QuestionQuestion

1. Paul. Pick two of the Paul-related topics below to discuss. Highlight or otherwise indicate which ones you are answering.
a. Scholars have frequently suggested that Paul was very angry during the composition of his letter to the Galatians. What are some of the structural and contextual clues that contribute to this assessment of Paul’s emotional state?
b. Compare and contrast Paul’s references to circumcision and the law in Philippians, Galatians, and Romans (e.g., do the contents indicate similar or different circumstances with regard to the purpose of the letter and the audiences to whom each was written)?
c. Does Paul uphold or subvert the ancient practice of slavery in his letter to Philemon? (Include information about Greco-Roman societal structure and the practice of slavery during Paul’s time.)
d. In 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions that the crucified Christ is a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles/Greeks. Why? (Answer should include information about the relevant socio-historical backgrounds, as well as surrounding context.)
e. Discuss some of the similarities differences between the roles of women in the non-disputed letters by Paul in comparison to the Deutero-Pauline and Pastoral Epistles using specific examples.
f. Discuss the apparent contradiction between Paul’s insistence that humans are not justified by works but faith alone vs. James’ insistence that one is justified by both works and faith. Use specific examples (biblical citations).


2. Gospels. Pick one of the following (indicate which one):
a. Pick one of the theories for solving the “Synoptic Problem” discussed in class and apply it to a passage that appears in the Triple Tradition (i.e., is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke). You may use one of the passages for which a scan of the parallel passages was provided. In what ways does the theory work in the example you chose? What potential problems are there when applying the theory (e.g., in what ways does the theory not work for the example you chose)?
b. Discuss how you think each of the four Gospels’ information about Jesus of Nazareth was uniquely shaped to reflect its author’s theological interests and intended audience. Provide specific examples from each Gospel (Matt, Mark, Luke, John) to support your observations.
c. Pick one of the major parables (e.g., Prodigal Son, Good Samaritan, etc.) and modernize it for a contemporary audience.


3. Hypothetical situation. You are the guardian of the only copies of the New Testament writings, each written on a separate scroll or codex. The Roman soldiers are at your doorstep, intent on destroying these texts. You only have time and space to save one Gospel, two longer books, and two shorter books. The combination of the five you choose will determine how beliefs about Jesus, Christian theology, and structure of the church will develop.
a. Which one of the Gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke, John) do you save?
b. Which two of the longer books (Acts, Rom, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, 1 Tim, Heb, James, Rev) do you save?
c. Which two of the shorter books (1 Thess, 2 Thess, Gal, Eph, Phil, Col, Phlm, 2 Tim, Titus, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude) do you save?
d. What criteria did you use to make your decision? Did you look at the overall picture regarding how the five might complement or balance one another, or was your decision based more on considering the books individually?
e. Discuss how any two of the following issues might be affected if only the five books you picked survived (highlight which two you will discuss):
i. Christology (e.g., high vs. low Christology; relationship between Jesus and God)
ii. Ecclesiology (e.g., structure/roles within church; theology related to it)
iii. Perspectives / knowledge about Jesus’s family (esp. Mary and Joseph)
iv. Knowledge about John the Baptist and his relationship with/to Jesus
v. Forgiveness within Christian community vs. expulsion of member who sins
vi. Jesus’s teachings about marriage (including celibacy and divorce)
vii. Teachings about sexual immorality (e.g. adultery, porneia, same-sex acts, etc.)
viii. Role of / attitude toward women within the Christian community
ix. Portrayal/importance of Peter vs. Mary Magdalene
x. Applicability of Jewish traditions / customs / laws for Christians

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c. Does Paul uphold or subvert the ancient practice of slavery in his letter to Philemon? (Include information about Greco-Roman societal structure and the practice of slavery during Paul’s time.)
d. In 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions that the crucified Christ is a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles/Greeks. Why? (Answer should include information about the relevant socio-historical backgrounds, as well as surrounding context.)

One of the doctrines of the Jewish religion is the belief in and expectation of the Messiah. He will restore the Kingdom of Israel, destroy the enemies and bring about the era of order, happiness, and piety. This expectation was particularly acute during the time of Jesus. The Jewish kingdom was losing what was left of it's independence and the Roman power was seemingly impossible to resist. Christians believed that Jesus is the Messiah who already came. So Jesus and early Christians were acting within the Jewish paradigm, but the coming of Messiah was interpreted and presented in a totally different way. The mission of Jesus was not political, but spiritual, and it was directed not to the Jewish nation alone, but to the whole humankind. That is why Jesus as the Messiah was a true stumbling block for the followers of Judaism. Accpeting Jesus as the Messiah meant changing the old religious paradigm in a very radical way. On the other hand, Greeks (and Romans) did not have a religion based on revelation of God to men. Such concepts, common to Judaism and Christianity as revelation, sacred books containing the will of God, resurrection, and atonement were foreign to the ancient religious and philosophical views. For someone whose upbringing was based on the Greek philosophy or traditional worship of Greek and Roman deities to accept those concepts would mean to deny one's intellectual and cultural roots....
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