Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2015

Yeshua’s Traumatized Society

Yeshua was born into a society traumatized by violence. His life was framed by revolts. The uprisings after Herod’s death occurred in the year of his birth, and he was brought up in the hamlet of Nazareth, only a few miles from Sepphoris, which Varus had razed to the ground; the peasants’ strike against Caligula would occur just ten years after his death.
During his lifetime, Galilee was governed by Herod Antipas, who financed an expensive building program by imposing heavy taxes on his Galilean subjects. Failure to pay was punished by foreclosure and confiscation of land, and this revenue swelled the huge estates of the Herodian aristocrats.  When they lost their land, some peasants were forced into banditry, while others — Yeshua’s father, the carpenter Joseph, perhaps, among them — turned to menial labor: artisans were often failed peasants.
The crowds who thronged around Yeshua in Galilee were hungry, distressed, and sick. In his parables we see a society split between the very ri…

Early Third Century Christianity

The Church was a new phenomenon in the Roman Empire. Christians had exploited the empire’s improved communications to create an institution with a unity of structure that none of the other faith traditions had attempted by the third century. Each local church was headed by a bishop, the “overseer” who was said to derive his authority from Jesus’s apostles, and was supported by presbyters and deacons. The network of such near-identical communities seemed almost to have become an empire within the empire.
Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons (c. 130-200), who was anxious to create an orthodoxy that excluded aggressive sectarians, had claimed that the Great Church had a single Rule of Faith, because the bishops had inherited their teaching directly from the apostles. This was not only a novel idea but a total fantasy. Paul’s letters show that there had been considerable tension between him and Jesus’s disciples, and his teachings bore little relation to those of Jesus. Each of the Synoptic Gosp…

Once upon a time a Preacher, Professor & Rabbi . . .

Once upon a time a Preacher, Professor & Rabbi . . .” sounds like the beginning of a good joke, but in this case it is the beginning of a twenty-five journey. I am the preacher, Dr. Ike Tennison is the Professor and the Rabbi is Jeffrey Leynor. Our destination was to more accurately understand the words of our Bibles and the histories of our religions – Christianity and Judaism. We specifically wanted to focus on the first century CE when both of our religions were Jewish sects and part of Second Temple Judaism and learn more about how one of those sects – the Jesus Movement – became a universal Gentile religion, and the other – the Pharisees – became Rabbinic Judaism. What we discovered, however, is much more important than what we planned. Today, the social bonds that are required to hold Americans together and make it possible for our democracy to exist are breaking down and many of the problems we face – political, economic and religious – are the result. We believe that what…

Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?

Were the gifts of the magi meant to save Jesus from the pain of arthritis? It’s possible, according to researchers at Cardiff University in Wales who have been studying the medical uses of frankincense. Since the early days of Christianity, Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the magi presented to Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). Read the complete article at --

How did the Romans celebrate ‘Christmas’?

It wasn’t until the late fourth century that the church fathers could agree on the date of Christ’s birth – unlike the pagan Romans, Christians tended to give no importance to anyone’s birthday. The big day in the Christian religious calendar was Easter. Nevertheless, eventually the church settled on 25 December as the date of Christ’s nativity. For the Christians, it was a holy day, not a holiday, and they wanted the period to be sombre and distinguished from the pagan Saturnalia traditions such as gambling, drinking, and of course, most of all, worshipping a pagan god! Read the complete article at --

Why the Magi got a bad press

There were not three Magi. The number is not specified. It is only stated that they brought three types of gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. We can say with near certainty that there were not three but many thousands!The answers are clear once we understand the dilemma faced by the Roman State Church founded under Constantine in the 300s CE.It was excruciatingly painful for the priests of the Roman ‘Mother Church’ to explain why the Magi of Persia had worshiped the infant Jesus and the Roman Empire had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Parthia worshiped Jesus. Rome pillaged Jerusalem and destroyed the Jews. How could Romans justify a Christian heritage? The Roman Mother Church therefore blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus although the crucifixion was conducted by Roman soldiers, under Roman imperial authority and with Roman nails. Read the complete article at --

Unearthing the World of Jesus

Surprising archaeological finds are breaking new ground in our understanding of Jesus’s time—and the revolution he launched 2,000 years ago. The Gospels say that Jesus taught and “proclaimed the good news” in synagogues “throughout all Galilee.” But despite decades of digging in the towns Jesus visited, no early first-century synagogue had ever been found.  For historians, this was not a serious problem. Galilean Jews were a week’s walk from Jerusalem, close enough for regular pilgrimages to Herod the Great’s magnificent temple, Judaism’s central house of worship. Galileans, mostly poor peasants and fishermen, had neither the need nor the funds for some local spinoff. Synagogues, as we understand them today, did not appear anywhere in great numbers until several hundred years later. If there were any in Galilee in Jesus’s day, they were perhaps just ordinary houses that doubled as meeting places for local Jews. Some scholars argued that the “synagogues” in the New Testament were nothi…