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What is Exegesis?

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Study on Biblical Exegesis.

Study on Biblical Exegesis.

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  • 1. WHAT IS EXEGESIS? Defining Terms 1. Exegesis (quot;reading out of a textquot;) is the process of uncovering the literal meaning of a text, i.e., what that text meant to the original, historical audience. 1. The historical meaning is the literal meaning. 2. Any reliable interpretation of a text must begin from this historical, literal meaning. 3. Hence, it must begin with exegesis. 2. quot;Readingquot; a text without consideration of its historical meaning results in quot;eisegesis,quot; i.e., reading into the text. 1. quot;Readingquot; a text a-historically means the reader gets whatever meaning he/she imposes upon the text. 2. Imposed readings are manifold, including spiritual readings, historicist readings, literalistic readings, and symbolic readings. None of these are readings of the text. They are readings of the reader. Purpose 1. The primary purpose of an exegetical paper is to demonstrate an understanding of the primary text through discussion of one of the main segments (one periscope), or through discussion of one of the major themes, which have been presented in the text. 2. The paper is to concentrate on the text itself, rather than upon secondary sources or modern issues that are comparable to the ones discussed in the text. Secondary sources may help you better to understand the issues involved, and modern issues may help you to realize the importance of the author's discussion; but the paper is to concentrate on the text itself. Task of Exegesis 1. The task of exegesis means carefully looking at passages from as many angles as possible, including asking any pertinent questions that will help determine their meanings 2. See the following resources for specific suggestions 1. Beginning N.T. exegesis 2. Beginning O.T. exegesis 3. N.T. Synoptic analysis 4. O.T. Source analysis
  • 2. 5. Suggested questions for N.T. exegesis 6. Suggested questions for O.T. exegesis Exegetical Research 1. The first step in exegesis is establishing the text by determining the length of the periscope. The beginning and ending must be established with care otherwise you can lose the author's original meaning. 2. The second step includes determining the original wording as best you can. In order to get back to the original text, one must examine all the evidence that would most likely give the original wording. To do this one must ask, quot;What wording would account for the history of the text?quot; In the New Testament, establishing the text relies on comparison of Greek manuscripts. Textual Criticism involves giving the best judgment about the original wording. 3. Translation: Changing a text into language that is familiar to the audience without changing its meaning or effectiveness. You want to be able to say that the translated text conveys the same thing to the mind as does the original text. 4. The historical context helps us to get a clearer sense of meaning and some general knowledge of the time. We need to know the historical background. Things that happened before the text and things that are written in it are also important. We need to know what things went on then in order to understand what they were saying. We also need to figure out the date for the text. We can see the other events and passages that relate to it. 5. Literary Context: -Establish the Relationship between your passage and the entire book in which it is found. Look at what comes before and after your passage. The meaning of a passage derives in part from its position in the overall text. Meaning depends upon what the readers already know and what they will find out. 6. Genre & Form Analysis: There are eight major genres in the Bible: law, historical narrative, gospel, illustrative narrative, wisdom, prophecy, hymnody and epistle. These genres can be written in either prose or poetry. Once you know the genre of the book, you can then determine the form of the smaller unit (your periscope), such as a law. This form can be further broken down into a subtype such as apodictic or unconditional law. Identifying the subtype of your periscope aids in making comparisons to other passages while also showing how it is unique. By identifying the form of the passage, you get a clue of the quot;life setting.quot; Then one can adapt the passage for new purposes and situations. It is important to pay attention to the characteristic features of a form to analyze it completely. Form analysis should be used to make comparisons with similar forms, not to date passages or evaluate their historicity. 7. Structure:
