What is Christian Literacy?
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.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
A new literary genre.
There are of course four gospels in the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke & John - four accounts of the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus. The gospels are a unique literary genre - part biography, part spiritual treatise, preserving the teachings of Christ for us.
Question: The Gospels writers spend about a third of their writing on the events of just one week in Jesus' life - Holy Week. What point are they most likely making?
The Synoptics + John
Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the "synoptic" gospels because they "see together" a lot of the same things. Mark was apparently written first, for almost all of his material is found in Matthew and Luke. John's gospel was probably written last, as he shares completely different teachings from Christ. 92% of John's material is unique to his gospel. Most notably, John records the "I am" statements - "I am . . . . the Bread of Life . . . the Light of the World . . . the Good Shepherd . . . the Gate for the Sheep . . . the Resurrection and the Life . . . the Way, the Truth & the Life, and
. . . the True Vine."
One Good News, Four Distinct Views
Matthew wrote his gospel for a Jewish audience, stressing that Jesus is the promised Messiah.
Mark wrote his gospel most likely for a Roman audience, showing Jesus to be the obedient servant of God.
Luke wrote his gospel for a Gentile audience, for a Greek culture, showing Jesus to be Perfect Man and a Savior for all.
John wrote his gospel for Jews & Gentiles, showing Jesus to be the Son of God.
Question: Why is it helpful to have more than one account of the life of Christ?
The Purpose of the Gospels
Two gospel writers tell us why they recorded what they did:
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Luke says he was writing so folks might know the truth. How convinced are you regarding the truthfulness of what he's recorded? (if you're not very certain the next entry should help).
John says he writes so that we might have a new kind of life, one that is found in relationship with God through Christ. How have you experienced this new life?
Gracious God, thank you for the gospels. Inspire me to read them, believe them and most of all live them with the New Life you offer from above. In Your Name. Amen.
The traditional symbols for the gospel writers are:
Matthew - A Winged Man (Jesus is the Messiah come from God)
Mark - A Lion (symbol of courage and royalty)
Luke - An Ox or Bull (sacrifice, service, strength)
John - The Eagle (a symbol of the sky, the highest view of Christ)
The wings on each symbolize divine inspiration.