The Boardwalk

Wickedly the sign swells of contemptuous vacancy,

a myriad of rooms, big yard fenced in bloody stone.

Long is the stay, short and narrow the exit,

twenty years the bargain.

“Pretty Boy” of luxurious wealth, 

why the confident walk, sleep of deep beauty?

Do you not know today you marry?

Can you not see the dark of day?

Pain, Hate, and Death the proprietary priests,

mandating monarchies of red of grey walls.

Rape, overdoses, murder run rampant and free,

have you any money?

End of war cannot be, it has not begun,

there are no warriors, only lost victors.

Time is not known of,

for “time” is plentiful.

Writ of Habeas Corpus breathes of abysmal tangencies,

thick putrid air, crimson steel of sour peanut butter.

With heavy of hand frightened horrifying eyes write,

a tune of cruel beauty the fat lady cannot carry.

A toast – Black Deceit

by Curt Stowell
September 21, 1990

Between the Testaments

The Time Between the Testaments 

I wouldn’t say that knowledge of the period between the Old and New Testaments is necessary to understanding the four upcoming Gospels, but then again, it can’t hurt.

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt 22:37-40).

The Pilgrim’s Progress in Modern English, Updated Edition

The Prilgrims Progress

The Pilgrims Progress

By reading “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan you will understand exactly what Jesus meant and the Holy Ghost will walk you through it. 

I buy most of my books from Christianbook.com because they have the best prices and I don’t want to contribute to Jeff Bezos if I don’t have to.  When Amazon first came out and it was just a book store he was good, but now as a billionaire he has become evil and greedy.

With the Old Testament canon closing with Malachi at about 397 B.C. we see that this period between Malachi and Matthew covers some 400 years.

This 400 year interval has been called “the dark period” of Israel’s history in pre-Christian times, because during it there was neither prophet nor inspired writer.

With this period we seem to find the sad fulfillment of Psalm 74:9 upon Israel:

“We see not our signs; there is no more any prophet; neither is there among us any that knoweth how long. 

The condition of the Jews as a nation and race at the beginning of this 40 year period should be kept in mind. Two hundred years earlier Jerusalem had been overthrown and the Jewish people were carried into the Babylonian exile (606-586 B.C.) as punishment for their unfaithfulness to God.

This map reveals the expansion of the Persian Empire from Cyrus the Great to Darius I, 550-486 B.C. The Persian Achaemenid Empire was actually the last great empire of the ancient Near East. It’s boundaries extended from the Aegean Sea in the west to the Indus River in the east, such a large empire was created in just a little over 10 years by Cyrus II the Great.

At the end of this 70 year punishment period, the Babylonian empire, having been overthrown and succeeded by that of Media-Persia (536 B.C.), Cyrus, the Persian emperor, issued a decree permitting the return of the Jews to Israel. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, some 5,000 Jews returned.

Some 20 years after their return, after many setbacks, the building of the Temple was completed in 516 B.C. Then after another 58 years had passed, in 458 B.C., Ezra the scribe returned to Jerusalem with a small group of Israelites and restored the Law and the ritual.

Still another 13 years later, in 445 B.C., Nehemiah had come to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and become governor. Now, once again, there was a Jewish state in Judea, though of course under Persian rule.

Such, then is the picture of the Jewish people at the beginning of the 400 year period between Malachi and Matthew:

The Jewish Remnant back in Judea for about 140 years (536-397 B.C.);

  • A small, dependent Jewish state there;
  • Jerusalem and the temple rebuilt;
  • The Law and the ritual restored; but
  • With the mass of the people remaining dispersed through-out the Media-Persian empire.

The Political Development

This map reveals the expansion of the Persian Empire from Cyrus the Great to Darius I, 550-486 B.C. The Persian Achaemenid Empire was actually the last great empire of the ancient Near East. It’s boundaries extended from the Aegean Sea in the west to the Indus River in the east, such a large empire was created in just a little over 10 years by Cyrus II the Great.

Now, if we are to appreciate the Jewish community as it re-emerges in the pages of the New Testament, we need to look at their political development as well as their religious development.

Viewed politically, the course of the Jewish nation in Palestine reflects the history of the different world-empires which ruled Palestine. The one exception to this was the Maccabean revolt, which resulted for a short period of time in there being an independent Jewish government.

