Category Archives: Jesus in His Jewish Context

TABLE OF CONTENTS

table-of-contents1

Note: this Table of Contents list contains a description of our most recent articles.  Please see to the right for a list of all posts.

  1. Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah — Jews and Gentiles in Land — the first article in the series, shedding light on Jewish understanding of the Land and the fundamental differences between the Galilean Jews of the North and the Judean Jews of the South http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/sketches-of-jewish-social-life-at-the-time-of-messiah-jews-and-gentiles-in-the-land/
  2. Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah – Introduction – an intro to a new, extended series of articles that places Jesus and His teachings within their Jewish context and sheds invaluable light on passages that could not be fully understood otherwise. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/sketches-of-jewish-social-life-at-the-time-of-messiah-introduction/
  3. The Company Dinner – another modern parable http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/company-dinner-another-modern-parable/
  4. The Talmud – now available in English, free and online – Now available to anyone for free and online, tools include the ability to click on a verse of Scripture, see where it’s quoted in the Talmud, and read it in full in with explanatory notes written in plain language. Most surprisingly, the very passages that today’s rabbis deny as being about Messiah, were understood by the Jewish sages to be about Messiah. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/talmud-now-available-english-free-online/
  5. New Years and the Parable of the Ten Virgins – The lighting of the oil lamps for the 8th day of Chanukah on New Years Eve brought to mind the Parable of the Ten Virgins and some thoughts for the Church. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/new-years-and-the-parable-of-the-ten-virgins/
  6. Boundaries of the Land of Israel – as set by God: Christians need to understand that the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334 which was just passed declares that where David was first crowned king is not Israel, nor is Bethlehem of Judea, where Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1). Yes, the “little town of Bethlehem” that you sing about in Christmas carols as being the birth place of the King of the Jews is not in the land of the Jews. This is a battle for truth.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/boundaries-of-the-land-of-israel-as-set-by-god/
  7. Questions and Answers about Jews and Christmas: People often want to know what Jews do at Christmas time and some Christians want to know what Messianic Jews do. This article provides some background on “Jews” and some answers to the questions. Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/questions-and-answers-about-jews-and-christmas/
  8. Gehenna – Jewish Origins of Hell: Some think of “hell” as the one place God is not and to others, it is the place where God pours out His judgment on “those who do not believe”. Is this what the Scriptures teach? Where does this concept of Hell come from? That is the subject of this article. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-teaching-on-hell/
  9. The New Perspective – second phase of the Reformation? The Reformation restored the Word of God to the ordinary people and called them out of an obligation of submission to the papacy to one of submission to Scripture.  But Was the Reformation all that was required to restore the Scriptures to their first century understanding?  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-new-perspective-a-second-phase-of-the-reformation/
  10. The Last Day of the Great Feast –  Sukkot has two  ” last days” — Hoshanah Rabbah and Shiminei Atsaret. The “last day and greatest day of the Feast” mentioned in John 7:37 is Hashanah Rabbah. This article helps explain why Jesus said what He did that day. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/last-day-great-feast/
  11. Who is Abraham’s Seed – Understanding who “Abraham’s seed” is, is to understand God’s plan of redemption to ‘all nations of the earth’ since the book of Genesis! This article follows the previous 3 which covered the promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant, the promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant, as well as Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in Romans. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/who-is-abrahams-seed/
  12. God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant  – What were God’s promises to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and do they still apply?http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-jews-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/

  13. God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant; 

    There are those that say that Gentile Christians, along with Jewish believers in Messiah form what is now termed “true Israel” and replace the Jewish people (physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God’s covenant people. In this article is part of a series of articles, taking a deeper look at God’s promises to the Jewish people and God’s promises to the Gentiles, through Messiah. This article focuses on God’s promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-gentiles-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/


  14. Paul’s Use of the term “Israel” in the Book of Romans –   Some say that Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah are not “true Israel” — but rather Gentile Christians and Jewish believers in Messiah form what is termed “true Israel“.  Does the Scripture teach that “Israel” is part Jewish by descent and part Gentile by descent — and if not, what do the passages in question really mean? In this article, we will explore how Paul uses the term “Israel” everywhere else in Romans and then look at what he is saying in Romans 9:6-8. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/pauls-use-of-the-term-israel-in-the-book-of-romans/

  15. It’s Time We Had a Talk – another modern parable – It came to pass one day, that the older brother felt that it was a fitting time to share matters of the family with his younger brother. This is that story. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/time-talk-another-modern-parable/

  16. Shavuot – Counting of the Omer from Passover to Pentecost -Today, June 12, 2016 is Pentecost Sunday! Yes, we know that the Church celebrated it on May 15th this year but according to how God commanded the Jews to determine the date of Shavuot (Pentecost). it is today. The Church’s Pentecost falls on a different date than Biblical Pentecost. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/shavuot-counting-of-the-omer-from-passover-to-pentecost/

  17. Miquedem – Songs from Scripture; Listen free to a brand new album of Jewish music, with songs taken directly from Scripture. Complete lyrics posted in Hebrew, Hebrew-English transliterated phonetics & English. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/miqedem-songs-scripture/

  18. He Who Believes – Mi Shemaamim; This is a song written by Israeli Eyal Golan which you will probably catch yourself humming later.  It is very catchy!  The lyrics are beautiful, and appear in Hebrew, transliterated Hebrew-English phonetics and English;
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/he-who-believes-mi-shemaamin-song/


  19. What did Paul Mean by “May it never be!” ? – When Paul said in Scripture ‘may it never be” (me genoito / μένα genoito is the Greek equivalent) he was using a very common Hebrew expression as many other Jews of his day would have — not surprising considering Paul was Jew. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/paul-mean-may-never/

  20. Biblical Pentecost and the Church’s Pentecost – few Christians realize that the date that the Church celebrates as “Pentecost Sunday” is different than the day that God established in Scripture. This blog explains how the date of Pentecost (Shavuot) is determined from the date of Passover and how the giving of the Holy Spirit is tied to the day Jesus rose from the dead! http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/biblical-pentecost-and-the-churchs-pentecost/

  21. A Jewish Perspective on Counting Days of Lent and Easter Egg Hunts – As we’ve been working on the 3 upcoming posts (Part 2, 3 and 4) that follow Part 1: The Significance of Passover to the Church, we thought we’d take a bit of a divergence and look at two Gentile Christian customs related to the Church’s celebration of “Easter” that we thought our readers might find it interesting to look at through Jewish eyes. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-jewish-perspective-on-counting-days-lent-and-easter-egg-hunts/

  22. A Jewish Roots Update – More than 11,000 visitors from 212 countries or territories in just 10 months.  Who would have thought.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-jewish-roots-update/

  23. UNESCO Resolution Erases Jews Connection to Temple Mount – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has passed a resolution erasing the Jews connection to the Temple Mount. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/unesco-resolution-erases-jews-connection-to-temple-mount/

  24. Passover – Significance to the Church – Most people know “the Last Supper” occurred during Passover, but have never had just two of the Passover elements — the “bread” and the “cup”, explained in that context.  When Jesus took “the bread”, what did the disciples understand it to signify before He spoke? What prior meaning did the cup(s) of wine have to them?  Given it was Passover, what might the Disciples have understood Jesus to be saying? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/passovers-significance-to-the-church/

  25. INTRO: Passover, Pentecost and Booths – significance to the Church : God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people where they were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/intro-passover-pentecost-and-booths-significance-to-the-church/

  26. Canadian Prime Minister Ignores Mention of Jews in Holocaust Statement – on January 27 2016,  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Most notable was the Canadian Prime Minister’s blatant omission of any reference to the Jewish people or to the anti-Jewish ideology which fueled the Nazi’s systematic extermination of 6 million Jews.
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/canadian-prime-minister-ignores-mention-of-jews-in-holocaust-statement/


  27. Understanding Matthew’s Genealogy – an Old Testament Overview – The genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew starts with Abraham and culminates with the birth of Jesus; which is a uniquely Jewish perspective.  To understand who some of the individuals are that are named in this genealogy requires some understanding of the Old Testament and so in this article, we provide an overview of the Old Testament to lay the framework for our next study. This article is a summary of the first study in a series called the “Gospels from a First Century Jewish Perspective” from our Jewish Roots of Christianity LifeGroup. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/understanding-matthews-genealogy-old-testament-overview/

  28. Jewish Sects of the Second Temple Period – introduction to the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and Nazarenes during the Second Temple Period (introduction to Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child); http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish-sects-second-temple-period/

  29. Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child – We’ve often heard it said that Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism; as if Judaism is the parent and Christianity, the child. A more accurate analogy is to see Judaism and Christianity as siblings, twins in fact, born out of the same event. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/christianity-and-judaism-as-siblings-not-parent-and-child/

  30. Christmas and the Coming of the Messiah – Growing up in the Jewish areas we lived in, the expectation of Messiah was all around us. Christmas, however was a “Gentile holiday” which we had no connection to. Jesus, as portrayed by most Christians has no connection to most Jews, as the Jewish Messiah either. The Jesus of Scripture tells a very different story.  Jesus of the Gospels is Jewish. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/christmas-and-the-coming-of-messiah/

  31. Holy Days of Israel – with Scriptural References: Jewish Holy Days are observances set out by God in Scripture — more than celebrations. This article describes our main Holy Days and what they commemorate.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish-holy-days-with-scriptural-references/

  32. Holiday Observance from a Jewish Perspective: The Jewish concept of ‘observance’ of a holiday is quite different than the idea of ‘celebrating’ one and this difference becomes quite apparent to us at Christmas.  It is not as though there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way, but we thought it might be helpful for our readers to understand how we as Jewish believers regard holidays, in particular Christmas. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/holiday-observance-from-a-jewish-perspective/

  33. The Abrahamic Covenant and the 12 Tribes of Israel – In this article, we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and whether the covenant God made with Abraham also applies to the descendants of Ishmael. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-abrahamic-covenant-and-the-12-tribes-of-israel/

  34. The 12 Tribes Ishmael and Their Land – We’ve heard people say that since the land of Israel belongs to both the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael and that the solution to the tension in the region is to divide the land between them.  But few people realize that the land of the 12 Tribes of Ishmael is northern Saudi Arabia and the south-eastern part of Assyria (Iraq) — far from the 12 Tribes of Israel! In this article we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Ishmael (with maps). http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-12-tribes-of-ishmael-and-their-land/

  35. Objections to a Religious Ideology or Doctrine is not Xenophobia – We hear a lot these days about xenophobia — with people being accused of being xenophobic or being a xenophobe when they object to a religious ideology or to the doctrine of another’s religion or belief system. That is not Xenophobia.  Xenophobia is to show fear or contempt towards a person because they hold to a specific ideology or holds to a given religious doctrine. There is a difference.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/objection-to-a-religious-ideology-or-doctrine-is-not-xenophobia/

  36. How Israel Came to Possess the Land it Currently Occupies – Israel is often portrayed in the media as ‘land-grabbing’, so we want to clear up where the land that Israel currently occupies came from. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/how-israel-came-to-possess-the-land-it-currently-occupies/

