journey through the bible
new testament readings
January and Februrary, 2022- In the fall, we explored the Old Testament and after Christmas when we celebrating the birth of Christ, we transitioned to the New Testament, which we will now explore in the second half of our journey through the Bible. Our next readings will focus on the first four books of the New Testament: the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The word Gospel means “good news.”
Read at your own pace in whatever Bible edition you choose. Here’s a suggested reading (and viewing) list for the four Gospels. The video references are to The Bible Project (www.bibleproject.com). We suggest watching the book overview before doing the readings for each book listed here.
As you read, consider the following:
Although the four gospels cover many of the same stories and much of the same material, how are they the same and how are they different? How does each author craft his message for the intended audience?
Who is Jesus, according to Matthew?
Who is Jesus, according to Mark?
Who is Jesus, according to Luke?
Who is Jesus, according to John?
Which gospel speaks to you?
The Gospel According to Matthew was written at approximately AD 70 by an unknown author, thought traditionally to be Matthew, a tax collector. It was written primarily for a Jewish audience, tying Jesus to the OT prophecies of a Messiah and to the genealogy of Abraham and David. Matthew makes lots of references to the OT, emphasizing how Jesus’ life and ministry were foretold in the Hebrew scriptures.
Here’s an overview of Matthew:
Notice (scan) the genealogy in Ch. 1 which traces Jesus’ lineage from Abraham to Jesus.
In Ch. 2, notice (scan) that Matthew includes the stories of the Magi’s visit to Jesus and of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ flight into Egypt. These are not included in any of the other Gospels.
Read Chs. 5,6, and 7, which recount Jesus’ longest speech, the “Sermon on the Mount.”
Read Chs. 8 and 9, which include a series of healing stories
Read Ch. 13, which introduces more of Jesus’ teachings in the form of parables.
In Chs. 14-25, scan the stories of Jesus interacting with people and teaching through parables and dialogue, and we see how he is received by them (some positive, some neutral, and some negative)
The book ends with Chs. 26-28 with a detailed account of Jesus’ final days, his crucifixion, and resurrection. (We will look at these in more detail during Lent).
The Gospel according to Mark is believed to be the oldest Gospel, written at approximately AD 60. It is also the shortest and most active. Mark is believed to have been a scribe who interpreted Peter’s firsthand accounts, making this the closest to the historical Jesus. This gospel is a fast-paced, vivid, and somewhat bare-bones account of Jesus’ life and teachings. Mark portrays Jesus as the Suffering Servant, and presents Jesus’ story to a non-Jewish audience, probably the Romans.
Mark is so concise and fast-paced, that you can easily read the whole book. Here’s an overview:
Ch. 1 Jesus’ baptism, temptation, beginning of ministry in Galilee with a variety of healing stories. Notice that there is NO birth narrative in Mark.
Ch. 2 Scenes from Jesus life in Galilee
Ch. 3 Jesus calls his 12 disciples
Ch. 4 Jesus tells parables and calms the storm.
Ch. 5 More healing stories
Ch. 6 Miracle stories and John the Baptist’s beheading
Ch. 7 The Pharisees opposition to Jesus begins to mount
Ch. 8 Jesus’ popularity increases with some, and tensions with others increase too
Ch. 9 Jesus’ transfiguration
Ch. 10 Jesus’ teachings on divorce, humility, and wealth
Ch. 11 Jesus’ entry into Jerusulem
Ch. 12 Jesus’ teachings on a variety of topics
Ch. 13-15 Jesus’ final days, crucifixion, and resurrection (we’ll look at these more closely in March/Lent)
The Gospel according to Luke was written in approximately 80 AD by a missionary companion of the Apostle Paul—a physician named Luke. Luke’s gospel is the first of two books by him; the second being the Acts of the Apostles. Luke portrays Jesus as a man with compassion for all people, especially the poor and marginalized. The beginning of his gospel traces Jesus’ lineage back to Adam, emphasizing his connection to all humanity.
