SS Lesson – New Testament

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 46: Revelation 5-6, 19-22

November 24, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 46: Revelation 5-6, 19-22

The word “end” has at least two meanings in English: the point that marks the boundary or limit, such as the last point in a series, and the purpose or goal. Of course, these two meanings are not necessarily mutually exclusive. When speaking of the end, Latter-day Saints often use a phrase that is worded in a somewhat unusual way: we speak of knowing the beginning from the end. (See, e.g., Elder Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience 38.) This not a scriptural phrase. The closest scriptural phrase is “knowing the end from the beginning”... Read more »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 45: Revelation

November 24, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 45: Revelation

As with other Sunday School lesson notes, these are intended primarily to help people study for the lesson, not as lesson preparation materials. Of course, anything one uses for study can also be used to help one prepare a lesson. But study rather than lesson preparation is the main purpose of these notes. Background The article on Revelation in the LDS Bible Dictionary is excellent. You should read it before you read the lesson material. In addition, here are some things that may be helpful: So far in our New Testament study this year we have seen three kinds... Read more »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 44: 1-3 John

November 6, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 44: 1-3 John

1-3 John seem to be letters written to different churches in the region of Ephesus mostly in response to a group of apostates whom we call Gnostics. Most scholars believe that John wrote these letters before he wrote the Gospel of John, though that is not a unanimous opinion. There are, for example, some who believe that at least 1 John was written after the Gospel of John, and some such as Stephen Smalley (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 51) argue that the John’s gospel was written before any of the letters. There is also dispute as to whether all... Read more »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 43: 1-2 Peter, Jude

November 5, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 43: 1-2 Peter, Jude

Before you read the letters from Peter, take a few minutes to recall who he was: What was his position in the Church? What particular experiences did he have with the Savior? What might he have learned from those experiences? How does that background inform these letters? Outlines of 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude 1 Peter (adapted from Bo Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude) Like Ephesians, 1 Peter appears to be a baptismal sermon, perhaps written to be read at baptismal services one year and, it seems, addressed primarily to non-Jewish converts. Greeting (1:1-2) The... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 42: James

November 5, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 42: James

We do not know who the author of this epistle was (there are several persons named James in the New Testament), but tradition says that it was James, the brother of Christ and the presiding elder in Jerusalem after Christ’s death. (See, for example, Acts 15:13, where he presides over the Jerusalem conference called to deal with the Gentiles joining the early Church.) What do we know about Jesus’ family’s relation to him prior to the crucifixion? (See, for example, John 7:1-5.) When do you think James became a follower of Christ? Is 1 Corinthians 15:7 relevant? Does that... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 41: 1 and 2 Timothy; Titus

October 23, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 41: 1 and 2 Timothy; Titus

1 Timothy 3 3:15-16: How is the Church “the pillar and ground of truth”? What metaphor is Paul using? How does that metaphor help us understand what the Church does? What does he mean when he speaks of “the house of God”? Does he mean the church as a whole or individual congregations? What does Paul mean when he says “without controversy”? To what is Paul referring with the word mystery? Why is the word mystery an appropriate reference for that case? (Verse 16 seems to be another quotation from a hymn.) What is Paul talking about when he... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 40: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon

October 23, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 40: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon

There is even more to cover than usual in this lesson. The result is 12 pages of study material. Because it usually helps to understand the context in which the verses one studies occur, I will supply some background information about each book, as well as an outline of the text of each. Then I will follow those with a few study questions. Remember as you read these materials that they are to help you study the letters assigned for the lesson. They are not suggestions for teaching the lesson. Of course a person could use these to help... Read more »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 39: Ephesians

October 8, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 39: Ephesians

For a variety of reasons most New Testament scholars do not believe that this book was ever an actual letter written to a specific Christian congregation in Ephesus. For one thing, the words “to the Ephesians” in verse 1 is not part of the best manuscripts. Instead of a letter, it appears to be a treatise written as if it were a letter. A significant number of scholars, though perhaps not a majority, also question whether the book was written by Paul. As with Hebrews, for me the best response is that answering those questions doesn’t matter, though I... Read more »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 38: Acts 21-28

September 25, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 38: Acts 21-28

