Class Schedule for “The First Christmas”

  • November 15.
    The stories of the First Christmas
    The stories as Parables and Overtures
  • November 22
    The Contexts of the Christmas Stories
    The Genealogies and Jesus’ Destiny
  • November 29
    An Angel Appears to Mary
  • December 6
    Bethlehem in the Stories of the First Christmas
    Light, Darkness, and the Gospels
  • December 13
    Jesus and Prophecy
    Joy, Anticipation, and the Messages of Christmas for Today

A Preview of Sunday, February 1, 2015

Topics for Discussion

  • The Pre-Easter vs Post-Easter construct by Borg
  • Competing Biblical narratives of Jesus with a focus on competing birth stories as an exemplar to the challenges of Biblical literalism.
  • Who was the historical Jesus and what was the cultural context in which He lived?
    • Where was the physical territory of Jesus’ life?
    • Who controlled the territory?
    • What was (were) the dominant religion(s) of the people?
    • What languages did the people largely speak?
    • What was the economic structure?

Suggested Readings

  1. Borg
    • Chapter 2: from opening What Manner of Man? The Pre-Easter Jesus to The Adult Jesus: A Sketch
  2. Bible
    • Jesus’ birth – Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:1-20
  3. Maps
    • Look at maps of ancient Galilee

A Preview of Sunday, January 25, 2015

Topics for Discussion

  • Differences in the synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke
  • Images of Jesus
    • Fidelistic
    • Moralistic
  • Parallel Stories – What do the differences mean?
  • From belief to relationship
  • The Pre-Easter vs. Post-Easter Jesus

Suggested Readings


Chapter 1, cont. from How I See Jesus Now to end of chapter


Two ways to follow Jesus: John 3:16, Matt 7:1 & Luke 6:31

Parallel Genealogies: Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 (click to view these passages)

Defining Scripture in the 21st Century

I have uploaded the presentation that I will use on Sunday, January 18 so that you can view it online. Feel free to share it with anyone you want, but some parts may be difficult to understand outside the context of our discussions in class.

You can find the presentation here.

1/18/2015 Comment: I’ve corrected the links in this post. The presentation displays properly now.

Defining “Scripture” in the 21st Century

On January 27 we will address a passage that is often cited by fundamentalist Christians to justify their continued use of repressive texts that support their socially conservative point of view. The New Revised Standard Version of Second Timothy 3:16-17 reads:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (NRSV).

Codex Sinaiticus
2 Timothy 3:16-17

The problem with the fundamentalist reading of this text is that it assumes a definition of “scripture” that is not consistent with the historical context in which these verses were written. When this text was written, the early church had not yet decided what would be the final list of scriptural books. The biblical books still circulated as individual scrolls, not a single book called “the Bible.” In fact the second letter of Timothy in which this passage appears was not itself yet accepted as “scripture.”

In this context, reading these words to mean “Everything in the Bible is inspired by God…” was simply not possible. In stead, this text was an attempt to answer the questions, “What should be a part of our scriptures? How can we decide what is inspired by God and what is not?”

On Sunday we will look at difficulties in translating the Greek text of these verses shown in the image above. We will examine both what this text meant for its first readers and what it should mean for us today.

What will we do in January?

On January 13, 20, and 27 we will explore uncomfortable passages in scripture looking at how a progressive church can deal with these texts. To see what we will be doing, choose Talking about the Bible without Condemnation from the options under the big picture above.

Dec. 2014 update: The menu has moved to the sidebar on the left. The link is no longer found under the picture above.