對我們來說，簡單直接。手指輕輕一滑，就有《新舊約全書》在面前，還有五花八門的工具軟件幫助我們了解生與死、耶穌的復活和早期教會的生活。互聯網上提供了眾多的《聖經》譯本、評論講解和靈修資料，帶領我們每天與神同行。那麼，第一世紀的外邦門徒又有甚麼可以依靠呢？最早的《新約》書信，估計是在公元49年左右Ben Witherington III, The New Testament Story(Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004), 48.寫成的《加拉太書》，並且在各地教會傳閱誦讀。可是，在書信還沒有送達之前，這些早期門徒是如何學習耶穌的生命和教導呢？
Bifolio from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the end of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians and the beginning of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, from a codex containing the Pauline Epistles. Greek on papyrus. Egypt, c. 200 AD. CBL BP II ff.15&90, University of Michigan, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
In Philippi around 50 C.E., Lydia, the jailer, his family, and the other converts there were transformed by the witness of Paul and his companions during their stay in the city (Acts 16), but as the apostle traveled on to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1), to whom did the Philippian church turn to grow in their faith? After this inspiring experience, how could they learn more about Jesus and how He wanted them to live?
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Who are the Samaritans? And what can we learn from their portrayal in the New Testament? To begin, many of us are familiar with the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman found in John 4. Their dialogue highlights some commonalities and distinctions between the Jews and the Samaritans. We learn from the woman that the Samaritans shared a common ancestry with the Jews — note how she claimed “our father Jacob,” the son of Abraham (4:12), as part of her heritage. The place where she and Jesus met was at Jacob’s well (John 4:6, Genesis 33:19, Joshua 24:32). Moreover, as their conversation proceeds, we learn that the Samaritans and Jews disagreed on where proper worship could be carried out — the Jews insisted on Jerusalem, whereas the Samaritans worshipped on a mountain in Samaria, Mt. Gerizim. Finally, like the Jews, the Samaritans likewise were awaiting a “Messiah” (4:25).