This essay probes a number of Matthean and Lukan contributions to the shared Synoptic narrative, in search of possible reflections of contemporaneous Jewish customs and beliefs with broader circulation.
“Loving Divorce”: Born on the Battlefield
Ancient Jewish sages grappled with how to untie the knot when a couple’s future was shrouded by the fog of war, a challenge we sadly still face today.
Feast of the Circumcision (New Year’s Day)
The first of January, celebrated around the world as New Year’s Day, is also the eighth day of Christmas and, as such, the Feast of the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus. Of course, no one knows on what day of the year Jesus was actually born, but since it has become traditional to celebrate Jesus’ birth on the 25th of December, it follows that the first of January is the day on which Christians celebrate the circumcision and naming of Jesus.
Windows into the Bible (4): Stone Vessels
In this video Marc Turnage discusses the significance of stoneware vessels for understanding the cultural context of the Gospels. Marc Turnage, a member of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, is the director of the Center for Holy Lands Studies for The General Council of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri. Learn more about Turnage and his work at his blog The Shard and the Scroll at www.theshardandthescroll.com.
Windows into the Bible (3): Ancient Oil Lamps
In this video Marc Turnage demonstrates what ancient oil lamps can teach us about Jewish culture in the Galilee and Judea in the time of Jesus.
Video Clip: Gabriel Barkay on “Was Jesus Buried in the Garden Tomb?”
In this video Gabriel Barkay, world-renowned archaeologist of the Bar Ilan University, discusses burial customs in the first century, and what archaeology can tell us about the burial site of Jesus.
Chickens and the Cultural Context of the Gospels
One aspect of the cultural context of the Gospels that is often overlooked is the role played by animals. In this article I will explore the significance of chickens in first-century Jewish culture and the part they play in the story of Jesus.
A Goy’s Guide to Ritual Purity
The concept of ritual purity is perhaps one of the most difficult concepts in the Bible for people to grasp today. Whereas in many “traditional” societies the concept of ritual purity was (and is) taken for granted in daily life, the whole framework for the concept of ritual purity is totally foreign to the secular western mindset.
The Genesis of What Did Jesus DO All Day?
After leaving the convent and marrying, I taught high school Confirmation classes for my church. During one discussion of the Gospels, I reminded my students that Jesus was a Jew. “He was NOT!” cried one teen, his face red with anger at what he perceived was an insult. Stunned, I began to collect outside articles to share with the class, historical and archaeological material on first-century Jewish culture in the Holy Land. The idea for a teen book—one that would bring Jesus and His world to life, and show how Christianity sprouted from a Jewish foundation—began to grow.
And Where Did You Go for the Seder?
We are now in the middle of Passover week and one frequently hears the question, “And where did you go for the Seder [the special home service on the first night of Passover]?” Answers are varied: “To my family’s home.” “To friends.” “To a hotel in Eilat.”
I happily stand corrected!
After reading my “Jehovah, A Christian Misunderstanding” article, a Jerusalem Perspective Member provided several impressive references, pointed out that the Christian reading “Jehovah” can be traced to Raymond Martin’s Pugeo Fidei (1270 A.D.), and may have originated much earlier, even as early as the ninth century!
A Response to Kilty and Elliott on the Talpiot Tomb
The calculations of Kevin Kilty and Mark Elliott have an after-the-fact particularity to them that belies their claim to be dealing with probabilities.
Covered in the Dust of Your Rabbi: An Urban Legend?
Some months ago, pastor-blogger Trevin Wax posted an article called “Urban Legends: The Preacher’s Edition.” There he lists several “urban legends” that he’s heard floating around lately in sermons. Like Internet rumors that people forward on ad infinitum, these preaching illustrations don’t have much grounding in fact.
The Jewish Cultural Nature of Galilee in the First Century
The prevailing opinion among New Testament scholars is that first-century Galilee was culturally and spiritually deprived, and that, therefore, Jesus came from an underdeveloped and backward Jewish region of the land of Israel. Professor Safrai here presents massive evidence against this view.
Links with Tabernacles and Hanukkah in the Gospel Accounts of Palm Sunday
The Gospel writers wished their readers to be reminded of Hanukkah when they read the account of Palm Sunday.
A Different Way to Reckon a Day
Jesus may have been confined to Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb for a period of time no longer than about 26 hours.
Jehovah and PIPI
According to Jerome, those who were unfamiliar with Jewish customs tried to pronounce the Hebrew letters as if they were Greek letters. The result was quite a howler: they pronounced YHVH as PIPI!
Over and Under-Familiarity with Matthew 6:11
Hearing something repeatedly can diminish its significance. I suspect that this is particularly true of Scripture. Overfamiliarity with a biblical passage can contribute to its misunderstanding. Sometimes it can reduce a profound saying to nothing more than a cliché.