Monday, March 30, 2015

Yeshua Travels to Jerusalem for the Passover

Festivals were very much a part of ancient life, and people were prepared to endure crowded conditions and long journeys in order to participate. People travelled in groups to Jerusalem for the Passover and the other two major festivals -- Shavuot and Sukkot. The large caravans in which many travelled also protected the temple tax which they brought from lands outside of Israel.[1] They came by land all the way from Babylon.[2] Caravans and ships also brought groups of pilgrims from Syria, Asia Minor and North Africa.[3] Galileans and Idumaeans also travelled in companies to Jerusalem.[4]

There is no reason to exclude secular ditties, jokes, and more wine than usual at night. The Jewish festivals were like Christmas: a blend of piety, good cheer, hearty eating, making music, chatting with friends, drinking and dancing. [5] As the travelers walked toward the Temple they sang Psalms. Singing the Psalms below is something Yeshua would have experienced many times in his life on these journeys.



How lovely is they dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!
My soul longs, yea faints for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.[6]

Oh send out Your light and Your truth;
Let them lead me,
Let them bring me to Your Holy Hill
And to Your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And I will praise You with the lyre,
O God, my God.[7]

I was glad when they said to me,
`Let us go to the house of the Lord![8]

The festive atmosphere started on the road, but the true feast came in Jerusalem. Today, we try to put activities like this in an exclusively “religious box” and view the participants through that lens. But, people are people and their trip to the Temple was their main opportunity for `splurging’ during the year. It was a religious pilgrimage that also included shopping. Pilgrims had their “second tithe” money to spend and it could only be spent in Jerusalem:[9]

for whatever you desire, oxen, or sheep, or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves; and you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. [10]

There are a wide range of figures for the population of Jerusalem around 30 CE, but most scholars place it at around 40,000 regular residents. But during the shalosh regalim (three pilgrimage festivals each year), which all Israelite males were to appear before Yahweh,[11] the number of pilgrims added another 300,000 to 500,000 people.[12]

Herod’s Temple was an awesome structure with walls soaring straight up as much as 120 ft. above street level. The Temple Mount enclosed a rectangular area of 35 acres. (Click on this link to view and print the diagram of the Temple.) In the middle of the enclosure, the Sanctuary building rose above the rest, its gold-covered roof glowing like fire in the rays of the desert sun. [13] Josephus wrote:

"To approaching strangers [the Temple] appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white." [14]

Pilgrims could see the blazing roof a long way off before they arrived in Jerusalem. When they arrived and walked to the Temple they crossed a plaza lined with shops to get to the main entrance to the Temple Mount (click on this link to view and print the drawing of the entrance). There was a 244 ft. wide stairway leading to the southern entrance to the Mount, but to go through the Temple’s gates one was required to be ritually pure. Levites were stationed at the gates to act as guards for security purposes as well as being responsible for maintaining ritual purity by checking visitors.

In an effort to facilitate contact between those in the city and those in the Temple, and to ease the difficulty of pilgrimage to the Temple, laws regarding uncleanness were relaxed on the feasts in Jerusalem and even within the Temple.[15] Ritual immersion was an important part of ritual purity. The Temple was filled with dozens of Jewish ritual baths (known in Hebrew as mikvaot) for the purpose of ritual purification. [16] These installations, however, could not have met the needs of tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims from outside the city attending the festivities at the Temple. It appears that the Bethesda and Siloam Poolsto the north and south of the Temple Mount – were designed to accommodate almost all of the ritual purification needs of the large numbers of Jewish pilgrims who flocked to Jerusalem for the festivals.[17]

The huge stairway was sometimes called the "stairs of the rabbis" because that is where the elders and teachers, including Rabbi Gamaliel who was said to have been the teacher of Paul, gathered to discuss legal questions and make religious decisions.[18] This would have no doubt been a favorite stopping place for Yeshua to visit on his trips to the Temple.

We will continue with Yeshua’s Passover experiences in the next Real Yeshua Blog.

