Blog Archives

NT Sunday School Lesson 22: Matthew 25

June 4, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 22: Matthew 25

Verses 1-13: The Parable of the Ten Virgins How does the parable relate to that given in Matthew 24:45-51? We know little about marriage ceremonies in Palestine during Jesus’ day. Indeed, we can assume that the customs varied from one place to another in Palestine, making it even more difficult to recover them. Most of what we say about such things is really a description of customs 200 years or more later. Perhaps those later customs reflect what happened in Jesus’ day, but we cannot know that they did, and the tremendous social upheaval resulting from the destruction of... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 21: Matthew 24 (JST)

June 4, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 21: Matthew 24 (JST)

It is sometimes helpful to have the Joseph Smith revision (JST) and the King James translation side-by-side, so I have put both versions of chapter 24 together in a PDF file for those who would like to use it. Traditional Christianity finds this chapter ambiguous: in some ways it seems to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 A.D.; in some ways it seems to refer to the Second Coming. It seems to me that Joseph Smith makes it more clear which passages refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and which refer to the Second Coming.... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 20: Matthew 21-23; John 12:1-8

May 15, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 20: Matthew 21-23; John 12:1-8

Matthew 21 Verses 1-7: The end of verse 3 could also be translated “and straightway he will return them.” Verse 5 puts two scriptures together, Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9 (as they appear in the Greek rather than the Hebrew version of the Old Testament). What does “daughter of Sion” mean? Why is it important that the Lord enter Jerusalem on the back of a donkey (rather than a horse, for example)? Verses 8-11: Why did the people put their cloaks and branches from the trees on the road in front of Jesus? “Hosanna” means “save, we pray.” Do... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 19 (JF): Luke 18:1-8, 35-43; 19:1-10; John 11

May 10, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 19 (JF): Luke 18:1-8, 35-43; 19:1-10; John 11

Luke 18 Verses 1-8: The chapter division here (an artificial division not in the original text) makes us not see the connection between the end of Luke 17 and the beginning of 18. Might Luke have any particular prayers in mind in verse 1? How about the desire mentioned in Luke 17:22? In verse 1, Luke tells us the teaching of the parable before he gives the parable. Why? After reading the parable ask yourself whether there are other ways to read it, perhaps ways that Luke wants to forestall. We will later see that Paul particularly likes the... Read more »

NT Lesson 18 (JF): Luke 15, 17

April 26, 2011 | no comments
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NT Lesson 18 (JF): Luke 15, 17

Luke 15 As I learned from Bruce Jorgensen, it is important to read the parables of Luke 15 together. Consider the setting that Luke gives us in verses 1-2 and then imagine Jesus telling each of these parables in response to what happens in those verses: he hears the Pharisees and the scribes complaining because he eats with sinners, so he tells the parable of the lost sheep; evidently they don’t understand his point because he immediately tells another parable, that of the lost coin—I imagine a silent pause after the first parable, with Jesus waiting for the Pharisees... Read more »

NT Lesson 17: Mark 10:17-30; 12:41-44; and Luke 12:13-21; 14; 16

April 20, 2011 | no comments
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NT Lesson 17: Mark 10:17-30; 12:41-44; and Luke 12:13-21; 14; 16

Given the quantity of material in these chapters, rather than try to cover everything, I will focus my questions on the verses from Mark and selections from the verses in Luke. As you read this material, be sure to ask how it applies to us who live in the latter-days. What do these verses teach us about taking up our cross (cf. Jacob 1:8, 3 Nephi 12:30, and perhaps Alma 39:9)? What do they teach about riches (not what do we recall others saying that they teach, but what do they really teach)? What does the parable and explanation... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 16: John 9-10

April 12, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 16: John 9-10

Chapter 9 Verse 1: Chapter 8 ends with the phrase “passed by” and chapter 9 begins with those words. Did the events of chapters 9-10 happen as Jesus was leaving the temple precincts, or did they occur later? (See verse 14 for a clue.) Why is it important that the man has been blind since birth? As you read the story, ask yourself, How we are like the blind man: in what ways are we or have we been blind from birth? How do we come to see? What do we see when we have been healed? Verses 2-5:... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 15: John 7-8

April 3, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 15: John 7-8

WARNING: Longer than usual notes. I agree with the generally accepted scholarly conclusion that John 7:53-8:11 is a later insertion into the original text. So I will deal with John 7:1-42 and John 8:12-59 as one narrative, the story of what Jesus does at the feast of the tabernacles. Then I will deal with the story of the woman taken in adultery separately. Chapter 7 Verses 1-5: In verse 1, to what is John referring with the phrase “these things”? Refer to the end of chapter 6 (e.g., John 6:66) to recall what things happened that caused him to... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 14: Matthew 18; Luke 10

