Lesson Aids

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 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 »

Sunday School Lesson 47: Ezra 1-8; Nehemiah 1-2, 4, 6, 8

December 5, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 47: Ezra 1-8; Nehemiah 1-2, 4, 6, 8

Note that the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were considered one book until well after the time of Christ. The rough chronology below will help place this week’s material in its historical context. 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. Lehi leaves Jerusalem. Habakkuk and Ezekiel prophesy 587 The fall of Jerusalem; much of the population of Judah is taken captive... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 46: Daniel 2

December 5, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 46: Daniel 2

Verses 4-5: Why does the king make this demand on his wise men? Verses 10-12: What did it mean to be a wise man in Babylon? Why was the king angry? Why do you think that the gods of Babylon are never mentioned in this story, not even negatively? Verse 24: Why does Daniel save the other wise men of Babylon?  Verse 28: Why would a king living hundreds of years before Christ’s birth be interested in what would happen at the age when the end of the world would come? (“Latter days” is probably better translated “at the... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 45: Daniel 1, 3, and 6; Esther 3-5, 7-8

November 23, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 45: Daniel 1, 3, and 6; Esther 3-5, 7-8

Let me begin, once again, with a reminder that these are not intended for notes to help teachers, though they may also serve that purpose. I write them for people who want to study the lesson materials more thoroughly. So you’ll find explanatory notes and study questions (fewer for this lesson than for most), but few answers. There is considerable material in the readings for this lesson, so I am going to focus the study questions on the book of Esther (the entire book rather than only the parts assigned for Sunday School). I want to focus on Esther... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 44: Ezekiel 43-44, 47

November 17, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 44: Ezekiel 43-44, 47

Ezekiel’s book goes back and forth between telling of the literal return from Babylon to Jerusalem in ways that we can also read to refer to the last days to speaking directly of the last days. (But when he thinks of the last days, is he thinking of the same event or events that we are thinking of?) Beginning in chapter 40, he has a vision of the temple in Jerusalem and of the order of temple worship there. What kind of vision do you think this is? In Ezekiel 37:26-28, the Lord promised the temple as part of... Read more »

Lesson 43: Ezekiel 18, 34, and 37

November 15, 2010 | no comments
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Lesson 43: Ezekiel 18, 34, and 37

Chronologically we turn backwards at this point. Jeremiah was the prophet in 597 B.C. when Jerusalem was finally captured and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and its people were carried into Babylon. Like Lehi, Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah, but Ezekiel did not prophesy with them. Instead, like Daniel, Ezekiel was with the large group from Judah taken captive into Babylon earlier. He began to prophesy only after arriving in Babylon, so prophets in Jerualem, like Lehi and Jeremiah, may not even have known about Ezekiel. Tradition has it that he died and was buried in Babylon. With that in... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 42: Jeremiah 16, 23, 29, 31

November 8, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 42: Jeremiah 16, 23, 29, 31

As you read Jeremiah, you should do what the lesson materials for Isaiah suggested: ask how those to whom Jeremiah was speaking would have understood his prophecies, how those in the Book of Mormon (who had a record of part of his prophecies with them) would have understood them, how the members of the Church in New Testament times would have understood them, how we can understand them today, and how they may teach us of things yet to come. Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 41: Jeremiah 1-2, 15, 20, 26, 36-38

October 24, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 41: Jeremiah 1-2, 15, 20, 26, 36-38

Historical Background Like Isaiah, the book of Jeremiah is a collection of prophecies edited into a book after the fact rather than one, extended prophecy. It describes itself as a history rather than as a prophecy, though obviously it contains a number of prophecies. But the word history doesn’t mean the same for ancient Israel as it means today. It is closer to our word “story” or “account.” Much of the background for Jeremiah is covered in the last chapters of 2 Kings and the last chapters of 2 Chronicles. Understanding a rough outline of the history behind the... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 40: Isaiah 54-56, 63-65

October 16, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 40: Isaiah 54-56, 63-65

As was true of the preceding several chapters, such as chapters 52-53, it is easier in these chapters for us to see their symbolic meaning than it is to see it in many of the early chapters in Isaiah. Nevertheless, I think it helps, even in a case like this, to begin by understanding the literal meaning of the chapters—what the people of Jerusalem might have heard and understood. Doing so will often add depth to our understanding of the symbolism. Speaking of scripture study, Brigham Young asked, “Do you read the Scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as though... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 39: Isaiah 50-53

October 10, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 39: Isaiah 50-53

These chapters are among the most beautiful in the Bible; they are an important part of Western literary culture, even for non-believers. Many scholars see the chapters as part of larger dramatic structure, a larger dramatic script as it were. In contemporary scripts the various parts would be marked clearly: “Chorus,” “Yahweh,” “Earth,” “Heavens,” “Armies,” etc. The fact that we must infer these from what is said makes reading Isaiah more difficult. As I have done with the previous chapters of Isaiah, I’ll outline how the people of Jerusalem might have understood these prophecies. Doing that will help us... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 38: Isaiah 40-49

September 20, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 38: Isaiah 40-49

These chapters begin a new section of Isaiah. The first 39 chapters focused on Judah and Israel before the exile in Babylon: the sin and iniquity of Judah and Israel. This section, chapters 40-56, focuses on Judah and Israel during the exile: the promise of return. And the last chapters, 57-66, will focus on Judah and Israel after the exile: life after the return. If we think of these times in Israel’s history as shadows of eternal types, what might we see as their type? Are there other ways of reading the same material, ways of seeing other shadows... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 37: Isaiah 22, 23, 24-26, 27, 28-30

