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Unformatted text preview: GOD’S LOVE IN OUR LIVES DIVINITY NOTES FOR TANZANIAN HIGH SCHOOLS BY BRO. RIKARDO MARIA, UNWA (2014 EDITION) ATTENTION, PLEASE: A “BIBLE BANGER” SENT TO YOU... You may say: “I am too tired”. But the Lord says: “I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). You may say: “I am afraid”. But the Lord says: “Every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid” (Mt 10:30-31). You may say: “I cannot go on”. But the Lord says: “My grace is enough for you” (2Cor 12:9). You may say: “I am always frustrated”. But the Lord says: “Don’t worry about tomorrow” (Mt 6:34). You may say: “I cannot figure things out”. But the Lord says: “I am the way” (Jn 14:6). You may say: “I cannot forgive myself”. But the Lord says: “My child, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2:5). You may say: “I am not able”. But the Lord says: “God is perfectly able to enrich you with every grace, so that you always have enough for every conceivable need” (2Cor. 9:8). You may say: “I feel all alone”. But the Lord says: “I shall not fail you or desert you” (Heb 13:5). You may say: “I cannot manage”. But the Lord says: “Give, and there will be gifts for you” (Phil 4:19). You may say: “I am not smart enough”. But the Lord says: “You exist in Christ Jesus, who for us was made wisdom from God” (1Cor. 1:30). 1 You may say: “Nobody really loves me”. But the Lord says: “You must love one another just as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). You may say: “It is impossible”. But the Lord says: “Things that are impossible by human resources are possible for God” (Lk 18:27). OBJECTIVES To deepen the awareness of the religious dimension of life as contained in God’s revelation and Christian history. To develop insights into Gospel values in relation to life as basis for judgments and choices in a changing world. To better understand the Christian faith, knowing how God revealed himself in human history and appreciating his powerful love present in the Church. To develop the capacity to deeply communicate with God. To help good relationships within the society, putting into practice what acquired from the studies. To prepare for an exemplary moral life according to God’s word and plan on men and women. To lay an adequate academic foundation to those who will pursue religious studies at higher levels. TEXT The Revised Standard Version Bible (RSV) remains the main text recommended for the subject. NOTES These notes are only a help to understand the biblical text according to its origin and environment. How to use them: 1. First humbly pray in order to understand God's word. 2. Read attentively questions and answers in the introductions to every book. 3. Re-read their most important concepts: to help you in identifying them, they are written in bold font. 4. Pay particular attention to the lateral boxes. 5. Read one by one the observations which help to read the text of the relevant book of the Bible. 6. Read the quotation itself in the Bible. 7. Re-read its interpretation. 8. Try to narrate what you have read. 9. Think how you and we all should apply the relative message in daily life. 10. After ending all the important quotations of a biblical book with their interpretation, re-read its introduction's questions and answers. 11. Try to summarise the answers. 12. Attempt at least one relevant study question among those proposed at the end. How to answer the questions: In answering a question which wants you to comment a quotation, first you have to fully identify its statement, for example who, when, where, why and to whom it was spoken. Then remark what is special with it and its place in the whole Bible's teaching on the matter. Finally, explain your opinion on its relevance or application to today’s similar situations, without going to much far from the words' context. In answering a question which refers to the teaching of a whole book from the Bible, you have to express it in the best way in relation to its time of composition, destination, purpose, themes etc. Then remark what is special with it and its place in the whole Bible's teaching on the matter. Finally, explain your opinion on its relevance or application to today’s similar situations, without going to much far from its context. Be always precise in using religious terms. NATIONAL EXAMINATION The examination will test the candidates’ ability to: comment on biblical texts and concepts recall important events applicable to Christian daily life use biblical examples and teachings in solving problems so to live the principles that govern the persons and the community The examination will comprise two papers, namely: 114/1 Divinity 1 and 114/2 Divinity 2. Divinity 1 will be of 3 hours duration and will consist of two sections: Section A will consist of three (3) essay questions from Historical Books, out of which the candidates will be required to answer two (2) questions. Each question will carry twenty (20) marks. Section B will consist of five (5) essay questions from Prophetic Books, out of which the candidates will be required to answer any three (3) questions. Each question will carry twenty (20) marks. Divinity 2 will be of 3 hours duration and will consist of two (2) parts: Part I will focus on the Four Gospels and will consist of four (4) essay questions, out of which the candidates will be required to answer three (3). Each question will carry twenty (20) marks. Part II will focus on the Apostolic Age and will consist of three (3) essay questions, out of which the candidates will be required to answer two (2). Each question will carry twenty (20) marks. 