Shalom,
Jim Myers

PS – If you found this information useful, please let me know:

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[1] Judaism: Practice & Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE By E. P. Sanders© 1992; Trinity Press, Philadelphia, PA; p. 128.
[2] Josephus, Antiq. 17.313
[3] Spec. Laws 1.69
[4] Josephus, War 2.232
[5] Judaism: Practice & Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE By E. P. Sanders© 1992; Trinity Press, Philadelphia, PA; p. 128.
[6] Psalm 84.1
[7] Psalm 43.3
[8] Psalm 122.1
[9] Judaism: Practice & Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE; p. 129.
[10] Deuteronomy 14.26
[11] Deuteronomy 16:16
[12] Judaism: Practice & Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE; p. 128.
[14] Josephus, War 5.5.6
[15] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two: Historical Geography, Political History, Social Culture and Religious Life and Institutions; Edited by S. Safrai and M. Stern in co-operation with D. Flusser and E. C. van Unnik; © 1976 By Stichting Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum Testamentum; Fprtress Press, Philadelphia, PA;p.891.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What Yeshua Would Have Seen on a Normal Day at the Temple

All of the people of Israel are descended from the twelve sons of Jacob. Jacob's third son was Levi, and Aaron was a fourth generation descendant of Levi. The first kohen, the founder of the priestly clan, was Aaron, brother of Moses, of the tribe of Levi. Aaron and his four sons were designated as the first priests; Aaron served as the first High Priest. All of his male descendants were chosen by God to be priests forever; it is an eternal covenant.[1]

The daily Temple ritual was performed mainly by the priests, who had sole access to the altar and the sanctuary. They offered both communal and individual sacrifices, burned incense and kindled the candelabrum in the sanctuary, and bestowed the priestly benediction on the people.[2] The Levites officiated alongside the priests. But, in the first century the Levites were removed from all contact with the altar and sacrifices. They are mentioned in sources as singers and gatekeepers. As gatekeepers they were responsible for opening and closing the gates, guarding the Temple area by day and night, and ensuring that no visitors were ritually unclean.[3]

The Levites didn’t just guard the entrances to the Temple – they served as guard of honor as well. They were stationed in twenty-four places:

(1) at the five Temple gates

(2) at the four inner corners

(3) at the five gates of the Temple court

(4) at the Temple court’s four exterior corners

(5) behind the holy of holies

(6) in five chambers[4]

According to Josephus, at least two hundred gate-keepers closed the Temple gates, and it appears that afterwards they remained at their posts. [5] The Israelites came to the Temple for various reasons:

(1) to fulfil their obligations (offering of first fruits, tithes, wave-offerings, and obligatory sacrifices

(2) to worship and pray during the liturgy

(3) to pose questions on legal tradition

(4) to study the Torah

(5) to participate in Temple worship alongside the priests for special offerings [6]

Ritual purity was a major concern of the people and ritual cleansing was an important function of the Temple -- for example, the need to cleanse themselves of severe impurities such as defilement by the dead. This required sprinkling with `cleansing water” on the fourth and seventh day. [7]

Keep in mind that the Levites were responsible for protecting the ritual purity of the Temple and they required everyone – priest or layman – to go through the ritual immersion complex before allowing them to enter the Temples. It was customary for visitors to the Temple to wear white rather than colored clothing. White was held to indicate modesty and piety. Before entering the Temple courts they removed their shoes, and laid aside their staffs, their money belts, their cloaks and bundles. [8]

The Temple was also a house of prayer for all nations of the world.  Tradition and practice rendered Gentile sacrifices acceptable. They came to prostrate themselves before God, to hear the Torah, and to bring their offerings. [9]

Daily worship in the Temple began and ended with the whole-offering. A lamb was offered to open the morning service and in the afternoon another lamb was offered to close the service. Between the above offerings, free-will offerings and obligatory offerings were offered.

