This week, Stephen Massimilla’s Writing about Values class is reading from an early Christian text, the Gospel of Matthew, and trying to see its story (and its consideration of values) in light of what they’ve otherwise read, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Plato, and some writers of the Hebrew Bible (Exodus and Job). Stephen presents his class with a series of discussion questions, which I’m including below:
How does this Gospel reflect the expectation of your knowing and valuing a prior text that we have discussed? How does Jesus, as he is presented the Book of Matthew, make his points by responding to established positions? While you are focusing on the “Beatitudes” and the “Sermon on the Mount,” think about what general principles might underlie Jesus’ presentation of “good” values and behavior. Alternatively, quote a couple of his parables and explain how they might be interpreted. Why does Jesus speak in parables? Could there be more than one explanation?
A recent book by the French writer Emmanuel Carrère, The Kingdom, reviewed here by the New Yorker‘s James Wood, sheds other lights, and I highly recommend it (the book AND the review).