  37. Where is Ancient Palestine and Who are the Palestinian People? Does the idea of an ancient Palestinian homeland belonging to the Palestinian people have any basis in history? There were 3 such places with that name, none of them belonging to Arabs; one belonging to the Romans, one a province of the Byzantine Empire and one under British administration.  So what is “Palestine” and who are the “Palestinian” people? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/where-is-ancient-palestine-who-are-the-palestinians/

  38.  1948 – The Fullfillment of the Second Gathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel – When God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people, was it conditional on their obedience? If so, how would we explain that the Jews have been returned to the land not once, but twice — and the most recent time was in 1948? What do the Scriptures have to say about God’s covenant with the Jewish people with regard to obedience to His commands and how that related specifically to the Land? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/fullfullment-of-the-second-gathering-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel/

  39. Montreal Bagel and Smoked Meat – [a break from our usual articles]. Sometimes, the world is all too serious and what we need is a little distraction — such as food or music.  For Jews, both food and music are integral to who we are.  There is the food and music of home; not our ancestral home, but the Jewish community in which we grew up and for us, as Montreal Jews that food is epitomized by bagel and smoked meat. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/montreal-bagel-and-smoked-meat-the-real-deal/

  40. Jesus born at Sukkot / Festival of Booths / Feast of Tabernacles – People have asked us why we believe that Jesus was born at Sukkot (the Festival of Booths / the Feast of Tabernacles) and this article is about how theologians have arrived at this conclusion.  It is also about how Sukkot has already been set apart by God to be the only Feast of Israel that all the nations of the world will one day celebrate. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-born-at-sukkot-festival-of-booths/

  41. Remembering and Preparing to Remember – Jews are a people called to remember and with that remembering comes preparation. This article elaborates on the the Jewish concept of preparing to remember which has been passed down to the Church in the observance of The Lord’s Table. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/remembering-and-preparing-to-remember/

  42. The High Holy Days and the Ten Days of Awe – The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are commonly known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance. These are the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur, and the requirements of God in observing this day have important significance to New Testament believers today, both Jews and Gentiles. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-high-holy-days-and-the-ten-days-of-awe/

  43. God’s Calling on Gentiles, His Calling on Jews – We have pondered writing this article for a while and the reason is simple. How can the (predominantly Gentile) Church fulfill God’s specific calling on them mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament if they don’t know and understand what it is? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/God’s_calling_on_Gentiles/

  44. ‘The Parable of the Vineyard Workers’ in Matthew 20 is part of Jesus’ reply to Peter’s question given Matthew 19:27 but without understanding the reference Jesus is making to Old Testament concepts that would have been very well known to the disciples, one can easily miss what Jesus is saying.  This article elaborates on those concepts so that the meaning of the parable becomes clear. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-parable-of-the-vineyard-workers/

  45. New Testament Dietary Laws – Different for Jews and Gentiles’ – Most have heard of Jewish dietary laws but not what made foods ‘unclean’ or what role these laws served but few are aware of the dietary laws set out for Gentile Christians in the New Testament. How did these differing food laws impact social interaction between Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in the first century? What about today?http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/new-testament-dietary-laws-different-for-jews-and-gentiles/

  46. ‘A Visit from the Mormons’ – It’s not every day that the Mormons come knocking and find a mother and son engaged in Scripture study in their living room; with a four volume Hebrew-English Interlinear and Strong’s Concordance at the ready. Talk about catching a couple of Mormon missionaries off guard! Daniel answered the door and invited our visitors in.http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-visit-from-the-mormons/

  47. What does Paul mean that he became “as a Jew to the Jews and to the Gentiles, a Gentile”: In this article we look at what Paul meant by being “under” the Law, “outside” the Law and “within” the Law and what that meant in terms of the call to be “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9). http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/as-a-jew-to-the-jews-and-to-the-gentiles-a-gentile/

  48. Status quo  in the First Century Church vs Today – There was no need for the Gospel writers or Paul to explain Jewish practice because the vast majority of believers at the time were Jews and Jewish practice was understood.  But two thousand years later, most Gentile readers of the New Testament have little understanding of these Jewish practices. In this article we discuss the implications of this. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/status-quo-in-the-first-century-church-vs-today/

  49. Historic Perspective Affects New Testament Interpretation – This article looks at how the historical perspective of the Church after the death of the Apostles has shaped understanding of Israel and the Jewish people. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/historical-perspective-affects-new-testament-interpretation/

  50. Jesus – a Prophet like Moses – what does it mean for Jesus to be ‘a prophet like Moses’? What would the implications be for Jesus to have taught something different than what the Law of Moses taught?    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-a-prophet-like-moses/

  51. Creation of a Palestinian State – the “Two State” Solution – the idea of a “two state” solution is often proposed as a means to resolve the ongoing tensions between Israel and the ‘Palestinians’, but few realize there have already been two “two state” solutions. This article documents those. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/creation-of-a-palestinian-state-the-two-state-solution/

  52. Different Sects of Jews – from the Pharisees and Sadducees to the Sects of Today – to understand what Jesus was saying to the Jewish leadership and why, one needs to understand who the Jewish leadership was and what they believed. What are the Jewish sects of today and how are they related to those of the first century?    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/different-sects-of-jews-from-the-pharisees-and-sadducees-to-the-sects-of-today/

  53. The Keymaker’s Sons – A Modern Parable – This story was written with the desire to help Gentile Christians understand how Jewish believers perceive our relationship with Gentile Christians within the Church. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-key-makers-sons-a-modern-parable/

  54. Is there a Difference between Jewish Believers and Gentile Christians – and if so, what is it?  This article seeks explores the ways in which Jewish believers look at their faith and the Scriptures from a slightly different perspective than Gentile Christians. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish_believers_and_gentile_christian_is_there_a_difference/

  55. Shavuot (Pentecost) and Jesus being the “firstfruits from the dead” – this article explains from Scripture the timing of the events related to the crucifixion of Jesus and the Jewish holiday of Passover and how the timing of the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) is tied to the timing of Passover. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/shavuot-pentecost-and-jesus-being-the-firstfruits-from-the-dead/


  56. “A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” – the Apostle Paul has much to say about whether God has rejected the Jews and in Romans 11:14–25 he speaks directly to Gentiles about the unbelief of much of physical Israel. Paul exhorts the Gentiles not to brag (:18), not to be arrogant (:20), not to be conceited (:25) and not to be unaware (:25) of God’s plans of redemption of physical Israel. Why Paul said this and what the Scriptures say with regards to the future salvation of the Jews is elaborated on in this article. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-partial-hardening-has-come-to-israel-until-the-full-number-of-the-gentiles-has-come-in/

  57. The Early Church [including Polycarp] continued to celebrate Passover – few Gentile Christians realize that both Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in the early Church at Jerusalem and Antioch including Polycarp, a Church Father (80-167 CE) continued to celebrate the Passover according to the Biblical requirement (on the 14th of Nisan) and did so for the first two centuries, possibly until the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  This article is fully referenced for the more scholarly and skeptical reader. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/early-church-including-polycarp-continued-to-celebrate-passover/

  58. The Temple and Synagogue in the Early Church – is an article about the role of the Temple and the synagogue in the life of Jesus and the early Jewish believers at the beginning of the Church as we know it. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-temple-synagogue-in-the-early-church/

Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah – Jews and Gentiles in the Land

While it is common for Gentile Christians to refer to it as the Holy Land, this term (“Adama HaKodesh”) appears only once in the Tanakh (the Hebrew “Old Testament”), in Zechariah 2:12 (Zechariah 2:16 in the Hebrew original):

טז  וְנָחַל יְהוָה אֶת-יְהוּדָה חֶלְקוֹ, עַל אַדְמַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ; וּבָחַר עוֹד, בִּירוּשָׁלִָם.

16 :2 זְכַרְיָה / Zechariah 2:16

To the people of the day, it was simply “the Land” — and all other countries were “outside the Land”.  It didn’t need the addition of the term “holy”.

The Rabbis of the time believed that there were ten degrees of sanctity from the bare soil of the Land, up to the Most Holy Place (“Holy of Holies”) in the Temple.  In  their eyes, “outside the Land” represented darkness and death – in fact, the very dust of a heathen country was viewed as unclean, and was considered to defile by contact. It was regarded like the grave, or the rotting of death. They even said that if a spot of heathen dust so much as touched an offering, it must at once be burnt. This, of course is not in Torah, but was the teaching of the Rabbis. They taught that all contact with pagans (non-Jews) must be avoided, and all trace of it shaken off.  

It was into this cultural context, that Yeshua (Jesus)  spoke to His Disciples about those that will not accept the news of the coming of the Kingdom, in Matthew 10:14;

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town.”

It is also in this context that He spoke about restoration of a brother – that if he refuses to listen to us and to the Community that “he should be to us as a pagan and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17).

Although the way the Rabbis of various eras classified the Land vary, the earliest Rabbinic source, the Mishnah, describes different areas of the Land primarily based on religious obligation or privilege. For example, it would specify which Omer offering needed to be taken from the Land, and which did not.

The North-East border of the Land, which is now the modern country of Syria, was loosely defined by the Rabbinic institutions of the day under the term Soria. Unlike other borders of the Land, which had more clear definition of where Israel ended and the Gentile world began, the border region of Soria was less explicitly defined. It was a ‘soft border’: a strip of land in between Israel and the Gentile world, but not considered part of either.  The Mishnah states that if a man buys a field in Soria that lies close to the Land of Israel, he can treat its soil as of it were part of the Land.

The only clear geographical point in Soria where one would know that they had entered the Gentile world was the Syrian city of Antioch. The city and everything Northward was considered the Gentile World. It was in this city where the first Gentile Church was formed (Acts 11:20-21) and also where the Gentile disciples were first called “Christians“.

The Jews who lived in the Land were surrounded by many foreign nationalities, religions and cultural customsthe majority of which were favored and privileged by the Romans, who occupied the area.

Edersheim describes it as follows;

“If anyone had expected to find within the boundaries of the Land itself, one nationality, one language, the same interests, or even one religion publicly professed, he would have been bitterly disappointed.”

Among the Jews of the Land at the time, two main factors divided them; geography and religious sect.  In a nutshell, geography was an influencing factor in that the local culture, Aramaic dialect and political inclinations of the North and the South developed differently.

Galilee in the North was influenced more by the large Roman trading routes that went through it while Judea in the South, with Temple at Jerusalem became the center of religious scholarship and debate. The region of Samaria which was in between the two, served to keep them separate, because the Samaritans were despised by both. As found in the Gospels, Jews from both Galilee or Judea did not associate with Samaritans.

These differences will be expanded on in later articles – suffice to say that the main differences between the Jews in the North and the Jews in the South, in general are that the Galileans of the North tended to be more socially warm and welcoming to both Jews and non-Jews. Language-wise, their dialect of Galilean Aramaic did not have what was considered at the time to be ‘proper’ pronunciation of guttural letters. This not only made them an object of ridicule by the Judeans of the South, it also made them easily identifiable as being from the North. This sheds light on the passage in the Gospels where Peter is confronted by a little girl and denies knowing Messiah and then some bystanders are able to easily identify him as being from Galilee, by how he spoke;

“A little while later, some of the bystanders approached Peter and said to him, “Surely you’re one of them, too—your accent gives you away.