Jewish history during those 400 centuries between the Testaments runs in six periods:

  • The Persian
  • The Greek
  • The Egyptian
  • The Syrian
  • The Maccabean and
  • The Roman

The Persian Period (536-333 B.C.)

During the Graeco-Persian War in the 5th century B.C., King Xerxes (520-465 B.C.) invaded Greece in 481 B.C. with hundreds of thousands of infantry soldiers and an enormous naval fleet.
The Persians ultimately lost. One of the most famous battles during the subsequent war was between Xerxes’s army and the Greeks at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.

The Persian rule over Palestine, which commenced with the decree of Cyrus in 536 B.C. for the return of the Jewish Remnant, continued until 333 B.C., when Palestine fell under the power of Alexander the Great (the third of the Gentile world-empires foretold by Daniel).

During the Graeco-Persian War in the 5th century B.C., King Xerxes (520-465 B.C.) invaded Greece in 481 B.C. with hundreds of thousands of infantry soldiers and an enormous naval fleet. The Persians ultimately lost. One of the most famous battles during the subsequent war was between Xerxes’s army and the Greeks at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.

This means that at the end of the Book of Malachi the Jews were still under Persian rule, and remained so for about the first 60 years of the inter-Testament period.

Persian rule seems to have been tolerant. The high priest form of Jewish government was respected with the high priest being given an increasing degree of civil power in addition to his religious offices, of course he was responsible to the Persian governor of Syria.

The Greek Period (333-323 B.C.)

Alexander the Great is a phenomenon in history. Catapulted into leadership through the assassination of his father when he, Alexander, was but twenty years of age, and he transformed the face of the world, politically, in little more than a decade.

“He is the “notable horn” in the “he-goat” vision of Daniel” (Dan 8:1-7).

In his march on Jerusalem, he not only spared the city, but also offered sacrifice to Jehovah and had the prophecies of Daniel read to him concerning the overthrow of the Persian empire by a king of Grecia. (Dan 8:21.)

Thereafter he treated the Jews with respect and gave them full rights of citizenship with the Greeks in his new city, Alexandria, and in other cities.

This in return, created decidedly pro-Greek sympathies among the Jews, and, along with Alexander’s spreading of the Greek language and civilization, a Hellenistic spirit developed among the Jews which greatly affected their mental outlook afterward.

The Egyptian Period (323-204 B.C.)

This is the longest of the six periods of the inter-Testament period. The death of Alexander resulted in a period of time of confusion which was resolved by a four-fold break-up of Alexander’s empire under four generals: Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Cassander and Selenus.

These are the four “notable ones” which take the place of the “great horn,” as predicted in Dan 8:21-22.

After severe fighting, Judea, along with the rest of Syria fell to Ptolemy Soter, the first of the Greek kings to rule over Egypt. The beginning of the Ptolematic Dynasty.

For a time Ptolemy Soter dealt harshly with the Jews, but afterwards became just as friendly. His successor, Ptolemy Philadelphus, continued this favorable attitude. His reign is notable in that the famous Septuagint (Greek language) translation of the Old Testament Scriptures was made from the Hebrew onto the Greek language.

Ptolomy Soter, King of Egypt
Boyhood friend of Alexander the Great, whom he later served as such a devoted bodyguard that he even kidnapped Alexander’s body enroute to Macedonia.
He diverted it to Alexandrea, the first of Alexander’s many eponymous city foundations, to make the tomb become the focus of the Ptolemaic ruler cult he established in Egypt.

We see the importance of this when we realize that the Greek language had now become the language of the civilized world. The Jews were so numerous in Egypt and North Africa that such a translation had become a necessity. The Septuagint came into general use well before the birth of Jesus and was still in use during the time Jesus was on earth and was quoted by Jesus.

The Syrian Period (204-165 B.C.)

When Ptolemy Philopater (fourth Ptolemy) died, his successor, Ptolemy Epiphanies, was only five years old. Antiochus the Great seized his opportunity and in 204 B.C. invaded Egypt. Judea, with other territories, soon after became annexed to Syria and so passed under the rule of the Seleucidae. 

