Background On the Lessons for February 25, 2018, The 2nd Sunday in Lent
The Book of Genesis
The book of Genesis was compiled from oral and
written traditions probably brought together during the time of the kingdoms of
Judah and Israel. Later parts may have been written down after the fall of
Judah during the Babylonian exile (the promise of God to Abraham, joined with
the stories about Jacob and Joseph, for instance, which would have given hope
to the Jewish captives). It wasn't until the Greco-Roman period when
Genesis and the other writings of the Pentateuch began to be attributed to Moses,
one of the major figures in the stories of these writings. This reflects the
custom among the Greeks of identifying authorship, which they believed
conferred more authority and prestige on a work. Genesis combines old
writings about creation and the flood with later priestly writings which relate
Israel's experience of and relationship with God through the centuries.
The Book of Romans
his letter to the Romans in about 56-57 C.E. Jewish-Christians were the leaders
of the early church throughout the empire, including Rome. The emperor Claudius
tolerated other religions, and could even be said to have treated the Jews generously;
however, he hated proselytizing. In 49 C.E., he expelled all Jews, including
Jewish-Christians, from Rome because some Jews were causing disturbances in the
city at the instigation of "Chrestus". Many scholars believe that
this refers to the efforts of the Jewish-Christians, inspired by their faith in
the risen Christ, to convert others. By the time Jews were allowed to return to
Rome, the Gentile-Christians had taken over leadership of the Roman church.
Tensions arose between the two groups of believers, prompting Paul's letter.
Throughout Romans, Paul appeals to his readers to embrace holy living,
especially admonishing his Gentile-Christian readers, who were tempted to look
down on their persecuted Jewish-Christian brethren, that they were all brothers
and sisters in Christ and belonged to the Lord.
The Gospel According to St. Mark
The book of Mark is attributed to Mark, the companion of Peter and Paul. It seems to have been written for Christians living in the Roman Empire, but outside of Palestine. It was probably written in the mid to late 60s C.E. There must have been many stories being told about Jesus from the time of his death in the 30s C.E. Mark was the first to collect them and write them in what he called "the good news," or gospel, "of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." It is the only book in the Bible that refers to itself as a "gospel." It is a story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection and is structured around his baptism, transfiguration, and crucifixion. It is meant to strengthen faith in Jesus and make disciples.