"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." [1 Peter 3:15]

A Biography of Jesus
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Remember The Heart of The Bible
ISBN: 978-0-9747656-5-5
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For ordering, call 1 800-826-7444
or Send order request to:
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A Biography of Jesus
ISBN: 9781612611457
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For ordering, call 1 800-826-7444
or Send order request to:
MyBibleBasics
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Tiburon, CA 94920

A Biography of Jesus

A Biography of Jesus is written to help people order, understand, and remember the life of Jesus. As a reference it contains 32 studies focused on different key events in his life. The key events are grouped around four base locations from which Jesus lived, traveled, and ministered. You will meet Jesus through selected key events in various settings. As you walk with him, feel his challenges, joys, and concerns. We can learn from his human and divine nature. He brings God’s logos (Word) to a world in need of truth. His experiences guided the daily walk of his followers then and are available to us now.

The author’s position is that we need more of Jesus in our world today. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Galatians, shared the fruit of a life filled with the spirit of Jesus included; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Paul stated there was no law against these virtues. In striving to be the best we can be; the life of Jesus provides a very helpful template for living. That is why the author wants all people to know the life of Jesus and consider greater practice of his teachings.

Why should we focus on events? We live in an event driven information age. Overviews or summaries are a part of our 30-minute newscasts. Often our commentators are trying to pack 20 or more stories in brief sound bites. Politicians are scheduling photo opportunities to communicate messages. Organizations hire event planners to create themes. More depth coverage of subjects is available through television documentaries on; events, history, and biographies. We are constantly learning from events. How people behaved, what they said, what they did, lead to impressions. We draw values or truths about the lives and goals of people from events. By ordering the events in the life of Jesus in our minds, we can know him better and have a closer relationship with him. We were “Created to become like Christ.” Jesus taught in the oral tradition: clearing temples; delivering sermons on mountainsides; eating in homes; performing miracles with impact; telling parables; and teaching through encounters with Jewish leaders. He wanted observers to take home and use his messages.

Events are grouped by type of event. There are three types of events chosen by the author. As you read the events you may feel the type of event should be reclassified. That is fine. The three types of events are listed on the next page.

  • 1. A God Event – A God thing, an event that only God is big enough to pull off. Examples are: God’s decision in Heaven to send his son, the Virgin Birth, Jesus’ resurrection.
  • 2. An Impact Event – Events that had great impact and create an impression on observers. Examples are; miracles, healings, clearing temples.
  • 3. A Teaching Event – Jesus taught in the oral tradition by teaching, using parables, and preaching. Some of the sermons of Jesus, his close dialog with disciples, the private time Jesus spent coaching his disciples are examples of teaching events.
Three important concepts shape this Brief Guide. The remaining pages of the Introduction expand these three concepts which are:

  • 1. Four base locations provide order and chronology to Jesus’ life.
  • 2. Memory theory helps us recall events for refection and dialog.
  • 3. The four base locations of the ministry of Jesus open up the basics of a journey Christian theology.

1. Four Base Locations provide order and chronology to Jesus’ life.

The four base locations approach to the life of Jesus started while I was facilitating a group pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1998. On that trip our group traveled throughout the entire Holy Land. The area in which Jesus ministered is about 150 miles long and 50 miles wide (See map on back cover). During the trip I observed that Jesus’ ministry focused around four base locations. Three of the four locations are cities: Nazareth (his early years through age 31); Capernaum (the 1 ½ year great Galilee ministry); and Jerusalem (Passion Week). The fourth location is two provinces, Judea and Perea. The provinces are divided by the Jordan River. Provinces are used (rather than cities) because Jesus and his disciples were traveling from city to city in Judea and Perea. They were on the move for a six-month period from his transfiguration to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem for Passion Week.

The “four base camps” of his ministry provide an overall chronological grouping of events in the life of Jesus. This is unique in relation to other more academic works I have studied, however it is a concept to which we can all relate. Base locations are associated with major moves in our lives. Sometimes major moves occur within a city, state, across a country or around the world.

For example, I was born in Sioux City, Iowa. My family moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota during my junior high school years. In high school we moved to the Chicago, IL area in 1954. The Chicago area provided the base location for my schooling and career until we moved to Northern California in 1978.

Jesus visited 18 places; he moved 54 times, and was connected to at least 144 different events. There are many ways to define and count the number of events and encounters in Jesus’ life. My study of more than ten sources showed a range of approaches and divisions to order and harmonize events in the life of Jesus. Sources studied used from five to fourteen “periods” or “divisions” and featured from 98 to well over 200 sub-sections, events, or experiences in the life of Jesus. This guide focuses around 32 key events ordered around four base locations of Jesus’ life.

