The nobleman (Lk 19:12-19:12)

 

“Thus,

Jesus said.

‘A nobleman

Went

To a distant country

To get royal power

For himself.

Then he would return.’”

 

εἶπεν οὖν Ἄνθρωπός τις εὐγενὴς ἐπορεύθη εἰς χώραν μακρὰν λαβεῖν ἑαυτῷ βασιλείαν καὶ ὑποστρέψαι.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said (εἶπεν οὖν) that a nobleman (Ἄνθρωπός τις εὐγενὴς) went to a distant country (ἐπορεύθη εἰς χώραν μακρὰν) to get royal power for himself (λαβεῖν ἑαυτῷ βασιλείαν).  After that, he would return later (καὶ ὑποστρέψαι).  This might have been a hint about the local leaders going to Rome to get their royal powers.  It may also be about Jesus going to heaven and then returning at the last judgment or the Second Coming.  However, there was the overriding theme of the need for responsibility, productivity, and not laziness.  There was something similar in Matthew, chapter 25:14, where the story is about a man with a household of slaves and not a nobleman as here.  The slaves were given money to take care of things while the rich man was gone.  In Matthew, Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven would be like a man going on a journey (Ὥσπερ γὰρ ἄνθρωπος ἀποδημῶν).  This very generous man called or summoned his slaves (ἐκάλεσεν τοὺς ἰδίους δούλους) to entrust them or give them his property and possessions, while he was gone (καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτοῖς τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ).  In Mark, 13:34, Jesus said that the end times would be like a man going on a journey (ὡς ἄνθρωπος ἀπόδημος).  He left his house (ἀφεὶς τὴν οἰκίαν αὐτοῦ).  He gave his slaves the authority (καὶ δοὺς τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ τὴν ἐξουσίαν) to perform their own individual tasks (ἑκάστῳ τὸ ἔργον αὐτοῦ).  He commanded a doorkeeper to stand watch over this whole situation (καὶ τῷ θυρωρῷ ἐνετείλατο ἵνα γρηγορῇ).  However, the story for Mark ended there, unlike Luke and Matthew that have more details about the slaves in this household.  What do you do when you go on a long journey?

The women followers (Mk 15:40-15:40)

“There were also women

Looking on

From a distance.

Among them were

Mary Magdalene,

Mary,

The mother

Of James the younger,

And of Joseph,

And Salome.”

 

Ἦσαν δὲ καὶ γυναῖκες ἀπὸ μακρόθεν θεωροῦσαι, ἐν αἷς καὶ Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ Μαρία ἡ Ἰακώβου τοῦ μικροῦ καὶ Ἰωσῆτος μήτηρ καὶ Σαλώμη,

 

This is similar to Matthew, chapter 27:55-56.  In Luke, chapter 23:49, there was a mention of the women from Galilee, but without their specific names.  In John, chapter 19:25-27, there was a mention of the mother of Jesus, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, as well as a conversation, but no mention of Galilee.  Mark said that some women were also there (Ἦσαν δὲ καὶ γυναῖκες).  They were looking on from a distance (ἀπὸ μακρόθεν θεωροῦσαι), which would have been their normal role.  Mark specifically mentioned Mary Magdalene (ἐν αἷς ἦν Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ), Mary, the mother of James the younger and Joseph (καὶ Μαρία ἡ Ἰακώβου τοῦ μικροῦ καὶ Ἰωσῆτος μήτηρ), as well as Salome (καὶ Σαλώμη).  Was Salome the mother of the sons of Zebedee?  Certainly, there were a lot of women called Mary, since it was the most popular name of Palestinian Jewish women at the time of Jesus.  There probably were 8 different women with the name of Mary in the 61 times that the name Mary was mentioned in the New Testament.  First was (1) Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was not mentioned here.  Next there was (2) Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who also was not mentioned here.  (3) Mary of Clopas was mentioned in John, but not here.  Then there was Mary Magdalene (4), who was mentioned here.  Finally, there were the more confusing Marys.  (5) Mary, the mother of James the younger and Joseph, who was mentioned here.  (6) Perhaps the mother of the Zebedee brothers was also named Mary or Mary Salome.  Finally (7) Mary, the mother of John Mark was mentioned in Acts, chapter 12:12, while (8) Mary in Rome, was mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 16:6.  There was also an English novel by Bruce Marshall (1899-1987) called The Other Mary from 1927, based on the New Testament.

