SUMMER BIBLE STUDY 2023
Ascension & Pentecost
The Gospels of Luke, Mark and John,
together with selected passages from the Acts of the Apostles
Study Notes provided here weekly
Wednesday Evenings - Beginning June 14
Vespers 7:00 p.m. - Bible Study to follow
Dear Parish Faithful,
As announced, our Summer Bible Study will focus on the Ascension and Pentecost, primarily as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, ch. 1 & 2. So, those are the chapters that will be at the center our attention. For this coming Wednesday, ch. 1 of Acts will be our main focus. But we cannot fully understand the Ascension (and Pentecost), beginning with its chronology, without studying Lk. 24:44-52, Mk. 16:19-20; Jn. 20. So, those passages need to be read as well.
Questions based on Acts 1 and the Ascension that we can discuss, would include the following:
- What is the relationship between St. Luke's account of the Ascension in ch. 24 of his Gospel, and the account in Acts 1? And what of Jn. 20 when read together with Acts 1?
- What kind of misconceptions were the disciples still experiencing even at the Ascension in Acts 1?
- What were the "two men ... in white robes" possibly alluding to when they asked the disciples, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven?"
- What does the Ascension narrative imply about the existence of the Church?
- What appears to be unique about St. John's almost passing reference to the Ascension? When did this occur?
Other questions will form of themselves, but perhaps these few can initiate our discussion.
On Wednesday, Vespers will be served at 7:00 p.m. with the Bible Study to follow. We will have to meet in the nave of the church, and get a feeling of how that works for future sessions.
* Class notes follow below...
Dear Parish Faithful,
There were twelve of us gathered yesterday day evening for the following online course offered by St. Vladimir's seminary. It was a wonderful lecture that kept us all very attentive. FelIowship and discussion followed. I discovered that one of our participants - Rhett Harkins - took these amazingly detailed and accurate notes. So with Rhett's permission, I am sharing these with all of you. One overall theme of this series is that we do not know the Old Testament as well as we should. We have a good deal of reading, study and meditation ahead of us!
* Note: Our class is limited due to meeting space, but you may wish to register and follow along online by following this link.
SVS Old Testament Class
St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary’s Online School of Theology
Study of the Old Testament (OT) By Dr. Michael Legaspi
*Theological background for studying the Old Testament in the Orthodox Church
- The basis of Scripture (?)
"The Bible” is English translation of Greek “ta biblia”
- This is a plural noun, not singular as “Bible” suggests.
- Orthodoxy preserves the concept of scripture being plural (multiple books in multiple places with multiple people)
- i.e. One reader chanting the psalms, one reading the NT, priest reading the gospel, all in different places, different times, with different people - etc)
- The Orthodox worship space is informed by the Pentateuch
*** Observing the scriptures in the church vs outside the church, is like looking at furniture in storage vs seeing it all in its place in a family’s home.
“When scripture is distributed in, or actualized in the church, when it is ‘traditioned,’ it is no longer a dead letter.”
*** “Tradition” does not mean the past.It is a past and a present reality.
"To Tradition in its pure notion there belongs nothing formal. It does not impose on human consciousness formal guarantees of the truths of faith, but gives access to the discovery of their inner evidence.”
- Vladimir Lossky, In the Image and Likeness of God
“Tradition, even in its written expressions-Scriptures, fathers, hymnography, creeds, etc.-presents itself not as a metaphysics to be deciphered, a language to be discerned and learned, concepts to be understood, categories to be employed, propositions to be adopted, but as an inheritance of theophanic life to be had ascetically through death."
- Fr. Silviu Bunta, Tradition: Generated By or Generating
*Observe [Job], for example, in riches and in poverty, a model in both cases, neither conceited in one case nor depressed in the other, in pursuit of virtue before the Law as after the Law;Scripture says, remember, "The Law is not given for the righteous." [1 Tim 1:9] Observe the luster of the thoughts that came to him from nature. Whence came his knowledge of God?Whence his worship likewise? Whence his avoidance of error? Whence the evidence he gave of an evangelical lifestyle? Whence such marvelous patience? He had no one from whom to learn.How did he become like this? Who taught him, who instructed him? Do you see that Christ came as a teacher of nothing that was new and unprecedented?"
- St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on Job, trans. Robert Charles Hill
Note (from Q&A): Roman Church has higher willingness to prescribe “tradition” as and addition to scripture, required to understand it.Orthodox observe scripture as “written” tradition - or “a part” of tradition - not to be considered separate items really.
“Covenant” translated from Hebrew “berit”“Berit” is not a fundamentally religious term but becomes preeminent term for the life of the people under God; can mean a “pact” or “agreement” between people, or a “treaty” between kingdoms; also used for term for marriage.
- Deut 5:3
- A covenant is not a contract and can be something one is born into
- Gen 17:9-10
- In 1st sentence, “you” is singular. In 2nd sentence, “you” is plural.
- Orthodox Christians esp need to pay attention to how “berit” is translated into Greek and Latin.
- Greek: “diathēkē”Also used to refer to a will or testament indicating transfer or property to heirs.
- Latin: “testamentum”Similar to a “last will and testament” disposing the property of the deceased.