Note that key events may encompass several related events or encounters. As example: Infant Birth – Study 2 – covers related stories about: birth of John the Baptist; angel Gabriel visiting the Virgin Mary; Mary visiting Elizabeth; birth of John the Baptist; explanation of Mary’s pregnancy to Joseph; birth of Jesus in Bethlehem; visits of shepherds and Magi; presentation of Jesus in Temple; family escaping to Egypt; and returning to Nazareth after Herod’s death. (Appendix 1 orders 172 scripture subjects by the 32 key events.)

Key events are “chunked” around the base locations of Jesus’ life using alliterations. These alliterations can help readers retain his biography. Jesus traveled from each base location in his life. The four areas divide his life into four broad chronologies leading to a biographical reading. It is interesting to note, that all four Gospel writers record the major “moves” in Jesus’ life. The moves or transitions provide the cut-off points for events or encounters studied within each of the four base location study sections.

2. Memory theory helps us recall events for reflection and dialog.

God has created us with a marvelous memory capability. The human brain has the capacity for 10 trillion bits of information and facts. How do we store and recall those facts? One way is by focusing our attention on stories or narratives. Most people can remember a story better than a random set of facts.

To assist recall the author has grouped events into families of information using alliterations. The author through these alliterations (In’s, C’s D’s, and T’s) by geographic location hopes the retention of a framework of the life of Jesus can assist readers. You may wish to develop your own word associations or visualizations for recall. That is great! Use your mind to know Jesus better, retain key events, live his teachings and share his biography.

3. The four base locations of the ministry of Jesus open up the basics of Christian theology.

Dr. Leonard Sweet, author and theologian, delivered a sermon on the “Hour of Power” (January, 2003) television service from the Crystal Cathedral. He shared a six-word simple theology: Come Down, Come Out, and Come Home. I have adapted Dr. Sweet’s “simple theology” to eight words that are tied to the four base locations used in this Guide. They present a journey for each section of this Guide to open up dialog on the basics of Christian theology.

Remember The Heart of The Bible

The Bible continues to be at the top of bestseller charts and a favorite book for people from all backgrounds. Yet for many people, including long-time Christians and those with a more casual interest, the Bible remains daunting and difficult. New Testament Professor Tom J. Cowley charts a way through the Bible by focusing on the "heart of the Bible". He creates a framework for understanding the whole Bible and takes readers through twenty-six studies, covering the Old Testament, New Testament and Epistles. Emphasizing the message of love that God sends his people throughout the Bible, this book is ideal for small groups or individuals who seek a clearer understanding of the Bible, a better way to recall the Bible's stories, and a tool to experience spiritual growth.

Introduction

Most of you who pick up this book have some familiarity with the Bible. You probably own one at home; you may even own several. Many of you studied the Bible in Sunday School and some of you still do. In our Western culture, the Bible is often quoted, and we are almost as likely to hear its words used in the marketplace as in the church. Meanwhile, the Bible tops bestseller lists every year by a large margin. In fact, “Americans buy more than 20 million new Bibles every year to add to the four the average American [already] has at home” (The Economist, Dec. 22, 2007). With such popularity, you would think that knowledge of the Bible is quite high. Yet, it turns out that the opposite is true. The same article reports that “the state of American Bible knowledge is abysmal.” Many polls, such as those done by the Barna Group (www.barna.org), confirm this reality.

Many people, including long-time Christian believers, lack a basic working knowledge or basic “literacy” of the Bible. Or, they may understand some of the basics, but lack a framework to hold it all together. It is my hope that this book, Remember the Heart of the Bible, can address both these concerns: I hope to cover the basic truths and narratives of the Bible while providing an overall framework that puts all these pieces together. To do this, I have tried to provide clear summaries of the Bible’s important narratives and to organize the Bible in ways that seem helpful for recall, keeping in mind the importance of being able to share and live Bible truths in our day-to-day life. I have avoided deep theological study. This way, both new and seasoned students of the Bible can benefit from this guide. For new students, I hope this gives a thorough overview of the Bible’s key narrative and truths; for seasoned students, I hope this gives a good review of the same material, while filling in some missing pieces.

Simplifying and ordering scripture was important to Jesus. An important example is told in Matthew 22, when Jesus was challenged in the temple by religious leaders. As the story unfolds, on the Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus has just silenced one group of dissenters, the Sadducees. The Pharisees (another religious group) gathered together to question him. One of the Pharisees, being an expert in the Law, tested Jesus with a question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

(Matthew 22:36). There were more than 600 rabbinical laws at the time. Jesus had to take care in bringing simplicity, accuracy, and focus to his answer. He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All of the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

I consider these love commandments to be the heart of the Bible. Later, in the Upper Room on Thursday evening, Jesus shared with his followers:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Love is at the heart of Jesus’ message. This is why I have titled this book Remember the Heart of the Bible. This story of love is woven throughout the pages of the Bible. Through history God has expressed his love for humanity and in this book we will follow this story. We start with “Foundations,” a look at how God loved his people and laid the foundation for Jesus in the narratives of the Old Testament. We follow that with “Fufillment,” where we will focus on Jesus’ message of love as presented in the Gospels, particularly Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Lastly, we examine the “First Followers,” those early believers who attempted to live out Jesus’ message, as documented in the Epistles of the New Testament. To summarize, this book has three sections that contain a total of twenty-six Bible studies:

