Feast upon the Word Blog

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GD NT Lesson 1

Posted by BrianJ on January 1, 2007

Isaiah 40:3-5*; Luke 3:4-11 (JST), John 1:1-14 (JST)

*Note: the class member study guide apparently has a mistake. In place of “Isaiah 61:1-3,” I think it should have listed “Isaiah 40:3-5.”

Luke 3:4-11 (using the Joseph Smith Translation)

Who was Luke? How is it helpful to know who he was as we read what he wrote?

v. 3-4: What is Luke’s message? Why would he choose that as his focus?

What is he quoting? Find those verses and compare them to how they are written in the New Testament. Why is the wording different? Does the different wording change the meaning? (Note: you may want to read in the Bible Dictionary the sections titled “Bible” and “Septuagint.”)

NT: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

OT: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

v. 5-9: In the JST, Luke gives his commentary on the previous verses. What was his understanding? How would he have gained this understanding? Is his interpretation new or was this the standard way of reading those verses in his day?

The JST contains no cross-references; what scriptures would you cross-reference to Luke’s commentary?

Why would these verses be particularly meaningful to Luke?

John 1:1-14 (using the Joseph Smith Translation)

Who was John?

v. 1-2: What radical new idea does John attest in verse 1? How is verse 2 necessary; i.e. what does it add?

v. 4-5: What point is John making? How would this change the thinking of a Jewish audience? a Gentile audience?

Compare v. 5 in the King James version to the Joseph Smith Translation and to D&C 39:2. What do you notice? Consider also the change made to verse 1 that is not applied to verse 14. (For a discussion, please see this post about the JST.)

v. 9-10: What scripture might John be remembering as he writes this? (I’m thinking of Isaiah 45:9, but I’m interested in the class’ responses.)

v. 12: What is the promise John writes about? How would Jews understand the phrase, “become the sons of God”? How do you understand it? What verses in the Old Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants help us with this doctrine?

Compare the “adoption” spoken of in this verse to the one alluded to in Luke 3:8.

My Lesson Plan: I can’t cover all of this material, so here is what I plan to cover.

Luke 3:3-9, using the questions above.

John 1:1-2, 12. I’m particularly interested in the questions on verse 12 and I plan to discuss it in class even though (and because) I don’t really understand it. Jews place major importance on being descendants of Abraham, so being “raised up” as his seed is a big deal. I’m not sure how Jews view the doctrine of being “sons of God,” but I plan to annoy my Jewish friends with that question before Sunday. I’m interested in understanding whether John and Luke (actually, Jesus) are promoting different ideas or different spiritual states or whether they are simply using different terms for different audiences. Verses 13-14 add an interesting twist: God was born on the earth as Jesus through a miraculous conception; likewise, we can be born again—not of man or woman, but of God. It definitely makes the “joint-heirs” claim more reasonable.

9 Responses to “GD NT Lesson 1”

  1. Robert C. said

    Brian, good job getting these teaching notes up so early in the week.

    A couple thoughts:

    First: I like the idea of discussing adoption early on in the year and giving class members motivation to look forward to this topic in later lessons (esp. Romans). Also, the “sons of Abraham” question reminds me of the “endless genealogies” in 1 Tim 1:4 which I’ve been thinking about a fair bit lately (see here and here at the wiki). I think “speculation” there is denounced primarily b/c it distracts from the call to genuine faith and love. So when John says “the darkness [‘world’ in JST] comprehended it not” (v. 5) I think a big reason is that the Jews and Gentiles at the time were more interested in lineage than personal conversion. I think the application today is that we often become complacent being “card-carrying members” rather than focusing on the requirements of true conversion.

    Next: The word made flesh and born again themes make me think about the temporal vs. spiritual parallels that I’ve recently been thinking about in Heb 12:18ff (again, see the wiki–I’m too lazy to link there!). What I like about the Heb 12 passage is how it basically contrasts the old Mt. Sinai covenant with the new Mt. Zion covenant, something that I think is very important to consider in trying to understand the New Testament, and something that is also central to the purpose of the temple. One way I would be prepared to discuss this in a SS setting is in terms of “the Word made flesh” being an incarnation of the gospel (I have Jim’s essay on scripture-as-incarnation in mind here, closely related to Marion’s work on transubstantiation)–that is, just like the temple is a meeting place of the spiritual and the temporal (i.e. heavenly and earthly), so our lives should become the meeting place of spiritual ideas (conversion) and temporal works. Also, I’ve been thinking about this in terms of the atonement: The incarnation (and temporal proof) of the Father’s love for us is through the offering of his son. In the JST, this can be read as the fulfilment of God’s promise to love us (and so “the gospel” is the good news that God has fulfilled his promise of love toward us; furthermore, the fulfilment of this promise is the essence of all of God’s covenants with us–the Old Covenant/Testament and the New Covenant/Testament…).