Matthew 26:73

Politically, the North, although being warm and welcoming of Jews and non-Jews, had a more violent attitude towards the Roman occupation. Chronologically, Galilee was annexed by the Romans in 6 CE, which was before Judea was annexed.  This may explain why most of the violent rebel leaders during the first of the Jewish-Roman Wars, also called “the Great Revolt” (66-73 CD) were from Galilee. Even the famous Jewish historian, Josephus, who participated in the Revolt, was from Galilee.

On the other hand, the culture of the Jews in the South in Judea had a profound intellectual and religious ‘snobbery’.  Religious education was prioritized above everything else, and treatment as an individual drastically differed depending on whether the person was taught, and by whom they were taught.  Among “learned men”, there was a contempt for those they regarded as ‘the country people“; who was anyone untaught. The “country people” were viewed with contempt because of their lack of understanding of the rigorous traditionalism of the dominant sect of the day, the Pharisees. 

Language-wise, the Judeans were considered to have better pronunciation of gutterals in their distinct Judean Aramaic dialect. In their institutions, the Judean Jews who studied, also learned Hebrew and could read Biblical texts in their original language. This fueled their sense of elitism and superiority over the Galilean Jews.

Politically, despite their arrogance, the Judean Jews tended to be more willing to cooperate with the Romans in matters of business and governance. Some even got rich in their dealings with the Romans, and the Jewish Sanhedrin, because of its willingness to cooperate with the Romans, was given an ‘ear’ before the Roman officials. This is why members of the Sanhedrin, when seeking to kill Yeshua, were able to go before Pontius Pilate and be heard.

Religiously, there were four major sects or movements. The dominant sect were the Pharisees, who controlled the local institutions of learning (e.g. synagogues).  There were the Sadducees who were almost exclusively made up of Priests – both inside and outside of the Temple, the Essenes who former scribes who became a separate sect primarily as isolationists, and based in Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were later found.  The last sect, which wasn’t an official sect, was what would later be called the Zealots.  They only developed the title “Zealots” during the Great Revolt.

All of these sects disagreed vehemently with each other on almost every theological and political issue. The idea that the term “the Jews” could be applied to members of all four of these groups is a generalization that can contribute to significant misunderstanding. When the term “the Jews” is used in Scripture, it is essential to “read up” in the passage, to determine who is being referred to.

Despite the Judaism of the day being so bitterly divided, there was one thing that united all Jews, and even Samaritans, from North to South and that was observance of some kind, to the Five Books of Moses.

To the Romans, these deep differences between sects of Jews were not appreciated. We were all Galileans or Judeans, to them.  To say they did not have an appreciation for the profound complexities of our culture and religion, would be an understatement.

Edersheim described it like this;

“Circumcision, the Sabbath-rest, the worship of an invisible God and Jewish abstinence from pork formed a never-ending theme of merriment to the heathen.”

Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah – Introduction

 

Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ  was written by Alfred Edersheim, a Vienna-born Jewish Biblical scholar (1825-1889) who came to faith Messiah.

The book was first printed in 1904, after Edersheim's death and also appears in print as as Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Christ.

Edersheim’s book cites Scripture, Rabbinic sources and the works of Josephus and Philo to place Yeshua (Jesus) and His teachings, within their Jewish context – shedding invaluable light on passages that cannot be fully understood otherwise.

This article is the first in an extended series which we’ve titled Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah and which is based on Edersheim’s work.

Note: Edersheim's lived prior to the Balfour Declaration (1922), the division of the geographic region of Palestine into the Arab-Palestinian state of Jordan (1921),and the modern State of Israel (1948).  In this series, we use the term the Land - one Edersheim uses himself, as the equivalent term.

It was in the Land’s sacred boundaries that the prophets saw their visions and psalmists composed their songs. The Land had Jerusalem for its capital, and on its highest hill stood the Temple, around which clustered Jewish history, sacred worship and far-reaching hopes.

“There is no religion so strictly local as that of Israel. Heathenism was indeed the worship of national deities, and Judaism that of YHVH, the God of heaven and earth.”

Christianity was from the first, universal in its character and design, the religious institutions and the worship set out in the first five books of Moses, the Torah (“Pentateuch”) and as they concerned Israel, strictly of the Land and for the Land.

“They are wholly incompatible with the permanent loss of the Land.”

A Judaism without the Land is a Judaism without Priesthood, altar, Temple, sacrifices, tithes, first-fruits, Sabbatical and Jubilee years, and outside the Land, the people are no longer completely Israel – in view of the Gentiles they are Jews; in their own view, “the dispersed abroad.”

After the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, the Rabbis set to  reconstruct their broken commonwealth on a new basis.  The Land, was the Mount Sinai of Rabbinism.  It was from this place the spring of Halachah (the collection of Jewish religious laws derived from both the Written Torah and “Oral Torah”) flowed in ever-widening streams.

For the first centuries, it was in Jerusalem, that the learning, the influence, and the rule of Judaism centered.  Attempts at rivalry by the Babylonian schools of Jewish learning were keenly resented and sharply put down. Later, only the force of circumstances of the day drove the Rabbis to voluntarily seek safety and freedom in the ancient seat of their captivity, Bablyon – where, in political freedom, they could give the final development to their religious system. It was their desire to preserve the nation and its learning in the Land which inspired them.

“Centuries of wandering and of changes have not torn the passionate love of this land from the heart of the people.”

Almost every prayer and hymn breathes the same love of the Land.

The lie of land and water, of mountain and valley, are the same; Hebron, Bethlehem, the Mount of Olives, Nazareth, the Lake of Gennesaret, the land of Galilee, are still there, but all changed in form and appearance  and with no definite spot to which one could  with absolute certainty attach the most sacred events.

When Messiah walked the Land, the country had already undergone many changes. The ancient division of tribes had given way; the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel existed no longer; and the varied foreign domination and the brief period of absolute national independence under the Hasmoneans, had likewise ceased.

Yet, with the characteristic tenacity of the East for the past, the names of the ancient tribes still attached to some of the districts formerly occupied by them (Matt. 4:13, 15).

A comparatively small number of the exiles had returned to the Land with Ezra and Nehemiah, and the Jewish inhabitants of the country consisted either of those who had originally been left in the Land, or of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

The controversy about the Ten Tribes raged in the time of Messiah. “Will He go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles?” asked the Jews, when unable to fathom the meaning of Messiah’s prediction of His departure.

At the time of Messiah’s birth, the Land was governed by Herod the Great  and was a nominally independent kingdom, but under the rule of Rome. On the death of Herod the Great, and  very close to the opening of the Gospel account, a fresh, though temporary, division of his kingdom had just taken place.  A few days before his his death, Herod the Great altered his will and nominated Archelaus his successor in the kingdom; Herod Antipas – the Herod named in the Gospels, was named tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea; and Philip was named tetrarch of Gaulonitis, Trachonitis, Batanaea, and Panias.

Each of the brothers had his own maneuvering to try to influence the  emperor, Caesar Augustus, who was inclined from the beginning towards Archelaus.

Note: Archelaus only ruled for two years, between 4 and 6 CE, and with the reference to his rule in Matthew 2:22, enables us to approximately date the birth of Messiah under Herod the Great. This simply demonstrates the birth account of Messiah, not in an abstract tale, but in the center of classical history.

Meanwhile, a Jewish delegation appeared in Rome, entreating that none of the Herod Ian’s  might ever be appointed king on the grounds of their past deeds, which they related, and that they (the Jews) might be allowed to live according to their own laws, under the rule of Rome.

Caesar Augustus decided to carry out the will of Herod the Great, but gave Archelaus the title of “ethnarch” instead of “king”, promising him the higher grade if he proved deserving of it.

“But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the region of Galilee”

Matthew 2:22

The division of the Land at the time of Messiah, politically speaking, consisted of Judaea and Samaria, under Roman procurators Galilee and Peraea (which lay on the other side Jordan) which were subject to Herod Antipas, the murderer of John the Baptist.

The Jews did not regard Samaria as belonging to the Holy Land, but saw it as a foreign strip, as the Talmud designates it (Chag. 25 a.) “a Cuthite strip,” or “tongue,” intervening between Galilee and Judaea.    From the Gospels we know that the Samaritans were not only ranked with Gentiles and strangers (Matt. 10:5; John 4:9, 20), but that the very term Samaritan was one of reproach (John 8:48).

The Samaritans attitude towards the Jews was one of equal hatred and contempt. At every turn, the Jews had a no more determined or relentless enemy than the Samaritans, who claimed to be the only true representatives of Israel’s worship and hopes.


Coming next: Jews and Gentiles in the Land

New Years and the Parable of the Ten Virgins

For the first time in many, many years, Chanukah fell late enough to coincide with both Christmas and New Years.

oil-chanukiah-bright-sun-angled-24-12-2016
oil burning Chanukiah (Chanukah menorah)

 

This year, we decided to celebrate the holiday commemorating the ‘miracle of the oil’ with an oil lamp Chanukiah…

 

 

 

 

8th night of Chanukah - Dec 23 2014
candle-burning Chanukiah – Chanukah menorah

…instead of the candle-style Chanukiah, typically used by Jews in the Diaspora.

 

 

 

This caused us to learn a thing or two about oil-burning lamps.

A comment of a friend on social media regarding the distinct rise in antisemitism seen around the world this past year, brought to mind a Parable that suddenly took on new meaning — the Parable of the Ten Virgins.

Here is a paraphrase of the comment;

“It seems that there is no limit to the abyss of antisemitism, but there WILL be an end to it when the Jewish Messiah rules the world! And we are a year closer!”

…and the reply went something :

“there is no limit to that abyss – but it gets worse, before it gets better [spoiler alert: a read of Zechariah Ch. 12-14]. The question is, where will the Church be this time, compared to WWII? Hopefully, she is trimming her wicks and making sure to have plenty of oil.”

The Parable of the Ten Virgins goes like this;

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.  Five of them were foolish and five were sensible.  When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take olive oil with them.  But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.  Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

 “In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’

 “Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.  But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

 “The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’

 “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.

 “Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’

 “But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’

 “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.”

Where WILL the Church to be when the coming persecution of the Jews comes at the end of the age? How do we know that there will be this persecution? The beginning of Zechariah 12 (from the “spoiler alert” referred to above) says;

The word of the Lord concerning Israel.
A declaration of the Lord,
who stretched out the heavens,
laid the foundation of the earth,
and formed the spirit of man within him.

 Look, I will make Jerusalem a cup that causes staggering for the peoples who surround the city. The siege against Jerusalem will also involve Judah.  On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who try to lift it will injure themselves severely when all the nations of the earth gather against her.

Zechariah 12:1-3

We don’t have to look far to see Jerusalem becoming that “cup of staggering“.  We don’t have to look far to see the “peoples [synonym for ‘nations’] who surround her. It is certainly not hard to imagine a coming day when Jerusalem will be “a heavy stone for all the nations” — nations who will “gather against her”.

The story begins here, but doesn’t end here.

Read all of Zechariah Chapters 12-14 for the details!

Here is how it ends;

A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided in your presence.  I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle. The city will be captured, the houses looted, and the women raped. Half the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be removed from the city.

Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. The Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, forming a huge valley, so that half the mountain will move to the north and half to the south.

You will flee by My mountain valley, for the valley of the mountains will extend to Azal. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come and all the holy ones with Him.