There are two points about this period. First, it was at this time that Palestine was divided into the five sections which we find in the New Testament. (Sometimes the first three of these collectively are called Judea.) These different provinces are:

  • Judea,
  • Samaria,
  • Galilee,
  • Perea,
  • Trachonitis.

Secondly, this Syrian period was the most tragic part of the inter-Testament era for the Jews of Judea. Antiochus the Great was harsh toward the Jews. So was his successor.

Yet the Jews in Judea were still permitted to live under their own laws, administered by the high priest and his council. But with the accession of Antiochus Epiphanies (175-164 B.C.) a “reign of terror” fell upon the Jews.

In 170 B.C. Jerusalem was plundered, the wall torn down, the temple desecrated, temple sacrifices were abolished, the Holy of Holies was stripped of its costly furniture, Jewish religion was banned, a pig was sacrificed on the altar and the Temple at Jerusalem was rededicated to Jupiter Olympus with a statue of Jupiter Olympus erected on the altar and the people were subjected to monstrous cruelties.

The Maccabean Period (165-63 B.C.)

This excessiveness by Antiochus provoked the Jews to revolt and resist.

Judas, known as Judas (Hebrew word for hammer), gathered around him a large army of guerilla fighters and after several victories assumed the offensive.

A representative from Antiochus IV called upon Mattathias to make the pagan sacrifice, but he refused.
When another of his townsmen stepped forward to do it, the aged priest struck him down. He also killed the king’s messenger and began to lead a revolution.
Mattathias died in 166 BC, and his son Judah, nicknamed Maccabeus (the hammer), took his place. He lead a war against the Syrian Greeks.
In spite of overwhelming odds the Jewish people gained an improbable victory. The temple was regained in 165 B.C. and rededicated.

Jerusalem was captured, the temple refurnished, and on 25th of December the anniversary of it being polluted three years earlier, the orthodox sacrifices were reinstituted (which date the Jews still observed as the Feast of the Dedication: (see Jn 10:22).

Judas Maccabeus also captured the chief posts up and down the land.

Antiochus contemplated revenge against Judas, but a defeat in Persia, in addition to the successive defeats in Jude,  seemed to have brought upon him a superstitious dread which developed into a fatal sickness. He is said to have died in a state of raving madness.

What seemed to be a deliverance proved to be the deadliest crisis to come. Antiochus’s son was very young. Lysias was the self-appointed Syrian regent. He invaded Judea with an army of 120,000 and defeated Judas and his army at Bethsura. 

Judas and his men retreated to Jerusalem which was placed under siege. But just when it seemed hopeless because of a rival regent at the Syrian capital, Lysias suddenly persuaded the young son of Antiochus to make peace with Judea – promising them the restoration of all their religious liberties. Thus the Maccabean revolt was crowned with success.

Further troubles arose later, however, from a new successor on the Syrian throne, Demetrius. During this period Judas Maccabeus was killed.

In 143 B.C. Simon, the brother of Judas assumed leadership of the army. He was able to capture all other Syrian strongholds in Judea and forced the Syrian garrison in the citadel at Jerusalem to surrender.

Thus Judea was freed of all alien troops; and from that time (about 142 B.C.) was once again under independent Jewish government. Except for one short lapse, this continued until Judea became a Roman province, in 63 B.C.

The Roman Period (63 B.C. onward)

The Herod family now appears on the scene. Antipater, the father of the Herod who reigned at the time of our Lord’s birth, managed to secure the support of Roman general Pompey to gain control of Judea.

Herod, 73/74 B.C. – 4 B.C., also known as Herod the Great and Herod I, was a Roman client king of Judea.
He has been described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis”, “the evil genius of the Judean nation”, “prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition” and “the greatest builder in Jewish history”.
He is known for his colossal building projects throughout Judea, including his expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (Herod’s Temple), the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima, the fortress at Masada and Herodium. Vital details of his life are recorded in the works of the 1st century C.E. Roman–Jewish historian Josephus.
Upon Herod’s death, the Romans divided his kingdom among three of his sons—Archelaus became ethnarch of the tetrarchy of Judea, Herod Antipas became tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, and Philip became tetrarch of territories east of the Jordan.
Matthew’s Gospel tells us that when King Herod learned about the birth of the Messiah, he tried to trick the wise men into serving as spies to help him murder Jesus. When that didn’t work, he killed all the male children in Bethlehem under two years old in a murderous effort to exterminate God’s anointed one (Matt 2:16).

