Basic Bible Quiz: Answer Key

How did you do on Basic Bible Quiz?  Here are the answers:

The Christian Bible is divided into two main parts, the (1) Old Testament and the (2) New Testament. This first book in the Bible, called (3) Genesis tells the story of the origins of the universe and of human civilization. This book describes the first humans as living in a place called the Garden of (4) Eden.   They disobeyed the command of God and followed the temptations of the (5) Serpent (or Devil).

 After a devastating flood in which humanity was preserved through the family of (6) Noah, the Bible continues with the establishment of a chosen people known as (7) Israel. These people were delivered from slavery and received God’s Law under a leader called (8) Moses.   Though this nation was to represent God in the world, it often needed correction by people who spoke for God. This type of corrective leader is called a (9) prophet.

The second section of the Bible begins with the record of the life and ministry of (10) Jesus. His followers were later organized into a new people of God called the (11) Church. The first leaders of this new people of God were called (12) Apostles.   One of these leaders named (13) Peter was a former fisherman, who had denied his Lord in a moment of weakness. Another of these leaders preached the Christian message in many places and wrote at least twelve letters to various groups of believers. History knows him by the name of Saint (14) Paul. The book of (15) Revelation closes the Bible by promising the coming of God’s Kingdom at the end of the Age.

If you missed some answers, don’t be discouraged.  A knowledge of the Bible is something that comes with time.  Keep reading!

 

A Neglected Female Perspective on Jesus’ Resurrection

Women at the tomb

A female perspective on the Resurrection of Jesus is desperately needed in our divided times. Though male myself, I have tried to see the resurrection of Jesus through the eyes of the women who went to his tomb as recorded in Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, and Luke 24:1-12.  The following is my attempt to tell their story in a single narrative.

The Women’s Story

It was an early Sunday morning twenty centuries ago.  Actually, we would probably describe it as night because the darkness had not yet been mixed with the faintest light of dawn.  A small group of women–three or four–were on their way to do something that would break their hearts. They were going to finish preparing the body of their dear friend and honored teacher for his final burial. Over the past days, these women had experienced an emotional ups and downs.  Just seven days earlier they had been convinced that their teacher, leader, friend was finally going to be acknowledged as the Messiah that their people had been expecting for centuries.

The Previous Week

Such excitement; such hope!  Only a few days ago their expectations were all coming true.  Now it had ended so suddenly, so tragically.  The previous Sunday–just seven days ago–Jesus of Nazareth had arrived in Jerusalem to the acclaim of the cheering multitudes. He had entered the holy temple and called out the corruption of its leaders.  The packed and eager crowds hung on his words.  Though Jesus’ enemies had tried to discredit him, they were unable to counter his answers, and went away, publicly embarrassed.  It had looked like the Messiah and his Kingdom had actually arrived at last.

Then on Thursday, Jesus and his closest followers sat down to the annual Passover meal–the traditional celebration of their people’s deliverance from slavery long ago.  During that extended meal he taught them as usual about God’s coming Kingdom.  But this time the teaching was more personal.  Jesus addressed them as friends.  It was hard to believe, but he had seemed to be saying that the covenant between God and Israel had been fulfilled, and that a new covenant was being established based on himself. There was talk of blood sealing this new covenant–but then he had always spoken in symbols and metaphors.

Later that night, though, the metaphor turned into reality.  Jesus was arrested by his enemies. The next day, Friday, he was tried before the high Jewish council and, later, by the Roman governor. To the disbelief of his followers, he was quickly and unfairly condemned and executed after public humiliation and torture. Within forty-eight hours the women had gone from excitement and expectation to numbed grief and devastation.

The Lord is Dead

All day Saturday they were haunted by the memory of taking his shattered body off that cross. Along with two kind men–Joseph and Nicodemus–the only two members of the high council who sympathized with Jesus, they carried his body to a nearby tomb that Joseph donated in this hour of need. Together, they had done what they could to prepare Jesus’ body in the short time before the Sabbath came at sundown. The Romans sealed the tomb with a heavy stone and posted a guard.