Zechariah 14:1-5

On that day, the Lord Himself will go out to fight against those nations that come against Jerusalem. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.

This SHOULD sound very familiar!

Remember Yeshua’s (Jesus’) ascension from the Mount of Olives?

What does the Angel say?

After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.  While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away.

Acts 1: 9-12

He is returning to the Mount of Olives in the same way that He was seen going into heaven!

Do you remember what they asked Yeshua just before He ascended?

“Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”

He said to them:

“It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority.”

Zechariah 14:6-7

They asked Him if this was the time that He would be restoring the kingdom to Israel. He didn’t reply “ I’m not going to be restoring the kingdom to Israel.” He said that it was not for the disciples to know the times that the Father has set by His own authority.

Zechariah 14:7 says that it will be a day known only to God.

We don’t know the day, but in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, He exhorts us to be ready.

Church, are you prepared? Before the Groom comes for His Bride — both Jew and grafted in Gentile, when the nations come against Jerusalem at the end of the age. . .where will you be?

Will you have your wicks trimmed and enough oil for your lamps, or will you be caught unprepared? Will He invite you in, or say “‘I assure you: I do not know you!”?


We’d like to leave you with this;

A young Christian was in Israel and he visited Jerusalem’s Yad V’Shem Holocaust Museum.

“I viewed the exhibits with a young history major from the Institute [of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem]. the history student remarked “no people on earth have been persecuted like the Jewish people”.  I quickly corrected him saying, “Except for the Christians.”  He laughed — a sound not often heard in Yad V’Shem.

27b6f35800000578-3045115-image-a-24_1429390998361

The eyes of the victims stared at me across the photographically reproduced barbed-wire fences.  I suddenly realized that I stood on the wrong side of the fence.  If we Christians were the real people of God, then why did the world still target and hate the Jews? Shouldn’t we be the ones on whom the forces of evil bend their energy? Instead, too often, we were the ones dispensing the evil.”

-D. Thomas Lancaster, Restoration


This brings us full circle to the reply to the comment above on social media;

“there is no limit to that abyss [of antisemitism] – but it gets worse, before it gets better [spoiler alert: a read of Zechariah Ch. 12-14]. The question is, where will the Church be this time, compared to WWII? Hopefully, she is trimming her wicks and making sure to have plenty of oil.

Jesus’ Teaching on Hell

INTRODUCTION: Knowing what the Scriptures teach about Gehenna is key to understanding what Jesus was referring to when He taught on it, and whether this is a place which awaits “those that do not believe” or a place for those with “detestable practices”.


Gehenna / Gehenom in Hebrew (גהנום) is a term derived from one of two valleys just outside of Jerusalem called Gai Ben-Hinnom (גֵיבֶן־הִנֹּם ) in Hebrew and Valley of the Son of Hinnom in English, which was a place of horrible idolatry.  Gehenna appears in the Rabbinic texts of the Mishna and Talmud (3rd century CE) and plays an important role as a place where unrighteous souls are punished.

Rabbinic literature describes Gehenna as a place of fire, brimstone and darkness:

“Ordinary fire is a sixtieth of the fire of Gehenna”

Berakhot 57b


“Why does a man’s soul shrink from the odor of brimstone? Because it knows it will be judged in the world to come”

Genesis Rabbah 51:3


“The wicked are darkness, Gehenna is darkness, the depths are darkness. I lead the wicked to Gehenna and cover them with the depths.”

Genesis Rabbah 33:1

In the Scriptures, Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom was the place where apostate Israelites and followers of various Ba’als and false gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire (2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Chronicles 33:2, Jeremiah 7:31 ,  Jeremiah 19:2-6).

God’s Judgement Against Detestable Practices

In these passages (2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Chronicles 33:2, Jeremiah 7:31 ,  Jeremiah 19:2-6), God’s judgement was against the people for what they did, not for unbelief in Him.
God judged Ahaz for burning incense and having burned his children in the fire, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that the had dispossessed before the Israelites.
Speaking of Ahaz, who “did not do what was right in the Lord’s sight” (2 Chronicles 28:1) it says;

“He burned incense in the Valley of Hinnomand burned his children in the fire imitating the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites.”

2 Chronicles 28:3

God judged Manasseh,  for practicing witchcraft, divination, sorcery, and for consulting mediums and spiritists — for doing a great deal of evil in His sight, provoking Him — one who did evil in the Lord’s sight, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites (2 Chronicles 33:2).

Speaking of Manasseh Scripture says;

“He passed his sons through the fire in the Valley of Hinnom. He practiced witchcraft, divination, and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did a great deal of evil in the Lord’s sight, provoking Him“.

2 Chronicles 33:6

 God judged the Judeans for doing what is evil in His sight — setting up their detestable things in the house that is called by His name and defiling it, building the high places of Topheth in order to burn their sons and daughters in the fire — a thing He did not command.

In Jeremiah 7, God says;

“For the Judeans have done what is evil in My sight.”
This is the Lord’s declaration. “They have set up their detestable things in the house that is called by My name and defiled it. They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom in order to burn their sons and daughters in the fire a thing I did not command; I never entertained the thought. “

Jeremiah 7:31-32

He judged the kings of Judah and the people of Judah for abandoning Him,  burning incense to other gods, and  filling the place with the blood of the innocent and offering their children as burnt offerings to Baal — something He never commanded;

 “This is what the Lord says: “Go, buy a potter’s clay jar. Take some of the elders of the people and some of the leading priests go out to the Valley of Hinnom near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. Proclaim there the words I speak to you. Say: Hear the word of the Lord, kings of Judah and residents of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on this place that everyone who hears about it will shudder because they have abandoned Me and made this a foreign place. They have burned incense in it to other gods that they, their fathers, and the kings of Judah have never known. They have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built high places to Baal on which to burn their children in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, something I have never commanded or mentioned; I never entertained the thought.”

Jeremiah 19:1-5

Finally, God says through the prophet Isaiah that that Topheth is a place of judgement that has been ready for a long time now, and that God’s breath will kindle it  — that it is a funeral pyre, deep and wide, with plenty of fire and wood and it will be like a torrent of brimstone:
 “Assyria will be shattered by the voice of the Lord.
He will strike with a rod.
And every stroke of the appointed staff
that the Lord brings down on him
will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres;
He will fight against him with brandished weapons.
Indeed! Topheth has been ready 
for the king for a long time now.

Its funeral pyre is deep and wide,
with plenty of fire and wood.
The breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone,
kindles it.”

 Isaiah 30:33

In all of these passages, God’s judgement was against the people for what their detestable practice — what they did, not for unbelief in Him.


Isaiah 66 –  The Final Judgement

Chapter 66 of Isaiah mentions the corpses of a battle like the one Lord fought against the Assyrian army in Topheth, in the Valley of Hinnon (Isaiah 30)  but this is the final battle against those who have rebelled against Him — and Jesus said that the bodies of those who rebelled against God will be in this place (see below). This battle  follows His final gathering of all nations and all languages (Gentiles) and His final gathering of the nation of Israel, to Himself, and the outcome of this battle will be that those who worship Him from all the nations — both Jews and Gentiles will come to worship Him from “one New Moon to another” and “from one Sabbath to another” in the “new heavens and new earth“.

We are going to look at this passage from the beginning, as Jesus refers to it.


At the beginning of the Isaiah 66, God says that He will “look favorably on the kind of person who is humble, submissive in spirit and trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2) and that He will judge those with detestable practices (Isaiah 66:3);

“So I will choose their punishment,
and I will bring on them what they dread
because I called and no one answered;
I spoke and they didn’t hear;
they did what was evil in My sight
and chose what I didn’t delight in.”

Isaiah 66:4

Verse 5-6 speaks of “the voice of the Lord coming from the Temple” speaking judgement to those who ‘hate and exclude those who tremble at His Word”;
 “You who tremble at His word,
hear the word of the Lord:
Your brothers who hate and exclude you
because of Me have said,
‘Let the Lord be glorified
so that we can see your joy! ’
But they will be put to shame.”
A sound of uproar from the city!
A voice from the Temple —
the voice of the Lord,
paying back His enemies what they deserve!
In verses 10-13, God says of Jerusalem and her people ;
“Be glad for Jerusalem and rejoice over her,
all who love her.
Rejoice greatly with her,
all who mourn over her —
so that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her comforting breast
and drink deeply and delight yourselves
from her glorious breasts.
For this is what the Lord says:
I will make peace flow to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flood;
you will nurse and be carried on her hip
and bounced on her lap.
As a mother comforts her son,
so I will comfort you,
and you will be comforted in Jerusalem.”

…and in verse 14-17, God speaks of His judgement against His enemies as the Lord coming “with fire“, and that His rebuke comes with “flames of fire” and His judgement with His “fiery sword“;

“You will see, you will rejoice,
and you will flourish like grass;
then the Lord’s power will be revealed to His servants,
but He will show His wrath against His enemies.
Look, the Lord will come with fire
His chariots are like the whirlwind —
to execute His anger with fury
and His rebuke with flames of fire.
For the Lord will execute judgment
on all flesh with His fiery sword,
and many will be slain by the Lord.
Those who dedicate and purify themselves to enter the groves following their leader, eating meat from pigs, vermin, and rats, will perish together.”

God says that He will gather all nations and all languages (Gentiles) and that they will come and see His glory;

“This is the Lord’s declaration.
Knowing their works and their thoughts, I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see My glory.”

Isaiah 66:18

Then God says that He will ‘send the survivors to the nations who have not heard of His fame or seen His glory, and they will proclaim His glory among the nations, and they will bring back His People from all the nations as a gift to the Lord, to His holy mountain, Jerusalem’ ;

” I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations — to Tarshish, Put, Lud (who are archers), Tubal, Javan, and the islands far away — who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory. And they will proclaim My glory among the nations. They will bring all your brothers from all the nations as a gift to the Lord on horses and chariots, in litters, and on mules and camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. I will also take some of them as priests and Levites,” says the Lord.”

Isaiah 66:19-21

Clearly, this is before the final judgement, as God's glory is still being proclaimed among the nations and there are still those of His People who He is gathering back from the nations, and bringing them back to Jerusalem. 

This is confirmed in the next verse, which speaks of the "new heavens and new earth" that God will make (future tense).

God says “just as this new heavens and new earth” will endure before Him, so will the descendants of Israel and their name endure — and all mankind (Jews and Gentiles, both) will come to worship Him;

“For just as the new heavens and the new earth,
which I will make,
will endure before Me” —
this is the Lord’s declaration
so your offspring and your name will endure.
All mankind will come to worship Me
from one New Moon to another
and from one Sabbath to another,”
says the Lord.”

Isaiah 66:22-23

The last verse of Isaiah 66:24 says that as they leave, they will see the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against God; for their worm will never die, their fire will never go out, and they will be a horror to all mankind.

It is these same words which Jesus said refer to Gehenna (Mark 9:42-48).

Jesus’ Teaching on Hell

Jesus picks up the last verse of Isaiah (Isaiah 66:24) and refers to Gehenna the same way that the Tanakh (Old Testament) does — as the place destined for those who have rebelled against God;

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me — it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes your downfall, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell — the unquenchable fire, where
Their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.
And if your foot causes your downfall, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell — the unquenchable fire, where
Their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.
And if your eye causes your downfall, gouge it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where
Their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.

