New Testament Study Helps
Introduction to the New Testament
Its Background and Literature
William L Lane, Th.D.
edited by C. Michael Smith, M.Div.
Introduction to the New Testament
Order of the Lessons
Introduction to the Gospels and Acts
Introduction and Overview
The Purpose of the Study
The aim of this study is to provide an opportunity to become better acquainted with the content of the New Testament (NT) and to learn how to study it intelligently. This will require that attention be given to understanding the occasion, form, and function of each book of the NT. Primary emphasis will be given to the life-situation (the social context) which called forth each document.
Bill Lane's Recommendations for Studying a NT Document
A. Use a modern translation rather than a paraphrase.
B. Read the document three times (each time in one sitting)
1. First read rapidly to get the "big picture¨ without being concerned with details.
2. Second read more slowly, noting, with references, the major thought-units, or narratives. At what point does one thought unit come to an end and another is introduced? Jot these down, with references.
3. Third read the final time, more slowly still, noting particular detail. Bill Lane says, "Any document read three times according to this pattern will become familiar material.¨
C. Create a notebook for each NT document entering your conclusions to the following:
1. Locate the main concern of the document. Express it in a single sentence.
2. Identify the purposes, or function, of the document.
3. Trace the course of the writer's thought, as he moves from one section to another. Express this in a simple outline.
4. Specify the occasion for the writing of this document.
5. Observe what this writing discloses about the writer. Note specific details (with references recalling Lane's Law: "An ounce of evidence is worth more than a pound of assertion.¨)
6. Develop an alertness to the elements contributed to the specific content and teachings of the NT by the document.
The Importance of Context
Words have meaning in a specific context. Words have meaning in sentences. Usually biblical sentences have meaning in relation to the proceeding and succeeding sentences. This is what is meant by literary context. You should be looking for the plain meaning of the text. What did the author intend to say? What would the readers have understood? The more you know about the historical context the better you can answer these questions.
We need to learn to be bilingual thinkers. That is, we need to learn understand the thinking of the 1st century recipients of the NT books before we translate that thinking to the eve of the 21st century.
Learn to ask the right questions of the biblical text. Learn to carefully read between the lines. What conversation took place to cause a specific response? Learn to ask, "Why?¨
Introduction to Paul the Servant Apostle to the Gentiles and His Letters
Acts 22:1-22 (see Acts 9:1-22; 26:1-23)
Acts 22:3 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city [Jerusalem v. 21:15]. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.¨
1. Born in Tarsus of Cilicia
2. Brought up in Jerusalem (Phil. 3:5 by saying he was a "Hebrew son of Hebrews¨ he is saying he was of Hebrew traditions and language. Bill Lane says this technical phrase should be understood to mean: "I am an Aramaic-speaking Jew born to Araimaic-speaking Jewish parents.¨
3. Educated and trained by Gamaliel (in Jerusalem). His one delight was to pursue the righteousness found in the law. (Phil. 3:5f Paul referred to his commitment to the law of God as trained: "...in regard to the law, a Pharisee, as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.¨)
Psalm 106:28-31 Phinehas, Paul's model of zeal (see Num. 25:10-13; 1 Maccabees 2:26, 54)
Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles called by God
If Paul sometimes called himself a "bondslave of Jesus Christ," he more often preferred the word "apostle," qualified by a rich variety of terms. His awareness of his place within the purpose of God finds its most pointed expression in his understanding of himself as "an apostle of Jesus Christ. As used by Paul, "apostle" means an authoritative representative of Christ, chosen by God to participate significantly in the vital task of proclaiming the gospel. When Paul designated himself a "called apostle," he means that God has called him to a task of utmost import--to be the ambassador of Christ through whom the powers of the new age have already been released. To be an apostle is to be caught up in the crisis of God's redemptive purpose which will culminate in a new order of existence.¨ (Bill Lane, The New Testament Speaks, p. 145)
What does this mean?
1. Nothing in Paul's upbringing and formal education prepared him for the task of being a missionary to a Gentile world! He was not a Jew living outside of Judea. He grew up in the city of Jerusalem in a Hebrew culture separated from the Gentile way of life.
