Jesus’ Attitude Toward the Samaritans

Articles 2 Comments

In our recent attempt to propose a Hebrew reconstruction of Jesus’ instructions to his twelve apostles (see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road), David Bivin and I were confronted with a racially sensitive issue. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told the apostles not to enter any city of the Samaritans (Matt. 10:5). Reconstructing Jesus’ words in Hebrew raised an uncomfortable question that, as far as we are aware, has never before been considered by New Testament scholars. The question is: What Hebrew word did Jesus use to refer to the Samaritans? This is a sensitive question because, of the two Hebrew alternatives, the more common term in ancient Jewish sources is a racial slur.

The Census of Quirinius and Luke 2

Articles 3 Comments

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: Joseph Caiaphas

Blog 2 Comments

The high priest Joseph Caiaphas is known not only from the New Testament Gospels as the high priest who opposed Jesus and his early followers, but also from Josephus the Jewish historian who lived in the first century C.E. In this video Marc Turnage provides an historical sketch of this pivotal character.

Who Made the “Omission,” Luke or Mark?

Articles 2 Comments

Did Luke see and omit Mark 6:45-8:21, or did Mark see and omit Luke 9:51-18:14? The present article explores the possibility that the Markan pericope, “What Makes a Person Impure” in Mark 7:1-23 is dependent upon the Lukan pericope on “Discourse against the Pharisees” in Luke 11:37-41.

Gamaliel and Nicodemus

Articles 8 Comments

Gamaliel saved the lives of Jesus’ apostles, and also influenced Paul’s ethics, even after Paul’s conversion. Nicodemus belonged to the Hillelite anti-Zealot circles to which Jesus himself was close.

Hebraisms in the New Testament

Articles 1 Comment

The text of the New Testament contains many Semitic elements, some of which are Hebraisms. The Synoptic Gospels show evidence for the existence of wordplays and idioms that are typical of Hebrew.

The “Hypocrisy” of the Pharisees

Blog 1 Comment

Without reading the Scriptures carefully, and without a familiarity with Second Temple-period extra-biblical sources, a simple reader of the New Testament might assume that a majority of the Pharisees were hypocrites and that the Pharisees as a movement were indeed a “brood of vipers.” As a result of this common Christian assumption, the word “Pharisee” has become a synonym for “hypocrite” in the English language.

The Jewish Cultural Nature of Galilee in the First Century

Articles 4 Comments

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.

Evidence of an Editor’s Hand in Two Instances of Mark’s Account of Jesus’ Last Week?

Articles 2 Comments

It has been noted that in instances where Mark’s editorial hand restructured his story, Luke has preserved a more primitive form of the account, a form that is independent of Mark’s influence. Gospel scholars need to properly evaluate Mark’s editorial style and acknowledge that frequently a theological agenda influenced his rewriting.

The Value of Rabbinic Literature as an Historical Source

Articles Leave a Comment

Scholars in Israel tend to view synoptic gospel texts, and other Jewish texts from the Second Temple period, through Hebraic and rabbinic eyes. Many Israeli scholars, including the late Professor Shmuel Safrai, are in the habit of first translating synoptic texts to Hebrew to see with what ease they go into Hebrew; and then secondly, comparing the resultant translation with rabbinic sources in an effort to determine whether culturally such and such was ever said or done in rabbinic times. Unfortunately, it has become common in many scholarly circles outside Israel to dismiss rabbinic literature as having little validity as background to the synoptic gospels since rabbinic sources were compiled long after these gospels were written. In this article Safrai provides convincing evidence that much of later rabbinic literature faithfully reflects the situation in Second-Temple times. He demonstrates just how important the rabbinic material is for gaining a fuller understanding of the Gospels.—DB.

Elijah Prays About Rain

Articles 1 Comment

Toward the end of his Epistle, James exhorts his readers to pray with faith for the healing of the sick. When we read that “the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16), we might have expected James to cite the example of Abraham. Genesis 20:17 might have served as the perfect prooftext: “Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech.” …The example of Elijah that was provided by James, however, seems less obvious and more difficult.

From Ezekiel 17:24 and 21:3 to Luke 23:31: A Survey of the Connecting Jewish Tradition

Articles Leave a Comment

Material from Ezekiel 17:24, and more often 21:3 (20:47 in the English Bible) has often been cited as the source of Jesus’ saying in Luke 23:31, “If they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?“ Other commentators have questioned this assumption. If the material was borrowed from Ezekiel, however, was it borrowed directly or was it sifted through hundreds of years of usage, only to find its way into the mouth of Jesus?

Links with Tabernacles and Hanukkah in the Gospel Accounts of Palm Sunday

Articles Leave a Comment

The Gospel writers wished their readers to be reminded of Hanukkah when they read the account of Palm Sunday.

Jesus’ Yoke and Burden

Articles 6 Comments

It appears that the original context for Jesus’ “Comfort for the Heavy-Laden” saying has been lost; however, passages in the apocrypha indicate that Jesus was speaking of Torah study and the rigors of first-century discipleship.

Divorce and Remarriage in Historical Perspective

Articles 3 Comments

This study is dedicated to those who have suffered the agony of divorce. Tragically their pain has been compounded by well-meaning Christians who have distorted both the letter and the spirit of Jesus’ teaching concerning divorce and remarriage. For them, may this article bring a measure of healing.

John’s Baptism of Repentance

Articles 1 Comment

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.