Mark 9:42-48

Jesus is referring to judgement against sins that a person does — what they touch (hand), where they go (foot), what they see (eye). Such sins are wide and vast — and include adultery, fornication, idolatry (even in the modern sense, of worshiping our money, prestige or position), and pornography.

Hell is destined for people who will not turn from these sins.

How many Christians flippantly sleep with their boyfriend or girlfriend (fornication), thinking ‘it’s no big deal’?

How many Christian men — from teenagers, young adults, to older men continue to look at pornography?

Do we not know that we will be judged for what we do?

This is not an “Old Testament” concept that is no longer applicable. Jesus taught this to the unbelievers, the believers and the religious authorities.

I – Jesus Teaching on Hell to Unbelievers

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), Jesus speaking to the Jews that had followed Him there from “from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan” (Matthew 4:25) says:

“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool! ’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron! ’ will be subject to hellfire.”

Matthew 5:21-22

Are there people you just “can’t forgive”?  Jesus said we will be judged for this and that Hell is the place for those who rebel against God and His word.

Unforgiveness is a deadly sin.

“Hellfire” is confirmed as Gehenna a few verses down in Matthew 5:29-30, which is a cross reference to the passage in Mark 9: 42-48, above;

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!”

Matthew 5:29-30

II – Jesus teaching on Hell to Believers

Jesus repeats this very same teaching that He gave to the Jewish believers in Matthew 5 — this time to the Disciples;

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea! Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes.  If your hand or your foot causes your downfall, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire.  And if your eye causes your downfall, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, rather than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire

Matthew 18:6-9

Jesus warn the Disciples, who were clearly believers, against God’s judgement that will come against those that continue to practice sins of the hand, foot or eye — saying that what they touch (hand), where they go (foot), what they see (eye) matters.

He reminds them from the teachings of Scripture,  from the Tanakh, that God will judge them for what they DO and that the destiny of those that continue to practice “detestable things” is hell.

Speaking of the end of days, Jesus said to His Disciples, who were clearly already believers in Him;

Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known.  What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:26-28

III – Jesus Teaching on Hell to the Religious Authorities

In Matthew 23, after Jesus address the crowds and His Disciples (verse 1) admonishing them to

“do whatever they (the Scribes and Pharisees) tell you, and observe it”

…when they are “seated in the chair of Moses” (i.e. teaching the Law of Moses with the authority given them) and adds;

“But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach”

Matthew 23:3

Then Jesus goes in the many “woes” addressed to the Scribes and Pharisees (Mathew 23:13-23) and in the midst of those says;

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are!

Matthew 23:15

Jesus is saying that religious leaders who KNOW what God’s Word teaches yet do not DO it are “fit for hell“.

Concluding all these “woes” Jesus says;

“Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell?

Matthew 23:1

Jesus has very strong words to those who know His word and do not DO it — for not practicing what they teach.  He says to them “how can you escape being condemned to hell?”

They are, as He says, “fit for hell“.


FINAL THOUGHTS…

Hell is the place created for those who will not turn from their detestable practices (Isaiah 66:3).

Hell is the place where those who have rebelled against God go (whether they once believed in Him or not) — where their worm will never die, their fire will never go out.

Hell is the place where someday those who will say to Him, Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?” (Matthew 7:21) and to whom He will answer

“I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!”

That is why He says;

“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

Matthew 7:13

God cares greatly about what we DO and what we PRACTICE, about us observing His Law — both written in His word and written on our hearts.

Hell was not created for “those that do not believe in Him”.  It was created for those with detestable practices, for those that know of Him and do not do the things He commands.

God says He will “look favorably on a person who is humble, submissive in spirit, and who trembles at His word” (Isaiah 66:2), to the repentant and contrite who do whatever it takes to forsake their sins.

What He will not do is wink at sin.

Hell (Gehenna) is the place where those who have rebelled against God go; where their worm will never die, their fire will never go out.

The New Perspective – second phase of the Reformation?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his ninety-five theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. His theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe and the debate which followed culminated  in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation restored the Word of God to the ordinary people and called them out of an obligation of submission to the papacy to one of submission to Scripture.  But was the Reformation all that was required to restore the Scriptures to their first century understanding? This is the topic of this article.


Martin Luther taught that justification (God’s declaration that we are forgiven of sin and righteous in His sight ) comes only through our faith in the ‘completed work and the ‘perfect righteousness of Christ’,  which the Father imputes, or reckons to our account through faith.

Romans 1:16-17 was central to Martin Luther’s theology and lies at the heart of Reformation theology;

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

Luther initially had disdain for the phrase, “the righteousness of God” because he understood it to be speaking of God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners;

I was seized with the conviction that I must understand [Paul’s] letter to the Romans … but to that moment one phrase in Chapter 1 stood in my way. I hated the idea, “in it the righteousness of God is revealed”.  I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners .

—Martin Luther

In time, Luther said he began to understand that the “righteousness of God” is given as a “gift of God” given to sinners by faith and by which the righteous live;

“At last, meditating day and night and by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.

—Martin Luther

James D.G. Dunn, Peter J. Tomson and other proponents of the “New Perspective on Paul” are restoring an understanding of the teachings of Paul to one set in its first century Jewish context, and in doing so, have set in motion what may be viewed as a second stage of Reformation of the Church.

Two foundational books by New Perspective theologians are "Paul and the Jewish Law - Halakha in the Letters of the Apostles to the Gentiles" by Peter J. Tomson (1990) and "The New Perspective on Paul" by James D.G. Dunn (1993)

According to Dunn, Paul’s theology of justification necessarily must be viewed as integral to the commission to preach the gospel to non-Jews.  This after all, is the context of Paul speaking of “the righteousness of God” in Romans 1:16-17;

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Gentile.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

Viewed in context, “the righteousness of God” is not as Luther first thought as “God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners” nor as he later thought, ‘as as a gift of God given to sinners by faith’ — but rather “is a relational term that refers to the fulfillment of one’s obligation to another in the context of a relationship”, specifically;

“God’s fulfillment of the obligations that He took upon Himself in creating humankind and particularly, in the calling of Abraham and the choosing of Israel to be His people.

– James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul, pp 340-346

To Dunn and other proponents of the New Perspective, the ‘righteousness of God’ involves God’s reckoning of covenant membership with respect to Gentiles.  We have referred to this in previous articles as God’s fulfillment of His promise that He gave in the “all nations clause” of Genesis 12:2-3 of the Abrahamic Covenant.

God promised Abraham that he will be (1) the father of "a great nation" -- that is a specific nation (Hebrew: לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל) though Isaac and Jacob (the Jews), and He also promised (Genesis 12:3) that through a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew, "all the peoples  (nations) of the earth will be blessed".  This is the so-called "all-nations clause".

According to Dunn and other proponents of the New Perspective, the term ‘the righteousness of God’ is not a term indicating transfer, but status recognition;

God’s justification is not His act in first making His covenant with Israel, or in initially accepting someone into His covenant people. God’s justification is rather God’s acknowledgment that someone is in the covenant — whether that is an initial acknowledgment, or a repeated action of God (God’s saving acts) or His final vindication of His people”.

– James D.G. Dunn, “The New Perspective on Paul”, p 97

The ‘righteousness of God‘ refers to God’s fulfillment of the obligations that God took upon Himself;

(1) in the calling of Abraham when He chose Israel to be His people (the “great nation”) and made His “everlasting covenant” with them, giving them as an “eternal possession” all the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:1-8).

and a fulfillment of the obligations that He took upon Himself;

(2) in the “all nations clause” (Genesis 12:3), that through a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew, “all the nations of the earth will be blessed”.

The New Perspective as a second phase of the Reformation?

The Reformation restored the common people’s access and accountability to the Word of God, but is it helpful to view “reform” as having occurred at one point in history and complete? Perhaps what began in 1517 was the first phase in restoring a correct understanding to Scripture?

Reformation theology failed to understand that the ‘righteousness of God‘ was God’s reckoning of covenant membership to Gentiles and they also erroneously viewed ‘justification’ and the ‘righteousness of God’ as one of transfer, rather than of status recognition.

New Perspective theologians situate the teachings of Paul in their first century Jewish context, and in doing so may form the beginning of a second phase of the Reformation – one which restores the teachings of Paul and of Jesus to their first century Jewish context.

Understanding that ‘justification’ and the ‘righteousness of God’ describe status recognition of either being “in the covenant” or “not in the covenant” does not distinguish whether the one “in the covenant” came from the “great nation” through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews),  or as a result of God fulfilling His promise to “all the nations of the earth” (the Gentiles).

New Perspective theologians understand that the ‘righteousness of God‘ was God’s reckoning of covenant membership to Gentiles in addition to Jews, which leaves room for a correct reading of Romans 1:16-17; “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile“.

Furthermore, God fulfilling His promises in the “all-nations clause” of the Abrahamic Covenant necessitates that God will also  fulfill the promises He made to the “great nation” (the Jews), the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob under the same “everlasting covenant, including the “eternal possession” of the land (Genesis 17:1-8).

Final thoughts…

The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ is a much a restoration of the Scriptures to the Church as the Reformation of 1517, and may be rightfully viewed as the beginning of the second phase of Reformation.

What is surely needed next is for Gentile Christian theologians to situate the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, in their first century Jewish context — a so-called ‘New Perspective on Jesus‘.

If the esteemed theologians of the Church would work together the well credentialed theologians of Messianic Judaism, perhaps this second phase of the Reformation might take place in our day – a first century Jewish understanding of the Scriptures restored to the Church.

cover photo: "Sola Scriptura" - Scripture alone, "Sola Gratia" - grace alone, "Sola Christus" - through Christ alone, which represents the heart of Martin Luther's teachings

The Last Day of the Great Feast

In a sense, Sukkot has two  ” last days” — Hoshanah Rabbah and Shiminei Atsaret. The “last day and greatest day of the Feast” (John 7:37) is Hashanah Rabbah (also translated ‘the last day of the Great Feast ‘, mentioned in John 7:37.

During the Temple service, it was customary to make one procession around the altar on each day of Sukkot, and seven on the seventh day”. The priests would carry palm or willow branches in their hands — two of the four  ‘species’ used to celebrate Sukkot, and contained in the “lulav”. The Temple ceremony was one of rejoicing and gratitude for a blessed and fruitful year.

Jesus and the “last day of the Great Feast”

Another ceremony, called the water libation ceremony also took place during Sukkot.

“On the last and greatest day of Feast [of Sukkot], Yeshua stood and cried out loudly ‘if any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the Scriptures has said, out of his belly will flow streams of living water. “

John 7:37-38

Just below, is an excellent article , written by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz , about this ceremony .

” The Eighth Day”

The day after Hoshanah Rabbah is the so-called “8th day” of the 7-day Feast of Sukkot called Shiminei Atzaret.

After commemorating so many significant occasions, including Yom Teruah (referred to currently as Rosh Hashanah), the ten days of Awe followed by the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, then the seven day Feast of Tabernacles called Sukkot,  G-d asked for one more day as a sabbath.  There are no special activities – no shofar, no fasting, no sukkah, no lulav. Just one more today together – just Him and us.

