NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
As we have seen, all the works that followed the initial revelation of God to Moses down through the scribes and prophets, were compiled, commented upon, with exegesis and explanations. In the same manner, after our Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, those who followed Him wrote down His teachings and sayings. This would be followed by writings by succeeding generations of scholars in their attempt to make more understandable to their audiences. While many books have been written on the law of Moses, many more have been penned on the gospel of Jesus the Christ.
THE GOSPELS (“Good News”)
As far as we know, Jesus never wrote a book, letter, psalm or homily. Everything was copied down by those who followed Him, and it was passed on to their followers. Just as Moses received everything from God the Father, so Jesus tells His disciples in John, Chapter 14, that everything He was telling them came from the same heavenly Father. Thus we can see why Moses and Jesus were often compared and why God told Moses He was sending another prophet just like him to the future generations. These new Verbal Teachings can be found mostly in Matthew’s Gospel, Chapters 5-7. It took some 30 to 50 years before the journal of Matthew and the memories of John, two of Jesus’ disciples, were finally written down. Matthew wrote his in Hebrew, which was then translated into Greek. Since John was not known to have learned how to write, scholars believe that one of his disciples at the church in Ephesus wrote down John’s sermons and teachings. Since many of the believers there were Greek speaking, the Gospel of John may have been written in Greek from the beginning. Peter also was not known to have been able to write, therefore scholars suggest that his nephew John Mark, became Peter’s scribe and wrote down much of what Peter remembered, which then became known as the Gospel of Mark. This helps us understand why the Scriptures are referred to as “inspired” by the Holy Spirit. These writings then could be classified as the New Testament version of the Mishnah. But unlike the Jewish Mishnah, early church leaders decided not to include the writings of other Christian teachers who were disciples of the original apostles, such as the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, 1 & 2 Epistles of Clement, the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, the Church History of Eusebius, etc. However, these should be required reading of all students of the Christian Mishnah.
Then came Luke, a Gentile who served as a traveling companion to Paul the apostle. At some point, Luke decided to write a biography of the life of Jesus of Nazareth after doing research among Paul’s friends in Jerusalem, many of whom were physical followers of Jesus. With Luke being a Gentile, he wrote his biography of Jesus and church history in Greek. After finishing his Gospel, Luke then decided to write the first history of the Christian Church, which became known as the Acts of the Apostles. Along with his works are the Letters and Epistles of the disciples on the teachings of Jesus, such as Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, and Jude. These can be seen as composing the Christian Talmud. There are a number of other works that were not deemed accurate and reliable enough to be included, such as the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Hebrews, Gospel of Mary, etc. These have been preserved and are known as the New Testament Apocrypha.
Finally, we have the writings of Saul of Tarsus, known better by his Greek name, Paul. His epistles and letters could be considered the Christian version of the Gemara, because he spends little time on the life of Jesus, but feels that the Lord gave him special insight and understanding of the Verbal Teachings, after their meeting on the road to Damascus. So he set out to “complete” the message received by the disciples from Jesus the Messiah who received it from His heavenly Father. Since then, thousands of books have been written about the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, sent from God the Father. And like the writings of the Jewish Rabbis, there are many points of disagreement and contention on what Jesus really said, and what He meant by what He said. But better to have a healthy debate than no debate at all. Hopefully, what the Holy Spirit inspired me to share with you here, will contribute to that debate and the Living Word of God will continue to shed its light so those in darkness can see.
FOOTNOTES, REFERENCES AND QUOTATIONS
I decided to put all Scriptural references and references to resources in footnotes. I did this to keep the reading uninterrupted, but also give the reader a localized place to look for the origin of the quote. For all non-Scriptural references, I tried to give the description of the book or article as clearly as possible, so that anyone researching them in the books or articles quoted will be able to find the reference quickly.
Since many readers may not possess or may be able to access all the literature quoted in this commentary, I also included as much of the text from its original source as possible so that the student would not feel disadvantaged because he or she did not possess that particular book. While some of these ancient documents were written in a very concise and scattered ways, I gave a larger portion of the quote so that the reader could better see what the people of that day were being taught, and to help them understand exactly what Jesus confronted when He claimed to be telling them the truth, even when it often contradicted what they were hearing. I also took the liberty of revising the grammar and spelling to make the reading easier.
Also, I have endeavored as much as possible with my limited library and resources, to show how the words, parables, teachings, and spiritual lessons Jesus used to teach the truth from the Father, were already a part of the Jewish learning and culture. This gave His words a familiar sound and caused His listeners to be more open and receptive. However, when our Lord took on what the traditional oral interpretation of the Scriptures taught to show them the error of their thinking and belief, that allowed them to see the contrast more clearly.
The basic translation of the scriptural text in this commentary is taken from the Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read Version, Published by the World Bible Translation Center, Forth Worth, TX, but with many modifications and redaction’s on my part for a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew text. In their Bible they state: “This copyrighted material may be quoted up to 1000 verses without written permission.” So unless the text printed is otherwise identified such as The Complete Jewish Bible, or some other version, it will be from the ESV. Since Matthew contains 1074 verses, permission will be requested should this manuscript ever be put into print.
In addition, when I began my ten year project of reading the Old Testament through once, and the New Testament twice, in one year using a different English version each time, I found myself comparing what each new translation said with the KJV that I grew up on. As a result, I did not get the impact of what truths the translators uncovered. So I started all over again, and this time I read each version as though I was reading the Bible for the first time. It certainly opened my mind and flooded my soul with a new appreciation for what God was saying through His servants. I would suggest that you do the same here. It may impact you in significant ways so that you can affect others with what you have learned in a remarkable manner.
Bk. or Book – Book number in a multi-book volume.
cf. or confer – Means to look and compare subject matter or quotation
Ch. or Chapter – Chapter number in a book.
ff. – “folios” (plural) or pages, chapters, verses.
ibid. or ibidem – “in the same place” of the work previously quoted just prior to this one.
loc. cit. or loco citato – “in the place cited” in the paragraph and subject being written about.
op. cit. or opere citato – “in the work cited” initially containing full data of the work being quoted.
Sec. or Section
trans. or translated – identifying the individual who translated this work from the original language.
vol. or vols. – volume or volume number within the set.
Next we will look at the Gospel of Matthew with the teachings of Jesus as explained in the light of what He said about these teachings of the Rabbis, as well as how He used His knowledge of these traditions to convince His audience He knew what He was talking about.