Is this the actual site of Pentecost? In 2015, I visited Jerusalem as part of a pastor’s tour with GTI Tours. One of the many stops we made was at the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount. Of all of the possible locations, the Southern Steps seems to fit the description of where Saint Peter and the Apostles preached their famous sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Pentecost marked the beginning of the New Covenant and the establishment of the Christian Church–50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. The place is a natural outdoor auditorium and at the foot of the steps in an area not shown in the footage, were a number of mikvot (small pools for Jewish purification) where the baptisms of the new converts could have taken place.
Was the Southern Steps area the birthplace of the Church? No one knows for sure, but in my opinion it fits all the requirements. What a thrill to stand on the very spot where the Gospel was first preached under the New Covenant!
Watch this 49 second video footage from the Southern Steps!
Really? The cross-cultural Bible? Cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding are important themes for society in the 21st Century. Turn on the news, or watch a movie, and the issue of cultural understanding is likely to be brought up somewhere along the line. But, how we are supposed to actually become cross-cultural people? Should we move to a neighborhood that is multi-cultural? Should we listen to the music and read books by people who are not like us culturally? Should we feel ashamed of our own cultural backgrounds? Many people are left feeling confused and angry.
The Value of Cross-Cultural Understanding
My point is not to debate whether cross-cultural understanding is important. Obviously the ability to understand something about other cultures has many positive outcomes. Few people would disagree that mutual cultural understanding would produce greater harmony among in our divided society. The Bible itself looks forward to the day when people from every nation, tribe and language are united in the worship of their Creator (Revelation 7:9).
But how can we develop a cross-cultural outlook when it seems that forces are working to divide people into isolated, antagonistic groups? One way is to rediscover a cross-cultural resource that has always been available to us: the Bible. A moment’s thought will show that studying the Bible is a rich cross-cultural experience in itself.
Cross-Cultural Bible: The Old Testament
For example, reading Genesis requires us to accompany Abraham out of ancient Iraq and Syria into the land of Canaan. The study of Exodus involves the reader in a second-hand experience of Israel’s oppression in ancient Egypt, and the drama of their escape and freedom. The later portions of the Old Testament bring us in contact with the cultures of ancient Israel, Babylon, and Persia.
Cross-Cultural Bible: The New Testament
The New Testament also opens up cross-cultural experiences to the reader. In the pages of the Gospels, we visit the world of First Century Judaism as we walk with Jesus through the villages of Galilee. In the New Testament letters, we travel through time into Greco-Roman culture as we grapple with the problems of Christians in the early churches. It may be possible to read the Bible and ignore the cultural features, but to do so is to miss some of its most important teachings. In fact, we must understand at least some basic elements of the cultures of the Bible in order to correctly apply their lessons to our own times and our own lives.
A few examples will show what I mean. In the Old Testament book of Ruth, Naomi and Ruth, find themselves in a dangerous society. They appeal to Boaz for protection. Boaz then acts to provide protection and to bring them into a family unit. People who fail to understand the culture of ancient Israel might jump to the conclusion that this story is an example of ancient sexism. But understood in light of the times and the culture, it should be seen as a brave and generous act of compassion. Likewise, the provision for slavery in the Old Testament might be seen an oppressive practice, unless the reader remembers that ancient societies had no welfare system. When people fell into hard times and family could not assist, the way to avoid complete ruin and starvation was to enter into a limited period of servitude. Once the period ended, the person could make a fresh start.
In Luke chapter 1, Mary’s acceptance of the word of the announcement that she should conceive the Messiah —before her marriage to Joseph— is nothing short of heroic. That Mary and Joseph would go on to raise Jesus in a disapproving and gossipy village environment, so common in all times and cultures, should cause us to marvel at their faith and endurance. In the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, the command for women to cover their heads in public worship might be seen as insensitive in our own self-absorbed culture. But when the reader understands that the point of the command is the issue of public respectability. Head covering for women demonstrated respectability in that culture. Once the principle is grasped, appropriate application can be made for our own times.
True—people have often applied things taught in the Bible inappropriately. But that fact is not an argument against the Bible itself–only against failing to understand the cultures of the Bible and how its truths can be applied across cultures to our own situation. The point is that, among all of the other amazing things about the Bible, it is also a deeply cross-cultural experience. Time spent in its pages can cause a kind of cultural sensitivity desperately needed in our diverse and troubled times.
This 35-point intermediate Bible quiz is designed to measure your knowledge of the key people and facts in Bible’s storyline and motivate you to dig deeper into the Bible itself.
The Bible commonly used by Protestants contains a total of (1) ______ books. It is divided into two main sections: the (2) _______ _____________________ and the (3) _______ _______________________. The first section was written mainly in the ancient (4) _________________ language; the second section was written in the (5) ______________ language of the First Century.
Bible People and Storyline
The book of Genesis describes the first humans as living in a garden named (6) __________. There they fell into (7) ________ by eating forbidden fruit. To prevent the complete corruption of the human race, God later sent a devastating flood while saving a remnant under the leadership of (8) __________. Later, the restored human race rebelled against God again by building the Tower of (9) ___________. After this, God called a man named (10) _________________ to begin a line of chosen people who would represent him to the rest of the world. The great-grandson of this man was sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers. His name was (11) _________________.
After several generations of slavery, the descendants of this former slave and his brothers became known as the nation of (12) ______________. They were delivered from their slavery under a lawgiver named (13) ____________. Although God promised them the land then known as (14) _______________ in which to establish themselves, they showed a lack of faith and many of them died in the wilderness. After forty years of wandering, God raised up a man called (15) _____________ to lead them into this Promised Land.
In this new land, the nation was at first ruled by servants of God called (16) ____________, one of whom was a woman named Deborah. Later the nation was ruled by a series of (17) ___________, the best known of which was David. When this line of rulers became foolish and disobedient to God, he divided the nation in two, with the northern capitol in Samaria while the south had its capitol in (18) _______________. Though they were warned to cease worshipping idols and devote themselves to the true God, the people continued to disobey, with the southern kingdom eventually suffering exile in (19) ______________. A book of 150 musical poems, some of which were written during this time, was used by God’s people in worship. We know this collection as the book of (20) _______________. Though called to represent him in the world, God’s people often needed correction by men and women speaking on God’s behalf. These people were called (21) _______________.
The second main section of the Bible begins with the life and ministry of (22) _____________. He was incarnated in the womb of a virgin named (23) _____________ and born in the city of (24) __________________. He performed many (25) _____________ to validate his claims of being the Son of God. After being accused of blasphemy, he was condemned and put to death by the cruel method of (26) ____________________. After (27) _____________ days in the tomb, he rose from the dead. The book of (28) __________ is the history of the early Christians. They formed a new people of God, known as the (29) _________________. The basic Christian message, called the (30) _____________ is the good news that, though people are guilty before God, anyone may be forgiven and reconciled to God through faith in God’s Son.
The associate of the Lord and main spokesman for the earliest Christians had been a simple fisherman. His name was (31) ____________. The majority of the letters in the second section of the Bible were written by one man: the Apostle (32) _____________. Other letters were written by various Christian leaders. One of these letters makes it clear that faith without works is dead. It was written by (33) _______________, who was probably a brother of the Lord. Several other letters were written by the Apostle (34) ____________, who was especially close to the Lord during his lifetime. The book of (35) __________________ fittingly climaxes the Bible, closing with the promise of the Lord’s return and the establishment of his Kingdom on earth.
How did you do? You can access the answers in a separate blog–Intermediate Bible Quiz–Answer Key. A good grasp of the main facts and themes of the Bible is a great foundation on which to build an unshakeable faith!