2 BIBLIOGRAPHY The African Bible The New Jerusalem Bible Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church by the Pontifical Biblical Commission The Bible and Morality by the Pontifical Biblical Commission Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI The Jerome Biblical Commentary The New Jerome Biblical Commentary The Gospel of John – A Commentary by M. Mullins Messengers of God - Divinity One by G. Fihavango Christ and Christianity - Divinity Two by G. Fihavango & J. A. Simalenga CONTENTS INTRODUCTION PAPER ONE: THE OLD TESTAMENT Settings Israel’s faith and life Prophecy and prophets Some historical books (1210-560 BC) The book of Judges: Uneven leaders for God’s unshaped people The books of Samuel: The rise of the kingdom The books of Kings: From glory to ashes Some books named after prophets (760-518 BC) The book of Amos: God’s demand of social justice The book of Hosea: Bonds of God’s faithful love The book of Isaiah: Faith and history The book of Jeremiah: Kind prophet called to root up and tear down The book of Ezekiel: The new society on God’s land The Second Isaiah: God’s servant and the new exodus The books of Haggai and Zechariah: The task of restoration PAPER TWO: THE NEW TESTAMENT Settings Jesus’ life and message (6 BC – 30 AD) Jesus’ origins Jesus’ words and deeds Jesus’ identity Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem Jesus’ resurrection The apostolic age (30-100 AD) The four Gospels Some material common to all Gospels Some material peculiar to each Gospel The Gospel of Mark: Jesus, the Christ, Son of God The Gospel of Matthew: Jesus, new Moses who taught his Church the true perfection The Gospel of Luke: Jesus, kind but rejected prophet come to save everyone The Gospel of John: Jesus, God’s Wisdom become our way, truth and life John’s Gospel compared to the Synoptics Acts of the Apostles: The Church’s witness for all peoples to the end of time Some epistles by Paul Paul First letter to the Thessalonians: Waiting for the Lord Letter to the Galatians: From slavery to freedom First letter to the Corinthians: Christian life in a multinational city Letter to the Romans: Salvation through faith in Christ 3 INTRODUCTION “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins” (1Jn 4:9-10). ◊ What is the plan of God for man? God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a him share in his own blessed life. In the fullness and Saviour of mankind, fallen into sin, thus calling Spirit, making them adopted children and heirs of his plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make of time, God the Father sent his Son as the Redeemer all into his Church and, through the work of the Holy eternal happiness. ◊ Why does man have a desire for God? God himself, in creating man in his own image, has written upon his heart the desire to see him. Even if this desire is often ignored, God never ceases to draw man to himself because only in God will he find and live the fullness of truth and happiness for which he never stops searching. By nature and by vocation, therefore, man is a religious being, capable of entering into communion with God. This intimate and vital bond with God confers on man his fundamental dignity. ◊ How is it possible to know God with only the light of human reason? Starting from creation, that is from the world and from the human person, through reason alone one can know God with certainty as the origin and end of the universe, as the highest good and as infinite truth and beauty. ◊ Is the light of reason alone sufficient to know the mystery of God? In coming to a knowledge of God by the light of reason alone man experiences many difficulties. Indeed, on his own he is unable to enter into the intimacy of the divine mystery. This is why he stands in need of being enlightened by God’s revelation, not only about those things that exceed his understanding, but also about those religious and moral truths which of themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, so that even in the present condition of the human race, they can be known by all with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error. ◊ What does God reveal to man? God in his goodness and wisdom reveals himself. With deeds and words, he reveals himself and his plan of