  • 3. 1. Analyzing the structure of the text is a distinct step in exegesis that allows you to pick out the important information in a text so it is easier to comprehend. Structure is a guide to the logic of the piece of writing you are reading. 2. Steps in Analyzing Structure 1. Outlining the passage: The pattern of the outline must match the rhythm of the information of the piece to help the reader follow the information Use the major points to list the information in steps When constructing the outline, the volume and significance of the material are important 2. Pattern Analysis: Any passage will be made up of certain key features: transitions, parallelisms, unique forms of phrase, etc. 3. Arrangement: It is easier to move from largest to smallest units of information -- identify what is important 4. Minor Patterns: Minor details may be irrelevant; they sometimes are added to help the story along. Focus on important info. 5. Poetic/Structural Patterns: The poem form and content must be related. It helps organize the information in a different way 8. Grammar: Since grammar is the logical substance of language, a correct understanding of grammar is essential in understanding the passage. The reader must analyze the grammar to determine if there are errors in the text. Since the OT was written over such a long period of time, analysis of the terms and grammar is a key in finding the date of the passage. Sometimes the grammar and words of the Hebrew language represent ancient preserved traditions. Others show centuries of copying accidents. In the NT, failure to appreciate the simple grammar and Greek words may cause a significant mis-understanding 9. Lexical analysis: finding out the meaning of the key words and terms in your passage 1. Identify the audience and unknown words 2. Focus on terminology of the original language 3. Conduct a word study in which all meanings of a word/term are considered 4. Decide which meaning applies 5. Naïve approaches to defining words are still widespread. 6. Take the meaning in its context 10. Synthesis: After examining the various meanings of the parts of a passage, the Bible scholar seeking to reproduce the original author's intent must see the individual pieces as parts of a greater whole, as a microscope would zoom out to see the larger picture of a specimen. Connections can be drawn between recurring themes within the passage, entire book, or the Bible overall. Vaguer
  • 4. connections between parts of scripture re still valuable in finding a broad notion of the original message. Finally, the passage can be scaled as either very important or less important to understanding the overall message of the Bible. Does the Bible's character hinge on this passage, or is it just a quot;side issue.quot; 11. Theology: Continuous study of the Bible's truth. Concerned with how the passage relates to understanding God and other issues. Each passage, while clarifying some things, also raises complications; these must be evaluated. Any passage of scripture has some contribution to make to theology, some are easily identified and others not. Must be careful in explaining the contribution. 12. Secondary Literature: To get the historical meaning, it is necessary to consult many kinds of books and articles. It is important to use the Bible itself, not just secondary sources. But, it helps to see what others have written, to test your interpretation of the text. One should keep revising previous conclusions. It is more credible to use secondary sources that show extensive research and that have a large following. Nevertheless, one must review the literature as thoroughly as possible and be informed accordingly. Exegetical Writing 1. Exegesis essays can be organized verse-by-verse, section-by-section, or by parts thought to be most important. Different passages require different levels of concentration. No two exegeses are the same, just as no two passages are identical. New Testament Exegesis Consider these questions while researching your text: 1. Are there any important textual variants? If so, where? Which is the better reading and why do you prefer it? 2. Are there any significant variations in translations? (Check this by comparing several modern ones, e.g., RSV, JPS, NAB, NJB, NEB, NASB, and NIV.) If so, where and why? Which is the better translation (or amalgam thereof) and why do you prefer it? 3. What are the basic introductory assumptions about the book in which this periscope is found? 1. Author 2. Date 3. Provenance 4. Audience 5. Purpose 6. Anything else we know
  • 5. 4. What is the source of this periscope (e.g., Mark, Q, M, L, John, Paul). How do you know this? 5. What form is this periscope? How do you know this? Are there signs that this form has been invaded (i.e., did an editor merge two forms or insert one in the middle of another)? If so, where are these signs, and what do they mean about how to read the periscope? 6. What role does this periscope play within the book in which it is found? How so? 7. What are the important persons, objects, institutions, and theological terms in this periscope? Based on your background reading in reference works, what is the significance of each of these? 8. What are this periscope with respect to: 1. Jesus? 2. The followers of Jesus who transmitted this tradition? 3. The evangelist/author? 