Sunday

Now the Sabbath was over and the little band of women were picking their way through dark lanes and streets of Jerusalem and then out of the city gate to the tomb where the final preparations would be made to lay their beloved master to his final rest.

Arrival. Shock. Confusion. Are we at the wrong place? No, this is surely the right place. How could we forget this scene of crucifixion so etched in our memories barely thirty-six hours ago? But something is dreadfully wrong. The tomb is standing open. That big, heavy stone door is laying way over there. How? There is a man sitting on it. Who is he?  He is terrifying, powerful. Light seems to be radiating from him.

What is he saying? “Jesus isn’t here. He is alive from the dead.” What does that mean? We must look inside the tomb. Another man in shining clothes. An angel? ” Where is out master?” “See for yourselves,” he says: “He is not here.” We look at the niche where we placed his body, now just the empty shroud lays there.

Outside now.  Bewildered. Where has he gone?  “You there, sir.  Are you the groundskeeper?  What has happened to the body of our teacher?  Where are the soldiers?  Please help us!”

“Mary!” That familiar voice.  Recognition!  Tears.  Fear.  Joy.  Alternate laughing and weeping.  Questions.  He is saying, “Don’t detain me. Don’t hold me–not yet.  Run and tell my disciples that I am alive and I will meet them soon.” ” No, Lord.  We don’t want to leave you.  Don’t send us away.  Alright.  Yes Lord, we will go tell the others.”

The First Eyewitnesses

Stumbling, hurrying, running into the waking city as the light grows stronger. Pounding on the door of the safe house where the men are staying. We tell the story with words tumbling out of our mouths. Interrupting, talking one on top of another. Those infuriating blank looks from Peter and the others.  More urgent attempts to make them understand.  Questions.  Disbelief.  Off they go to see for themselves–just like men!

But oh the joy, the relief. Our hope is renewed.  Morning has come.  We sit down to an improvised breakfast.  More talk. Is this a dream?  More tears. Irrepressible joy.  Nothing will ever be the same!

Passion Week 4: Relating to Jesus’ Resurrection

Jesus is risen!

Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday of Passion Week changed everything!  Out of all the followers of Jesus, only a few of the women were able to keep their wits enough to focus on practical things. Several of the women got up very early on Sunday morning, met at an agreed location, and set out together for the tomb to finish embalming Jesus’ body . As the walked through the darkness, the women must have quietly discussed both the heartache they still felt, and the task ahead. Specifically they wondered how they were going to roll aside the great stone that sealed the entrance.

Upon arrival, the women were stunned to find a scene of confusion. The stone weighing several tons, was not only rolled aside, but seemingly tossed aside some distance away. The Roman guard was dispersed and the tomb was empty.  Not knowing what else to do, they began the return journey to inform their friends. Mary Magdalene lingered behind because she wanted to ask what had happened of a man she presumed to be the gardener.  It was only when the man spoke her name that she realized he was actually Jesus, fully alive.

There were other experiences that day. After being urged by the women to see for themselves, Peter and John ran to the tomb and confirmed that it was empty.   Other followers of Jesus had been on their way home to figure out how to restart their lives– only to meet a fellow traveller, who they suddenly recognized to be Jesus at the end of the day’s journey.  Later Jesus appeared to his disciples when they were together in the upper room.  On still another occasion, Jesus appeared among the disciples when Thomas, who had been absent before, was present.

After his resurrection, Jesus seems to have been physically with his disciples a number of times during a period of several weeks, both in Jerusalem and in Galilee. Imagine the emotional swings they must have experienced during those days.  In all of their discussions with Jesus, one thing was certain to these men and women: Jesus had come to life again after dying. His death was no tragic accident, but a supreme payment of human transgression. Most importantly, Jesus had shown himself to be the Son of God by taking on a new kind of life: a life he was offering to share with them.