The result was a siege of Jerusalem which lasted three months with Pompey taking the city. Pompey with disregard for the Temple strolled into the Holy of Holies – an action which at once estranged all loyal Jewish hearts toward the Roman. That was 63 B.C.

Pompey’s subjugation of Jerusalem ended the period of Judea’s regained independence. Judea now became a province of the Roman empire. The high priest was completely deprived of any royal status, and retained priestly function only.

The governing power was exercised by Antipater, who was appointed procurator of Judea by Julius Cesar in 47 B.C.

Antipater appointed Herod (his own son by marriage with Cypros, and Abrabian women) as governor of Galilee, when Herod was only fifteen years old. In about 40 B.C., after appealing to Rome, Herod was appointed king of the Jews.

Herod seeking to ingratiate himself with the Jews married Marianne, the granddaughter of a former high priest, and by making her brother Aristobulus high priest. He also greatly increased the splendor of Jerusalem, building the elaborate temple which was the center of Jewish worship in the time of our Lord.

However, he was as cruel and sinister as he was able and ambitious. He stained his hands with many murders. He slew all three of his wife’s brothers – Antigonus, Aristobulus and Hyrcanus.

Later he murdered even his wife. Again, later, he murdered his mother-in-law. And still later he murdered his own sons by Marianne. This is that “Herod the Great” who was king when our Lord was born.

Such then, in brief, is the political history of the Jews in Palestine during the 400 year period between Malachi and Matthew. 

Such then, in brief, is the political history of the Jews in Palestine during the 400 year period between Malachi and Matthew.  Yet, what they were doing then they are still doing today but worse and they are now global.

The Roman Empire was in full control during the time of the New Testament.

The Religious and Spiritual Development

You do not have to read far into the pages of the New Testament to realize that some great changes have come upon the Jews and the Jewish nation in Judea, since the last writer of the Old Testament laid down his pen.

The Sanhedrin was an ancient Jewish court system which was made up of 23 to 71 men, women were not allowed. The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme religious body in the Land of Israel during the time of the Holy Temple.
There was also smaller religious Sanhedrin in every town in the Land of Israel, as well as a civil political-democratic Sanhedrin, they existed until the abolishment of the rabbinic patriarchate in about 425 C.E.

It is not simply that Palestine has changed hands half a dozen times. There are new sects or parties: Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Herodians.

There are new institutions: Synagogues, Scribes, and the Sanhedrin.

These changes – the rise of these new sects and institutions, and the evolutions of Judaism (the evolving of the people and their religion around the Old Testament Scriptures into one and the same have come about during those 400 years between the Old Testament and the New.

This in itself shows the importance attached to the inter-Testament period. Let us now briefly look at these religious developments.

To begin with, if we are to understand in general the spirit and trend of the Jewish community during that stretch of centuries we must appreciate the profound impact made upon the nation by the Babylonian exile.

The Jews went into that exile with what seemed to be a hopelessly incurable infatuation for idolatry; the majority of them emerged from it and believed in the one true God.  Yet, once Jesus was born all hell broke loose because they defied Him. 

Therefore, as Jesus said, their true god is:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it (Jn 8:44).

I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan (Rev 2:9).

Baal, an idol god that was worshipped in many ancient Middle Eastern communities, especially among the Canaanites, who apparently considered him a fertility deity and one of the most important gods in the pantheon. He is still worshipped today and as of now, the time of this writing, you can buy him on eBay for $2,300, but if necessary you can make monthly payments. And the seller is in New York. What is happening to our country?

It is a fact, that 95-99% of the Jewish people worship foolish stone idols and by doing so, whether they realize it or not, they worship Satan himself.   You cannot worship the devil and Jesus:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And the Word was made flesh…(Jn 1:1, 14).

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh…(1 Tim 3:16).

You cannot worship God and Satan:

Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils (1 Cor 10:21).

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth (Rev 3:15-16).

Synagogue

The Law now became the standard of holiness and the symbol of nationality. Thus the rise of the local synagogue. For here the Scriptures were read and expounded by the scribes.