9. In one or two sentences, what would you say is the basic meaning of this periscope for the original author and audience? How do you know this? 10. How has the author edited this periscope to serve her/his purpose? What literary and/or rhetorical tools has the author used? 11. In light of what this text meant to the author and the original audience, what can it mean for people today? How can this text be taught or preached to your chosen audience? Old Testament Exegesis Consider these questions while researching your text 1. Are there any important textual variants? If so, where? Which is the better reading and why do you prefer it? 2. Are there any significant variations in translations? (Check this by comparing several modern ones, e.g., RSV, JPS, NAB, NJB, NEB, NASB, and NIV.) If so, where and why? Which is the better translation (or amalgam thereof) and why do you prefer it? 3. What are the basic introductory assumptions about the book in which this periscope is found? 1. Author 2. Date 3. Provenance 4. Audience
  • 6. 5. Purpose 6. Anything else we know 4. What is the source of this periscope? How do you know this? 5. What form is this periscope? How do you know this? Are there signs that this form has been invaded (i.e., did an editor merge two forms or insert one in the middle of another)? If so, where are these signs, and what do they mean about how to read the periscope? 6. What role does this periscope play within the book in which it is found? How so? 7. What are the important persons, objects, institutions, and theological terms in this periscope? Based on your background reading in reference works, what is the significance of each of these? 8. What is this periscope with respect to: 1. The author? 2. The original audience? 3. The post-exilic community? 9. In one or two sentences, what would you say is the basic meaning of this periscope for the original author and audience? How do you know this? 10. How has the author edited this periscope to serve her/his purpose? What literary and/or rhetorical tools has the author used? 11. In light of what this text meant to the author and the original audience, what can it mean for people today? How can this text be taught or preached to your chosen audience? Guidelines of a basic Exegesis Research Essay Guidelines for Synoptic Analysis Purpose The purpose of doing synoptic analysis is to draw attention to major and minor differences and similarities in comparable materials (sayings & stories) among the four Gospels, and to begin to get a sense for various patterns that emerge from each Gospel. Procedure There are various ways in which one can approach a synoptic analysis. The following ten steps, however, should prove helpful as a general guide for examining specific parallel passages in the Gospels. IT WILL BE ESSENTIAL TO
  • 7. USE SECONDARY LITERATURE TO COMPLETE THIS ANALYSIS ACCURATELY AND CONCISELY 1. Read straight through the passage one Gospel at a time. 2. Read across the passage one verse at a time in each of the four Gospels (Matthew to Mark to Luke to John). 3. Compare and contrast the exact wording of the parallel passages you are examining. The use of colored pencils makes it easier to highlight similarities and differences between the various Gospels. I suggest using the following color scheme for underlining: 1. red: material in common across Matthew, Mark, & Luke (triple tradition) 2. blue: material in common only between Matthew & Luke (quot;Qquot; material) 3. green: material in common only between Matthew & Mark 4. orange: material in common only between Luke & Mark 5. brown: material in common between the Synoptic Gospels and John 6. Use an unbroken line (____) for exact agreements in order & wording. 7. Use a broken line (_ _ _) for agreements that aren't quite exact. 4. Note what you think are the most significant differences between the various Gospels in how they relate the parallel passage. Be aware that part of the process entails deciding what counts as a major difference and what is a relatively minor difference. 5. Determine what the form of the passage appears to be. Is it a miracle story? A pronouncement story? A parable? A collection of loose sayings of Jesus? In general, what is the passage about? 6. Can you identify a written source for the passages found in Matt and Luke? Assume the quot;two-source hypothesisquot; (Mark & Q were used by Matthew & Luke) in determining which source/sources Matthew & Luke used. 7. What is the larger literary context in which the passage occurs in each Gospel? Sometimes the context will be very similar in each Gospel, sometimes very different. What comes before and after the passage? (To check this it may be easier to look up the passage in each Gospel in a standard Bible rather than to use the Synopsis of the Four Gospels.) Is the passage closely connected to what comes before and after? If so, how? Does it continue a discussion or argument? Does it move on to another topic? Does it begin a new section, or cap off a section? In general, how does this passage fit into each Gospel as a whole? 8. What is the literary structure of the passage in each Gospel? Where and how do thought units begin and end? What are the major and minor divisions within the passage? Where does the emphasis fall?
