I’m still sticking with my statement in the study guide that it is impossible to be certain, even moderately so, regarding the authorship of the book.
John Byron, Associate Professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary, reviews Ephesians on his blog, The Biblical World.
The bottom line:
I commend Robert Cornwall and Energion Publications for producing a thoughtful study guide that does not spoon feed information to readers and supply with trite solutions to make it through life. Rather, this volume will challenge the reader to think as well as learn. It would serve either an individual or group study, but I think a group setting would make the interaction all the more valuable. I look forward to seeing other similar study guides in the future.
I made reference to this study and our last week’s discussion on my personal blog in discussing Christmas.
In our study of Luke for the Agape Sunday School class at First United Methodist Church, we will be looking at Lesson 2 of the study guide dealing with the announcements of the birth of Jesus and his birth and childhood. The recommended additional reading is from 1 Samuel 1. It may be tempting to skip the Old Testament passage, but you’ll lose part of the background if you do so.
There is always a tension between expectation and fulfillment. Expectation is not always fun. It is easy for our hopes and dreams to fade when we have a time of waiting. This is illustrated repeatedly in scripture as expectation fades to despair. The Israelites as slaves in Egypt have an expectation, but by the time Moses comes along, it is pretty much despair. They don’t want this new upstart leader to rock the boat and possibly make things worse.
But the Bible story always leads to a fulfillment, when expectation meets fulfillment. As we go through the story of Luke we will find that we are left with expectation again at the end of the story. And that is a feature of the Biblical story, the story of God’s interaction with people. Now we expect the second coming, and the temptation is to let expectation to fade.
We’re getting an early start on the Advent season. As is usual in this country, we will start celebrating Christmas early. We can’t wait for it to actually happen. We want to get to the fulfillment. But God calls for–and provides–times of expectation, of waiting.
Luke shares the story of the nativity with Matthew. Mark begins with the proclamation of the kingdom and the baptism of Jesus. John also has no nativity story. John’s focus is on how truly divine Jesus is. While the theology of John is wonderful, the Jesus that John portrays is somehow less approachable and less comprehensible than the one we find in the synoptics.
Luke really gives us more of the young Jesus, the “incomplete” Jesus, if you will, of childhood and youth. He grows in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and other people (Luke 2:52). That is a picture that many of us have trouble keeping in mind, especially in connection with the divine Jesus. How can Jesus, who is God, grow in the favor of God? But that is part of the mystery of the incarnation. We cannot make Jesus less divine in order to keep him human, but we also cannot make him less human in order to keep him divine.
Expectation, waiting, and growth–what a combination!
I’m delighted to open this discussion and announcements area with a quote from Dr. David Alan Black, author of Energion books The Jesus Paradigm and Christian Archy:
Seven reasons why I love the book of Hebrews:
It exalts Jesus as our great leader. I therefore dare not exalt any human leader above Him.
It reminds us that Jesus is the final revelation of God. I therefore dare not exalt any human writing above the Scriptures.
It shows us that Jesus is the greatest catholic priest the world has ever known. I therefore dare not look to any human to mediate my relationship with God.
It depicts Christianity as a pilgrimage. I therefore dare not live as if this world were my home.
It emphasizes the “obedience of faith” (a leading Pauline subject). I dare not think that orthodoxy is sufficient without orthopraxy.
It reveals that suffering is a necessary part of the Christian experience. I therefore dare not seek to avoid costly sacrifice while serving Jesus.
It shows me that there is no place in the will of God for slavish obeisance to religion. I therefore dare not place human traditions above fidelity to Jesus and His ways.
Is this not the heart of Christianity?
(Used by permission.)
Energion Publications owner/editor Henry Neufeld will be teaching a seven week series on the gospel of Luke for the Agape Sunday School class at First United Methodist Church in Pensacola, FL. The series will begin on October 25, 2009. For further information on the Agape class, see the First UMC web site.
The class will use The Gospel According to Saint Luke: A Participatory Study Guide, the book supported by this web site. Henry will post weekly notes here regarding the class, preparation, thoughts, and study materials.