The Bar-Kochva Letters

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Documents discovered in the Judean Wilderness near the Dead Sea provide some insight into the use of Hebrew in the land of Israel not long after the time of Jesus.

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.

“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?

A Friend of Tax Collectors

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Rabbinic literature in general, both early and late, has little good to say about tax collectors, and considers them to be blatant sinners. The tax collectors spoken of in the gospels served a foreign government that did not have the manpower to execute the enormous task of gathering taxes in all the provinces of their far-flung empire. Their fellow Jews in the province of Judea saw tax collectors as collaborators who enabled the Romans to continue to impose their conquest over the land of Israel.

Your Money or Your Life

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Perhaps the most impressive thing about Jesus’ reply to the question about paying taxes to Caesar is that Jesus disarms his opponents and at the same time places a total demand on them.

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.

Synagogue Guest House for First-century Pilgrims

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This Greek inscription was cut into Jerusalem limestone late in the first-century B.C. It was discovered by Captain R. Weill in 1914, in excavations on the Ophel hill south of the Temple Mount. The inscription provides evidence of the accommodations that were provided in Jerusalem for pilgrims.

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.

A Priest of the Division of Abijah

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According to the gospel of Luke, Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth was of the “daughters of Aaron,” that is the daughter of a priest. It was common in that period to refer to people of priestly stock as descendants of Aaron. For example, a first-century inscription found in Jerusalem in 1971 mentions the heroic exploits of a person who introduces himself as: “I Abba son of the priest Eleaz[ar] the son of the great Aaron.”

The Traveling Teacher

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Jewish teachers of first-century Israel lacked the sophisticated methods of mass communication we have today. Consequently, the sages of Jesus’ day spent much of their time traveling throughout the country, much like the biblical prophets, to communicate their teachings and interpretations of Scripture.

Salted with Fire

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Among the difficult sayings of Jesus, Mark 9:49 is one of the most enigmatic. Almost all previous explanations of this verse have dealt with the Greek text, but like many of the difficult sayings of Jesus, this one simply cannot be explained from the Greek alone.