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Preface

The warm response to Wisdom of the Bible, published on the Internet in January 1996, has encouraged me to attempt a much more difficult topic, the teachings of Jesus. I have tried to categorize and present the major themes that Jesus emphasized over and over to His disciples and to others who listened to His teachings. Nearly all this material is derived from the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The teachings of Jesus are central to all branches of Christianity, but they do not fully represent the beliefs held by Christians. Countless theologians through the centuries have shaped those beliefs. Chief among these are St. Paul, whose letters appear in the New Testament, and St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430). The Orthodox Eastern Churches broke with the Roman Church in 1054 and have developed their own traditions, with emphasis on the writings of the Fathers of the Church. Since the Reformation in the 1500s, Protestant beliefs have been strongly influenced by Martin Luther (1483 - 1546), John Calvin (1509 - 1564) and the founders and theologians of the individual denominations. Meanwhile, Catholic beliefs have been influenced by the popes, the Catholic church's own internal reforms, and in recent times by the Second Vatican Council of 1962 - 1965.

I have not tried to present a complete set of Christian beliefs. Instead, I have attempted to categorize and present those things that Jesus, Himself, taught during His three years of earthly ministry. This is not a criticism or rejection of any church's doctrine, but it is an acknowledgment that, while Jesus and His teachings are absolutely central to all branches of Christianity, there are many different shades of interpretation and belief within the Christian community. If there is any intentional bias on my part, it is to concentrate on Jesus' advice for living our daily temporal and spiritual lives. I have not emphasized controversial topics such as the nature of Jesus' divinity, nature of salvation, etc., which are of more interest to theologians.

It is my hope that this work will be useful as an aid to understanding the ministry of Jesus, what He taught about our relationship with God and each other, and how He is guiding us toward eternal life in God's kingdom.

Throughout this work I have highlighted Jesus' words in red, in the tradition of many Bible editions.

I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of my wife, Helen, who edited this work and made many needed improvements.

Cliff Leitch
June 2000

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