Tonight at sundown (Sunday October 23, 2016)  until tomorrow at sundown, is this ‘last day’ of the great feast, which we take for- and with Him.

 

PHOTOS: Reenactment of Ancient Water Libation Ritual Revives Part of Temple Service

Passover’s significance to the Church

Introduction:

God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people that were occasions that all the men were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth.

To understand the significance of any of the three pilgrim festivals to the Church, one first needs to understand the significance to the Jews, so we’ll cover that first.

This article is on Passover; the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant.

Last Supper vs Last Seder 709 x 803


Passover (Pesach) falls on the 14th day of the first month on the Biblical calendar and is the first day in the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nowadays the term “Passover” refers to both.

“The Passover to the Lord comes in the first month, at twilight on the fourteenth day of the month.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord is on the fifteenth day of the same month. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you are to hold a sacred assembly; you are not to do any daily work. You are to present a fire offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day there will be a sacred assembly; you must not do any daily work.”

Leviticus 23:5-8

While months in Scripture are numbered; first month, second month, etc. they also have names.

The names of the months that appear in the Old Testament are split between the names used before and after the exile of the Jews under the Babylonians.  As a result, in some passages, Passover is said to fall in the month of Aviv — in the parts of the Old Testament written before the Babylonian exile, and to fall in the month of Nisan in the parts of Scripture written after the exile. The first month is still called Nisan, today.

Passover is the commemoration of God bringing the Jews out of Egypt, our deliverance from slavery, God’s redemption of us, and His taking us as His people, as He said He would in Exodus 6;

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”

Exodus 6: 6-7

I will bring“, “I will deliver“, “I will redeem“, “I will take”  from the verse above are referred to as “the four ‘I wills’” and play a central role in framing the commemoration of Passover, called a Seder (for “order”). These four “I wills” correspond to the 4 cups of wine that are poured during the Passover commemoration and have significance to the Church, as well as to the Jewish people. More on that below.

The Feast of Passover commemorates the night when the Angel of the LORD passed over the households in Egypt where the blood of a perfect lamb was applied to the doorposts and lintels of the house; sparing the first born son (Exodus 12:1-13; Leviticus 23:5).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates that the Jews left Egypt in such haste that they did not have time to let their bread rise and had to bake it quickly by grilling it, as opposed to baking it.

Passover is quite literally, the account of how God saved His people by the shedding of the blood of the perfect Passover lamb. Sound familiar?  It should.

The 4 cups of wine that are poured during the Seder, the commemoration meal of Passover and which correspond to the four “I wills” are called;

Cup of Sanctification
I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians

Cup of Judgment
I will deliver you out of their bondage

Cup of Redemption
I will redeem you with an outstretched arm

Cup of Praise
I will take you to me for a people

It is believed that it was the third cup, the Cup of Redemption that Jesus took with His disciples and with which He instituted the New Covenant.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the [1] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

[1] some manuscripts insert "new"

Matthew 26:25-28

Here is Luke’s account;

“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Luke 22:20

If there is a “new” covenant there must necessarily be an “old” covenant.

Most Gentile Christians think of the “old covenant” as the “Law” given to Moses at Mount Sinai – but God says in Jeremiah 31:32 that the “old covenant” is the one that He made with our forefathers in the day that He took us by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt”.


The “New Covenant” – promised to the Jewish People

It may come as a surprise to learn that the New Covenant was promised by God beforehand to the Jewish people.

The “new covenant” that Jesus instituted at what the Church calls the “Last Supper” (more accurately called ‘the last Seder’) — was promised to the Jewish people in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 31.

It is a Jewish covenant – one He said He would make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (the Jews).

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Jeremiah 31: 31- 33

Why did God need to make a “new” covenant?

Hebrews 8 explains why He needed to make a new covenant with us.  We broke the first covenant:

“if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one. But finding fault with His people, He says:

 Look, the days are coming, says the Lord,

when I will make a new covenant

with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah—

not like the covenant

that I made with their ancestors

on the day I took them by their hands

to lead them out of the land of Egypt.

I disregarded them, says the Lord,

because they did not continue in My covenant.

But this is the covenant

that I will make with the house of Israel

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put My laws into their minds

and write them on their hearts.

I will be their God,

and they will be My people.

And each person will not teach his fellow citizen

and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,”

because they will all know Me,

from the least to the greatest of them.

For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing,

and I will never again remember their sins

By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear.”

Hebrews 8: 7-14

God needed to make a new covenant with us because we broke the “first covenant” (the one He ratified with Abraham and that He swore by Himself to uphold) and which He implemented when He led us out of Egypt to bring us into our own Land, which He promised to Abraham. He was a husband to us and we were unfaithful.

While the New Covenant is a Jewish covenant promised by God to the Jewish people in the Old Testament, it was also God’s  means to fulfill the promise He made to the Gentiles back in Genesis 12:3;

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse those that curse you, and in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.

In this passage, God speaks of His promise to Abraham (developed more in Genesis 17:1-8) that He will make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and given them a specific land . He then goes on to say something incredible — that through a descendant of Abraham’s “all the nations [Ha-Goyiim, in Hebrew, meaning “Gentiles”] on earth will be blessed”. 

This is referred to as “the all-nations clause of the Abrahamic Covenant”

Wow! God planned right from the beginning that the Messiah, a Jew — would be a blessing to the Gentiles.  On the cross, access to all — Jew and Gentile was provided.  The veil was torn.  Whosoever will, may come.

Jesus is the mediator of this new covenant (Hebrews 8:1-6).


The “Bread and the Cup”

Some people think that Jesus was implementing  a new ritual, a “Holy Sacrament”, an Ordinance, when He took the “bread and the cup”,  gave thanks, broke it and said “take eat all of you, for the forgiveness of sins“. Let’s look at this in its context…

Jesus was sitting at the Passover meal with His disciples.  As Jews, in accordance with the Law of Moses, they were keeping the memorial feast (Seder) to remember that night that the Angel of the Lord passed over the houses of the children of Israel when He saw the blood of a perfect lamb (“a lamb without blemish”] — painted on the doorposts and lintel of the Jews’ houses. When He saw the blood, He passed over — sparing the first born of the Jews.  It was in THIS context, that Jesus took the “bread and cup”.

It was not “any bread” that He took.

It was not “any cup“.


Taking, Giving Thanks and Breaking the Bread

In the account in Luke (Luke 22:14-20) it says:

He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Luke 22:19

Let’s break down the account of what Jesus did in

(1) taking the bread

(2) giving thanks and

(3) breaking it


The “Bread” Jesus Took

Have you ever seen what matzoh, unleavened bread looks like? It is hard, dry and very crumbly.

Here is a picture;

passover cup and echad

Matzoh is made of only flour and water and is baked very quickly over an open fire — because it symbolizes the the Jews had no time to let their bread rise (with yeast) when they fled Egypt. Holes are pierced into it in stripes to allow more even heat flow during the baking process and to keep it from puffing up while it is cooking.  The flames leave these little brown spots that look like bruises all over, because matzoh are grilled over an open fire.

Matzoh is pierced, striped and bruised — like the Messiah was prophesied to be in Isaiah 53:4-6.

This is the “bread” that Jesus took !


“Giving Thanks”

Scripture says that when Jesus took the (unleavened) bread from the Passover Seder, He “gave thanks“.

As a Jew, having a meal with His Disciples who were Jews, “giving thanks” meant something very specific.

There is the “blessing on bread” and the “blessing on wine” — bread and wine are two elements that are found at every feast meal, including the Sabbath (Shabbat) meal. The only difference is, at Passover, the “bread” is unleavened.  So matzoh is used.

These are specific blessings.

When Jesus took the “bread” and “gave thanks” He prayed the “blessing on bread” over the matzoh;

“Blessed are You, O LORD, God King of the Universe, who brings bread from the earth. Amen”.


“Breaking” the Bread

Remember, the “bread” Jesus took was hard and pierced with holes in stripes. “Breaking” the matzoh means it would ‘snap’ along one of the lines of pieced holes.

After He took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, He gave it to them and said;

“This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

He was saying, this broken pierced, striped, bruised matzoh — is Me. He was saying that He was going to be ‘broken’ for them, that He is the One spoken of in Isaiah 53.

Then He said;

“Do this in remembrance of Me”.

Was He implementing a new ritual? A Holy Sacrament? An Ordinance of the Church?

Or was He taking elements that are found at the Passover meal — elements that already had a specific meaning and relating THAT to what He was about to do?

Like the perfect Passover lambs on the night the Jews left Egypt, He was about to be sacrificed — broken for us.


“The Cup”

It is believed that the cup that Jesus took was the 3rd cup — the Cup of Redemption, as it was a cup He took “as they were eating”.   As you will see below, the 4th cup was taken “after supper”.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:25-28

By way of background, it is important to know, is that the wine served at the Passover Seder meal must be red wine, because it is represents

“the blood of the lambs that was placed on the doorposts and lintels of the homes , the night we left Egypt — so that when the Angel of the Lord saw it, He would “pass over”.”

Jesus took an element fundamental to the Passover Seder meal — a cup of red wine that already had a very specific meaning and told His Disciples what He was about to do;

“When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.  Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Luke 22:14-18

He took the cup and after “giving thanks”…  i.e. He said the “blessing on wine”:

“Blessed are You O LORD, God, King of the Universe, who brings forth the fruit of the vine. Amen”

Since He said the “blessing on the cup”, he would have taken a sip of it. Then He passed the cup around for everyone to take a sip, which is what is done after “Kiddish”, the “blessing on the wine” is said.  He would have passed the cup to the eldest male there, who would have taken a sip and then passed it to the next eldest.

Then He said:

“I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

He knew what lay ahead and that on THIS Passover, He was the Lamb that was about to be sacrificed — so that they (we) could be spared the penalty of death.

Then Jesus said He would not drink of the fruit of the vine (i.e. would not drink the 4th cup of wine of the Passover Seder meal) until He drinks it with us in the Kingdom of God (cr Matt 26:29, Mark 14:25).


The Fourth Cup  — the Fourth “I will”

We know that this was the fourth cup, because it says in Luke 22:20 that it is the one that He took “after supper”. This cup represents the fourth “I will” – “I will take you to me for a people”.

Of this cup, Jesus said;

In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said,“This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.” “

By saying this, Jesus was telling His Disciples that THIS Passover it would be His blood that was going to be the sacrifice and more than that, He was saying that His blood would be the sacrifice that would ratify the New Covenant — the covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31.

Remember…

The “first covenant” was the one that was ratified with Abraham — the SAME Covenant with the “all-nations clause” in it.

This was the Covenant that was ratified when God alone passed through the split carcasses. This meant that if that Covenant was broken by the Jews, only God would have to pay the penalty for it having been broken.

Referring back to Hebrews 8:7-14, a “new covenant” was needed because we (the Jews) broke the “first covenant”.

Jesus was saying when He took the 3rd cup — the Cup of Redemption, that just as God swore by Himself to do when He passed through the cut carcasses alone, He was going to “pay the required price” for us breaking the first covenant. He was going to redeem us — buy us back.

In just a few hours, He would do, just that.

