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.

The Sons of His Will

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Christmas brings many carols and cards containing the words from Luke 2:14, “Goodwill to men” and “Peace to men of goodwill.” The angels praised God with words that in English may sound like a politician wishing us to “Have a nice day.” Most of us sense that these words reflect something deeper, but why did the angels use such seemingly innocuous words?

A Life on the Kinneret

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For the last four decades, Mendel Nun has produced a steady stream of articles, monographs and books about the Sea of Galilee. Ancient harbors, water levels and fishing techniques are just a few of the subjects detailed in Nun’s work. His research has focused largely on the lake in late antiquity, and his 1964 book, “Ancient Jewish Fisheries” [in Hebrew], won the prestigious Ben-Zvi Prize.

“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.

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like a Seine

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The dragnet or seine is the oldest type of fishing net, and its use was once the most important fishing method on the Sea of Galilee. In the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud it is called HE·rem, and in Greek sagene, from which the word “seine” is derived. Sources such as Egyptian tomb paintings dating from the third millennium B.C.E. suggest that this fishing method was widely used in ancient times throughout the countries of the East.