know this feels like a long way around. So here is where it nets out--John's entire book is focused on this point which he records in Chapter 20, verse 31. "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
It's that simple. John (and I daresay the whole Bible) is written as evidence that you may believe, and that your life may be changed.
There are a lot of friends out there who will discount what this means, and I get that. But, I promise, when you dive in to reading and understanding it, your life will be changed. For
Join our Zoom study, and find out for yourself! Details here
xo, Ann Marie