loving goodness which he decreed from all eternity in Christ. According to this plan, all people by the grace of the Holy Spirit are to share in the divine life as adopted “sons” in the only begotten Son of God. ◊ What are the first stages of God's Revelation? From the very beginning, God manifested himself to our first parents, Adam and Eve, and invited them to intimate communion with himself. After their fall, he did not cease his revelation to them but promised salvation for all their descendants. After the flood, he made a covenant with Noah, a covenant between himself and all living beings. ◊ What is the full and definitive stage of God's Revelation? The full and definitive stage of God’s revelation is accomplished in his Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the mediator and fullness of Revelation. He, being the only-begotten Son of God made man, is the perfect and definitive Word of the Father. In the sending of the Son and the gift of the Spirit, Revelation is now fully complete, although the faith of the Church must gradually grasp its full significance over the course of centuries. ◊ Why and in what way is divine revelation transmitted? God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), that is, of Jesus Christ. For this reason, Christ must be proclaimed to all according to his own command, “Go forth and teach all nations” (Mt 28:19). And this is brought about by Apostolic Tradition. ◊ What is Apostolic Tradition? Apostolic Tradition is the transmission of the message of Christ, brought about from the very beginnings of Christianity by means of preaching, bearing witness, institutions, worship, and inspired writings. The apostles transmitted all they received from Christ and learned from the Holy Spirit to their successors, the bishops, and through them to all generations until the end of the world. ◊ In what ways does Apostolic Tradition occur? Apostolic Tradition occurs in two ways: through the living transmission of the word of God (also simply called Tradition) and through Sacred Scripture which is the same proclamation of salvation in written form. ◊ What is the relationship between Tradition and Sacred Scripture? Tradition and Sacred Scripture are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. 4 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ. They flow out of the same divine well-spring and together make up one sacred deposit of faith from which the Church derives her certainty about revelation. ◊ To whom is the deposit of faith entrusted? The Apostles entrusted the deposit of faith to the whole of the Church. Thanks to its supernatural sense of faith the people of God as a whole, assisted by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Magisterium of the Church, never ceases to welcome, to penetrate more deeply and to live more fully from the gift of divine revelation. ◊ Why does Sacred Scripture teach the truth? Because God himself is the author of Sacred Scripture. For this reason it is said to be inspired and to teach without error those truths which are necessary for our salvation. The Holy Spirit inspired the human authors who wrote what he wanted to teach us. The Christian faith, however, is not a “religion of the Book”, but of the Word of God – “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living” (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux). ◊ How is Sacred Scripture to be read? Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church according to three criteria: 1) it must be read with attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture; 2) it must be read within the living Tradition of the Church; 3) it must be read with attention to the analogy of faith, that is, the inner harmony which exists among the truths of the faith themselves. ◊ What role does Sacred Scripture play in the life of the Church? Sacred Scripture gives support and vigour to the life of the Church. For the children of the Church, it is a confirmation of the faith, food for the soul and the fount of the spiritual life. Sacred Scripture is the soul of theology and of pastoral preaching. The Psalmist says that it is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). The Church, therefore, exhorts all to read Sacred Scripture frequently because “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Saint Jerome). ◊ How does man respond to God who reveals himself? Sustained by divine grace, we respond to God with the obedience of faith, which means the full surrender of ourselves to God and the acceptance of his truth insofar as it is guaranteed by the One who is Truth itself. The Virgin Mary, woman of faith. ◊ Who are the principal witnesses of the obedience of faith in the Sacred Scriptures? There are many such witnesses, two in particular: One is Abraham who when put to the test “believed in God” (Rom 4:3) and always obeyed his call. For this reason he is called “the Father of all who believe” (Rom 4:11-18). The other is the Virgin