September 12, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 37: Isaiah 22, 23, 24-26, 27, 28-30

Chapters 23 and 27 are not assigned for the lesson. Nevertheless, I have included them because I will refer to them. This week, rather than giving a list of questions to answer, I will suggest some exercises in reading that seem to me to be particularly appropriate to reading Isaiah, exercises in understanding in terms of types and shadows. Before studying how these chapters can apply to us, consider a literal, historical interpretation of these chapters. You may need to consult the maps in your scriptures to understand the references to countries and kingdoms. Looking at a literal interpretation... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 36: Isaiah 1-6

September 7, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 36: Isaiah 1-6

Scriptural Background The Savior tells us, “great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1), and he commands us to search them diligently. (Towards the end of Book of Mormon history, Mormon repeats that command: Mormon 8:23.) Nephi tells us that his soul delights in Isaiah (2 Nephi 11:2), but he also tells us that many of his people did not share his experience: “Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand” (2 Nephi 25:1). A good number of us have had the experience of Nephi’s people rather than of Nephi. Nephi explains... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 35: Amos 3, 7-9; Joel 2-3

September 4, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 35: Amos 3, 7-9; Joel 2-3

Note to newcomers: These are not lesson notes. They are notes–and questions–to help people study the lesson material. Of course, as such they may also be helpful for preparing lessons, but that isn’t their primary purpose. Amos Though Amos is a short book, it can be difficult to make sense of it. Amos seems to have done his prophetic work at about 765-750 B.C., though it may have been earlier. (We can give fairly accurate dates for him because he refers to an earthquake (1:1) that occurred during the reign of Uzziah (Zechariah 14:5) and to an eclipse of... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 34: Hosea 1-3; 11; 13-14

September 3, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 34: Hosea 1-3; 11; 13-14

The book of Hosea is an excellent example of a book that we often find difficult because we don’t understand “the manner of prophesying among the Jews” (2 Nephi 25.1). One of the most important of those ways of prophesying was the use of types and shadows. (See Romans 5:14; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5, 9:9 and 24, and 10:1; and Mosiah 3:15, 13:10, and 16:14.) The key to understanding Hosea is to recognize that the relation of Israel to the Lord is typified by the marriage relation and that Israel in apostasy is typified by an unfaithful wife. That... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 33: Jonah 1-4: Micah 2, 4-7

August 26, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 33: Jonah 1-4: Micah 2, 4-7

This is another long set of study notes. I have adapted parts of them from a set of notes that Arthur Bassett made several years ago—but don’t hold Art responsible for any mistakes you see here. They are probably mine. I will provide study notes for both sets of readings, that from Jonah and that from Micah, but I will concentrate my notes on the book of Jonah. With this lesson we begin to study a group of writings called the Minor Prophets. Jews divide the Hebrew Bible (what we call “the Old Testament,” but what is probably more... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 32: Job

August 21, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 32: Job

Word Biblical Commentary quotes this very nice poem from W. H. Auden, “Thomas Epilogises”:   Where Job squats awkwardly upon his ashpit, Alone on his denuded battlefield, Scraping himself with blunted Occam Razors He sharpened once to shave the Absolute . . . Eliphaz, Zophar, Bildad rise together, Begin to creak a wooden sarabande; “Glory to God,” they cry, and praise his Name In epigrams that trail off in a stammer. Suave Death comes, final as a Händel cadence, And snaps their limbs like twigs across his knees, Silenus nods, his finger to his nose. One lesson on Job... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 31: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes

August 5, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 31: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes

I laughed when I saw what this lesson covers, “only” slightly less than 16,000 words in Proverbs and slightly more than 23,000 words in Ecclesiastes. If we have the full 40 minutes, that means we should try to cover the content of about 1,000 words per minute (assuming that we don’t have opening or closing prayers and that we don’t do any introductions or visiting—and that Sacrament meeting ends as scheduled). Obviously we cannot look at everything in these books in Sunday School class. Equally obvious is that if we spend fifteen minutes to an hour a day studying... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 30: 2 Chronicles 29-30; 32; 34

July 28, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 30: 2 Chronicles 29-30; 32; 34

As the Old Testament tells the history, Hezekiah was the 13th king after David and the 11th king of Judah: David, then Solomon, then Rehoboam (who was king at the time of the split between Judah and Israel, and became the first king of Judah), then Abijah, then Asa, then Jehoshaphat, Joram, Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and finally Hezekiah. Hezekiah reigned from 715 B.C. to 687 B.C. King Uzziah was a successful king, but at the end of his career he came into conflict with the temple priests. Whether the description of the conflict that we see... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 29: 2 Kngs 2, 5-6

July 18, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 29: 2 Kngs 2, 5-6

A reminder: these are not notes for preparing a Sunday School lesson—though they may help a person do that. They are notes for studying the chapters assigned for reading. Arthur Bassett has pointed out these parallels between Elisha, on the one hand, and Moses and Christ, on the other. (All scripture references are to 2 Kings). Elisha parts the water (as Moses parted the sea and Joshua and Elijah parted the Jordan)—Jesus parts the heavens at the time of his baptism in the same Jordan. He supplies water (as had Moses)—Christ presents himself as the living water.... Read more »

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