March 20, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 14: Matthew 18; Luke 10

Matthew 18 Verses 1-4: Why do the disciples ask the question that they pose in verse 1? What does it suggest about their understanding of Jesus’ message? What do you make of the fact that they are arguing about who shall be first so shortly after Jesus has talked about his coming death (Matthew 17:22)? In verse 3, the verb “be converted” translates a Greek verb that means “turn.” To be converted, to repent, is to turn back, to return. In what sense is repentance a return? Christ says that no one can even enter the kingdom (or reign)... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 13: Matthew 15:21-17:13

March 13, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 13: Matthew 15:21-17:13

There are a number of stories in this reading, and they appear not to be given to us in a haphazard way. There is a natural progression from one to the other: (1) Jesus heals the Canaanite woman’s daughter (Matthew 15:21-28). (2) He heals many and multitudes come to him (Matthew 15: 29-31). (3) He not only heals them, he feeds 4,000 (Matthew 15:32-39). (4) Having just given a miraculous sign, he warns the Pharisees and Saducees against sign seeking (Matthew 16:1-4); (5) He tells the disciples to beware the leaven, the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 12: John 5-6; Mark 6:30-44; Matthew:14:22-33

March 6, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 12: John 5-6; Mark 6:30-44; Matthew:14:22-33

As is almost always the case, there is far more here than we can cover in one lesson. These materials will focus on John 5, but I will also include some  questions on John 6. John 5 Some have suggested that the gospel of John is partially constructed around seven wondrous works or miracles. (I believe I got this from Art Bassett, but I’m not sure.) With each, Jesus gives a sermon that illustrates the significance of what he has done. The seven are: Turning water into wine at the wedding feast and the discourse on being born again... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 11: Matthew 13

February 27, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 11: Matthew 13

A reminder that I post regularly for those who are new to these notes: These are study notes for the lesson material, not notes for creating lessons. I assume that a person would use these over several days, perhaps a week, of study. Of course someone studying the lessons will also be able to create a lesson, but the purpose of these notes is primarily for the students in Gospel Doctrine class and only secondarily for teachers of the class. This is a chapter of parables. We get the word parable from a Greek word (parabol?) meaning “to set... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 10 (JF) : Matthew 11:28-30; 12:1-13; Luke 7:36-50; 13:10-17

February 20, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 10 (JF) : Matthew 11:28-30; 12:1-13; Luke 7:36-50; 13:10-17

Matthew 11 Verse 28: What does it mean to come to Christ? Has he already told us how we can do that in readings from some of the previous lessons? The word translated “labor” means “wearying labor.” The phrase “heavy laden” translates a Greek word that means “weighed down.” What wearying, taxing work does Christ have in mind here? From what does he offer relief? Why is that described as something that wears us out? As something that burdens us? Can we understand sin as a kind of difficult work? The word translated “rest” literally means “cessation.” It is... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 9: Matthew 6-7

February 14, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 9: Matthew 6-7

As is usually the case, there is a lot of material to cover in this lesson, but the material in these chapters is so important that it would be a shame to focus on only part of it. So I will focus on the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:5-15), but I will also provide notes for the rest of both chapters. Notice that in 2007 Robert C and Cheryl M provided excellent materials on these chapters, and Karl D will almost certainly provide current notes on the lesson materials. Chapter 6 Jesus continues to teach about true righteousness, a righteousness... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 8: Matthew 5

February 7, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 8: Matthew 5

The lesson this week picks out the first part of a longer sermon. Matthew 5-7 give us Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Even if preparing for only the Sunday School lesson, it is probably best to read the entire sermon to see the context of this part. At the time of Jesus there seems to have been considerable controversy over who was “in” and who was “out” when it came to being the children of God. This controversy had been on-going for some time, at least since the time of the return from exile. The Samaritan community was one... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 7: Mark 1-2; 4:35-41; 5; Luke 7:1-17

February 6, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 7: Mark 1-2; 4:35-41; 5; Luke 7:1-17

For purposes of this lesson, I take Luke 7:1-17 to be a supplement to the miracle stories we read in the material from Mark. So I will make my notes and questions on Mark, assuming that reading and thinking about Luke will be appropriate to them. As usual, I offer the reminder that these are study notes for the reading, not notes for preparing a lesson. Presumably study notes could help a person prepare a lesson, but these go beyond what one might expect in notes for a lesson. Mark’s Gospel This is the first lesson this year to... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 6: Luke 4:14-32; 5; 6:12-16; Matthew 10

January 30, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 6: Luke 4:14-32; 5; 6:12-16; Matthew 10

