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New Testament Tales - What did Jesus say?

What did Jesus say?
1. about divorce?
2. about homosexuality?
3. about murder?
4. about sex outside marriage?
5. about the unforgivable sin?
6. about forgiveness?
7. about judging?
8. about women?
9. about perfection?
10. about eternal damnation?

It’s interesting sometimes to separate what Jesus said from what is taught in church. For example, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, even though it (or more strictly, bisexuality) was almost the norm for rich Greeks. Jewish society must have been aware of its existence, just as they were aware of eunuchs, who Jesus does mention. Jesus’ teaching on divorce (Mark 10:5; 10:10, Matt 5:31;19:4) has led to different churches defining different rules. His words were prompted by a question concerning Moses’ rules (Deut 24:1-4) made because of our hardness of heart (therefore similar to rules resolving restitution after injury). There’s no indication, in the Bible or the world, that our hearts might have softened with time. Perfect marriages are God’s design,…

New Testament Tales - Jesus' Teaching

Jesus’ Teaching
1. What are the beatitudes?
2. How did Jesus make the law even stricter?
3. How did Jesus make the law gentler?
4. When did Jesus disagree with the customary law?
5. What methods of teaching did Jesus use?
6. How did Jesus include women in his teaching?
7. How did Jesus include foreigners in his teaching?
8. How did Jesus include helpers in his ministry?
9. How did Jesus make it clear he wasn’t just a good man?
10. How often did Jesus prophesy his death?

The Beatitudes are often viewed as Jesus’ ministry manifesto. The rules of his culture demanded that one could only be “right” with God if one obeyed all the laws; obedience to law was ensured by couching each rule in others that protected people from accidental disobedience. Jesus, by contrast, suggested we can tell we’re right with God by what we are (by our attitudes), rather than what we do. Of course, that makes it harder to judge whether our neighbor is right with God, but as Jesus says, “Judge not.”

One problem with protect…

New Testament Tales - Jesus' Parables

Jesus’ Parables
1. Which Gospel includes the most parables?
2. Which Gospel includes the fewest parables?
3. How many parables are there in the gospels?
4. What have mustard seeds got to do with the kingdom of God?
5. What has yeast got to do with the kingdom of God?
6. What is a Pearl of Great Price in the Bible?
7. Why was the Samaritan good?
8. Are sheep better than goats?
9. Should we always try to pull weeds out of our gardens?
10. Why do we pray?

John’s gospel, being written later and for a much more educated audience, retells Jesus’ teaching in many long sermons without parables. But the other gospels include parables as the primary teaching tool, with Luke containing slightly more examples than Matthew, and Mark containing fewest. It seems likely that Jesus had a wealth of stories that he used in teaching, and differences in detail or emphasis between stories probably represent different times that the same story was used.

Parables were a common form of teaching, but Jesus told his discip…

New Testament Tales - Jesus' Miracles

Jesus’ Miracles
1. How many times did Jesus raise the dead?
2. What was Jesus’ first miracle?
3. How many lepers does the Bible say Jesus healed?
4. When did Jesus use physical items in healing someone?
5. Where do Peter’s Fish get their name?
6. Why couldn’t Peter walk on water?
7. Who slowed Jesus down on his way to heal someone?
8. Why did the pigs run over the cliff?
9. Which miracle made the disciples ask “Who is this?”
10. What are the essential ingredients of any healing?

The four gospels don’t include all the same miracles with the same order and details. While they were written relatively soon (for historical documents) after the events they describe, they’re clearly not blow-by-blow newspaper diaries. But in those days it was far more important to group related facts together in writing, rather than depicting events chronologically. (Have you ever tried choosing between writing chronological minutes for a meeting, and writing a clear account of what was discussed?)

Turning water into wi…

New Testament Tales - Jesus' Disciples

Jesus’ Disciples
1. Which disciples were brothers?
2. Which disciples followed Jesus first?
3. Which disciple was a serious student?
4. Which disciple was a tax collector?
5. Which disciple first recognized Jesus as the Messiah?
6. Which disciple had four daughters?
7. Which disciple died first?
8. Which disciples were present at the raising of Jairus’ daughter?
9. Which disciples were present at the transfiguration?
10. Which disciple betrayed Jesus?

According to John’s gospel, Andrew and one other disciple of John the Baptist left him to follow Jesus. Andrew ran to his brother Simon, announcing “We’ve found the Messiah!” According to Origen, Andrew preached in Asia Minor, the Volga and Kiev, becoming the patron saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia. (He’s also the patron of Scotland, following legends that his relics were supernaturally brought to St Andrews from Constantinople.) Tradition (based on non-gospel accounts) has him starting the first church in Byzantium (or Constantinople), and dyi…

New Testament Tales - Jesus' Journeys

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Jesus' Journeys
1. How far did Jesus’ family travel from Bethlehem to Egypt?
2. How far did they travel from Egypt to Nazareth?
3. How far from Nazareth was Jesus baptized?
4. Where did Jesus go after his baptism?
5. Where did Peter’s family live?
6. Where did Jesus first recorded miracle take place?
7. Where did Jesus meet a woman at a well?
8. Where did Jesus meet the Gerasene demoniac?
9. Where did Jesus preach on the mountain?
10. Where did Jesus calm the sea?

Nazareth was in the North-eastern part of Israel, in Galilee. Bethlehem and Jerusalem were in Judea, and Samaria lies between Galilee and Judea. The “best” route from Galilee to Judea would follow the Jordan river on the Eastern edge of Samaria, since Samaritans and Jews didn’t like each other. Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 68 miles, at least two days’ journey. From Bethlehem to the nearest stopping place in Egypt was probably about 100 miles, or around four days’ journey.

John baptized in the River Jordan, which flows from the Se…

New Testament Tales - Out of Heaven

Out of Heaven
1. What Old Testament prophecies refer to the birth of Jesus?
2. What Old Testament prophecies tell us about Jesus’ life?
3. What Old Testament prophecies tell us about Jesus’ death?
4. Which angel spoke to Elizabeth?
5. Which angel spoke to Mary?
6. Which angel spoke to Joseph?
7. How many times does the Bible say God spoke out loud to Jesus?
8. How many times does the Bible say Jesus spoke out loud to God?
9. What holy names did Jesus use to refer to himself?
10. What did other people say Jesus was called?

Christians recognize many Old Testament prophecies as referring to Jesus though other interpret them differently. For example, Isaiah says a virgin will bear a child, but “virgin” could mean young girl; he could be prophesying that a war will be over when a boy about to born comes of age. Christians read many prophesies as having three meanings—one obvious when the prophesy was made, a second true for all time (e.g. that God is always “Immanuel”—God with us), and a third, futur…