While the New Covenant was promised to the Jews and He would be the sacrifice that would soon ratify it — God planned from the beginning, that ‘all the nations — the Gentiles, would be blessed through this descendant of Abraham‘…the Jewish Messiah. In this new covenant — both Jew and Gentile would be full and equal partakers of.

When Jesus took this cup, He was comparing His blood to those of the lambs’ that were put on the doorposts and lintels of the houses the night we left Egypt — to spare us from death.

The reason that Jesus won’t drink the 4th cup yet — is because He is still gathering His people — both Jews and Gentiles to Himself.

Paul speaks of this in Romans 11:25-17;

“I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,

he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

“and this will be my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel, they [the Jews] are enemies of God for your (the Gentile’s) sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Romans 11:25-27

[for an in-depth explanation of this passage, phttp://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-partial-hardening-has-come-to-israel-until-the-full-number-of-the-gentiles-has-come-in/]

Paul also speaks of His future redemption of the Jews in Romans 11:11-15;

“So I ask, did they [the Jews] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their [the Jews] trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

Now if their [the Jews] trespass means riches for the world, and if their [the Jews] failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their [the Jews] full inclusion mean!

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. In as much then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

For if their [the Jew’s] rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

Jesus is coming back for His Bride, comprised of both Jews and Gentiles and at that time He will again drink the fruit of the vine, the Cup of Praise, in the fulfillment of the fourth “I Will” – “I will take you to me for a people”.

 

Understanding Matthew’s Genealogy – Old Testament Overview

Introduction

When genealogies are read today, the tendency is to view them as recording of the details of history but to superimpose that paradigm onto the genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel would fail to consider the culture into which it was given, as well as the purpose of it.

The Gospel of Matthew’s genealogy, begins with Abraham and looks forward to the birth of Jesus.  This is quite intentional and as with the rest of the details found in Matthew, the purpose of the genealogy is the same; highlighting the prophetic significance pertaining to the coming of Messiah.

This was a patriarchal society, where one’s lineage was of central concern for defining status and identity which is why in Scripture, people are often referred to as “so-and-so, son of [blank]” as in David, son of Jesse or Isaac, son of Abraham.  In a Biblical context, someone is not simply an “individual” — but is seen as “someone,  son of another guy” — and who that other guy is strongly dictated how their offspring was viewed and treated.  This is relevant to understand the genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew as recorded in the first 17 verses of Matthew Chapter 1.

1 The historical record of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

2 Abraham fathered Isaac,
Isaac fathered Jacob,
Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar,
Perez fathered Hezron,
Hezron fathered Aram,
4 Aram fathered Amminadab,
Amminadab fathered Nahshon,
Nahshon fathered Salmon,
5 Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab,
Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth,
Obed fathered Jesse,
6 and Jesse fathered King David.

Then David fathered Solomon by Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon fathered Rehoboam,
Rehoboam fathered Abijah,
Abijah fathered Asa,
8 Asa fathered Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat fathered Joram,
Joram fathered Uzziah,
9 Uzziah fathered Jotham,
Jotham fathered Ahaz,
Ahaz fathered Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah fathered Manasseh,
Manasseh fathered Amon,
Amon fathered Josiah,
11 and Josiah fathered Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the exile to Babylon.
From the Exile to the Messiah
12 Then after the exile to Babylon
Jechoniah fathered Shealtiel,
Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel fathered Abiud,
Abiud fathered Eliakim,
Eliakim fathered Azor,
14 Azor fathered Zadok,
Zadok fathered Achim,
Achim fathered Eliud,
15 Eliud fathered Eleazar,
Eleazar fathered Matthan,
Matthan fathered Jacob,
16 and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary,
who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were 14 generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, 14 generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, 14 generations.

Matthew 1: 1-17

According to the introduction to the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels, it is more common in Hebrew texts for lists of generations to be of children, not ancestors.  Why then might this be different with the genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew?

The details given of Matthew’s Gospel are meant to contextualize the life of Jesus in terms of the prophetic fulfillment of promises made by God to the Jewish people for generations beforehand.  In a patriarchal society such as this one, it was important to mention who a person’s ancestors were; especially in the context of making the claim that this person was the long-awaited Messiah. That is why Chapter 1, verse 1 of Matthew opens with the statement:

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham”

This genealogy spans almost the entire Tenakh (Old Testament); from the calling of Abraham, to the re-building of the Second Temple under Zerubbabel, to the birth of Jesus.  Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at these specific people in this genealogy, at different points in Jewish history;

  1. Abraham
  2. Isaac
  3. Jacob
  4. Judah
  5. David
  6. Solomon
  7. Josiah
  8. Zerubbabel
  9. Joseph

…but to understand who these people were and the significance of them being mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, it is necessary to be familiar with the history of the entire Old Testament.

It has been our experience that most Gentile Christians we know, have never read through the entire  Old Testament even once. They’ve read bits and pieces here and there, such a Psalms or Proverbs and sometimes a whole section if it was taught or they read a study of it.  Even when churches offer classes to help familiarize Gentile Christians with the Old Testament, they are given from the perspective of the Church looking backward to the Law rather than from the perspective of creation looking forward to the coming of Messiah.  While the material may “start” with the book of Genesis, the starting point is rooted in theological assumptions about the relationship between God and the Jewish people that significantly alters how these events are understood.

Without even the most basic understanding of Old Testament history it is impossible to begin to fully appreciate the significance of the coming of Jesus as described in Matthew’s Gospel, so we will give a brief overview of Old Testament history, here.

Overview of Old Testament History

The easiest way to understand the bulk of Biblical history from creation to the coming of Jesus is to think of them in terms of eras, and then to see events and specific people as specific to that era or period of history.

For the purposes of our study, the main eras are;

  1. The Beginning: (~60,000 BC-3000 BC)
  2. Days of the Patriarchs: (~2000-1500 BC)
  3. The Twelve Tribes: (~1500-1200 BC)
  4. Judges to Kingdom: (~1200-930 BC)
  5. The Two Kingdoms: (~930-586 BC)
  6. Exile and Return: (~586-332 BC)
  7. The Inter-Testamentary Period: (~332-37 BC)
  8. Coming of Messiah: (~37 BC-30 AD)
  9. The Jews, the Gentiles and the Kingdom: (~100-400 AD)

1.  The Beginning: (~60,000 BC-3000 BC)

  • Creation, early human civilization, and various early event accounts
  • Note: we hold to an “old earth” creation view, best summarized by Newman and Eckelmann in “Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth”; based on the concept of “a day” (“yom” in Hebrew embodying more than a 24-hour period)

2. Days of the Patriarchs: (~2000-1500 BC)

  • The lives of Israel’s famous ancestors [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob]
  • the changing of empires
  • ‘Exodus-lead-up-events’ in Egypt during the Middle Bronze Age

3. The Twelve Tribes: (~1500-1200 BC)

  • Exodus from Egypt
  • to the 40 years wondering in the desert
  • to the conquest of the Promise Land

4. Judges to Kingdom: (~1200-930 BC)

  • transition from a tribal confederation with the Judges
  • to a unified kingdom under Saul, David and then Solomon (who built the First Temple)

5. The Two Kingdoms: (~930-586 BC)

  • The split of the unified kingdom after the death of King Solomon
  • Kingdom of Israel in the North with Samaria as its capital
  • Kingdom of Judah in the South with Jerusalem as its capital
  • Assyrian Empire conquers the Northern Kingdom of Israel around the 7th century BC, takes Israelites captive, essentially never to be seen again
  • Babylonian Empire conquers Southern Kingdom of Judah around the 5th century BC, takes some of the population into exile
  • destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, around 586 BC

6. Exile and Return: (~586-332 BC)

  • Jews are consoled by the bitterness of the Babylonian exile by numerous promises of God through the Law and the Prophets of a coming Messiah and the promised return from captivity that will be accompanied by the restoration of Israel.
  • fulfillment in itself and also a foreshadowing of the end of days
  • during this era is when we encountered the Persian Empire aka the Medes.
  • It is around this time that the Second Temple is built by Zerubbabel during the reign of King Darius I (~515 BC).

7. The Inter-Testamentary Period: (~332-37 BC)

  • The conquest of the Holy Land by Alexander the Great during this time, led to the development of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures
  • Alexander the Great’s Greek Empire split into three after his death around the 2nd century;
    • the Antigonids in Greece
    • the Ptolemies in Egypt
    • the Seleucids in the rest of the Middle East (including parts of N.W. India)
  •  the first four of the Syrian Wars (between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids) took place between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.
  • also around the same time period,  the first two Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage took place

Important event:

  • 175-164 BC;  Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucids took over the Jewish Temple, sacrificed a pig on the alter, spilling its blood on the Torah scrolls
  • led to the famous Maccabean Revolt between ~166-160 BC by the Jewish family the Maccabees (aka the Hasmoneans)
  • The Maccabean Revolt successfully set up an independent Jewish government known as the Hasmonean Dynasty that was able to govern between ~142-63 BC; almost a century!
  • plagued by war with neighbours, political infighting, terrorism, murder and conflict between the Pharisees and the Sadducees
  • This Hasmonean Dynasty finally ends with the Holy Land coming under the control of the Roman Empire by ~63 BC under the leadership of famous general Pompey the Great
  • that same year Gaius Octavius (aka Augustus Caesar) is born.
  • Gaius Octavius take power of the Roman Empire as its head around 31 BC under the title “Augustus” and rules until around 14 AD
  • Augustus Caesar brings important reforms during his rule that prosper the empire and strengthens the military

8. Coming of Messiah: (~37 BC-30 AD)

  • the events of and leading up to Messiah’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection recorded by the four Gospels

9. The Faithful Remnant: (~30-100 AD)

  • The early Nazarenes (Jewish believers) are commissioned by Messiah after His resurrection to bring the Gospel message to the Gentiles; beginning the ‘time of the Gentiles’ as promised
  •  Jewish revolt over Roman taxation around 66 AD
  • led to the Roman desecrating of the Temple (by going where non-Jews were not to be) to take the holy things of the Temple as an  equivalent value of unpaid taxes, led to the massacre of thousands of Jews
  • a failed revolt by the Zealots  attempting to take over and forcefully build an independent Jewish state completely free from Roman rule leads to the Siege of Jerusalem, by the Romans
  • This revolt was an attempt by the Zealots to reproduce what the Maccabee brothers did in the previous century, except now with the Romans
  • This led to what is known as the First Jewish-Roman war (~66-73 AD)
  • Not long after this,  the Second Jewish Temple was destroyed in 70 AD at the end of a long Siege of Jerusalem

Also around this time;

  • a new-Sanhedrin was re-established at Jamnia
  • led by former leading Pharisee Yohanan ben Zakkai under exclusively Pharisaic control
  • around 72-73 AD, Gamaliel II (grandson of the Gamaliel referred to in the book of Acts)  introduced changes in the Jewish liturgy of the synagogue designed to expose what he considered “minim” or heretics (including the Essenes and Nazarenes)
    • added a line into the Amidah or ‘standing’ prayer (the central prayer of the liturgy of synagogue) cursing the “mimin” (heretics) and thereby identifying anyone who couldn’t in good conscience say ‘amen’ in ascent, resulting in excommunication
    • called euphemistically “blessing of the heretics” or “blessing of the minim
    • Nazarenes (Jewish believers in Jesus the Messiah) no longer able to continue to gather in the synagogue because they couldn’t say the revised Amidah