  • 8. 9. What is the content of the passage in each Gospel? What is being said? Who are the main characters? How might you condense the passage into a single statement that gets at the whole? What is the punchline (if any)? 10. What observations can you make from the perspective of redaction criticism? How have Matt & Luke in particular shaped the passage to suit their own theological purposes? What changes have they made and why? How might these changes show the special theological concerns of Matthew & Luke? (Again, assume the two-source hypothesis.) How does Mark's version, and so Mark's theology, differ? If there is a parallel in John, how does it compare? Source and Historical Analysis 1. Content: 1. Identify the key features of the Biblical texts you are analyzing (genre, form, structure, etc.) 2. Given the features of the four Pentateuchal sources: 1. Which do you find in each of your texts? 2. Where do you find each of them? 3. In each case, what textual features contributed to your identification? 4. If there are places where sources are layered upon each other, with one or more later sources building on one or more earlier ones, where do you see those changes and how do they affect the content/meaning of the text? 3. What historical and theological significance do you see in the multiplicity of sources behind your texts? 4. What historical and theological significance do you draw from the fact that the core tradition is repeated in the Bible? Testament Exegetical Writings First Testament Include answers to each of the following questions: 1. What are the immediate and wider literary contexts for this periscope? 2. In what way(s) is this is an appropriate or inappropriate division for the periscope? 3. What do we know about the author of this periscope? 4. Who comprise the intended audience, and what do we know about them? 5. What is the immediate social context for this work? 6. What specific event(s) in the life of the author and contemporaries gave rise to this work?
  • 9. 7. Where and when was this periscope written? 8. What is the literary genre of the document in which we find this passage? 9. What is the wider historical context for this work? 10. If applicable, what was its original (oral) form? 11. What textual critical issues (including parallels) are raised by this periscope? 12. How are these textual critical issues or parallels significant? 13. What sources did the author use in writing this passage, and how were they shaped for this particular context? 14. What key terms do you find in this passage, and how would the author define them? 15. What is the central idea of this periscope? (I.e., what should the audience think/believe?) 16. What is the author's apparent aim in this passage? (I.e., what should the audience do?) 17. What does the author do (or omit) to make this passage persuasive (or not) to the initial readers? 18. What in this passage might be persuasive to a contemporary audience? How so? 19. What in this passage might a contemporary audience find lacking or problematic? How so? 20. What in your interpretation do you see as particularly quot;Catholicquot;—or how might a Catholic interpretation provide a different quot;takequot; on the passage than you have done here? (NB: remember that the quot;Catholicquot; model for interpretation requires the use of historical-analytical methods of exegesis.) Second Testament 1. What are the immediate and wider literary contexts for this periscope? 2. In what way(s) is this is an appropriate or inappropriate division for the periscope? 3. What textual critical issues (including parallels) are raised by this periscope? How are these textual critical issues or parallels significant? 4. Where and when was this periscope written? 5. Who comprise the intended audience, and what do we know about them? What is the immediate social context (class status, ethnic identity, economic level, etc.) for this work?
  • 10. 6. What do we know about the author of this periscope? 7. What specific event(s) in the life of the author and contemporaries gave rise to this work? What is the wider historical context for this work (i.e., what is happening in the world at large)? 8. What is the literary genre of the document in which we find this passage? What is the original (oral) form for this specific passage? 9. What sources did the author use in writing this passage, and how did she/he shape them for this particular context? 10. What key terms do you find in this passage, and how would the author define them? 11. What is the central idea of this periscope (i.e., what should the audience think/believe)? 12. What is the author's apparent aim in this passage (i.e., what action should the audience initiate and/or cease doing)? What does the author do (or omit) to make this passage persuasive (or not) to the initial readers? 13. What in this passage might be persuasive to a contemporary audience? How so? What in this passage might a contemporary audience find lacking or problematic? How so? 14. In what specific ways has this historical reading of your text added to your understanding of the passage? (NB: If you are inclined to say that this passage quot;means basically the same thingquot; to contemporary readers as it did to the ancient audience, it is a sign that you have not done your job in Qs 1-13 and need to try again from the top.) Examples of Exegetical Writings Luke 2:4-7 There are no textual critical issues regarding our passage. There are no references given that would enhance the process of determining the most reliable reading for this periscope. Luke does have some parallels to Matthew's gospel. They both refer to Joseph and Mary as Jesus' parents and also place them in Bethlehem at Jesus' birth. Other than these similarities, the two gospels greatly differ on the details of their infancy narratives. Luke describes the birth of Jesus very briefly. He explains how Joseph and Mary traveled from Galilee to Nazareth to Judea to Bethlehem to be enrolled. This had to be done because of the decree from Caesar Augustus that everyone be enrolled in the city of their lineage. Luke also says that Mary was betrothed to Joseph and with child when they arrived in Bethlehem. While they were there it became time for Mary to give birth. Luke says that she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in an inn.
