Saturday, November 22, 2008

Google Jesus - Week 4 Assignment

After a short ministry that had gained little traction, the life of Jesus came to a sudden and violent end at Passover time in Jerusalem. Having reproached the cities of the evangelical triangle (Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum) where he performed his mightiest works with only meager results, it was time to go to the holy city. Yet Jerusalem would be even less welcoming to his preaching, and highly dangerous as well. Luke records that Jesus resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem. Whatever was to happen with his ministry would now happen there. After a tumultuous entry and an incident in the Temple, the days of Jesus were numbered. This week’s assignment then centers on Jerusalem and the death of the teacher from Nazareth who some believed was the Messiah.

Trace the steps of Jesus from baptism to the Via Dolorosa at Sacred Destinations. (Click here)

Let John Dominic Crossan give you a lesson in “Crowd Control.” His essay will cause you to rethink a significant aspect of the passion story. (Click here)

Visit again the home page of the PBS series From Jesus to Christ and bookmark this important site. While there, read the articles on “Crucifixion” and “Arrest and Execution" at the Jesus' Many Faces tab. (Click here)

For as masterful job of explaining how Passover was celebrated in the first century, again visit our friend Barry D. Smith. (Click here)

Find out what a archaeological architect does by checking out Leen Ritmeyer’s sketch of the Jerusalem temple and the location of the crucifixion of Jesus. Make sure you click to enlarge the sketch for a closer view. For more of Leen’s work, see his interview at the Bible Illustration blog and then visit his own web site. (Click here) then (Click here) and then (Click here)

Take a quick look at another model of the temple and important surrounding locations at the Holy Land Model of Ancient Jerusalem. Be sure to click on the numbers at this site. (Click here)

Finally, at the Jerusalem Archaeology Park, thanks to the UCLA Urban Simulation Team and the Israel Antiquities Authority, you can tour a visual simulation model of the Herodian Temple Mount from the time of Jesus. At this amazing site, you have access to a wealth of historical and archaeological data, as well as viewing the Virtual Reconstruction Model. (Click here)

Online Assignment
How did this week’s study of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount help you better understand the last day’s of Jesus.

Reading Assignment
Read Chapter 4 and Epilogue, pp 111 – 171

Write a brief review of our text, Jesus and the Land by Charles Page. Think of your readers as revJohn visitors who are looking for helpful “customer reviews” of the book. Provide a 1 to 5 star rating, with 5 stars the highest and 1 star the lowest rating.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Google Jesus - Week 3 Assignment

One of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament comes when Jesus at Caesarea Philippi asks his disciples who the crowds think him to be. They reply with a series of choices—Elijah, John the Baptist, etc. Then Jesus asks of them: “Who do you say that I am?” This weeks lesson works with this theme. We’re going to visit three web sites that give different answers to our question. These are substantial sites that you should explore and sample areas that are of interest to you.

Barry Smith, a Baptist professor, offers an entire online course on the Life of Jesus. Pick a section(s) that interest you and spend some time with the material. Cam Howard presents a portrait of Jesus based on the work of Marcus Borg who you met in last week’s assignment. Finally, the Jewish Encyclopedia allows us to look at the ministry of Jesus through the eyes of Jewish scholars.

We begin our assignment with a Mahon’s Smith’s Land of Israel. This is not just a map of first century Israel. Left click on one of the place names and check out the resources that pop up about that location and its relation to Jesus. We conclude with a brief essay by Gerd Ludemann, a secular scholar and skeptic who has written extensively about Jesus and the origins of Christianity. His summary of Jesus and his ministry is insightful even as his conclusions are disheartening. And finally, a bonus assignment for those with time and interest in the topics shown.

Online Assignment

Mahlon Smith – Land of Israel (Click here)

Barry D. Smith - Life of Jesus (Click here)

Cam Howard’s Portrait of Jesus (Click here)

The Jewish Encyclopedia – Jesus of Nazareth (Click here)

Gerd Ludemann – The Life of Jesus (Click here)

Bonus Assignment

Did Jesus Oppose the Purity Laws - Paula Fredriksen is William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture at Boston University . She specializes in the social and intellectual history of ancient Christianity, from the late Second Temple period to the fall of the Western Roman Empire . In 1999 she received a national Jewish Book Award for Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews: A Jewish Life and the Emergence of Christianity. This article originally appeared in Bible Review. She is, I believe, a Roman Catholic convert to Judaism. (Click here)

Jesus and Women - Amy-Jill Levine is E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School , Department of Religious Studies, and Graduate Department of Religion. Her most recent publications include The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus, the edited collection, The Historical Jesus in Context and the fourteen-volume series, Feminist Companions to the New Testament and Early Christian Writings. She is an Orthodox Jew.

This lecture was delivered to the Otter Street Church of Christ in Nashville, TN. The Church of Christ traditionally has not permitted women to teach, preach, or take public worship leadership roles because of their belief that such activity violates God’s will, as seen in such passages as 1 Corinthians 14:34 where Paul writes that “women should remain silent in the churches.”
(Click here)

Online Question of the Week
How would you describe Jesus’ ministry from a historical perspective? Try your hand at providing a brief thumbnail sketch of Jesus and his ministry in just a few sentences with these limitations: no confessional language or theological descriptors (Savior, Son of God, etc.).

