What is Christian Literacy?

refers to the ability to use a language - to know what words means, to be able to use grammar, sentence structure, to be able to converse in that language is to be literate.

Religious literacy
means having the ability to understand and speak about our faith intelligently. It’s the ability to communicate the basic tenets of our religion.

I'm very grateful to B.U. Professor Stephen Prothero for his excellent book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." This book, along with my desire to teach the faith, served as the inspiration for this effort.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Are the Gospel Documents Reliable?

Question: Are the Gospel Documents Reliable?

10 Reasons to Say "Yes"

1. The Rabbinical Method of Teaching was thorough and intense.  Jewish Rabbis made their disciples memorize their teachings verbatim.  An emphasis was placed on understanding what they had memorized.

2. Eyewitnesses were still living as the documents were being written and circulated.  They would have strongly objected to false material.

3. The willingness of the disciples to undergo persecution and martyrdom shows their belief in the truthfulness of what they were reporting.

4. The writers of the NT resisted the temptation to change embarrassing statements.  This shows their commitment to accuracy.

    Mark 9:1    "some will not pass away before the Kingdom comes in power."

    Matthew 1  This genealogy is not correct.  Someone could have corrected it.

5. They preserved words they could not begin to understand.  Jesus' treatment of women & children was not comprehended by the early church, yet they recorded his words.

Ex. Jesus said we must become like a child. Paul says don't be like little children. Ancient culture ignored children as unimportant.

6. They preserved things that at the time of writing were no longer applicable to the early church.

Ex. Question about the Temple Tax - Matt. 17:24

Ex. Jesus' instruction the disciples not to go to the Gentiles - Matt. 10:5

7. The writers could have written answers into the mouth of Jesus to problems they were facing in the early church.  But they did not.

8. The Gospel writers could have written some of Paul's memorable sayings back into the words of Jesus.  But they did not.

9. On the job training. During his time with them Jesus, "sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick" (Luke 9:2). What were they teaching? His material, his Good News. Teaching it to others helped the disciples thoroughly learn Christ's teachings.

10. Jesus' Teaching Methods made it easy to remember what he said. He utilized:

Picturesque speech - a spec & log in eye
Puns - Petros & Petra, Peter & Rock
Proverbs - "Judge not, lest you too be judged"
Poetry - Luke 6:27-28, Mark 8:35, Luke 17:26
Parables - the most striking feature of his teaching

All of the above would assist the disciples in remembering his teachings, especially when you consider that Jesus repeated himself on a number of occasions.  Repetition promotes retention.

The material above comes from several lectures given by Dr. Bruce M. Metzger,
Professor of New Testament, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Chair of
the Committee of Translators for the RSV and NRSV Bibles.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the faith and faithfulness of those who recorded and preserved your teachings for us. Amen.

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