There is a lot of repetition in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but there are also a number of differences. Let’s look at some of the material that is only found in Luke’s Gospel:
Chs. 1-2 The familiar account (the most detailed and joyous one) of Jesus’ birth
Ch 10 The parable of the Good Samaritan (vs 25-37)
Ch. 12 Stories about the contrasts between the rich and the poor
Ch. 15 The parable of the Prodigal Son
Ch. 16 The parable of the Dishonest Manager and the Rich Man and Lazarus
The Gospel According to John is believed to be the last one written, probably around 90 AD. Its author is unknown. It is very different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are referred to as the synoptic gospels because they cover so much of the same material. John is often called the “spiritual Gospel” because it contains more theological reflections and far fewer stories of Jesus’ life or teachings. The Gospel of John is also known for its variety of names for Jesus, and also the many metaphorical “I am” statements. It also is unique in describing seven signs or miracles (five of which do not appear in the other gospels) that Jesus performed to convince people that he is the Messiah. Almost half the book focuses on the Passion narrative, Jesus’s arrest, trials, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection appearances.
You’ll immediately see how unique the Gospel of John is by reading a few representative passages:
Ch. 1 The familiar “In the beginning was the Word…” passage
Ch. 2 Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding at Cana
Ch. 5-6 These chapters include Jesus’ explaining who he was and why he came to earth. He describes two miracles and the crowd’s reactions.
Ch. 10 The Good Shepherd
Ch. 11 The death of Lazarus
Chs. 12-20 recount the Passion, crucifixion, and resurrection. Scan these chapters. (We will look at these readings more closely in March, when we study the Holy Week passages throughout Lent.)
The Last Week
Journey through Holy Week
Lenten Study Series 2022
On five Wednesdays during Lent beginning March 9, we will gather in Westminster’s chapel from 6:30-7:15 to read and reflect upon the gospel passages about Jesus’s final days in Jerusalem. Church members will facilitate discussion. Youth will meet in the Family wing. Please join us this Lent on Wednesday evenings as we journey through Holy Week.
Readings for week 1 of Lent (March 9, Audrey McNally)
Entry into Jerusalem – Matthew 21.1-11, Mark 11.1-10, Luke 19.28-44, John 12.12-18
Readings for week 2 of Lent (March 16, Janet Newman)
Jesus curses the fig tree – Matthew 21.18-22, Mark 11.12-21
Jesus clears the Temple – Matthew 21.12-13, Mark 11.15-17, Luke 19.45-46
Readings for week 3 of Lent (March 23, Shelley Pantoliano)
Jesus is anointed and betrayed — Matthew 26.3-16, Mark 14.1-11, Luke 22.1-6
Readings for week 4 of Lent (March 30, Jill Fandrich)
Passover meal/Last Supper – Matthew 26.20-46, Mark 14.17-42, Luke 22.14-46
Upper Room Discourse – John 13.1-17,26
Readings for week 5 of Lent (April 6, Susan Marteney)
Betrayal and arrest – Matthew 26.47-56, Mark 14.43-52, Luke 22.47-53, John 18.2-12
Trial before Annas – John 18.13-24
Trial before Caiaphas – Matthew 26.57-75, Mark 14.53-72, Luke 22.54-65, John 18.19-24
Trial before full Sanhedrin – Matthew 27.1-2, Mark 15.1, Luke 22.66-71
Trial before Pilate – Matthew 27.2-14, Mark 15.2-5, Luke 23.1-5
Trial before Herod – Luke 23.6-12
Trial before Pilate again – Matthew 27.15-26, Mark 15.6-15, Luke 23.13-25, John 18.28-19.16
Crucifixion – Matthew 27.27-54, Mark 15.16-39, Luke 23.26-49, John 19.16-37
Burial – Matthew 27.57-61, Mark 15.42-47, Luke 23.50-54, John 19.38-42
Journey Through the Bible
Readings for April and May—The New Testament—The Book of Acts
The New Testament divides neatly into two sections. The first part is the four Gospels that tell about Jesus’ life on earth. The second part is comprised of the letters to the early churches that sprang up after Jesus ascended to heaven. In between these two parts is the Book of Acts. Written by Luke (the same Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke), the Book of Acts tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ followers as they work to bring God’s kingdom to earth and tells how the early church began to form and grow. The Book of Acts ties the first and second parts of the New Testament together.
As we continue our year-long Journey Through the Bible, you can read at your own pace in whatever Bible edition you choose. Below is a suggested reading (and viewing) list for the Book of Acts. The video reference is to The Bible Project (www.bibleproject.com). We suggest watching the book overview before doing the readings listed here.
First, watch https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/acts/
Read Acts 1, which describes Jesus’ last appearance to the disciples
Read Acts 2, about the remarkable events of Pentecost
Read Acts 5, which gives a glimpse into life in the early Christian church
Read Acts 9, to learn the details of Saul’s conversion
Read Acts 16, which tells of Paul’s dramatic experiences in Phillipi
Read Acts 17, which shows Paul on some of the most difficult assignments of his missionary journeys
Read Acts 26, Paul’s recounting of his personal story to a king
Read Acts 27, which tells of Paul’s shipwreck on the way to Rome
Read Acts 28, which describes Paul’s last setting, under house arrest in Rome, where he probably wrote some of his New Testament letters (epistles) which we will read next month.