  • 11. The innkeeper is never mentioned in the periscope. Lk 2:1-7 describes the setting of Jesus' birth in the context of Caesar Augustus' census. Only verses six and seven are devoted to the birth itself. Luke's emphasis is on the humble nature of Jesus' birth. quot;With few words Luke hints that Jesus was born in an animal stable, since he was laid in a manger or feed troughquot; (Gardner 337). This description is important to Luke because it will appeal to his audience. These parallels are significant because we are trying to discover the most reliable reading of a text. Therefore if more than one gospel includes specific information then there is the possibility of it being true. Through the parallels we are able to see how Luke structures his gospel. The structure of the account suggests quot;Luke interprets the significance of the birth in relation to world history, the context of the angelic announcement, and the visit of the shepherdsquot; (Keck 62). Luke writes for a specific audience in mind and therefore his story will be accessible to these people. The parallels between the gospels are useful in determining if a passage is historical or not. If the same story shows up in many sources and sounds the same, or if the same idea shows up in different forms and multiple times then it may be believed to be factual. Luke's gospel was quot;probably written in the 80s of the first century A.D., his story addresses the church at large and does not seem to reflect the specific concerns of any particular group of people or the situation in any particular geographic locationquot; (Gardner 336). Luke uses the reference to Caesar Augustus and the census in order to shape his story. Luke says that everyone had to return to the city of their lineage under Caesar Augustus' rule; this shapes the gospel story to include quot;eventsquot; and rulers of the time. Also Augustus quot;was widely acclaimed as a bringer of peace. By relating Jesus' birth and the accompanying angelic announcement of 'peace on earth' to Augustus's decree, Luke is able subtly to proclaim that the true bringer of peace was not Caesar Augustus but Jesus the Saviorquot; (Keck 63). It was important for Luke to convey to his audience that they should be worshipping Jesus not Caesar. Also because of the census, Joseph had to return to Bethlehem, allowing Luke to explain how it was that Jesus was born there. This also shows that Jesus was a descendent of David and was born in the quot;city of David.quot; Luke says that Jesus was born in a manger; this may suggest that he was writing for people who would be able to relate to the setting of the story. Since Matthew wrote for a more sophisticated audience his infancy narrative has Jesus being born in a house. Luke's detail about the manger may emphasize the humbleness of Jesus, quot;but interpreters have often read it as foreshadowing the failure of humanity to receive the Lordquot; (Keck 63). Because how could the Son of God have been born in a manger and not a castle? Key terms in our passage would begin with all the places Joseph and Mary traveled through: Galilee, Nazareth, Judea and Bethlehem. These are significant because it tells us the location of Jesus upon his birth. Bethlehem is especially important because it is the quot;city of Davidquot; and emphasizes Jesus' lineage to David. Also it would be important to know that when Luke says, quot;enrolledquot; he is speaking about Caesar Augustus' census, where he wanted a record of everyone
  • 12. in the world. Joseph and Mary had to enroll so that they would be on this record. The word quot;betrothedquot; is significant because the reader needs to know that Mary was promised to marry Joseph. They were not married at the time Jesus was conceived and this was considered adultery. Also when he says Mary was quot;with childquot; signifies she was pregnant. Luke also points out that Jesus was Mary's quot;firstbornquot; son. It is said that quot;if the first, not the only; if the only, not the firstquot; (Keck 63). This term may mean that Jesus had siblings. Other key terms would be quot;wrapping in swaddling cloths.quot; This was a common practice that demonstrated maternal care and was done to keep the child's limbs straight. The term quot;mangerquot; is significant. It was a feeding trough that Jesus was placed in. The quot;innquot; refers to a place where travelers could spend the night, a guest room in a house, or the sleeping area in a single-room peasant home. The central idea of this periscope is to show that the son of God was born in such a humble, simple way. Luke believed it was important to place Jesus' birth in this way so it could give hope to all people (no matter what their class was). He wanted to convey to them that Jesus was not a God like they thought Caesar to be, but a God who was accessible to all people. He wanted to show how this great man, the son of God could come from the most unlikely place. For Luke, Jesus is the one who reconciles humans with each other and with God. Forgiveness of sins and debts is important to Luke. It was also important for Luke to tell his audience about the virginity of Mary. She was betrothed to Joseph but they had not been together. This shows the miracle of how Jesus came into being. The author’s aim in this passage is to make Jesus out to be a humble person, and he does this with the circumstances surrounding his birth. He was not born into wealth. He could have come in all grandeur and glory of the upper world, but he did not. He was born poor for our sake. Because of the circumstance of Jesus birth and the way that he grew up and his affiliation with the poor is suppose to help the audience to better understand Jesus and to better understand his teachings and his alignment with the poor. The passage suggests that since we are followers of Jesus we all should all be as humble as he was. The author in this passage does not indicate that Joseph had any wealth or that he and Mary ever lived in a house, which makes it seem as though they are poor travelers. This enables the audience to believe that because they were poorand Jesus would also be poor and would remain in that state throughout his life. The fact that Luke says that Jesus was born in a manger would appeal to a contemporary audience because of the situations that many people live in today and the situations that many people are exposed to in today’s society such as poverty and homelessness. However a contemporary’s understanding of this passage may be difficult because of the fact that Jesus is from the house of David and because of this there should have been no reason why Joseph should not have had some type of wealth.
