Scriptures in Context
Martin Luther described the Bible as the cradle that holds Christ. Christians read the whole of Scripture and find meaning through Christ.
From the Christian Scriptures (New Testament): The Gospels
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
The Book of Matthew, written by an unknown Christian about 90 C.E., declares the advent of the Kingdom of God. (The author says, “Kingdom of heaven,” which may be because Jews did not use the name of God. Even today they will write G-d.) God has drawn near to dwell with God’s people, the church, breaking into the world in the person of Jesus, and in his authority to teach, to cast out demons, heal, and to forgive sins. (Matthew 1:23; 16:16; 28:20). The author tells the story of the life, ministry, and suffering and death of Jesus. Matthew is structured in three parts and includes five important speeches of Jesus: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29); The missionary discourse (9:35-10:42); The discourse in parables (13:1-52); The ecclesiological (theological doctrine relating to the church) discourse (17:24-18:35); The eschatological (the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind; i.e., the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine) discourse (24:1-25:46). Matthew stresses forgiveness and the need to forgive.
From the Tanak (Old Testament): The Torah (Lent 1's lesson) and The Prophets (Ash Wednesday's Lesson)
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 Joel
The name "Joel" means "Yah (weh) is my God." The book seems to have been written after the exile, probably around the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Joel may have been a temple prophet, although we don't really know. The signs in Joel echo the Exodus story. They also show that it is the LORD who is God and the LORD who is in control. Joel also promises an outpouring of the Spirit. God acts in the world for God's people. "God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love...." (2:13).
The New Testament: The Epistles of Paul
The Book of Romans
Paul wrote 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.