New Testament

New Testament
Chapter 3
More than History
Objective #1 – To clarify the difference
between historical fact and
religious truth in the Bible. (p. 32 & 33)
Notes – There are many historical facts in
the Bible, but not everything
mentioned in the Bible is historical
(Jonah). Jonah is an inspired
parable, a story used to teach a lesson.
One lesson is that God wants
people to face their responsibilities and
never be afraid of doing
God’s work. Another lesson is that Jesus
used it to teach about his
own death and resurrection in the Bible
(King David and St. Paul)
- The Bible is an inspired book about
religious truth.
- The primary concern for the biblical
writers was divine revelation.
- Divine Revelation is God making
himself known to us. The fullness
of God’s revelation comes to us in
Jesus, the Word made flesh.
Objective #2 – To discover that biblical
writers depended
primaryly on oral tradition for the
passing on of information in the
faith community. (p.34 & 35)
Notes – It is in the events of history that
God deals with his people. It
was in history that; Abraham was called
by God, the only son of God
was born into the world, and Jesus chose
his apostles and founded the
- Modern people approach the truth
of history differently from
ancient people. Modern people can
read, and books are readily
- Ancient people memorized things
and passed them on by word of
mouth. That is why ancient writers
frequently set facts and
events into the form of a story that
was easy to remember. An
important characteristic of ancient
writers was their dependence
on oral tradition rather than on
written records.
-The formation of the gospels in the
New Testament took place in
three stages –
1. The life and teachings of Jesus.
Jesus actually lived and
moved among us in history. The
gospel accounts are based
on the ministry of Jesus, what he
did and taught from
about the years A.D. 28 to 30.
2. The oral tradition. The followers
of Jesus spread the good
news about him. The apostolic
preaching, in which the early
church interpreted the meaning
of what Jesus said and did,
lasted to about A.D. 65. By this
date many of the apostles
had died.
3. The written gospels. Finally the
gospel writers selected what
was important from oral
tradition and put it into written
form. They did this under the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Objective # 3 - To explore the basic
literary forms of prose and poetry;
to discover the literary form of the
gospel. (p.36 & 37)
Notes - A literary form is the type of
writing that an author uses to
get a message across. The two most basic
literary forms are prose and
poetry. Prose is the literary form closest
to our spoken language. We
use prose when we want to make direct
statements about something or
to present facts. Poetry is a more
imaginative type of writing that uses
symbols, sounds, and rhythms that
express things about our life in a
more emotional way.
- Awareness of literary forms is
important in understanding
literature. There is a big difference
in the way one reads prose
and poetry. This awareness is
important when we read the Bible,
for the Bible is literature, too. It
contains the literary forms of
prose and poetry. Knowing this will
help us to unlock the
meaning of this ancient text. In
doing so, it will release the power
of this divine and human word for
modern people.
- The first and most recognizable
literary form in the New
Testament is the gospel. A gospel is
an announcement of good
news. The word gospel means “good
In the New Testament there are four
gospels: the Gospels of
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Each one announces the good
news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The gospels give the story of
Jesus and the most important events
of his life. Although there is
much biographical detail in the
gospels, their primary purposes is
not to present a biography of Jesus.
Rather they hand on the
high point of God’s revelation to us
in Jesus Christ.
That is why they prompt us to
change our lives.
Objective # 4 - To explore other literary
forms of the New Testament
(p. 38 & 39)
Notes – The word epistle means “letter”.
In the New Testament there
are twenty – one epistles of varying length
and by different authors.
The most famous epistle writer was Saint
- Parable comes from a word that
means “to compare”. A parable
is a fictitious short story that uses
ordinary experiences of life to
teach a deeper spiritual lesson.
- The members of the early Church,
like those of today’s church,
sang hymns and songs when they
gathered for the liturgy and
other celebrations. This music
expressed some of their deepest
beliefs. Some of the words from
these hymns were incorporated
into the New Testament text.
- A genealogy is a listing of ancestors.
- A midrash is a distinctly Jewish
literary form. Midrash is a style
of writing that the New Testament
authors used to apply Old
Testament accounts to people in the
New Testament.
- Apocalyptic Writing is highly
symbolic and often uses images
describing future times and the end
of the world. In attempting
to describe the last moments of
world history, it speaks of
catastrophes and a struggle in which
God finally destroys the
forces of evil.
- Biblical writers used so many
literary forms because they were
dealing with the truth of divine
mysteries. One form is not
sufficient enough to express this
kind of truth.
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