  • 13. A Catholic interpretation might be different than my take in that they may not see Jesus and his parents as being poor at all. However they may see them as being rich because they were blessed in receiving the job of caring for an individual that was going to bring salvation to the word through his preaching and healing. They may have not been rich in material things, but they were rich spiritually. The Parable of the Sower: Luke 8:5-8 quot;The Parable of the Sower and the Seedquot; (Lk 8:5-8) was written was to illustrate Jesus’ power and his identity (Brown 240). In this periscope, Luke writes about Jesus’ parables and how he used them to illustrate his messages to his followers. This periscope is appropriately divided. The Parable of the Sower is not just a passage put in the middle of the section. Before the passage, Galilean women follow Jesus wherever he goes because he cured them. Jesus was going from town to town proclaiming the Good News and when a large group gathered around him, Jesus spoke of the Parable of the Sower. After the parable, Jesus explains the meaning of the parable. Jesus then told another parable to the crowd. Luke is from Syria and possibly from the city of Antioch but he did not work for the church of Antioch. Originally Luke was not Jewish; he was converted by Paul and Barnabas. He was also a physician. Luke was a gifted literary artist and is accredited for writing the Acts of the Apostles (Brown 267). Luke was a fellow worker and traveling companion of Paul. He joined Paul at Traos and then accompanied him to Philippi in Macedonia. Luke then stayed in Philippi for about seven years to assist with the newly founded church. Luke was Paul’s constant companion up to the first imprisonment at Rome. He again accompanied Paul between the first and second imprisonment’s up to Paul martyrdom in Rome (Dowd 106-107). Luke intended his audiences to be Jewish Christians with Greek background. Some of his writings were to the Roman officials. He is trying to persuade them to deal freely with the Christians. Scholars could not agree on a date for Luke, but it is generally agreed that it was written between 75-85 CE. It took about 2 years to complete, and it is possible that he was in Rome when it was written. Nero was the emperor during the time Luke was writing. He prosecuted Christians his entire reign. Rome was recently burned in 64 CE. Peter and Paul are put to Death. The First Jewish Revolt takes place from 66-70 CE (Brown 273-274). Luke begins his gospel in a manner similar to ancient historians. 'In as much as many have undertaken to compile a narrative...it seemed good to me also... to write an orderly account for you...’ In the least this implies two things: 1) Luke was aware of written (and oral) sources based on eyewitness accounts. 2) Luke used some of these sources in the composition of his gospel.quot;
  • 14. There is a textual issue concerning this periscope. There is a direct link to the same parable in Matthew (13:3-9). This is significant because one of the authors may have copied from the other. It is important to see which one was written first and to see if one is more credible. Here are some possible reasons why Luke and Matthew are so much in agreement: coincidences by their redactional treatment of Mark, the overlapping of Q, textual corruption, and overlapping oral traditions. One possible theory is that of Griesbach. It says that Matthew influenced Mark and Luke, and Luke influenced that mark. This can be said because some parts of Luke and Matthew are so similar, and because there are no parts of mark in Matthew. One key word that was discovered was the word quot;seedquot;, which in this case means the word of God. The central idea of this periscope is that the seed is the word of God. The people think they need to follow the path but the devil comes and takes away the words from their hearts and they believe that they can not be saved .The audience should not sway away from God. Knowledge can be perceived in many different forms. The seed may look but not see or hear yet still understand. This passage is quot;Catholicquot; because Jesus is saying that all are welcome as long as they are willing to open their ears and listen. Luke does not have all of the details that the other authors write about. He tries to get his message across without going in to detail about what the soil is like. He uses a sower because sowing seed by hand is something that the people would have know about. A contemporary audience may