10. The Jews, the Gentiles and the Kingdom: (~100-400 AD)

  • The Jewish sect of Nazarenes are pushed further and further into obscurity by the growing divide and hostility between the Gentile Church in Rome and the Pharisee-controlled synagogues of Judea; both of whom will eventually declare these Torah-observant Jewish-believers heretics

Note: to understand how Christianity (as a religion independent of Judaism) and rabbinic Judaism came to be, we’d encourage you to read our last post; “Christianity and Judaism as siblings, not parent and child ” [http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/christianity-and-judaism-as-siblings-not-parent-and-child/]

  • ~ 132 AD the Emperor Hadrian  threatened to rebuild Jerusalem as a pagan city dedicated to Jupiter
  • led to leading members of the Sanhedrin supporting a rebellion led by Simon bar Kochba — became known as “the Bar Kochba Revolt
  • Bar Kochba Revolt ended around 135 AD in defeat
  • the vast majority of Jews (including Nazarenes who were seen as a sect of Judaism) were sent into exile
  • with the Jews scattered in the Diaspora, there was an effort to preserve the Oral traditions of the elders (what the Pharisees call the “Oral Torah”) ~ 200 AD, Judah haNasi edited the judgements and traditions of the elders into an authoritative code, called the Mishnah.
  • Later expansions of the Mishnah became the Jerusalem Talmud (~400 AD) and Babylonian Talmud (~500 AD).
  • The writing of the Mishnah and Talmuds was the final transformation of Second Temple Judaism into Rabbinic Judaism

Simultaneously to this;

  • the mostly Gentile Church formally rejected the Jewish practices of the Nazarenes and adopted decidedly “Christian” practices
  • As early as 110 AD, Sabbath observance on Saturday was changed to Sunday (called in Scripture the “Lord’s Day”) by Ignatius of Antioch
  • Around ~135 AD, Justin Martyr said that the Jews defeat in the Jewish Roman Wars and the destruction of the Second Temple were God’s visitation and a deserved punishment for rejecting the Messiah — sewing the seeds for replacement theology (aka supracessionism — a theological belief that God rejected the Jews and chose the Church instead
  • Around 240 AD, replacement theology obtained further support when Origen of Alexandria wrote that the Jews “have committed the most abominable of crimes” in conspiring against Christ and for that reason “the Jewish nation was driven from its country and another people was called by God to the blessed election
  • the observance of the death of Jesus (known as the “Paschal feast”) continued on 14 of Nisan (i.e. same day as the Jewish Passover) as observed by Church Father Polycarp and the Church at Jerusalem and Antioch until it was disputed by Bishop Victor
  • Polycarp and several other bishops where almost excommunicated from the Roman Church for continuing to observe the Lord’s death on the Jewish Passover, as they maintained that the Apostle John had taught them
  • Bishop Victor later became Pope Victor I around ~189–199 AD
  • any Christian celebration on what was called the “Jewish Passover” was formally rejected at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD
  • After the First Council of Nicea (325 AD) any observance of the death of Jesus was exclusively to be on the first Sunday following Passover and was renamed “Easter

Inter-Testamentary Period – the context leading to the time of Messiah

The ‘Inter-Testamentary Period’ is the immediate contextual background leading into the time of Messiah, and the events of this time are important to understand the culture immediately before the Gospel events take place. The details of these events affected everything from cultural norms, to economic opportunities, to the political situation, etc.

One example of this is the common use of several of the names of the famous Maccabean brothers or their sons, including Simon, Judas, and John.

How many of you knew that several of the original 12 Disciples of Jesus had names that in the previous century been associated with Jewish revolutionaries and their sons who ruled a Jewish Dynasty?

Kind of changes the way one sees the Disciples doesn’t it?

To a first century Jewish mind, the name Simon the Zealot (aka Simon Peter) brought to mind this type of image;

Simon Peter - Jewish version

Yet when one mentions the name Simon Peter to Gentile Christians, the image that comes to mind is more like this;

St. Peter - Gentile version

It is our hope, that as we look next into some of the individuals listed in the genealogy of Matthew chapter 1, that we will re-impart an understanding of the first century Jewish context into which Messiah came.

Context and Timelines

One final word on what seems to us to be a very different concept of timelines between Jewish believers and many Gentile Christians.

For most Gentile Christians, everything important starts with the birth of Jesus. That is, the “timeline” for Gentile Christians begins with the birth of Jesus and goes until today; following the red line below.

Gentile Christian perspective
Gentile Christian timeline – begins with the birth of Jesus

[this is taken from a photo of the whiteboard from our LifeGroup, which is summarized in the charts below]

Daniel's white board Matthew 1 overview

For Jewish believers however,  the “timeline” into which we understand the birth of Jesus — into which Matthew’s Gospel places the birth of Jesus — begins with Abraham and goes forward from there, following the much longer path of the blue line, below;

Jewish perspective
Jewish believer’s timeline — begins with Abraham through to the birth of Jesus

 

Jewish Sects During the Second Temple Period

Judaism of the Second Temple period — right up to the time of Jesus and the Apostles, was not a single, uniform faith. There was the Judaism of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, of the Essenes, of the Zealots and of the Samaritans, and numerous smaller sects, as well and then at the beginning of the 1st century CE, there were the Nazarenes; Jews that believed that Jesus was God’s promised Messiah.

 

The Pharisees were predominantly laymen and scribes who existed since the time of the Maccabean wars (167 – 160 BCE) and were the ruling religious party during the latter part of the Second Temple period (515 BCE – 70 CE). They believed that they were the keepers of the Oral Law that was said to have been given to Moses on Mount Sinai by God during the 40 days and nights he remained on Mount Sinai after he was given the (written) Law, including the Ten Commandments and all the other Laws.

During the exile, there was no Temple and it was during this time that the Pharisees began to rise to a position of much influence.  Without a Temple and finding themselves outside of Jerusalem, the worship of God focused on prayer and the study of God’s Law in the synagogue. As a result, the synagogue became the central place of Jewish religious life.

When the second Temple was rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah, sacrifices once again were offered with the Sadducees officiating, with the synagogues continuing to remained centers of Jewish life in the cities around the land.

During Herod’s rule [37-4 BCE], the Pharisees numbered around six thousand men.

The Scribes and Pharisees were tasked with the responsibility to “sit on Moses’ seat” (Matt 23:2) which was generally understood to mean that they had the authority to teach the Law of Moses. The Pharisees belief in the equal authority of so-called “Oral Torah” and “Written Torah” [i.e. the written Law of Moses] was a lightning rod for Jesus’ strong words.

Sadducees

As the priests, the Sadducees were involved in the affairs of the Temple and were predominantly located in Jerusalem.  Unlike the Pharisees, they did not recognize Oral Law as having authority. For them – “the Law” was the written Law of Moses.

The Sadducees, were comparatively few in number when compared with the Pharisees. In addition to being the Temple priests, they also held important positions in the community.  They were from aristocratic and wealthy families and had considerable influence.

Essenes

The Essenes are believed to be a splinter group of Sadducees and also originally priests – descendants of Aaron. The Essenes separated themselves from the rest of the Jewish community and congregated in communities dedicated to asceticism (celibacy, voluntary poverty and ritual daily immersion). They were concentrated in the Judean Desert as well as throughout the country and were located in Jerusalem as well.  Qumran, a settlement on the shores of the Dead Sea served as headquarters for the Essenes in Second Temple times.

They flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE and numbered approximately four thousand men and are best known as the keepers and preservers of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Zealots

The Zealots were considered a fourth sect according to Jewish historian Josephus and were relatively new at the time of Jesus.  The Zealots did not see themselves under the religious leadership of either the Pharisees or Sadducees, although from a theological perspective, they held many of the same beliefs as the Pharisees. The Zealots were opposed to Rome’s authority and believed that they should have no other Ruler and Lord besides God. The Sicaraii were considered to be a more militant subgroup of the Zealots.

The Zealots were responsible for initiating an unsuccessful revolution in Galilee in 66 CE which soon swept the whole region, known as the First Jewish War. Although Jerusalem fell in 70 CE, the last bastion of the Zealots, Masada, held out until 73 CE. At this time the Masada community (nearly 1000 persons, including women and children) preferred mass suicide to capture by the Romans.

At the end of First Jewish War, over 1 million Jews starved in the siege, were killed in battle, were crucified or enslaved.

Samaritans

The Samaritans saw themselves as having the ‘true religion’ of the ancient Israelites from before the Babylonian exile.  They saw themselves as preservers of the original form of Judaism which they believed starkly contrasted with the Judaism that was brought back from the Babylonian exile.

The Samaritans believed that they were the descendants of the “Ten Lost Tribes” taken into Assyrian captivity and that their temple on Mount Gerizim was the original place for the worship of God.  This is in contrast to the Pharisees and Sadducees who believed that Jerusalem was the chosen place to worship God and that it was the only place where sacrifices could be offered.

The Pharisees and Sadducees taught that Jews were forbidden to have contact with Samaritans and the Samaritan religious leaders taught that it was wrong to have any contact with the Jews in Jerusalem.

Nazarenes

The Nazarenes were the early Jewish followers of Jesus (Jesus was referred to as Jesus the Nazarene – Mark 1:24; John 18:5). The Nazarenes continued to live as Jews; keeping the Jewish dietary laws, going to the synagogue on Sabbath — as was Jesus’ and Paul’s custom (Luke 4:16, Acts 17:2).  Like other Jews of the time, they continued to go to the Temple for the appointed feasts, just as their Messiah did for the feast of Passover (John 2:13-22, John 5), the Feast of Tabernacles / Booths (John 7), and the Feast of Dedication (John 10). The term “Nazarene” simply meant that they were followers of “Yeshua Natzri” (Jesus of Nazareth), as the Hebrew term “Nosri” still does.

The Pharisees did not initially consider the Nazarenes as heretics, due to their adherence to Torah.

Paul was considered to be the “ringleader” of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5) and was accused of teaching against the Law of Moses (Acts 21:28-30) and of desecrating the Temple (Acts 24:6). Paul, in his own defense said before the Sanhedrin that he ‘worships the God of his fathers’ according to the Way –which they call a sect, and believes in all the things that are written in the Law and in the Prophets’. (Acts 24:14-17).

The term Nazarene was used for this Jewish sect of followers of Jesus from the first until the fourth century CE, until Constantine.

Scripture records that many of the Sadducees came to faith in Jesus (Acts 6:7) as did some of the Pharisees (Acts 15:5) and these, along with the thousands of Jews that became Nazarenes (Acts 21:20).  Some people raise the objection, that if Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, why didn’t Jews believe in Him. Scripture as well as both Jewish and Roman history, says otherwise.

Taking a very conservative number that there was only 1,000 Nazarenes in the year 40 CE (and clearly we can see from these Scriptures alone that there were significantly more than that!) and with a growth rate of 40 % per decade until 300 CE, at the end of the first century the total Nazarene population would have been around 7,500 people, mostly Jews.  Early on, Gentiles who came to believe in Jesus would be affiliated with the larger group of Jewish Nazarenes.