“Truly Love, Dangerously” and Announcing Our New Editor-in-Chief

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My dear friends,

No generation is exactly like the one before it. We share the difficulties and rewards of being citizens of this earth—and being able to experience God—but everything else is different. Technology advances, the pace of life changes, and the ways we engage our world evolve. For better or worse, this generation is different from all others before it.

When I look at our world, I see a place that’s more interconnected than ever before. I see the opportunity to leverage these connections to transform lives. I see that, for the first time in all of history, we could very well bring the news of God’s freedom, in Jesus, to the ends of the earth.

Peter tells us that Jesus has not returned yet because of God’s great patience, because “he does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). Nearly 3 billion people—42 percent of the world’s population—have not heard the name of Jesus. And over 1 million neighborhoods do not have a church.1

The type of freedom that God’s people experienced during the exodus is the freedom we can present to others today. Jesus is ready to set people free from the burdens of pain, anguish, and sin. He’s ready to transform and renew our world. Justice and mercy can reign in our world—but it starts with you; it starts with me.

The freedom of Jesus is rooted in what we say and do to reveal him to others every day. It’s rooted in our care of the impoverished and our hospitality for all people. It’s based on our love for those around us. It’s all about truly caring for people and showing them that there is hope in Christ our Lord.

Christ offers us freedom—a freedom that’s meant to reach our entire world. From the cries of Israel in exile to the longings of the enslaved today, God hears us. He is ready to act. Are we ready to act with him?

Get into the Word, but also do what the Word asks. Love and serve Jesus. Live your beliefs. Practice self-sacrifice. Truly love, dangerously. Alleviate poverty. Bring the gospel to your neighborhood and world. Offer the freedom of Jesus, all the way to the ends of the earth.

— John D. Barry

P.S. This letter will also appear in Bible Study Magazine Nov–Dec 2014, which is my last issue as editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. Rebecca Van Noord is the new editor-in-chief. She loves Jesus and is passionate about Bible study. Rebecca has been managing editor of Bible Study Magazine since April 2011 and has been with the publication since April 2010. She is a fantastic editor and an accomplished author. Rebecca coauthored Connect the Testaments: A Daily Devotional and co-edited 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. I look forward to you experiencing even more of her creativity. It’s been an honor to serve Jesus as Bible Study Magazine’s editor-in-chief.

1 Statistics taken from the Joshua Project and the Issachar Initiative (respectively).

When I Open the Gospels

An Interview with Dr. Mark Goodacre
Author John D. Barry

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The Gospel writers often record a particular event in Jesus’ life differently. These differences have resulted in long quests to find the historical Jesus, who is supposedly “behind” the Gospel accounts, as well as many scholars devoting their entire lives to understanding the particular theological message behind each Gospel writer’s account. Since grasping the complexities of the Gospels is often a difficult task, Bible Study Magazine posed a set of questions to a world-renowned expert on the Gospels as synoptic (parallel) accounts, Dr. Mark Goodacre, professor of New Testament studies at Duke University.

BSM: Can you provide an example in the gospels that illustrates the importance of reading each gospel on its own merits?

GOODACRE: The most obvious example is the depiction of Mary Magdalene, who today has become a composite of a variety of figures from the four Gospels: a fictional, harmonized creation of the prostitute who repented and followed Jesus. She is variously thought of as three or four different women in the Gospels: the anonymous sinner of Luke 7:36–50, the Samaritan Woman of John 4, and the Woman Caught in Adultery in John 8. None of these women are ever called Mary Magdalene. What we actually know about Mary Magdalene is rather limited, but we do know she is never called a prostitute. It’s a good case of Christian tradition warping the way that we read the Gospels—for a long time no one really noticed that interpreters were doing this.

Right up to the present, Mary Magdalene is depicted this way in films and fiction (e.g., most recently in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ). I was delighted that in the recent BBC/HBO production The Passion, Mary Magdalene, for the first time in a major production, was not depicted as a prostitute!

BSM: Generally speaking, what are the theological slants each Gospel writer puts on their work?

GOODACRE: This is not a quick and easy question to answer, and I am always a bit wary of attempts to try and put the Gospel writers’ agendas into a nutshell.  Such attempts are rarely satisfactory and tend to draw wedges between the Gospel writers while oversimplifying their Gospels.  In spite of the importance of looking at each of the Gospels as a text in its own right, I think it is actually easier to describe what they have in common.  All four share the same basic plot and structure and agree that Jesus is the Messiah, that he taught about the kingdom of God, healed people, died and rose again on the third day, and will come again. The theme of the suffering Messiah in fact dominates all four Gospels, even if it is manifested in different ways in each.

BSM: If someone is speaking to their church, Sunday School class, or small group, how should they go about teaching on a passage that is recorded in parallel accounts in the gospels?

GOODACRE: I am not a minister or a church leader of any kind, nor have I been trained as one, so I would not presume to make suggestions about how church leaders do their work.  Nevertheless, when I am asked to speak to church groups about such things, I like to explore the world of parallel accounts a little by showing people the richness of understanding the way that different evangelists tell the same or similar stories.  Let’s take an obvious example, the annunciation of Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1:18–25 and Luke 1:26–38.

Both have clear features in common, not least the announcement that Mary will give birth to a son who will be called Jesus. Nonetheless, there are substantial differences: Matthew’s Gospel has an announcement to Joseph and Luke’s Gospel has an announcement to Mary, each giving reflections on Jesus’ future that are characteristic of the way each Gospel writer portrays the narrative of Jesus’ life.

BSM: Should readers be distraught about accounts in the gospels that appear to disagree with one another?

GOODACRE: It depends on your perspective.  Since I am not, nor have I ever been, a kind of biblical literalist, I have always been a bit puzzled by those who struggle with places where the Gospels disagree with one another or, for that matter, other places in the Bible where there are disagreements.  Ignoring the disagreements does not make them go away.  What is enjoyable about studying the Gospels as a historian is that one is trained to take disagreements seriously, rather than harmonizing them. I tend to feel that taking the Gospels seriously shows a respect for their integrity as texts.  If one is interested in texts that many regard as sacred, then it is important to take those texts seriously, and that includes taking seriously places where they disagree with one another.

To learn more about Dr. Goodacre, or read more written by him, go to NTGateway.com.

For more tips on reading the Gospels, see Mark Goodacre’s The Synoptic Problem: A Way through the Maze. Go to Logos.com/Goodacre.

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 3.

Enter the Summer Pastoral-Leadership Giveaway!

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Entry closes July 31. We’ll select and notify the winner August 1. If you win and you already own Logos 5 Starter and/or any of the above-mentioned books, you’ll receive Logos.com credit in place of the prizes. The winner will need to fill out a W-9 in order to claim their prize. By entering the giveaway, you’re opting in to receive emails from Logos and promotional partners.