be persuaded because Jesus says, quot;Let anyone with ears to hear listenquot;. This may be interesting because in today’s society, things are so individualistic, and Jesus is saying that there is one message for all people. A contemporary audience might not be able to relate to a sower very well. In our modern society, very few people sow many seeds by hand. Perhaps if it were rewritten with a different occupation as the focal point more contemporary Christians would be able to relate to it. Parable of the Wicked Tenants quot;This passage is closely linked to the preceding paragraph (11:27-33) in which the question of authority is put to Jesus by a hostile group of chief priests, scribes, and elders.quot; (Williamson, pg. 213) In Mark 12:1-12, Jesus is taking the offensive against them. He tells the story in a way that describes the wrongdoings of the elite’s, and shows them that they are using their power in the wrong way. The passage that follows the Parable of the Wicked Tenants is another story about people coming to Jesus because he is the authority figure, and all knowing. The people are asking Jesus whether or not to pay Rome taxes in the name of Caesar the Lord. quot;Some Jews are convinced that one could not be a Jew and honor Caesar as Lord, a title reserved for God.quot; (Juel, pg. 164) These three passages deal with the power and authority of Jesus as Lord. Due to the fact that is a parable, this passage can be read alone; it is not necessary to read this passage along side other passages in order to understand
  • 15. the parable. This passage is simply a parable in which the author intends to show the rejection of quot;a way of life demanding unselfish service to others and that people have been rejecting that option down through the centuriesquot; (Vickers, 181). However, as Paul V. Vickers, author of Person to Person: The Gospel of Mark, states, quot;This parable is clearly a sequel to the argument with the temple authorities in [Mark 11]quot; (Vickers, 183). Therefore, there is an appropriate division for the pericope. While further understanding can be found when reading in connection to Mark 11, Mark 12:1-12 is not dependent upon the argument with the temple authorities. Mark (a.k.a. John Mark) was not actually a follower of Jesus Christ but was a follower of Peter. He was learned about the acts and words of Jesus through oral and written tradition. He was a companion of Paul but for a period of time he and Paul had a falling out and did not get along with each other. They made up and were companions once again. In Rome during the 60’s A.D. he was a helper of Peter and Paul before they were killed. He was a Jewish Christian of Jerusalem. Peter actually witnessed the acts of Jesus and Mark didn’t. Mark wrote this pericope for a Jewish audience. There is strong use of Jewish symbolism present in this passage. One example of this symbolism is the Jewish tradition reflected in the motif of the maltreated messengers. It was widely believed by Jews that their people had constantly rejected and abused God’s prophets. It is urged by some interpreters that the parable quot;in its original form denounced Israel as a whole for its rejection of the prophets and Jesusquot; (Hare 150). But now, in its present form, it is evident that the story pertains to Israel’s leaders rather than the people. The parable is directed against the Jerusalem council, not against the Jewish people as a whole (Hare 152). This passage is clearly written for the aristocrats of the society: religious leaders, scribes, and elders. In fact, Williamson sees the characters of the pericope as symbols representing actual people. The owner of the vineyard is God himself, the vineyard is Israel, the tenants are the religious leaders, the servants are the prophets, and the son (who was killed) is Jesus. The passage is used to remind the leaders of Israel that they are abusing power and Jesus has the real power. This basis for this passage is the realization by the author of a way of life that has been occurring in his time, which is very selfish. In particular, as Vickers states, many generations had been living a very selfish way of life and the author intended to show the people of his time that quot;anyone who rejects self- centeredness and strives to love others is living from the love made incarnatequot; (Vickers, 182). Also, this passage was written as a quot;condemnationquot; of the way Jewish leaders were behaving as far as their threats against the Son of God (Vickers, 184).
