“Introduction,” New Testament Student Manual (2018)
“Introduction,” New Testament Student Manual
Religion 211–212 is designed to help you understand the New Testament both as a collection of ancient scripture and as a source of truths that can guide and bless your life today. Studying the New Testament and applying its truths will give you the opportunity to come to know the Savior in a personal and powerful way. Upon completing these two courses, we hope you will want to proclaim, as Peter did, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), or to testify as John the Beloved did, “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true” (1 John 5:20).
Religion 211 is designed as a one-semester course focused on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This course deals with accounts of Jesus Christ’s life and His teachings, Atonement, and Resurrection. Religion 212 is a one-semester course focused on the books of Acts through Revelation. This course deals with the growth and challenges of the early Christian Church and describes the Savior’s continuing guidance of His Church through the ministry of the Holy Ghost and the Apostles.
The basic text for Religion 211–212 is the New Testament. This student manual can assist you as you study the books of the New Testament and the doctrines and principles they teach. This manual is not designed to replace your reading of the scriptures, nor can it substitute for the inspired guidance of the Holy Ghost. However, it can be a great help to you as you combine your study with humble prayer and pondering. This manual provides information on the context (the cultural and historical circumstances) of the New Testament passages and provides inspired interpretive help for some passages.
The 27 books that make up the New Testament are studied in sequential order in this manual. (Note: To study the New Testament as a harmony—meaning studying the life and ministry of Jesus Christ chronologically, referring to all four Gospels in the process—refer to the chart in the Bible appendix titled “Harmony of the Gospels.”)
Each chapter of this New Testament Student Manual has four parts: Introduction and Timeline; Commentary, which includes study questions; Points to Ponder; and Suggested Assignments.
Each chapter begins with a brief introduction of the block of scripture covered in that chapter. The introduction provides a brief summary of the content within each student manual chapter that will help you focus on the central topics found in the block of scripture covered in the chapter.
The timeline and the accompanying map give you a general idea of when and where the events contained in each chapter of this manual took place.
At the beginning of the commentary for each of the books in the New Testament, you will find an introduction with helpful information regarding the context and historical setting of the book. These book introductions answer several questions: Why study this book? Who wrote this book? When and where was it written? To whom was it written and why? And what are some distinctive features of this book?
Material in this section will help you understand the historical and cultural background of the world in which Jesus Christ and His Apostles lived and ministered and will provide occasional linguistic and literary insights into the text of the New Testament. In addition, teachings of modern-day prophets and apostles and other Church leaders will provide doctrinal and interpretive commentary and will clarify important as well as difficult scripture passages. In selecting prophetic commentary for this manual, several criteria were considered: statements made by prophets and apostles were given priority over statements made by other General Authorities and leaders of the Church; recent statements were generally selected over equally pertinent statements made by earlier Church leaders; and commentary was sought that directly related to a scripture passage and helped to explain its content. As you carefully study and ponder this commentary in connection with your study of the New Testament, the promptings of the Holy Ghost will deepen your understanding of the gospel and your testimony of Jesus Christ. You are encouraged to keep the other standard works nearby while you study the New Testament—oftentimes, other volumes of scripture provide the best inspired commentary on the New Testament.
Throughout the commentary section, you will find study questions in boxes like the one below. These questions will help you search and understand selected scripture passages and in some instances consider how to apply the passages in your life.
The Points to Ponder section will help you reflect on the importance of what you have studied in the scriptures and consider ways to apply the doctrines and principles you have learned. As you ponder the questions asked, the Holy Ghost may increase your understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ or prompt you to improve your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. President Russell M. Nelson taught: “As you ponder and pray about doctrinal principles, the Holy Ghost will speak to your mind and your heart [see D&C 8:2]. From events portrayed in the scriptures, new insights will come and principles relevant to your situation will distill upon your heart” (“Living by Scriptural Guidance,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 18).
At the conclusion of each chapter are assignments that encourage personal application. Your teacher may invite you to do some of these assignments in class or on your own. You may also choose to do these assignments on your own to enhance your learning experience. Taking time to complete these assignments will help the truths of the New Testament become a part of your life.
As you consider whether to do some or all of the suggested assignments, keep in mind these words by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “A learner exercising agency by acting in accordance with correct principles opens his or her heart to the Holy Ghost—and invites His teaching, testifying power, and confirming witness. Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception. It is in the sincerity and consistency of our faith-inspired action that we indicate to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, our willingness to learn and receive instruction from the Holy Ghost” (“Seek Learning by Faith” [evening with Elder David A. Bednar, Feb. 3, 2006], 3).
As you study the New Testament, you may wish to use a study journal or notebook to record questions, thoughts, goals, and spiritual impressions. Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “It is through the repeated process of feeling impressions, recording them, and obeying them that one learns to depend on the direction of the Spirit” (“Helping Others to Be Spiritually Led” [Church Educational System Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, Aug. 11, 1998], 3).
Alternate formats of this student manual may be available at institute.lds.org. If you have difficulty using this manual because of a disability, please contact your instructor for additional resources.