1.3.4 The prophetic strand in the New Testament: Jesus, Paul, James, Revelation

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Unit 1 Contents

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Perhaps some people would assume that the New Testament leaves behind the prophetic strand that is so significant in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Most of this page will simply set readings from the New Testament, and you can form you own judgment.

It is clear that Birge finds there is a similar emphasis.  You are asked first to read the rest of her chapter in McCarthy, plus McCarthy’s discussion that follows it.  Earlier in this unit (sec. 1.2.2 on the gospel), we looked at Jesus’ proclamation of the coming ‘reign of God’ and what this meant.  This is helpful background for Birge’s two pages on Jesus.

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Reading (5pp)

Birge/McCarthy ‘Biblical Justice’, in McCarthy, ed., The Heart of Catholic Social Teaching, pp. 26-30 (rest of ch. 1, incl. ‘Discussion’)

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McCarthy’s ‘Discussion’ section refers to St Paul’s “shock and exasperation” at the social and economic divisions among Christians when they celebrate the Eucharist (p. 28).  The first New Testament reading in this section begins with the passage in which he expresses that, in 1 Corinthians – but the set reading continues through to the end of chapter 13.  This is because it is against the background of that issue that Paul both uses the very powerful metaphor of the body to describe the local church (chap. 12) and speaks about love, this in the most famous text in all of his letters (chap. 13).  The chances are that we are more familiar with the passages about the body and love than the text about socio-economic divisions among people gathered round the Lord’s table.

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Reading (3pp)

1 Corinthians 11:17 – 13.13

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Before we come to another passage in St Paul that also manifests similar concerns as those of the Hebrew prophets, we turn to the Gospels.

We focus on Luke and you will recall from page 1.2.2 the way in which this Gospel presents the start of Jesus’ ministry.  He stood up in the synagogue in his home town and read from the book of Isaiah about a great figure coming, by the Spirit of the Lord, to preach to the poor and to liberate the oppressed (Luke 4:16f).

Such themes are prominent in Luke’s writing, which comprises both the Gospel and the book of Acts.  The next set of readings is taken from the Gospel and includes a couple of short passages in Acts.  Immerse yourself in these passages and try to identify things in them that may be said to express similar concerns as the Hebrew prophets.

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Reading (c.15pp)

At the following links, scroll to the verse that starts each reading.

Luke 2:39-55  Mary’s song (the Magnificat)

Luke 4:16 – 11.4  This is a lengthy passage that begins at the start of Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth and shows many of its characteristic emphases (as presented by Luke), in both his engagements with people and his teaching.

Acts 2:37-47 and 4:32-37  These are short passages about what happened among the group of Jesus’ disciples very soon after his departure from them and the giving of the Holy Spirit.

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Now spend 10 minutes or so doing the following exercise.

Afterwards read the ‘Response’ that is accessible by clicking where indicated below.

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EXERCISE

In the light of your reading from Luke’s Gospel, use a sheet of paper to write a set of bullet points that summarize some of the main features of the community of discipleship to which Jesus was calling people.

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RESPONSE TO EXERCISE: Click here

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To conclude our study of the prophetic strand in Scripture, there is another reading from St Paul, one from the letter of James, and a passage in Revelation.  Again, as you read these look for similar themes as in the Old Testament prophetic tradition.

The first reading is about Paul’s sustained attempt to organize a collection of money for the Christians in Jerusalem who are suffering, relative to those in other churches.  This is not a very well known passage in St Paul.  His aim in writing to the Corinthians is that,

as a matter of equality, your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality.  As it is written: ‘Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less’ (2 Cor. 8.13-15, NAB).

Paul quotes here the story you read earlier from Exodus 16 of God’s provision of manna to his people in the wilderness.

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Reading (3pp)

2 Corinthians 8 – 9

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The next reading is the short letter of James – which certainly has very obvious echoes of the Hebrew prophetic tradition.  It speaks for itself.

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Reading (6pp)

Letter of James (all)

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Finally, here is one passage from Revelation.  Most New Testament scholars agree that ‘Babylon’ in this passage is an image for the Roman Empire.

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Reading (2pp)

Revelation 18

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Reflection

Would you agree that the prophetic strand in the Bible continues right through to the end?

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End of 1.3.4

Go to 1.4 CONCLUSION

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