  • 16. It is believed that this was written around 60 A.D. because Mark wrote this around the time of Peter. The gospel was written in Rome because that is where Peter died. Plus the Latin grammar of the gospel is evidence that it was written in a place that speaks Latin, Rome. The Webster’s Dictionary defines a parable as, quot;a short, simple story teaching a moral lessonquot; (310). In Mark’s passage Jesus says quot;The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?quot; (12:11-12). Jesus tells a short story first and then ends with this final statement, which is the moral lesson that makes this pericope a parable. The passage was written during Nero’s reign in Rome (54-68). Nero was an oppressive leader, and chaos and instability mired his reign. There was much turmoil when he was the leader, and this passage could have been written to reflect the times. The people were confused as to whom they should follow, and Jesus is attempting to set them straight. After looking at this passage compared to the similar passages of Matthew 21:33- 46 and Luke 20:9-19, it seems as though Mark may have been written first, along with a Quelle (Hamerton 27). This suggests the two-source theory because Matthew and Luke contain similarities to Mark such as the order of killing and wounding the servants sent by the tenant. However, Matthew and Luke present these similarities in a condensed form. Also, the fact that Matthew and Luke present different parables in the end suggest possibly an outside oral source (Matt 21:43 and Luke 20:18). There are a few parallels raised in the passage. For example Matthew 3:17 and Luke 3:22, 9:35 show similarities and are tied in with this part of Mark. Another parallel present is Matthew 17:5 which reads quot;But even as he said it, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, and I am wonderfully pleased with him. Obey him.’quot; This is a parallel because it refers to Jesus in our Mark passage (the son of God). Also, how he should have been listened to. Since Mark was the first of the synoptic gospels, it is not likely that he could have used Mt or Lk as sources. The author of this allegorical work could have used Q as an outside source, or possibly oral tradition. The author took what he knew or learned from an outside source and shaped the entire piece into an account of
  • 17. Jesus’ life. He also attuned the work to reflect what was occurring in Rome during his time. The key term in this passage is quot;rejected.quot; It can be very ambiguous as to what the author is suggesting be rejected. Is the reader being told to reject Jesus? Is the reader being told to reject the Word of God? In fact, what the reader is being told to reject is the selfish lifestyle. Basically, the quot;rejectionquot; deals with making a distinction between good and evil and between unselfish love and the quot;fundamental selfishness that powers the lives of men and womenquot; (Vickers, 181). The central idea of the pericope is the leaders of Israel (the tenants) rejected and killed prophets sent by God (the owner’s slaves) and then rejected and killed Jesus the Son of God (the owner’s son). In response, God destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and Israel (the vineyard) was given to the Gentiles (the owner will come and kill those men and turn the vineyard over to other tenants). Since this passage is a parable, Mark has a very specific aim for his audience. Jesus tells the story so express a point, a moral. The lesson that is learned in this section is present in many other parts of the Bible. Psalm 118:22-23 reads, quot;The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.quot; The same moral is recorded in Isaiah, Thomas, Matthew and Luke. So when Mark writes this story he is trying to get Jesus’ words out to the people. And he is saying that everything and everyone has importance. The stone that was rejected became the most important part of the building. The writer makes the passage persuasive be using symbols that represent powerful objects. The use of the vineyard representing Israel and the tenants representing the religious leaders can have a lasting impact on the reader. The author makes Jesus seem very strong and worthy leader by using the symbols that represent what is really happening. The passage also discredits Rome, which has a persuasive effect. The entire idea of rejecting selfishness and shifting our focus from our own lives to the life of Jesus and the Word of God is what was most persuasive to the audience which the author wrote to and also to a contemporary audience. Contemporary audiences also will be persuaded by the notion in the passage, which suggests that for the love of God to work through us, we must reject selfishness in our lives.
  • 18. A contemporary audience might find a problem with this gospel saying that Israel was taken away from the Jewish leaders when Israel currently is in the possession of Jewish leaders. A Catholic interpretation, however, would be literal. They would believe that the religious leaders were abusing their power. References * Hamerton, Robert G. The Gospel and the Sacred. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1994. * Hare, Douglas R.A. Mark. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996. * Juel, David H. Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament Mark. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1990. * Vickers, Paul V. Person to Person: The Gospel of Mark. Westchester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1998. * Webster’s New World Dictionary.: Macmillan, 1995 * Williamson, Lamar. Mark Interpretation. Atlanta, GA: John Knox, 1983.

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