There are many truths to be gained from the resurrection of Jesus.  One that should always be emphasized is the almost unbelievable fact that you now have hope.  The gracious God, who loved and pursued us through history, has never given up on your reconciliation. For reasons of his own, God wants you back and has done all that is needed to forgive you, cleanse you, and make you his own. The resurrection proves this almost unbelievable fact.  So, next time life seems hopeless– next time your heart is broken, or weighed down with worry, remember that there is hope in Jesus’ resurrection. Put your full trust in him. Hold onto the gift of life he offers you.  It will guide you through all that life brings your way, and will bring you eternal life with him!

Passion Week 3: Relating to Jesus’ Suffering

Jesus’ death and burial

It is on Saturday of Passion Week that fear really took hold.  Jesus’ followers– scattered the day before– have gone into hiding. They were terrified of betrayal by their neighbors or other who might recognize their connection with Jesus.  That Saturday of Passion Week, every footstep in the street, every knock at the house next door, every raised voice, caused the terror to rise to the surface again. The extreme disillusionment and sorrow of Friday is taking its toll on Saturday. Life is not simply flat and gloomy: now it is horrifying.

Had God abandoned them?  Were they heretics as their enemies claimed? Was Jesus a liar or a misguided fool? In their minds, the fishing, or the collecting of taxes, the farming and small businesses of their former lives now appeared to be a respectable alternative to all the talk about the coming Kingdom of God.  What about the miracles, the crowds and the new hope inspired by Jesus’ teaching over the past several years?  These now appeared foolish and even dangerous.  So the followers of Jesus quietly made their plans to slip back north up to Galilee and just disappear.  Fear had caused a sudden abandonment of everything these men and women had so optimistically believed as recently as one week before.

Many of us have experienced (or are experiencing) this kind of fear.  That deep kind of fear is dark and overpowering.  It makes us desperate and irrational.  It can cause us to be suspicious of those around us.  We feel like cornered animals with no way of escape.  So we crouch, ready to fight and flee, abandoning all we once held dear. Threatened layoffs at work, accusations by associates, a medical diagnosis or some huge disillusionment can have this effect on us.  Are you in the grip of fear? Are you considering throwing away some of your dearest commitments?  Do you feel abandoned by God?  Hold on: God isn’t finished.  Hope is just around the corner!

Passion Week 2: Relating to Jesus’ Betrayal

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The crucifixion

It is  Friday of Passion Week.  Jesus had been awake for more than twenty-four hours.  At this point in what we now call Passion Week, Jesus had endured the difficult interrogation by the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious council) all alone.  Both during and afterward, Jesus was beaten and humiliated.  His friend Peter had managed to enter the courtyard of the High Priest where Jesus was being held, but when Peter was asked if he was one of Jesus’ followers, he strongly denied it in Jesus’ very presence.

Then Jesus was shuffled off to Pilate, who quickly passed him off to Herod Antipas.  Herod humiliated Jesus and then returned him to Pilate for final judgment. We should remember that Pilate was in a difficult spot.  As Roman governor felt blackmailed by the Sanhedrin into sentencing Jesus to death.  Seeing no way out of the predicament, Pilate made it clear Jesus had violated no Roman law.  Even so, after a whipping that left little skin on Jesus’ back and resulting in a catastrophic loss of blood, the Romans forced Jesus to carry a heavy wooden beam through the streets.  Before he reached the place of execution, Jesus stumbled and fell.  A bystander named Simon was then forced to carry the cross on the final leg of the journey.

At the place the Romans called Calvary (Skull Hill), Jesus was nailed to the crossbeam and the crossbeam was attached to post to which Jesus’ feet were spiked.  There Jesus hung from 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon.  At noon a darkness came over the sky as Jesus increasingly lost strength.  With a final cry of agony, he gave up his spirit, causing the veil in the Temple to split from top to bottom.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two members of the Sanhedrin who refused to condemn Jesus, asked for and received permission from Pilate to remove Jesus’  body for burial.  Joseph kindly offered his own unused family tomb for the purpose.  The burial party was under the pressure of time due to the commandment not to work on the Sabbath, which would begin at sundown–only a few hours away.  Because of this pressure the burial preparations were only partially completed.  One last caress by Mary, his mother and a mental note of the preparations still to be made, and they sealed the tomb.