    Also, I think these make for very good and timely passages to consider the role of the JST vs. the KJV (Joe’s thread you linked to in your post is probably a better place for such discussion). I’m sure Joe will have a lot to say on this. I’m esp. interested in thoughts on this for John 1.

  2. Jim F. said

    If Isaiah 61:1-3 is a mistake, they made the same misake in 2003.

  3. BrianJ said

    Robert C: I’ll have to spend some more time thinking about your comment on Mount Sinai vs. Mount Zion covenant before I teach this Sunday–I think you have an important point there that I’m not fully grasping.

    Jim F: I think the manual this year is just a reprint of the 2003 one (actually 1997), so if it is a mistake it is not “the same mistake” but is “an uncorrected mistake.” I don’t know for certain that it is a mistake, it just seems like it to me. I’m not saying that Isaiah 61:1-3 is not relevant, but I’m not going to cover it in my class.

  4. Joe Spencer said

    I’m sorry I haven’t gotten to this sooner, I’ve been on vacation and barely able to keep up with the few things I have done on the blog this week.

    Brian, are you familiar with Margaret Barker’s work? She has quite a bit to say about what “sons of God” would have meant to first century Jews. Almost any article in her book, _The Great High Priest_, would be very helpful I think. What she basically does is flesh out the implication of the equation between “sons of God” and “angels” that is obvious in the OT. To become the sons of God: to become angels, to be ordained to the angelic priesthood (the priesthood after the order of the Son of God). In the Book of Mormon: to speak with the tongue of angels, to join the choirs above in singing the praises of a just God, to be in the attitude of singing and praising our God, (in quoting Isaiah) to cry one to another “Holy, holy, holy,” etc. To join, perhaps, the council itself, to be initiated into the heavenly mystery so as to read the heavenly book beyond the veil of the temple. And on and on. Of great interest Mosaically as well is the ritual in Ex 21 and perhaps Isa 22 about being adopted (changing from servant to son–is the parable of the prodigal son relevant here?): one is nailed to the door of the temple (before the “judges,” the “elohim”), thus becoming a son and not a servant, or as it is put in the Isaianic reference to the ritual, one receives a “nail in a sure place.” If children, then heirs: to become kings, which is the whole underlying theme of Isaiah 22 (gird him with a robe, set him for a glorious throne in his father’s house, etc.). There is a lot wrapped up in this business, but it is perhaps the most wonderful topic in the Bible, I think.

  5. Robert C. said

    Follow up to Joe’s #4: Here is an interesting on-line article by Barker, “The Secret Tradition” which discusses her central thesis a bit in terms of NT development–she argues that (temple-related) gnostic ideas in Paul are original rather than derived from gnostic influence. If you want a direct source, check out Chapter XVII of Clement’s Miscellanies, Book VII , which is only a few short paragraphs. I haven’t read that much Barker, maybe I’ll try to do a post on some of her stuff (or get Joe to!) as a push for me and others to learn about her ideas more. I think this essay of hers sets an interesting background for reading many NT ideas (I think the adoption bit Joe discussed is a good example).

  6. Joe Spencer said

    I wouldn’t mind doing a post on Margaret Barker’s work. I’m not sure exactly how relevant it is generally to the blog, but I’d be excited to discuss what she’s doing. Any thoughts anyone?

  7. Robert C. said

    Although a post on Barker would perhaps most naturally focus a lot on the OT, I think a discussion of NT themes/implications would be very interesting and relevant to current SS lessons. In particular, I thought this quote from the article linked to in #5 was interesting, esp. in light of Paul’s writings on faith, grace, and works:

    The Gnostic believer [according to Clement] changes from unbelief to faith, then from faith to knowledge and love, and then ‘such an one has already attained the condition of being equal to the angels’. The Gnostic presses on towards his heavenly home ‘through the holy septenniad (of heavenly abodes) to the LORD’s own mansion’ (Misc.7.10). Again, this is exactly the belief of the apocalyptists: those who ascended through the heavens and saw the throne of God were transformed.

    To be clear, what I find interesting is the order here: applied to Mormons, we enter the temple not so much because we’ve already attained righteousness, but so that we can become righteous.

  8. Joe Spencer said

    I’m planning one of these next few weeks to do a post on “where to begin in interpreting the NT.” I was planning to drag Margaret Barker’s answer to that question into the discussion. Perhaps I will make her answer one of several more fully developed answers.

  9. brianj said

    Joe, #4: I’m not familiar with much of anything, including Margaret Barker. {smile} She sounds quite interesting, so I look forward to your upcoming post on her work. Thanks for what you explained about “sons of God”; it will be helpful to my lesson to talk about the two different meanings of the word: spiritually adopted as sons of God Jesus and spiritual sons of God the Father. Of course, there is a literal and adoptive aspect to being a son of Abraham as well.

    My particular interest in this phrase was in the dual relationship we have with God the Father. It is interesting that Jews (in my understanding) do not believe that we are literal children of God, seeing that he has “no body, form, or likeness” (Maimonides’ 13 Articles of Faith).

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