The Place of Women in First-century Synagogues

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Today, public worship can take place in a synagogue only if at least ten adult Jewish males are present. Women do not qualify as part of this quorum. Furthermore, women are separated from men within the synagogue: women worship in an ezrat nashim, a balcony, or section with a divider, located beside or behind the men’s section. Things were considerably different in Jesus’ day.

Jewish Laws of Purity in Jesus’ Day

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The sages were required to interpret the biblical commandments, including those dealing with ritual uncleanness of menstruants. Rabbinic regulations about impurity caused by menstruation form the background to several stories in the gospels.

“Jehovah”: A Christian Misunderstanding

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In any attempt to understand the Bible, there is no substitute for a knowledge of ancient Jewish custom and practice. For example, the term “Jehovah,” which is found in many Christian translations of the Bible, originated due to Christian lack of awareness of Jewish custom.

The Shema in Early Jewish Teaching

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A careful investigation of early sources suggests that Deuteronomy 6:4 must have been the first portion from the Hebrew Bible that Jesus committed to memory.

Literary Languages in the Time of Jesus

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Not only was Hebrew the most prevalent spoken language in the land of Israel during the first century, it was also the language in which most literary works were written.

Spoken Languages in the Time of Jesus

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Professor Safrai presents an overview of the three languages used in the land of Israel during the days of Jesus, and concludes that Hebrew was the primary language spoken by the Jewish residents at that time.

“Ears of Corn”?

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The King James Version of Luke 6 speaks of the disciples plucking ears of corn, which to an American suggests yellow sweet corn rather than the grain that the King James translators had in mind.

Sabbath Breakers

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Jesus’ observance of the commandments has been a topic of vigorous scholarly debate. However, when the Synoptic Gospels are carefully examined, one sees that Jesus never violated written or oral Torahs. But did his disciples?

Book Review: David Flusser’s The Spiritual History of the Dead Sea Sect

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Many images flash across the mind when this sect of Jewish mystics is mentioned. Life in the desert, asceticism, harsh discipline, caves, scrolls and idealism seem inextricably associated with the Essenes. It is these images that Professor David Flusser addresses, attempting to carry the reader back through the centuries to explore the life and thought of these fascinating men. His purpose is to paint a broader picture of the Essene sect so often neglected by the generally narrow focus of the scholarly world.

The Centurion and the Synagogue

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A Roman centurion’s concern for his slave focuses our attention on the presence of non-Jews in the land of Israel in the first century. A modern Jewish authority on the history of the period provides the story’s background.

“Binding” and “Loosing” in the Kingdom of Heaven

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Jewish sages were called upon constantly by their community to interpret scriptural commands. The Torah forbids working on the Sabbath, for instance, but it does not define what constitutes work. As a result, the sages were required to rule on which activities were permitted on the Sabbath. They “bound,” or prohibited, certain activities, and “loosed” or allowed, others.

Pilgrimage in the Time of Jesus

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Luke states that Joseph and Mary made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem every Passover. The requirement of pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem is mentioned in the passages of Scripture that deal with three annual festivals: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths.

The Role of Women in the Temple

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According to Jewish religious law, women were allowed in every area of the Temple precincts in which men were allowed. The Mishnah specifies areas within the Temple that non-priests were not allowed to enter, but it does not differentiate between men and women.