2. Paul made a radical conversion after his confrontation with Jesus on the Damascus Road. His world was literally turned upside down. He moved from seeking righteousness through zeal for the law of God to believe that righteousness was only found through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-24; Phil. 3:7-9; Gal. 3:6; Rom. 4:3; 10:1-4).
3. Paul was first and foremost a Missionary to the Gentiles. He learns the language and culture of those he seeks to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ and communicates the gospel in the framework of that language and with their terminology (i.e. Phil. 2:14-18 ).
4. As a theologian Paul is a "Task Theologian" (Bill Lane's term). His task of being a missionary and Pastor are the context within which he communicated theology to his readers. It was in the context of human relationships, of conflict and anguish, of deep concern for the truth of the gospel and the freedom to which it called men, that Paul found the stimuli for theological reflection.¨ (Bill Lane)
5. By calling Paul a Task Theologian the emphasis falls on the word "Task". Again quoting Bill Lane: It was Paul's task to provide the rationale for the place of the Jews and the Gentiles in the redemptive plan of God, and to insist that the time for the inclusion of the Gentiles was now.¨
Reading a Pauline Letter
Paul is the person who made the letter a significant tool of mission. The average letter of Greek private correspondence was 89 words. Philemon is 338 words. Romans is over 7,000 words! A letter is a substitute for a personal visit. If an individual could not go personally he had two options: send a letter or send a representative(s). This being true, it is imperative to remember that Paul will do in a letter what he would do if he could be present in person!
The "Idea" of a letter: A letter is a written means of keeping conversation in motion. In its form, it corresponds to friends greeting, conversing, and bidding each other good bye. In short, it is oral speech at the threshold of writing. That is, it is one step removed from actual conversation. The basic need that created the setting for letter-writing was the need to converse with someone from whom the writer was separated. It was the desire to turn "separation" or "absence" (Gk. apousia) into "presence" (Gk. parousia). There are two aspects to this need: (1) The desire to maintain personal contact. (2) The need to impart information and/or make requests.
The Structure of a Letter: The structure and phrasing of a letter reflects the function(s) of the letter itself. The letter's two tasks (personal contact & impart information / make requests) are reflected in its structure. The function of the opening and closing sections of the letter is to maintain content. The body of the letter is the means by which information is imparted and or requests are made. Paul's letters show this three part structure:
Structure Structure Function Illustration
1. Opening "Hello¨ Visiting (Heart, Music, Frame)
2. Body or Message Conversation Information & Requests (Mind, Words, Picture)
3. Closing "Good bye¨ Visiting (Heart, Music, Frame)
The Conversations of a Letter:
A. The Letter Opening
1. The Salutation: A, the writer to B, the recepient(s), greetings (Deut. 19:15 cosenders)
2. The Health Wish: Paul's formula: ¡¥grace and peace¡¦ (Num. 6:24-26)
3. The Prayer Formula or Pronouncement of Blessing: In Paul¡¦s letters this usually takes the form of a thanksgiving formula. Paul lived in a culture that was mostly oral. So in the thanksgiving section he will ¡§telegraph¡¨ for his hearers one or more of his primary concerns in the letter. (i.e. Rom. 1:8-12; 15:14-33)
4. A Qualification of a Prayer Formula: The formula usually contains the verb ¡§to remember¡¨ or ¡§to make mention of¡¨ in the writer¡¦s prayers. (i.e. 1 Thess. 1:2)
B. The Letter Closing
1. The health wish: a prayer for the recipients' welfare.
2. Greetings: Greetings from Paul to individuals or for the recipients to convey to others. Greetings from those with Paul to the recipients. This may occur before the closing prayer.
C. The Body of the Letter: This is the part of the letter that immediately follows the opening remarks until you reach the closing remarks and greetings. Paul¡¦s Body Opening Formulas:
1. A Disclosure Formula: Rom. 1:13 ¡§I do not want you to be unaware ...¨ Phil. 1:12 "Now I want you to know ...¨
2. A Request Formula: 1 Cor. 1:10 "I appeal to you ...¨
3. An Expression of Joy: Philemon 7 "I have great joy and encouragement ...¨
4. An Expression of Astonishment: Gal. 1:6 "I am astonished that you ...¨
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