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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
In Luke 24:7 two men in dazzling apparel reminded the women that “the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.” To people living in Europe or North America, rising on the third day could be interpreted that Jesus remained in the tomb over 48 hours. In light of the way ancient Jews calculated time, however, Jesus was in the tomb for a shorter period.
Paul mentions the living sacrifices without explanation, as if the readers would be familiar with the concept. Similar early rabbinic vocabulary suggests that Paul is referring to sacrifices which were given to the Temple but which were inappropriate for offering, because they were female instead of male or for other technical reasons. They could not be un-offered so, although they were sacrifices, they were kept alive as temple property till they became blemished, and any profit from them was for the Lord.