Section 1 – Foundations

9 narrative studies to order the key event chronology of the Old Testament

Section 2 – Fulfillment

8 studies on love organized by “Love God/Father” and “Love our Neighbor”

Section 3– First Followers

9 Epistles studies, organizing the letters, emphasizing love passages

The idea for this book grew out of work on my earlier book, A Biography of Jesus. In that book, I sought to provide an outline and overview of thirty-two key events of Jesus’ life centered around four geographic locations. In both the previous book and this one, I attempt to give a framework summary to assist readers in organizing and recalling information. However, Remember the Heart of the Bible differs from the previous work in at least two areas: It covers the whole Bible, rather than only the Gospel record of Jesus’ life, and the emphasis is placed on love of God and love of neighbor versus a chronology of events from the life of Jesus.

I believe that setting up a framework to organize information, spiritual or secular, is extremely helpful. Studies of the human memory show that having a framework increases our ability to retain and recall information. For example, I am a baseball fan and I have a framework for the leagues, teams, and players set up in my mind. It is easy to recall baseball facts, talk about important information, and store new data in my mind. On the other hand, I am not an opera buff; I have no framework for opera information. Facts about operas enter and leave my memory with little chance of “sticking.” I am not equipped to talk knowledgeably about opera because I haven’t created a framework to store and recall facts. The same is true with scripture and spiritual information. As we set up frameworks for Biblical information, our chances of remembering those stories and facts and being able to dialogue about them increases.

In addition to creating a framework, this book may assist readers in choosing material for an annual reading of the Bible. I am a great believer in regular Bible reading. Keep in mind that the organization and passages presented here are my choice; you may want to develop your own organization and select different passages. Beside the twenty-six studies, this book also includes three appendices for those who want to a different kind of focused meditation and review:

Appendix 1

The word love is used sixty-three times in the New International Version (NIV) four Gospels. Forty-eight of the usages are “red letter” words of Jesus. This appendix records each of thirty-four Bible scriptures where Jesus used the word love. Reading these verses slowly and collectively in meditation can provide powerful insights into the love teachings of Jesus.

Appendix 2

There are 163 uses of the word “love” in the Epistles. This appendix orders the 163 times love appears by 133 scripture citations for meditation and review.

Appendix 3

This appendix presents the thirty-two key events highlighted in my previous book, A Biography of Jesus. This framework provides a chronological outline of the life of Jesus. Under the thirty-two key events are 172 scripture references for meditation and study. As mentioned earlier, this book does not focus on deep theological discussion. It is designed to emphasize the simplicity and practical truths for daily living from the whole Bible, and increase religious literacy among Christian lay persons. As we will see in our first studies, God provides very basic truths and answers to important questions in the very first five books of the Bible. He addresses questions such as:

  • Who am I?
  • Who is God?
  • Why am I here?

He then builds on these truth threads throughout the Bible and creates a wonderful fabric mosaic for living. He says:

  • You are a child of God, created to dwell in His marvelous creation, the Earth, and create balance in the universe he designed.
  • There is one God, who desires a covenant of love with you. He reveals his word (logos) through his son, Jesus Christ and leaves the Holy Spirit to be your counselor for daily living.
  • You are made to seek to follow God’s laws of love and build his kingdom on this earth.

As you study, focus on these simple truths. The heart of the Bible, the commands to love God and love neighbor, are what we were created for and are good starting points for focus.

A Biography of Jesus

The last six months of the earthly life of Jesus Christ are a travelog through the provinces of Judea and Perea. These six months represent a turning point in Jesus’s life. Some authors call it a period of opposition.

After his receptive audiences in Galilee, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51b). The stakes for following Jesus are raised. Early in this part of his journey, Jesus warns those who were with him walking along the road: “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58b). He empha- sizes a sense of urgency as he says, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60b). Again and again in this travelog from Luke (9:51–19:27), Jesus “raises the bar” for his followers.

The base of Jesus’s ministry in Judea and Perea was not centered in a particular village. Perea is an area east of Jerusalem across the Jordan River. Jesus received affirmation from God during his travels that would take him twice to feasts in Jerusalem and once to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. In John chapters 7–11 Jesus declares his divinity at the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Dedication, and in raising Lazareth in Bethany. Then, through a series of “I am” claims before Hebrew leaders, he leaves no doubt as to his mission.

Luke is the primary source for this portion of our study and Luke is ordered more by principles than by events. So the events in this section are not necessarily chronological. The Judea/Perea ministry period becomes a time for Jesus to coach his disciples. Values of the kingdom of God and confrontation of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem are also key themes. This section contains seven events—five teaching events and two impact events.