Questioning the New Testament World

Contrary to the title, this post is not about questioning what we know about the world in which the New Testament was written. Rather, it sets to examine the questions that the Christians in the New Testament world asked with regard to their new faith, which eventually led to the writing of the 27 pieces which we now know as the New Testament.

You see, the early Christians faced a lot of issues which we do not necessarily experience in the modern church. The early Christians did not have the Bible such as us, but they inherited the Jewish Scriptures, from which the apostles had referred to in order to make sense of the kerygma and its implications. The Jewish Scriptures provided the first point of reference, together with the oral teachings of Jesus which some were later recorded down in what we later know as the Four Gospels.

Questions which the early Christians would have asked included:
  • Who is this Jesus whose identity is to shape ours? What is his significance and why does he deserve my complete loyalty and obedience?
  • What does it mean to follow Jesus? How should calling him "Lord" affect the way I live, the things I do or don't do, the ambitions I pursue or don't pursue, the way I use things of the world and so forth?
  • How is the scandal of the Messiah's disgraceful execution to be understood and made into something positive, purposeful and beneficial? What does the mystery of this crucified, risen and returning Messiah tell us about our relationship with God and place in this world?
  • How can we be sure that we are indeed the heirs of God's promises and a legitimate phenomenon in the history of God's dealings with humanity?
  • How are we to live together as this new people of God? What codes of conduct and values are to guide our interactions with one another? What qualities should be apparent in and what characteristics banished from this new community? 
  • What should our worship look like? What are the distinctive rituals that set us apart and give us identity? How should they be performed, and what is their significance? How are we to regulate the life of the community?
  • When will our labors have their reward?
  • How are we to keep our hearts focused on God's reward, and not be distracted by the temporal ambitions which marked our pre-Christian lives and still mark the lives of our peers?
  • How can we discern the true prophet or reliable teacher from the deceiver? What are the boundaries of this new faith?
  • What is the role of the Torah? 
  • What is the place of Gentiles in the people of God? Must they become Jews first and enter by means of the signs and statutes of the Mosaic covenant?
  • If Jesus is the Messiah promised to the Jewish people and prophesied in their Scripture, why have they responded so poorly?
  • What is the church's relationship to the Jewish Scriptures and to the promises made to the particular nation Israel? Does the church exhibit continuity or discontinuity with Israel and the revealed plan of God?
  • How do we make sense of the world's hostility toward the work of God, the alleged good news and the people of God?
  • If we are God's children, why do we face shame and marginalisation? How are we to maintain self-respect in the face of dishonor? 
  • How should we relate to non-Christian family members? What effect does our commitment to obey Jesus have on our roles in the household?
  • How should we interpret what we see going on around us every day? 
The key thing is that we often try to read our own meaning into the Scripture, but yet we do not pause to consider why the New Testaments were written? We just need to bear in mind that the early church did not begin with the urge to write Scriptures to defend each and every of Jesus' teachings. But there were questions that arose here and then that required the apostolic leadership of the early church to address these pastoral issues. This means that we ought to consider the original meaning of the text before we claim any application in our own lives. There is a world that the 27 NT books sought to address and I believe we ought to respect that, and not behave in a way whereby some scholars claim - to read our own meaning into the text. 

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