Title

The Gospel according to Mark

τὸ κατὰ Μᾶρκον εὐαγγέλιον,

What is a gospel?  Who is Mark?  The musical play “Godspell” that opened on Broadway in 1971, was based on the Old English ‘godspel.’  Like the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, this Germanic based word gospel means good news or good tidings.  This term originally meant the Christian message itself.  However, in the second century, it came to be used for the books where this message was set out.  Thus, the gospels became known as the written accounts of the life, actions, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  This Gospel of Mark is anonymous since there is no explicit mention of a named author within the text itself.  This title (Τὸ κατὰ Μᾶρκον εὐαγγέλιον), however was added some time in the second century, perhaps by Papias of Hierapolis (60–130 CE), an early bishop and apostolic father.  Traditionally, this work has been ascribed to John Mark, the companion of the apostle Peter, who may have transcribed the teachings of Simon Peter.  This John Mark was the son of a widow named Mary as indicated in Acts, chapter 12:12.  He also accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys, since he was also the cousin of Barnabas, as indicated in Colossians, chapter 4:10.  However, he  left Paul and Barnabas for some unknown reasons in Acts, chapter 13:13.  Today, most scholars agree that his anonymous Gospel of Mark was the first written gospel, probably written between 66–70 CE, during Emperor Nero’s persecution of the Christians in Rome or the Jewish revolt.  Thus, the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark with a second document called the Q source.  This short Gospel of Mark was written for a gentile audience in a simple Greek style that is often called “street Greek.”  This Greek style is thus vivid and concrete showing a very active Jesus with less teaching or preaching.  Mark explained Jewish traditions and translated Aramaic terms for his Greek-speaking Christian audience who would not have understood them.  Some suggest Rome as the origin of this gospel since there are some Latin terms.  Others have suggested Antioch, the 3rd largest city in the Roman Empire.  This author may have been influenced by Greco-Roman writings, but all his references are from the Jewish Greek version of the Septuagint Bible or the Old Testament.

 

 

 

 

Title

“The Gospel according to Mathew”

 

Τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον

 

What is a gospel?  Who is Matthew?  The English term gospel comes from the Old English ‘godspel.’  There was a musical play with the name “Godspell” that opened on Broadway in 1971.  Like the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, gospel means good news or good tidings.  This term originally meant the Christian message itself.  However, in the second century, it came to be used for the books where this message was set out.  Thus, the gospels became known as written accounts of the career and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  This Gospel of Matthew is anonymous, since there is no explicit mention of a named author within the text itself.  This title (Τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον), however was added some time in the second century, perhaps with Papias of Hierapolis (100–140 CE), an early bishop and apostolic father.  The apostle Matthew was among the early followers and apostles of Jesus.  He was a first century Galilean, the son of Alpheus.  As a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek.  His fellow Jews would have despised him because he was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force.  What we do know for certain is that the author of this gospel was probably a traditional male Jew, familiar with the technical and legal aspects of Hebrew Scripture.  He wrote in a polished Semitic synagogue Greek style.  Most scholars hold that the Gospel of Matthew was a product of the last quarter of the 1st century, a work of the second generation of Christians, probably sometime between 70-110 CE, or more precisely between 80-90 CE.  The defining event for this community was the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, during the Jewish–Roman War of 66–73 CE.  The author of this Gospel of Matthew wrote for a community of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians probably located in Syria, just north of Galilee.  Antioch was the largest city in Roman Syria and the third-largest city in the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria.  This is where the term “Christian” was first used.  Thus, it would seem like an appropriate place for Jewish Christians in the second half of the first century.   For practical traditional purposes, I will use the name Matthew as the author of this gospel.

The Christocentric Calendar

Dennis the Short (470-544 CE) or Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk who worked in Rome, came up with the idea of dating everything from the birth of Christ, instead of the Roman counsels who had held office.  In 525 CE, he developed his Christocentric calendar, but he was off by a few years in his calculations, since Jesus may have lived from 6 BCE-26 CE.  His dating system was known as Anno Domini, the year of Our Lord.  This AD system did not become popular until the Carolingian Reform of the 9th ninth century and the promulgation of the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century.  Since then, all world events have centered on the birth of Christ.  At the 2000 millennium year celebrations even non-Christian countries such as China and India celebrated the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.  In the twentieth century, Jewish and Christian scholars adopted the term CE, or Common Era, showing a neutral stance towards Christ.  Now practically every country dates things from the birth of Christ, whether they consider themselves Christian or not.  2018 CE means 2018 years since the birth of Christ, the Common Era.  The time before Christ is called BC, before the Common Era, BCE.

The Early Growth of Christianity

Under the leadership of the apostles Peter and Paul, who both died around the year 64 CE, the early Christian community grew from Jerusalem to Rome, from a Palestinian Jewish sect to a more universal group that included Gentile non-Jewish people, all around the Mediterranean area.  The travels of Paul as found in the Acts of the Apostles and his letters give a glimpse into what was happening back then.  The followers of Jesus Christ began to differentiate themselves from the Rabbinic Judaism that was developing at the same time.

King Demetrius II praises Simon (1 Macc 14:38-14:40)

“In view of these things King Demetrius

Confirmed him in the high priesthood.

He made him one of the king’s friends.

He paid him high honors.

He had heard that the Jews

Were addressed by the Romans as friends,

Allies and brothers.

The Romans had received the envoys of Simon with honor.”

This decree also mentioned that King Demetrius II confirmed Simon in the high priesthood. It is still not clear where this authority came from. He, of course, made him one of the king’s friends. Thus he paid him high honors. He knew that Simon had sent envoys to Rome, who had addressed him as a friend, ally, and brother. The Seleucid King Demetrius II wanted to be on the right side of this relationship.