But isn’t Jesus the miracle worker?  Isn’t he the Messiah, the Son of God?  How could God let him be treated like this?  Is God just a myth, or is he like the disciples who abandoned Jesus in his hour of need?  Maybe the skeptics are right when they sneer that nice guys always finish last.  Maybe the cynics are proven correct that evil ultimately crushes good and might trumps right.  The followers of Jesus were in deep shock.  For them, the crucifixion was more than a major disappointment: it was the crushing of all hopes and dreams. They were facing the real possibility that life ultimately favors whoever has the power to force their will on others. These are hardly the thoughts that faithful Jews should have had on the sabbath following Passover.

Have you ever felt abandoned and punished unjustly?  Have you wondered why evil sometimes seems to triumph?  Why is it that selfish and self-righteous people appear to prevail?  Those are truly desolate and terrifying thoughts, and many people have them.  Jesus’ friends and followers certainly felt that way at the foot of the cross and at the sealing of Jesus’ tomb.  But hold on: God isn’t finished. Hope is just around the corner!

Passion Week 1: Relating to Jesus’ Abandonment

Calvary

Think back to the busiest week of your life.  Maybe there were many places to go or you had to fulfill a crushing list of responsibilities.  Perhaps you hosted a constant stream of visitors, or received phone calls from people wanting favors small and large.  At the end of the week you were physically and mentally exhausted.  This is what that final week was like for Jesus.   We now refer to that week in Jesus’ life as Passion Week.

Jesus began Passion Week by riding into Jerusalem to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowds who hailed him as their Messiah-King.  From Sunday onward, Jesus had taught in the Temple every day.  He had tried to listen to the requests and meet the needs of dozens, maybe hundreds of people.  Passion Week saw Jesus awash in a sea of humanity.   Now it is Thursday—the day of Passover: time to spend time with family and friends; time to focus on Israel’s great story of deliverance from slavery and their becoming a covenant nation.

But even on this day of celebration and reflection, Jesus must teach his followers some final lessons. So taking a towel, he washed their feet as a metaphor of servant-leadership. He spoke at great length in the upper room where he and his followers were meeting, reminding them of how much they are loved by the Father, and how inseparable they are from himself.  He told them that they would soon be empowered by God’s Spirit living inside them and commanded them to cling desperately to each other.  On the night of Passover, Jesus broke the unleavened bread and poured the cups of wine, filling these elements with special meaning his followers would not grasp until many weeks into the future.

Then came  the desperate, desolate hours of prayer in Gethsemane.  In that grove of olive trees, Jesus sweat blood and cried out in agony at what he knew awaited him the next day.  His suffering was enhanced by his followers’ drowsy lack of concern, and by the ultimate betrayal of a close friend.   At his arrest, the very disciples who seemed so confident and fearless only hours ago promptly scattered, leaving Jesus utterly alone.

Jesus will face trial before a hostile council on this last Thursday of his earthly life. Humanly speaking, everything seemed to have gone wrong.  There is no hope.   Without the rest of the story, Thursday night seems to be all gloom and sorrow, much like some days we have experienced ourselves in a more limited way.  But hold on: God isn’t finished. Hope is just around the corner!

The Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection: You Decide

The Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection 

Was Jesus' resurrection real?
Was Jesus’ resurrection real?

The subject of Jesus’ resurrection is a perennial feature on talk shows, articles in popular magazines, blogs and newspaper columns. These venues often cite experts who claim that the historical evidence refutes Jesus’ resurrection took place. Using various arguments, they claim that Jesus of Nazareth remained dead after the crucifixion and that what is left of his body still lies in an obscure tomb somewhere in Jerusalem.

While some may dismiss this assertion as merely one point of view, the discussion highlights issues of enormous weight.  After all, if Jesus really rose from the dead, then Jesus is more than a moral teacher and the core message of the Christian faith should be taken seriously. On the other hand, if these scholars are correct in claiming that Jesus never rose from the dead, then the central teachings of Christianity are just wishful thinking.  So the resurrection of Jesus is the key to whether the hopes of millions of Christian believers are real or imagined.