I will focus these study notes on Acts 21:1-Acts 23:11. As you read this story of Paul, notice that the Church of his time has spread to many communities. Paul is able to move from place to place, at least in the general area of Palestine and parts of Asia Minor (now western Turkey), and to depend on local branches of the Church as he does so. For example, in verses 3-7 we see him visit the branches at Tyre, Ptolemais, and Caesarea. Clearly the early Church grew rapidly after the Day of Pentecost, roughly thirty years before the... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 37: Hebrews

September 3, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 37: Hebrews

The book of Hebrews is what scholars call a “homiletic midrash” on Psalms 110, meaning that it a sermon responding to Psalm 110. It might be useful to read that psalm before reading Hebrews and to keep it in mind as you read Hebrews. Most contemporary scholars, including some LDS scholars, do not believe that Paul wrote this book. It is last among the letters of Paul because those compiling the New Testament (in the early 3rd century AD) were not sure that Paul had written it. There are a variety of reasons for these doubts, but the most... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 36: Romans

September 3, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 36: Romans

I have to confess that Romans is perhaps my favorite book of scripture. Given the way that most Latter-day Saints think of Romans, that marks me as at least strange, if not perverse. It also means that I will have to restrain myself to keep the notes for this lesson to a reasonable length. To do that I have selected a few verses that I think get at the heart of Paul’s message and focus on those. I have also appended an outline of the book as a whole so that you can perhaps understand Paul’s overall message better.... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 35: 2 Corinthians

August 20, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 35: 2 Corinthians

Background 1 and 2 Corinthians are two of perhaps four letters that Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth. The first letter (referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13) has not been preserved. 1 Corinthians is the second letter, written partially in response to reports of problems in Corinth and partially in response to questions that the Corinthians had written to ask Paul. As we can see in 1 Corinthians 16:3-6, when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he intended to visit Corinth later, and he promised to send Timothy to Corinth. Timothy may have been the messenger who carried 1 Corinthians... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 34: 1 Corinthians 11-16

August 20, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 34: 1 Corinthians 11-16

Every so often I insert this reminder: These are study notes, not notes for a lesson. Of course, studying the chapter can help one prepare for the lesson, and the same questions used for study can be used to teach a lesson. But the primary purpose of these notes is to help people think about and prepare to talk about the Sunday School lesson. Recall that in this part of his letter Paul is responding to questions that the Corinthians have asked him by letter. (See the questions for lesson 33.) Chapters 7-15 comprise his response to their questions,... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 33: 1 Corinthians 1-6

August 14, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 33: 1 Corinthians 1-6

Some background on 1 Corinthians (in addition to that given in the Bible Dictionary): The church at Corinth was founded by Paul in 51 A.D, and this letter was probably written in the early spring of 57. Corinth had a reputation for debauchery in the ancient world, and that in a world that was tolerant of sexual promiscuity of all kinds. Paul and Sosthenes (the two of them are the senders of this letter—see verse 1) are responding to two things: reports from Chloe about what is happening in Corinth (chapters 1-6) and a letter that the Corinthian members... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 32: Acts 18:23-20:38; Galatians

August 3, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 32: Acts 18:23-20:38; Galatians

The readings from Acts tell of Paul’s third missionary journey, to Galatia, Ephesus, Macedonia, and Greece. (See the maps in your LDS Bible.) Acts 20:28-32 Verse 28: To whom is Paul preaching in these verses? (See verse 17 and footnote “b” for verse 28.) The Greek word translated “overseer” is episkopos, the root word for the English word “episcopal.” It is often translated “bishop,” but “overseer” is a good (and very literal) translation because it shows what the episkopos does: he watches over others to see that they do their jobs properly. It may or may not refer to... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 31: Acts 15:36-18:22; 1 & 2 Thessalonians

July 25, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 31: Acts 15:36-18:22; 1 & 2 Thessalonians

Almost all of our lessons cover an incredible amount of material. However, this lesson covers even more material than usual: 3 and one-half chapters of Acts, 5 chapters of 1 Thessalonians, and 3 chapters of 2 Thessalonians. To try to make the material more manageable, I will focus on 1 Thessalonians 4-5. As you will see, however, even that has produced a long set of study materials. 1Thessalonians is the oldest New Testament document we have, written before any of the Gospels or other letters. Thessalonica was a Greek city, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. You... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 30: Acts 10-14; 15:1-35