- Carefully note: when translated, an insight is imputed, that the covenant IS TO BE INHERITED
- “Now and ever and Unto Ages of Ages” is not being redundant at the end of our prayers - but announcing “from generation to generation”
- But we acknowledge TWO covenants, the old (Sinai) and the new (Pentecost)
- “Pentecost” is one of the three major Jewish feastsPassover (remembering the exodus from egypt when the spirit of death “passed over” the homes of the faithful in Israel)
- Pentecost (50days after Passover…a harvesting feast, but also celebrated as the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai (when Israel would have been folded into the covenant!))
- (Look even to the traditional Pentecostal icon…general shape is that if a mountain (!!!) )
NOTE- the “idea” of a “New Covenant” is not a “Christian” understanding post Christ - but a Jewish one found traditioned through the OT (esp the prophets)
NOTE - we see “Pentecost” almost as a “renewal” of the covenant - more like “ch. 2 of the covenant” because we see OT Israel as the Church!
St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202):
Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies)
1. Christ, Source of Both Covenants"One and the same householder produced both covenants: the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who spoke with Abraham and Moses, and who has restored us anew to liberty, and has multiplied that grace which is from Himself?
- Ado. Haer. 4.9.1; trans. Roberts and Rambaut, 1885
2. A Distinction that Unites Rather than Separates"'One greater than the Temple. [Mt 12:6] The words 'greater' and 'less' are not applied to those things which have nothing in common between themselves, and are of an opposite nature, and mutually repugnant; but are used in the case of those of the same substance; and which have properties in common, but merely differ in number and size; such as water from water, and light from light, and grace from grace."
- Ado. Haer. 4.9.2; trans. Roberts and Rambaut, 1885
3. Who's the One Changing?"To find out another Father besides Him who was preached from the beginning; and again, besides him who is imagined to have been discovered in the second place, to find out a third other, --then the progress of this man will consist in his also proceeding from a third to a fourth, and from this, again, to another and another: and thus he who thinks that he is always making progressTS RENAVE ELLE of such a kind, will never rest in one God."
- Ado. Haer. 4.9.3; trans. Roberts and Rambaut, 1885
(#3 possible response to Marcianism (heretical teaching that the “God of the OT” is a different god to the “God of the NT”)
Dear Parish Faithful,
At this evening's Bible Study, we will read and discuss Acts 2:14-47. These verses can be divided into the following subsections:
2:14-36 - The Apostle Peter's first (Christian) sermon
2:37-42 - The reaction of the people. Four characteristics of the earliest Christian community in Jerusalem.
2:43-47 - The growth of the ekklesia and worship patterns of the early community.
At the outset, we need to be aware of the consistency of the kerygmatic proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ, as found not only in ch. 2, but throughout the Acts:
2:24 - "But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it."
3:14-15 - "But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses."
4:10 - " ... be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you as well."
5:30 - "The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree."
10:39-40 - "They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest."
13:29-30 - "And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead."
+ What does it mean that Jesus was "delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge God?"
+ In the light of this apostolic preaching of the resurrection, how is this manifest in Great Vespers on Saturday evening?
+ How did the Apostle Peter envision the manner of entering the Church among those who believe the Gospel?
+ In v. 42 should we say that the four characteristics of the Church are descripture or prescriptive; or both?
+ Do we, in the Orthodox Church, faithfully continue in the four main characteristics of the Church, as found in 2:42?
Vespers at 7:00 p.m. Bible Study to follow at around 7:45.
ADDENDUM STUDY TOPIC:
" ... but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." (Jn. 20:31)
In researching and preparing for this evening's Bible Study, I came across this passage from a book by one of the most renowned biblical scholars of the 20th c., Fr. Raymond Brown:
"I have often thought it would be a fascinating exercise some Sunday to ask everyone in church to write on a slip of paper one sentence explaining what a Christian is. My suspicion is that many of the responses would consist of behavioral descriptions, e.g., a Christian is one who practices love of neighbor. True, one cannot be much of a Christian without behaving as Jesus taught, but behavior is not sufficiently defining: Christians are not the only ones who exhibit love toward each other. It would be fascinating to know how many would answer that a Christian is one who believes that Jesus is the Christ. That, of course, is both the most ancient and basic definition. We may well need to reiterate today what seemed so obvious to our original ancestors in the faith."
From "A Once and Coming Spirit at Pentecost," by Raymond Brown
I highly doubt that I will try that "exercise" on any given Sunday, but Raymond Brown raises a very good question. As we all know and practice, the one pre-Communion Prayer that we say together right before the Chalice is brought out to the faithful, is an almost direct quotation from Peter, while yet a disciple during the Lord's earthly ministry: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt. 16:16) The basic point is that Christianity exists as a distinct "religion," not because of what it holds in common with other religions, but precisely because of its unique claim about Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was crucified and raised from the dead.
Perhaps a good discussion topic in this evening's Bible Study.
Dear Parish Faithful,
Here are some questions for this evening's Bible Study that we could explore together based on Jn. 20 and Acts 1 & 2:
+ How do St. John describe the giving of the Spirit in ch. 20 of his Gospel? And how might that differ from Pentecost in Acts 2?
+ What is the link between St. John's description and the creation of Adam in Gen. 2?
+ What is the significance of Pentecost being on the fiftieth day according to St. Luke?
+ How prepared for Pentecost were the Lord's disciples?
+ How can we compare Pentecost and the Tower of Babel?
+ How does Pentecost relate to the Church?
Hope to see you there!