Free-will offerings were:

(1) burnt-offerings

(2) peace-offerings

(3) thanks-offerings

(4) various categories of meal-offerings

Obligatory offerings were:

(1) sin-offerings

(2) guilt-offerings

(3) purification-offerings [10]

During the services there were also periods for prayer and Torah readings. In addition, the Levites sung psalms and hymns daily. [11] As you can see, the Temple in Jerusalem was a very busy place. He would have been surrounded by the above activities on every visit. Keep in mind that the above are the routine things that took place every day, except Shabbat. Things were less busy then. But, activities increased dramatically on the three major feasts – Passover, Pentecost and Sukkot. [12] In the next The Real Yeshua Blog I will discuss what it would be like at the Temple on Passover.

Shalom,
Jim Myers

PS – If you found this information useful, please let me know:

(1) Go to The Real Yeshua Facebook page by CLICKING HERE and “Like it.”

(2) Send this to others who care about Yeshua and want to do what He taught.

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(4) If you consider this information valuable invest in our work so we will be able to do more -- donate by CLICKING HERE. You may help even more by becoming a regular monthly contributor -- just check the “reoccurring box” when you donate.


[2] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two: Historical Geography, Political History, Social Culture and Religious Life and Institutions; Edited by S. Safrai and M. Stern in co-operation with D. Flusser and E. C. van Unnik; © 1976 By Stichting Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum Testamentum; Fprtress Press, Philadelphia, PA;p.870.
[3] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 872
[4] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 872
[5] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 872
[6] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 876
[7] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 876
[8] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 877
[9] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 878
[10] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 889
[11] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 889
[12] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 891

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Greatest Commandment & Eternal Life

Yesterday, in the BHC Bible Study Blog, I wrote Comparing Parallel Accounts in the Hebrew Scriptures. Anytime parallel accounts, or things that look like parallel accounts appear in your Bible, they always present great opportunities to discover some very interesting, and sometimes, unexpected things. This will be true in the subject of this blog – The Greatest Commandment & Eternal Life.

If you want to have some fun – and exercise your powers of observation – get some paper and a pen (the old fashion way of studying). Below you will find three accounts that are often considered to be about the same event. In addition, the fourth column contains the verses that are quoted in the Gospels from the Torah (Old Testament). The parallel sections are numbered 1 – 9, and shaded areas indicate that there is no parallel. Compare the sections and note any differences.

#
Matthew 22:34-40
Mark 12:28-34
Luke 10:25-27
Torah
1
But the Pharisees heard that he silenced the Sadducees, were gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him:
And approaching, one of the scribes, hearing them debating, knowing that he had answered them well, asked him:
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying,

2
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
“Which is the first commandment of all?”
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

3
Jesus said to him:
Jesus said to him:
And Jesus said to him: 

4


“What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

5


And the lawyer answered and said:

6






“`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.


“The first is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’






‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’
Deuteronomy 6:4-5

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, he Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
7
And the second is like it:
The second is this:


8




  


‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’





  

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’






  
and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’
Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord
9
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
And Jesus said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”



Now let’s compare notes and look at a few of the differences. They will be listed by section number.

#2 Notice that two different questions are asked. In Matthew and Mark the question is which commandment is the most important, but in Luke it is how one inherits eternal life.

#4 Jesus asks the lawyer a question.

#6 & #8 In Matthew and Mark Jesus answers the question, while in Luke the lawyer answers the question.

#6 In Matthew, Jesus uses the word mind and leaves out strength in quoting from Deuteronomy. In Mark, Jesus adds the word mind to the quote from Deuteronomy. In Luke, the lawyer answers the question just like Mark.

#6 Only Mark includes the quote from Deuteronomy 6:4 -- Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.

#9 Notice how the three books close the section in different ways.

I hope you learned from this study – and enjoyed it!

Shalom,
Jim Myers

PS – If you found this information useful, please let me know:

(1) Go to The Real Yeshua Facebook page by CLICKING HERE and “Like it.”

(2) Send this to others who care about Yeshua and want to do what He taught.

(3) Follow The Real Yeshua on Twitter by CLICKING HEREand you will be notified every time we post something about the Real Yeshua.

(4) If you consider this information valuable invest in our work so we will be able to do more -- donate by CLICKING HERE. You may help even more by becoming a regular monthly contributor -- just check the “reoccurring box” when you donate.