July 17, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 30: Acts 10-14; 15:1-35

This part of Acts tells the story of the beginning of the mission beyond the area immediately surrounding Jerusalem to “the uttermost part of the world” (Acts 1:8). As you read these stories, notice how important the Twelve are in that work. Why do you think that they didn’t delegate more of the missionary work? Is there any connection between the extreme dependence of the early Church on the Twelve and the later apostasy? Notice also that the members of the Church come into greater conflict with traditional Judaism because of this missionary work. For most of the first... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 29: Acts 6-9

July 16, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 29: Acts 6-9

Acts 6 Verses 1-7: Who were the “Grecians”? We would probably call them “Hellenists.” Remember that as yet the Gospel has not been preached to the Gentiles, so who might these people have been? Who were “the Hebrews”? Is there anything comparable to this division in today’s Church? Why were the Grecians complaining? The word disciples (verses 1-2) translates a Greek word that means “learners” or “students.” Why would Luke use that name to describe the members of the Church? In verse 2, the phrase “serve tables” is a misleading translation of a Greek idiom meaning “keep accounts.” (Just... Read more »

NT Testament Sunday School Lesson 28: Acts 1-5

July 16, 2011 | no comments
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NT Testament Sunday School Lesson 28: Acts 1-5

There are several stories in these chapters: In chapter 1, we learn that Jesus ministered to the apostles for forty days after his resurrection and that Matthias was chosen to fill the vacancy left by Judas. Chapter 2 tells us of the visit of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, the gift of tongues given to them as a sign of the Holy Ghost, and Peter’s sermon admonishing those who hear them to repent and be baptized. Chapters 3-4 tell of Peter and John healing a lame man which resulted in many people believing their preaching, and... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 27 (JF): Matthew 28; Luke 24; John 20-21

July 11, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 27 (JF): Matthew 28; Luke 24; John 20-21

Matthew 28 Verse 1: Who was the other Mary? (See Matthew 27:57.) Verse 2: Rather than “And behold,” “Look!” is probably a better translation. The angel only rolls back the stone when the two Marys come to see the tomb. Does Jesus leave the tomb at that time, or has he already left? Verses 2-5: Why don’t the women faint when the guards are so frightened that they do? Verse 5: Why does the angel describe Jesus as “which was crucified” rather than “your Master” or “who wrought the Atonement” or in some other way? Verse 6: “He is... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 25: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46

July 4, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 25: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46

As important as the events in the Garden of Gethsemane were, they receive very little attention in scripture. Matthew has 11 verses on it, Mark also has 11, Luke has 7, John tells us nothing about it at all, though he was as close as anyone to what happened. The Doctrine and Covenants has 4 verses about it and the Book of Mormon 1. Why do you think the scriptures are relatively silent about such an important event? Does that tell us anything about how we should understand what scripture is or is not? Here is a link to... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 24: John 16-17

June 21, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 24: John 16-17

Remember: though these may be useful in helping a person to prepare a Sunday School lesson, they are intended primarily to help one study and prepare for taking part in Sunday School. That’s why you’ll find questions with no answers; they are study questions. John 16 Verses 1-3: In verse 1 Jesus tells the disciples that he taught them what he did in chapter 15 so that they would not be “offended.” A more literal translation might be “caused to stumble,”“scandalized.” In Matthew 26:31 Jesus tells the disciples that they will be offended or scandalized by him that night.... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 23: Luke 22:1-38; John 13-15

June 4, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 23: Luke 22:1-38; John 13-15

Getting caught up (as you can see). With this lesson we begin to read about the part of Christ’s life that is traditionally called “the Passion,” the time between the Last Supper and his death on the cross. The word “passion” and the word “passive” are related terms. Why is this part of Jesus’ life called the Passion? The longest part of each of the New Testament gospels is the part describing the Passion. As Latter-day Saints, our tendency is to focus on the resurrection rather than the Passion. Why do you think the gospels give so much attention... Read more »

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 »