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.

Master and Disciple

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To understand the relationship between a first-century master and his disciples, one must appreciate the central role of Torah in ancient Jewish society.

A Friend of Tax Collectors

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Tax collectors were especially hated because they increased their profit by collecting more taxes than their masters actually demanded.

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.

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.

John the Nazirite

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The Mishnah seems to indicate that the vow to abstain even from specific parts of the grape implies acceptance of the entire nazirite regimen. According to Nazir 1:2, even if one vows: “I will abstain from eating grape seeds and grape skins…, he becomes a nazirite.”

At the Feet of a Sage

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Nearly all first-century sages practiced a trade. Despite having a profession, however, a sage was not always able to support himself as he traveled throughout the land. While traveling, a sage could not easily set up a shop due to the shortness of his stay in a given location. Nor would it have been fair when visiting smaller communities to take work away from a local resident in the same profession. Also, work could not readily be found for the large number of disciples who often accompanied a sage. Therefore the sage and his disciples were necessarily dependent upon the hospitality of the communities they visited.