Jesus’ Resurrection and Other Religions.  Other religions can survive the deaths of their founders.  Buddhism admits that the Buddha is dead without being threatened because its teachings are built around the man’s ideas, not the man himself.  Muslims are not disturbed that Muhammad died in 632 AD because it is the legacy of the prophet that is important, not the man.  But when it comes to Christianity, everything stands or falls upon Jesus’ resurrection.  His physical resurrection from the dead has always been the prime argument of the claim that he is the Son of God. So, here are some lines of evidence that the early Christians presented to prove their announcement of Jesus’ resurrection:

The Evidence.  First is the evidence of the women who visited Jesus’ tomb. According to the gospel accounts, a group of Jesus women followers hastily prepared his body for burial on the Friday afternoon of his death. Then early on Sunday morning they went to the tomb to finish the burial preparations. As they made their way to the tomb, they seemed to have no notion that the body of their beloved teacher would be missing. Upon arrival they found the massive stone that had sealed the tomb cast aside from the entrance. The guard placed there under Roman orders was in shock and the tomb itself was empty. The women were understandably bewildered by what they encountered and could only conclude that perhaps someone had removed Jesus’ body without telling them. The women then reported that they were visited by angels who told them Jesus was alive. On their way to do so, some of the women actually saw and touched the risen Jesus.

Secondly, the evidence of the twelve disciples confirms the report of the women. They did not have a clue about Jesus’ resurrection either. So when the women relayed the news, the disciples dismissed it as female hysteria. Nevertheless, Peter and John decided to check out the situation and ran the short distance at the tomb in order to investigate. Like the women, they saw the stone removed, the Roman guard dispersed, and the tomb empty. The account has Peter actually going inside and finding the linen strips of cloth, which the body had been wrapped in, still in place and glued with the spices—but empty of the body. This still did not convince these men that Jesus was alive. It was not until later that Jesus appeared to them personally and urged them to touch him.

Thirdly, the soldiers who were charged with guarding the tomb against the possibility that Jesus’ followers might fake a resurrection by stealing the body were in shock. They knew that abandoning their mission would result in execution.  Even so, they left the tomb unguarded after less than 36 hours and reported to the Jewish Council that the tomb was open and empty. According to the gospel accounts, these men were bribed by the Sanhedrin to spread the story that the disciples had indeed stolen the body.

Though this version of the story is popular among critics of Christianity, the story falls apart under examination. It boggles the mind that the disciples, who were clearly terrified for their own lives, could overcome a guard of experienced soldiers, enter a sealed tomb, remove the body, and make sure to carefully re-wrap the burial cloths. The disciples then supposedly concealed the body elsewhere without anyone noticing.  All this so that they could fake a resurrection that they that would ultimately die for!  Yet it seems that the story that Jesus’ body was stolen was the best explanation that could be invented by critics on the spur of the moment.

Consider this as well: the early church preached Jesus’ resurrection in the weeks and years following these events in the very place where they occurred. There were many people still alive who testified to having actually seen and touched the risen Jesus. The empty tomb was a matter of public knowledge. It could be verified by anyone who wished to do so. If the body had been removed and hidden, surely someone would have observed it. The soldiers or other eyewitnesses could have tipped off the authorities to the hiding place and the body could have been produced as evidence.  But no body was ever found, which is hard to imagine given the very public and sensational nature of these events. Unless of course —the resurrection really happened. Tens of thousands living around Jerusalem in the years following these events rendered their verdict by believing in Jesus and paying the high price of that belief.

Finally, for those who still have doubts, consider the evidence of history. What is the explanation for the millions of people whose lives have been changed by the power of a risen Christ? Wishful thinking? Pure indoctrination? How about the willing martyrdom of the very men and women who supposedly faked a resurrection they knew never happened, or the almost inconceivable survival and spread of the early church under extreme persecution?

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is extremely compelling. In view of such strong evidence, the sarcasm and ridicule of skeptics today is a small price for embracing the truth.  Michael Bogart