WEEK 1 STUDY QUESTIONS
1) What historical events, situations, and conditions might account for the diversity within Judaism in the first century? Many historical diversities were shaped within Judaism in the first century. For instance there were four specific periods in Jewish history. The Persian Period (ca. 537-332 BCE) in which the Jewish nation was ruled by high priests with minimal interference from Persian Kings. The Hellenistic Period (ca. 332-1678 BCE) which was a “reign of terror” for the Jews because they were harshly punished under the Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who wanted to exterminate the Jewish religion. During the Hasmonean Period (167-63 BCE) Jewish rebels, known as the “Maccabees” led a revolt against Antiochus and won independence, and the Roman Period (63 BCE-70 CE) which took control over the Jewish state and Palestine. Also, the population was very diverse during this time. For instance, the population in Palestine consisted of four main groups; the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodian’s, and the Samaritans. The Pharisees were known in gospel stories as opponents of Jesus and often portrayed as “narrow-minded legalists,” they also emphasized faithfulness to Torah and their interpretation of the law was driven by a conviction that all of God’s people should live with the utmost sanctity. The Sadducees controlled the temple system and to have often dominated the Sanhedrin, also these two groups (the Pharisees and Sadducees) were able to cooperate because they had common interests. The Herodian’s were political coalition of Jews who supported the family and dynasty of Herod, and finally, the Samaritans claimed they were the true Israel. The Samaritans did not accept any scripture but the first five book of the Bible. Many other issues played into the diversity within the first century, such as the effect of Hellenism. The influence of Greek and Roman culture played a huge role within the first century, and mainly referred simple cultural matters, but could refer to other practices as well. Take for instance the fact the Hebrew ceased to be the primary language for the Jewish people, and instead the common language for Jews in Palestine was Aramaic, however, outside of Palestine the common language for Jews was Greek. Nonetheless many other conditions played a heavy role during this time, wealth and poverty, purity and defilement, patronage and locality, and finally, honor and shame. During this time life was a constant struggle and everyone thought their views were the right views, which lead to relentless conflict. 2) What do Jews living in Palestine have in common?
There are many different groups of Jews living in Palestine during this time, nonetheless they all shared similarities. For instance, all of the Jews believed there was only one God, and this God had chosen the Jewish people to be an elect and holy people, which would be distinct from all other people living on earth. They also believed that God had made a covenant with them and given them the Torah, in which they would live their lives in ways that would separate them from all other people. They all believed and practiced circumcision, kept the Sabbath, observed food restrictions, and committed themselves to following the standards of the Ten Commandments. 3) What interest does the New Testament have for today’s historians (text p. 55)? How do historians use the New Testament for constructing historical and social models (see, e.g., Luke 4; James 1–2; last supper in Matthew, and table fellowship in 1 Corinthians)? Today’s historians might be interested in the New Testament to learn about history. Historians use the New Testament for constructing historical and social models by understanding the lives and circumstances of the people in it and for reconstructing the events that emerged relating to those circumstances. 4) Compare the ancient use and views of authorship (use in a local community, anonymity, and writing in the style of...
References: Powell. (2009). Chapter 2: The New Testament Writings. In Introducing the New Testament: A historical, literary, and theological survey (p. 52). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
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