An understanding of the lives of the Gospel-writers is important for understanding what they wrote. Many today use the “sola scriptura” approach to understanding the Scriptures. The way this happens is that the assumption is made that if nothing is said in the Scriptures, it didn’t happen. But there are many things that truly did happen, yet the Scriptures are silent or almost silent about the events. For example, in Romans 16, Paul addresses 18 of the Seventy Apostles who were then in Rome. If the reader doesn’t know who the Seventy Apostles were, Romans 16 is a closed book to him/her. This also brings up the question: Why were 18 of the Seventy all together in Rome as Paul was writing a letter to the Church in Rome? If one looks just at the Scriptures, it is possible to conceive of some really strange theories regarding why one writer of the Scriptures penned his Gospel. Knowing a little more details about the life of the Gospel-writer can dispel some of these strange theories very quickly.
Holy Week in the Orthodox Church is the culmination of seven weeks of fasting and contains different services for each day of Holy Week. There are an incredibly large number of Scripture Readings for each day of Holy Week as we walk through what is happening to the Lord Jesus Christ that week. Not just the Scriptural accounts of the events is read, but also a large number of the Prophetic predictions of what will occur are read. In this Study, we address what the Church Fathers have had to say about all the Scripture Readings for each day of Holy Week.
Going through all these services and understanding all the Scripture Readings for each day in Holy Week just once in one’s life will change anyone’s life! This is the foundation of Christianity. People make pilgrimages to the Holy Land to see some of places where these things happened and come back a profoundly changed person. Going through this Study will do the same thing!
Much is written in the Gospels about Peter's interaction with Jesus and the others of the Twelve. In this Study, we will follow Peter's life chronologically as we find it in the Gospels, and we will look at what was happening to Peter and the rest of the Twelve as illumined by the Church Fathers and by other sources. A theme in Peter's life is that the other Apostles viewed him as a leader and as a spokesman from the beginning, and this will become apparent as we consider episode after episode in his life. As the Twelve grapple to understand what Jesus was saying, Peter was usually the one at the forefront of the inquiry into what this all meant. As we follow Peter's life, both locally in Palestine and traveling around the world, we will see the development of the Early Church and its worship of God.
Peter and Paul are commemorated together on June 29th, the approximate day of their martyrdom. This can only be an approximate date, since Paul, being a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-29) merited a quick death and was beheaded. Peter, who was not a Roman citizen, merited no special favor and was crucified (upside down at his request) and may have taken several days to die. Both were executed by Emperor Nero.
Some surprising things from a detailed study of the life of the Apostle Paul are the amount of effort he spent in working together with the Twelve Apostles and the Seventy Apostles. From a casual reading of the Scripture, one may get the idea that Paul is out evangelizing the earth, while the Twelve are kicking back in Jerusalem enjoying a cold one. Such is hardly the case! Even though the Seventy Apostles are mentioned throughout the Scriptures, we don’t know who they are without help from other documents outside the Scriptures. What is startling is how often Paul ended up working with various members of the Seventy and directing their activities.
As we get into the details of Paul’s life, we find him going well out of his way to keep the details of the Mosaic Law himself, even though he was working with Gentiles most of the time. We need to understand why he did this!
A much underrated aspect of Paul’s work was the influence throughout his life from the members of the Jewish Zealots political party. For the Zealots, circumcision was viewed as Jewish national identity; after all it was given to the people of God in the days of Abraham. Thanks to the work of Jesus’ step-brother James, now Bishop of Jerusalem, many of the Jewish Zealots had become Christian. But even after the Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), the Zealots were not willing to give up circumcision. Later during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans – when the Zealots ruled Jerusalem – we get to see the true colors of the Zealots. These “colors” were exhibited also during Paul’s Missionary Journeys, but we need to pay attention to recognize them.
Another startling thing occurred at the height of Paul’s ministry. On his 3rd Missionary Journey, people brought handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul had touched and used these items to heal the sick (Acts 19:12). The demons seem to go out of their way to avoid him as was seen by the reaction to the Jewish exorcists (Acts 19:13-18). Rather than go to other countries to further spread the Word, using these spectacular gifts, Paul went to Jerusalem, knowing that chains awaited him. He spent the next four years in captivity, two years in Caesarea (Acts 24:27) and two years in Rome (Acts 28:30). Why would Paul do this and seem to waste four years of his extremely valuable ministry? What did Paul know that we tend to miss?
All these questions and others will be addressed.
Simon Magus was a major influence against the Church in the 1st Century, and his influence continued into the 5th Century through his followers. He was so influential that Emperor Claudius, with the approval of the Roman Senate, erected a statue of Simon in Rome along the Tiber River with the inscription, "To Simon, the Holy God". Thus Simon is not just a minor character that appeared once (Acts 8:9-25) in a small backwater of the Empire, but he was among the Roman pantheon of gods.
For someone this influential, one would expect to see some references to him or to his teachings in the Scriptures. This is, in fact, the case, but references to Simon's teachings are easy to miss if one doesn't know what they were. In this study, we will first delve into Simon's background to see what sort of person he was, then go into what he taught, and finally examine references to Simon's teaching that appear in most of the books of the New Testament.
Detailed worship and festival instructions are given in the Scriptures concerning the "Appointed Feasts" found in the Old Testament, especially concerning the Tabernacle, which was later replaced by the Temple. These instructions cover everything in the life of the people of God from their beginning in the Faith to their ultimate reward at the Second Coming of Christ. We will look at what these instructions meant then, what they means to us now, what they say about the future and what the Scriptures say will be done about them in the future.
Seven "Appointed Feasts" were given to Moses by the Lord on Mt. Sinai; others were set up later for various reasons, but these later ones will not be addressed here. Most people don't know very much about the seven "Appointed Feasts", much less what they're all about or why they are important. This work will attempt first to get the reader "up to speed" so to speak so that he can understand how all the very complicated, but very specific, instructions fit into the life of the people of God. Each of the Appointed Feasts will be explained in terms of, first, a Commemorating Event in the life of the Hebrew nation which Israel was instructed to do or remember during the given festival. Second, the Prophetic Significance of the festival will be explained; some of the "Appointed Feasts" have been fulfilled by the work of Christ; others are still awaiting fulfillment. Third, a Spiritual Application using picture language will be made to illustrate what the Lord has to say concerning the salvation and growth of His people. Understanding the seven "Appointed Feasts" gives one a great deal of insight into the work of God past, present and future.
All of the "Appointed Feasts" are still celebrated in the Orthodox Church today, but in a different fashion than when they were first established.