Bible study, 3 January 2016

Back to “Introduction – Bible studies in the Benefice”


3 January 2016 – The birth narratives explored for Epiphany. Readings:

Matthew 1-2, on www.biblegateway.com

Luke 1-2, on www.biblegateway.com


3 January 2016 – The birth narratives explored for Epiphany. Notes and questions:

The Angels

Angel, from the Greek for messenger

  1. What do we know about Angels from the Bible? (Old Testament – Genesis – guarding gates of Eden, Sodom, Jacob’s ladder etc.)
  2. In Luke’s birth narrative, the angels appear ‘in the flesh’ (1.12-20, 26-29, 2.9-15). How do people react to them?
  3. How is Mary’s reaction to Gabriel different to the other people who meet with angels in this text?
  4. What is different about the way in which angels appear in Matthew’s Gospel? Why might this be the case? (1.20, 2.12, 13, 19, 22).
  5. Do you think there is ever any doubt when God sends an angel to his people? Do you think people can act as/be used as angels?

Shepherds and Wise Men (Magi)

Shepherds: Luke 2.8-21, on www.biblegateway.com

  1. What do we learn about the shepherds’ faith and their credibility in the wider community in this passage?

Magi, from the Greek: People from Persia/Medes, Magicians, Zoroastrians

Magi: Matthew 2.1-12, on www.biblegateway.com

  1. Who/what are these people?
  2. How many are there, and what is their background?
  3. What do you feel is significant about these men coming from the east and making connections with the ‘King of the Jews’?
  4. What significance is placed upon the gifts in the passage (2.11)? Does this surprise you? Do you think the author expected us to know the significance of these things? (See Isaiah 60.6 – does it give you any clues?!)
  5. When did the visit of the Magi take place? (2.16)
  6. The accounts in Luke and Matthew are very different: Luke only refers to shepherds, Matthew only to Magi. What implicit message/conclusion does the author make in each case about the significance of Jesus’ birth? Does it matter to you that the two accounts are very different?

3 Canticles

Magnificat – Luke 1.46-55, on www.biblegateway.com

  1. What do we learn about the nature of God from this passage?

Benedictus – Luke 1.68-79, on www.biblegateway.com

  1. What connection is being made between the Old Testament God and the birth of Jesus? (68-75)
  2. What is this baby going to achieve? Which baby is Zechariah talking about? (76-77)

Nunc Dimittis – Luke 2.25-38, on www.biblegateway.com

  1. The encounter at the Temple presents 2 faithful ‘elders’ of the Jewish community. How do they respond to the presence of Jesus – what does this say to you about the baby himself? (he is only 8 days old at this time)

Mary and Joseph

  1. What do we know about Joseph? (Luke 1.27, 2.4-5, 2.41-51; Matthew 1.18-25, 2.13-15, 2.19-23)
  2. What is different about the role of Joseph in Matthew’s Gospel to the one shown in Luke?
  3. What do we know about Mary from Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 1-2?
  4. Does this surprise you?
  5. Mary in Luke’s gospel is a much more clearly defined person. What sort of character do you pick up from the passage (chapters 1-2)?
  6. How do the two writers root Jesus and his birth into the story of the Jewish people to this point? (Matthew 1.1-17; Luke 3.23-38; 1 Samuel 16.6-13)