The Census of Quirinius and Luke 2

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Modern readers tend to overlook the significance of the date of Quirinius’ census in the Infancy Narrative of Luke’s Gospel. Preachers and interpreters frequently point to Luke’s mention of the census as proof that God maneuvered even the pagan Roman authorities to bring about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Few note the significance of the date within the history of the Jewish people living in the land of Israel. It’s my feeling that the events surrounding the census of Quirinius drew Luke to mention it within his narrative and connect Jesus’ birth to this event.

Character Profile: Rabban Gamliel the Elder

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The ancient Jewish sage Rabban Gamliel is mentioned not only in rabbinic literature, but also twice in the New Testament. Marc Turnage introduces us to this important figure in the history of Judaism and Christianity.

Character Profile: Pontius Pilate

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Helpless pawn or ruthless villain? The Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, is famous because of his role in the New Testament Gospels. Pilate’s name is even mentioned in ancient Christian creeds. Yet in many Christian retellings of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion Pilate’s role is often portrayed incorrectly. In this video Marc Turnage reexamines Pilate’s character based on ancient literary sources, including the New Testament, and archaeological finds. In doing so, Turnage offers a new take on a familiar character.

Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part Two (Luke 9:51-56)

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Rather than looking at isolated words or expressions that appear to be Hebraisms, or, examining a category, or type, of Hebraism, let’s take a complete story from the life of Jesus: Luke 9:51-56, a story found only in the Gospel of Luke. This approach will allow us to gain an impression of the density of Hebraisms that often exists in gospel passages. I followed this approach in writing ” Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part One,” pointing out the density of Hebraisms in Matthew 13:16-17.

John’s Baptism of Repentance

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All of the Gospels open with a description of John the Baptist’s proclamation of a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). In this brief study we want to consider both the form of John’s baptism and his distinctive call to accompanying repentance.

The Cross and the Jewish People

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One of the most poignant pictures which exemplify the chasm of historical misunderstanding between Jews and Christians is that found in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. It is a photograph of a life-size crucifix that stood outside an unknown German village prior to World War II. In a twist of tragic irony a sign was hung on the cross to warn Jews not to enter the village. It read: “Jews are not welcome here.”

The Synagogue the Centurion Built

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The third Evangelist recorded in the seventh chapter of his Gospel a story about Jesus, the Jewish elders of Capernaum, a Roman centurion and their affable relations. From rabbinic texts and other literary sources like the New Testament, we know that despite years of suffering brought upon the Jewish people by their Roman overlords, there were instances when Jew and Roman behaved amicably toward one another. Luke 7:1-10 stands out as one such episode.

Synagogue and Sabbath

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The detailed description of Jesus’ visit to the Nazareth synagogue found in Luke 4:16-21 provides substantial information about synagogue life and customs in the early first century C.E. An examination of this passage will help us understand Jesus more clearly and accurately. This account in Luke’s Gospel agrees with other contemporary and especially rabbinic sources. Together they provide a complete picture of the synagogue in that period.