Mary who, throughout her entire life, embodied in a perfect way the obedience of faith: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). ◊ Why is there no contradiction between faith and science? Though faith is above reason, there can never be a contradiction between faith and science because both originate in God. It is God himself who gives to us the light both of reason and of faith. ◊ Why is faith a personal act, and at the same time ecclesial? Faith is a personal act insofar as it is the free response of the human person to God who reveals himself. But at the same time it is an ecclesial act which expresses itself in the proclamation, “We believe”. It is in fact the Church that believes: and thus by the grace of the Holy Spirit precedes, engenders and nourishes the faith of each Christian. For this reason the Church is Mother and Teacher. ◊ In what way is the faith of the Church one faith alone? The Church, although made up of persons who have diverse languages, cultures, and rites, nonetheless professes with a united voice the one faith that was received from the one Lord and that was passed on by the one Apostolic Tradition. She confesses one God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and points to one way of salvation. Therefore we believe with one heart and one soul all that is contained in the Word of God, handed down or written, and which is proposed by the Church as divinely revealed. Diagram of the relationships between the only God’s three Persons. ◊ What does Bible mean? Christians have called Bible (from the Greek word “Βιβλια”, Biblia, meaning “Books”) the collection of 73 books accepted by the Church as inspired by God, i.e. written through the Holy Spirit’s help. Many Protestants use only 66 of them, lacking 7 books of the OT and some sections of a few others. In discerning these books as unique, the ancient Church was also defining her own identity: they were to function as a mirror in which she could continually rediscover herself and assess the way she responds to Jesus’ message 5 and transmits it. These books are the shared treasure of all believers. For this reason, their interpretation takes place in the heart of the Church and within her traditions of faith. Dialogue with the faith’s understanding of earlier times, must be matched by a dialogue with today’s men and women in order to grasp how the biblical message responds to current issues. Privileged hearers of God’s word are lowly people, for their lack of power and human resources force them to trust in God alone and in his justice. But in the last resort, it is the Church’s authority which has the duty of securing the authenticity of interpretation. ◊ What were the languages used to write the Bible? The languages used to write the Bible were Hebrew, Aramaic and finally Greek. The first texts date before 1000 BC, the last ones date around 100 AD. Sadly, the material was not resistant; so we now have no original, but copies. The oldest existing scripts date from around 250 BC. Starting in the 5 th century BC, Hebrew texts were translated orally into Aramaic, and this language was used to write few original parts. Later both languages’ texts began to be translated in written form at Alexandria (Egypt) around 285 BC. This version, called Septuagint (LXX), was used by Greek speaking Jews and early Christians. The passage from one language to another necessarily involves a change of cultural context where concepts are not identical and symbols have a different meaning. Written in Greek, the whole NT is characterized by such dynamic of ensuring that God’s message takes root in a great variety of terrain. Switching Jesus’ Palestinian message into Jew Greek-like culture, it displays its aim to transcend the limits of a single cultural world. Because his message can at the same time both challenge and enrich value systems and behaviour norms of each place and time. One of the Bible’s oldest existing texts: a papyrus of around 200 BC. ◊ Is the Bible a past reference book? The Bible comes from a real past, but not only from the past: it comes from God's eternity and leads into eternity along the way through time. In teaching us how to live the relationship of covenant between him and his people, it reveals a God who is formless and An OT scroll as it is still used by Jews invisible, though personal, loving and willing to make himself known. in worship. Bible itself gives evidence that its interpretation can be difficult, and the passage of time has accentuated the problem. In order to appropriate the Bible’s words and deeds, today readers have to project themselves back almost twenty or thirty centuries. Refusing to consider the historical character of God’s revelation means going far away from its true sense and becoming incapable of accepting the full truth of his Son’s Incarnation. For, just as the Word of God became like men in every way except sin, so too hi...
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