Journey Through the Bible
Readings for June—The New Testament—The Epistles
In Acts, we learned about how the early Christian churches were formed, first among the Jews and then among Gentiles, taking the teachings of Christ into the world through the missionary travels of Paul and other early followers. The rest of the New Testament is a collection of letters (“epistles”) that were written to the early churches or to individuals in various communities. These are the earliest written documents in the New Testament, most predating the Gospels and the Book of Acts. As you read them, notice how they differ in style and tone depending on the audience to whom they are addressed. The early Christian communities struggled with doubt, disagreements, temptations, inner controversies, and persecution. The letters were meant to encourage, clarify, rebuke, or instruct the early churches, and their messages still pertain to us today.
Paul sets down the whole scope of Christian doctrine to sophisticated Roman readers, in a concise, well-reasoned statement written for an audience of educated thinkers.
Ch. 3 is a summary of the whole book of Romans
Ch. 8 Life in the Spirit
Ch. 12 Direct, practical instructions on how to live
1st and 2nd Corinthians
Watch https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/1-corinthians/ and https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/2-corinthians/
Corinth was the Sin City of the ancient world (think Times Square, Bourbon St, Las Vegas). Paul worked in Corinth for 18 months, and to everyone’s surprise the church he founded became one of the largest in the first century. But it had its challenges, and Paul’s letters sound as though they were dashed off in anger.
1st Corinthians, Ch. 13 is a famous passage defining love
2nd Corinthians, Ch 4 explains how Paul kept gong despite hardships.
Paul sounds very angry at the Galatians in this letter, mostly because they are concentrating too much on legalism and their Jewish roots.
Ch. 3 Paul puts the Old Testament in a new perspective
Paul expresses “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ in this uplifting letter to the church in Ephesus.
Chs. 2-3 express the positive message of this Epistle
With sixteen references to “joy” and “rejoice,” this is an upbeat letter to a beloved church.
Ch. 4 expresses Paul’s love for the Philippian church and God’s love for them
Cult-like false teachings had infiltrated the church in Collossae, and Paul reminds them that “Christ is enough.”
Ch. 1 gives a good summary of this short letter.
1st and 2nd Thessalonians
Watch https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/1-thessalonians/ and https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/2-thessalonians/
Probably the earliest of Paul’s letters (written in the early 50s AD), Paul talks about Jesus returning to earth someday, which apparently was a huge concern of the Thessalonians.
1st Thessalonians Ch. 4 tells of the future coming of God
2nd Thessalonians Ch. 2 predicts what events will precede Jesus’ return
1st and 2nd Timothy
Watch https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/1-timothy/ and https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/2-timothy/
Late in his life, Paul sends letters of encouragement to Timothy, a trusted and much-loved leader in the early church in Ephesus.
1st Timothy Ch. 1 and 2nd Timothy Ch. 2
Paul writes a letter to Titus, a leader of the church in Crete, advising him on how to deal with the diverse groups of people who made up this early Christian community.
Ch. 2 “Teach sound doctrine”
Paul writes a letter to Philemon begging for mercy for a run-away slave named Onesimus.
The entire book is only one chapter and takes just a few minutes to read.
Written by an unknown author to Jewish readers to convince them that choosing Christ is superior to Old Testament Judaism.
Ch. 2 Why God sent Jesus to earth “fully human”
Ch. 11 lists OT heroes and how they demonstrated faith
Ch. 12 is a pep talk and a summary of the entire book
James writes a simple, straightforward letter emphasizing the importance of good works.
Ch. 1 on how a Christian should respond to tough times.
1st Peter and 2nd Peter
Watch https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/1-peter/ and https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/2-peter/
Attributed to the Apostle Peter, these two books offer first hand advice on how to respond to persecution and suffering.
Read the first chapter of both books and note the differences in style and tone.
1st, 2nd, and 3rd John
Traditionally attributed to the same John who wrote the Gospel According to John, these three short letters talk about light, truth, life, and love.
Read Ch. 1 of 1st John, and all of 2nd and 3rd John (they are very short)
Jude warns against heretical teachers and false prophets
The entire book is one short chapter and can be read in a few minutes.