Before we look at some individual verses from this lesson, consider the overall structure of Luke’s narrative and think about how Luke’s story of the calling of the Twelve compares to Matthew’s. I have put in bold the parts that the lesson focuses on, but I have outlined all four chapters so that you can think about how Luke tells the story as a whole. Because of the length of the materials, I have created study questions only for the first part of the lesson, Luke 4:14-32. Luke’s story: • John’s preaching and message (Luke 3:1-20) • Jesus’s baptism... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 5: John 3-4

January 30, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 5: John 3-4

There is a tremendous amount of material in this lesson, more than I can deal with in a few pages. So I have shortened my study questions by focusing on John 3:1-10. Verse 1: The name “Nicodemus” means “conqueror,” and it was a common name. We know little about Nicodemus. We know that he was a Pharisee because this verse tells that he was. We know that he was some kind of ruler, though we don’t know what kind, because this verse tell us that he was. Many have speculated that Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, but... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 4: Matthew 3-4; John 1:35-51

January 18, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 4: Matthew 3-4; John 1:35-51

Matthew 3 Verses 1-2: What function did the herald of a king serve in ancient times? Why did kings need heralds? Is John the herald of a king? Why does this King need a herald? Compare John’s message to Jesus’s message in Matthew 4:17. Why do you think Matthew uses almost exactly the same words in each case? What is he teaching? Given Matthew’s focus on Jesus’ royal birth, how are we to understand “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”? How many ways can you think of understanding that the kingdom of heaven is soon to come or... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 3: Luke 2; Matthew 2

January 9, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 3: Luke 2; Matthew 2

Matthew 2 Verse 1: Who were the wise men? The phrase “wise men” is a somewhat odd translation of the Greek word magoi, “astrologers.” It is because of this word that sometimes we refer to the wise men as “magi.” We get the word “magician” from magoi. “The east” may refer to Mesopotamia, the center of astronomical studies at the time. Compare Numbers 24:17, Psalms 72:10-11, and Isaiah 60:1-7. What do such verses suggest to us about the wise men? Why does Matthew tell us about the homage paid to Jesus by the wise men, but Luke tells us... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 2: Luke 1, Matthew 1

January 2, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 2: Luke 1, Matthew 1

We are all familiar with these chapters, so familiar that I suspect we often read them or hear them read without paying a lot of attention—if we read these chapters at all. It is as if we go on automatic pilot when we they come up. However, there is a great deal going on in them. Matthew 1 Verses 1-16: It is clear that Matthew is not giving an exact genealogy. For example, he tells us that there were fourteen generations between each of the three important events in Israel’s history—from Abraham, to David, to the Babylonian captivity, to... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 1: Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 3:4-11 (Joseph Smith Translation); John 1:1-14; John 20:31

December 27, 2010 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 1: Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 3:4-11 (Joseph Smith Translation); John 1:1-14; John 20:31

Before I offer the study questions for this lesson, let me voice my objection to the format of our lesson manuals. They treat the Gospels as if the best way to understand them is to harmonize them, as if they are each histories of the life of Jesus rather than four different testimonies—for different audiences and for different purposes—of who Jesus is, the Messiah. That’s a little bit like taking a particular version of President Monson’s testimony, and one of President Eyring’s, and one of President Uchtdorf’s and pasting them together where they speak of similar things to make... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lessons: Between the Testaments

December 19, 2010 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lessons: Between the Testaments

This is a sketch of the history between the fall of Israel and the New Testament. It may be helpful for understanding what is going on in the New Testament confrontations between Jesus and others and in understanding the tensions in Israelite society in Jesus’ day. Jewish history between the Old and New Testaments 606 The fall of Nineveh, capital of Assyria. Babylon becomes the major power. Daniel and others are taken to Babylon from Israel. 604 Nebuchadnezzar is king of Babylon. 598 Judah’s king, Jehoiachin, and the prophet Ezekiel (with thousands of others) are carried captive into Babylon.... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 48: Zechariah 10-14, Malachi

December 5, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 48: Zechariah 10-14, Malachi

Zechariah 1:7-6:8: We may be able to read the first six chapters of Zechariah as having a roughly chiastic structure. As with many chiasmi, however, deciding whether this is a chiasmus is a matter of judgment rather than fact. A 1:7-17: The Lord’s omniscience B 1:18-21: Judah and the empires C 2:1-5: Jerusalem’s territory D 3:1-10: Joshua the high priest D’ 4:1-14: The temple itself C’ 5:1-4: Jerusalem’s self-rule (the scroll of the law?) C’ 5:5-11: Judah and Persia (? perhaps a “counter-temple”?) A’ 6:1-8: The Lord’s omnipotence If this analysis is correct,... Read more »

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