Reading Assignment – Jesus and the Land
Read Chapter 3, pp 71 – 109

The author presents two “conversion experiences” that he presumes for Jesus. But what about Jesus’ baptism by John? In what sense was that too a “conversion experience”? Share a few comments around the idea that Jesus’ faith developed through a series of religious experiences.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Google Jesus - Week 2 Assignment

Welcome to Week 2 of Google Jesus. If you’re just joining us, jump right in and check out this week’s assignment. And if you like, check out some of last week’s sites as well. I encourage you to join in this online learning community by setting up a Google account. That way you can add your comments and questions as we study together online.

It’s free and all you need to do is provide your current email address and create a Google account password. Click on comments and sign up or create an account by going to

This week’s lesson is centered on the birth of Jesus. You’ll find a variety of viewpoints in the sites we’re visiting. Don’t worry if you don’t agree with all the ideas you come across. You’re not suppose to. Engaging other differing viewpoints will challenge you and help you put your own understanding into perspective. So let’s get started.

Internet Assignment
Read Matthew, Chapters 1 – 2 and Luke, Chapters 1-2. How are the two stories alike? How are they different? Make a list you can refer to in future studies.

After you have completed your list, compare it with that of New Testament scholar, Felix Just. (Click here)

For a bit if a surprise, see the reconstruction of a typical Judean home and find out what Luke probably meant when he said there was no place for Joseph and Mary in the “inn.” Scroll down to the December 18, 2007, post at Stephen Pfann’s blog site until you come to his entry “A New Light on an Old Story.” (Click here)

Reflect on the historicity of the “virgin birth” and its meaning for contemporary Christians by reviewing the sharply contrasting views of two ministers/New Testament scholars, Bishop John Shelby Spong and Ben Witherington. (Click here) and (Click here)

Listen to an interview about the Christmas story with popular author, teacher, and Jesus Seminar fellow, Marcus Borg. (Click here)

Watch a brief video lecturette by Brian McClaren on the meaning of “Son of God” in a first century context. Scroll down and choose the video "Who is Jesus". It will take a moment for the video to load. (Click here)

Judge who has the better argument for the birth place of Jesus from a historical perspective by reading the articles of Steve Mason and Jerome Murphy O’Connor in Biblical Archaeology Review. (Click here) and (Click here)

Finally, check out how contemporary Judaism understands the concept of “Messiah” by visiting Judaism 101. (Click here)

Online Question of the Week
How did this series of assignments add to your understanding of the historical Jesus? Did they present any challenges? Raise any questions? Share a comment.

Reading Assignment – Jesus and the Land
Read Chapter 2, pp 39 – 70 (Note: we’ll discuss the baptism of Jesus next week.)

Do you agree or disagree with the author’s conclusion that Matthew’s version of the birth of Jesus best fits historically with what really happened? Explain your reasons.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Google Jesus - Week 1 Assignment

Welcome to revJohn and this inaugural online course called Google Jesus. The purpose off this course is to discover more about Jesus, allowing you to work at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home.

If you put the name “Jesus” in a search engine, you’ll get back over 211 million results. With so many options, it’s difficult to find really helpful sites, especially scholarly sites. Consequently, with this course, we’ll visit some important web sites and explore key resources available on the internet.

Each week on Sunday evening for four weeks, beginning tonight, I’ll post several bite-sized assignments for you to complete. Most will take only a few minutes to complete. For those doing the optional reading assignment (see below), I’ll also post a few question for you to consider. Each week you can also respond to a question we’ll consider as an online learning community.

Internet Assignment
It is sometimes difficult for faithful Christians to think of Jesus as a man, a human being who lived and died at a particular point in history in a particular geography. This week’s assignment helps us locate Jesus to the land of Israel and to explore how that specific geography shaped his life and ministry.

Begin by reading Matthew 11:-20-24. Note the specific villages/cities mentioned.

Go to Maps of War and play History of Religion. Take note of what changes and what stays the same on the map. (Click here)

Check out several aerial maps, especially, Galilee and the North (Map 3). Find Sepphoris, Tiberias, Narzareth, Capernaum, Chorizin, and Bethsaida and the Hill Country of Samaria (Map 5). (Click here) and (Click here)

Read Jonathan Reed’s article Excavating Jesus. (Click here)

Check out Galilee at the time of Christ. (Click here)

Listen to archaeologist James Strange talk about Sepphoris. (Click here)

Read Rami Arav’s discussion of Bethsaida and vicinity. (Click here)

Enter the Land of Jesus and visit the seven scenes depicted there. Make sure to roll your cursor over the highlighted areas on each scene to see more information. (Click here)

Online Question of the Week
What do you make of the fact that the gospels do not report Jesus visiting or preaching in Tiberias and Sepphoris?

Reading Assignment – Jesus and the Land
Read Chapter 1, pp 17-38

How does the author describe the inhabitants of Nazareth? For him, what was important about the word “netzer”?

Order Charles Page’s Jesus and the Land from Amazon. (Click here)