Chapter Ten of the Acts of the Apostles has something very different happening. A centurion is being called by God. Before then, He called mostly Jews. He was a man named Cornelius, a Roman centurion. A couple of times the Bible refers to him as being “God fearing”. This is a lay man’s title for those who are not Jewish, but honor the Jewish religion. They pray to god and even are known to give substantial contributions for the Temple or the Jewish community. Peter is called to go and evangelize him and his household. Peter is instructed to eat profaned meat (v12-14). Peter first refuses because of the type of meat that is set out in his vision. But God has him come to Cornelius’ house and eat. Continue reading
The Gospel of John does not have an account of how the birth of Jesus came about other than when it says, “And the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). The first historical context of the Gospel starts with John the Baptist. After that, John the Baptist introduces Jesus to the first disciples. Right after that, begins the second chapter and the Wedding in Cana. This is the first mention of Mary. Mary is mentioned again later in the suffering and death of Jesus.
I’ll give you some tips for looking up things in the Gospels. Remember, Mary is in only two of the Gospels, Luke and John. So, if you are looking for one of the stories where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is present, then you would look for it in either the Gospel of Luke or John. If it is a story about Mary when Jesus was a child, then it is in the Gospel of Luke. Most anything during Jesus’ adulthood that deals with Mary would be from John. John accounts Mary at the Wedding of Cana and at the suffering and death of Jesus. There are, however, parts in Matthew and Luke where the Mother of Jesus is mentioned (MT 12:47 & Lk 8:20) as waiting outside with His “brothers”. Matthew’s account, written originally in Aramaic, a Hebrew language, does not make any difference between brothers and cousins. Back then, they used the same word to describe both cousin and brother. That is why we can still believe that Mary remained a virgin.
John also gives great detail that the other Gospel accounts do not have. One example of this is in Chapter Five at the beginning. There was a pool called Bethesda “with five porticoes” (Jn 5:2). This is an odd detail for its time, and perhaps that is why John notices this. Most buildings in Jesus’ time would have four porticoes (meaning doorways). Usually a building would have one door facing each direction; one facing north, one south, and so on. But, this one has five. Many scholars believed that John got this wrong and were starting to teach that the Gospel accounts did not intend to be historically accurate, as if the Gospels were just stories of myths trying to explain a spiritual reality. But, as archeologists found a pool building with five doorways in it, near to where John described. Therefore, the sceptics and those who are considered to be the “professional scientists” were wrong in their assumption, and the believers were vindicated. The Gospel of John does in fact provide actual, historical accuracy in its details.
In the Gospel of John is also the great “Bread of Life” discourse. This is where Jesus performed the multiplication of the loaves, walked across the sea, and then taught about the Eucharist. First, He reminds the people of the Manna in the desert by the multiplication of the loaves. They even mention it in verse thirty-one of Chapter Six. The miracle of the loaves was a set-up by Jesus so He could speak about the true Bread of Life of (Himself), in the Eucharist. He goes so far as to say, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (V 53-54). Many people leave because of this teaching, but Jesus does not back down. He does not say, “wait a minute, you are misunderstanding me, I meant it as a mere symbol”. No, He really means that He is the Bread of Life and that the host is really His body and the wine is no longer wine; it is His blood. He turns to his disciples and asks if they, too, are going to leave. Notice the chilling coincidence that you note at verse 66 in Chapter Six, that those who do not believe in the Eucharist leave Jesus and no longer follow Him.
The book of Joel is short, four chapters long, which translates into four pages. It was written about 400 BC. At about that time there was a great famine due to locusts and grasshoppers eating up the food of the land. It sounds like it was similar to one of the ten plagues in Egypt. By the end of this book comes hope and God makes a promise to the people that He will bless them. Continue reading
The book of Ezekiel is one of the longer books of the prophets; it is 48 chapters long. It deals with the time during the exile. He is also a priest and has a prominence in the liturgy. He found his call to be a prophet in the land of Babylon which makes him the first prophet to receive his call outside of the Holy Land (EZ 1:1-3). Continue reading
The Bible, generally speaking, is in chronological order, but not strictly speaking. Genesis starts with the origin of humanity. Matthew was not necessarily the first writer of the Gospels, nor were the letters of Paul put in the order that he wrote them. This is also true for the Old Testament. Ezra and Nehemiah were both associated with the restoration of the Temple after the Babylonian exile. Ezra comes before Nehemiah in the Bible, but it is believed that Nehemiah came first. The Book of Daniel backtracks to the Babylonian exile and fills in what happened during that period. Continue reading
As we continue the timeline of events in the Bible after Moses, we begin with Joshua, who leads the people into the Holy Land. The Book of Joshua begins with the story of Jericho and the many other battles that established them in the land. This book ends with Joshua renewing the covenant with the people using the famous words, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). The Book of Judges came during the occupancy of the Holy Land. This book has the story of Deborah, Gideon and Samson. The Israelites pretty much dominate the land, but they still have difficulty with the inhabitants in the mountains and over by the Mediterranean Sea. This is where we discover the dreaded Philistines. The Israelites fall short of what they promise, (to be obedient to God), many times. Because of their disobedience, they suffer and turn back to God. God sends them a “Judge” to help them get back on track and be back in God’s grace. Then they fall back in the same cycle. This happened for at least 400 years. Continue reading