The basic idea of the synagogue was instruction in the Scriptures, not worship, even though an elaborate liturgical service developed later, with public prayers read by appointed persons, and responses made by the congregation.

Also, since the public reading of the Law had now to be by translation into the Aramaic tongue which the people learned in Babylonia (Neh. 8:8, where such translation is implied), the transition from translation to exposition and even to discourses was easy, though no doubt it took place gradually.

That such synagogue discourses were common in our Lord’s time is seen in such references as Matt 4:23, 9:35; Lk 4:15, 44; Acts 5:15, 14:1, 17:10, and 18:19.

Scribes

Who and what were the scribes? We read of scribes away back in Old Testament times, but they must be distinguished from that further order of scribes which developed during the inter-Testament period and had acquired such important status in our Lord’s time.

Ruins of the “White Synagogue” built upon the remains of the “Synagogue of Jesus”. Capernaum, Israel.

It is not difficult to see how, when once this new order of scribes came in, it rapidly gained great power. The very nature of this new Judaism was to make every Jew personally responsible for the keeping of the whole Law.

Therefore, “a definite rule” had somehow to be extracted from the Law to cover practically every activity of daily life. This endeavor to make the Law such a detailed code created a complex and sometimes acute problem.

To accomplish this, there had to be a body of trained experts, who made the study of the Law the great business of their lives.

Thus the scribes who we meet in the Gospel narratives were a class of professional experts in the interpretation and application of the Law and the other Old Testament Scriptures. In the Greek of the New Testament their usual title is the plural, grammateis, translated as “scribes.” Less frequently they are called “lawyers”, nomikoi.

Jesus Reproves the Scribes and Pharisees.
In the 1st century, scribes and Pharisees were two largely distinct groups, though presumably some scribes were Pharisees.
Scribes had knowledge of the law and could draft legal documents (contracts for marriage, divorce, loans, inheritance, mortgages, the sale of land, and the like).
Every village had at least one scribe. Pharisees were members of a party that believed in resurrection and in following legal traditions that were ascribed not to the Bible but to “the traditions of the fathers.”
The scribes and Pharisees explained the law of Moses, and enforced obedience to it. They are charged with hypocrisy in religion. We can only judge according to outward appearance; but God searches the heart.
Pride was the darling, reigning sin of the Pharisees, the sin that most easily beset them, and which our Lord Jesus takes all occasions to speak against.

It is with Ezra that the office of the scribe reaches a new dignity. In Neh 8:1-8 we see Ezra elevated in a pulpit, reading and expounding and applying the Law and with Levite assistants, “causing the people to understand the Law.”

And still today, those that practice Judaism live by the Law, not by Faith (faith and grace both mean belief in Jesus Christ).

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace (Rom 6:14).

It doesn’t matter if you believe in God as our creator, if you do not have faith in Jesus Christ you are under the law and therefore under Satan.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to Go must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Heb 11:1, 6).

And if you are under the law:

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword (the law) shall perish with the sword (Matt 26:52).

Pharisees

The Pharisees must be distinguished from the scribes. Again and again in the Gospel narratives they are mentioned in conjunction with the scribes, but although this reveals closeness of affinity it does not imply oneness of identity.

Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought in Judea during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty (140–37 B.C.) in the wake of the Maccabean Revolt.
After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., Pharisaic beliefs became the liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism (commonly known as simply Judaism).

The Pharisees were an ecclesiastical party, held together by their peculiar aims and views, whereas the scribes were a body of experts in a scholastic sense. Certainly a man might be both a Pharisee and a scribe; and the fact is, that practically all the scribes were Pharisees in outlook and association; yet the two fraternities were different from each other.

It was inevitable that the Pharisees should have much in common with the scribes, those specialist in the Written Law, and in the ever enlarging Oral Law (The Oral Law was that complex code of application of the Written Law to every area of one’s life and activities).

The origin of the Pharisees as a movement may be compared to a river which flows underground for some distance before coming to the surface and flowing visibly onwards. The spirit and attitudes of the Pharisees were present in post-exile Judaism long before the sect took its historical form under the name “Pharisees.”

The thing, however, that eventually crystallized them into a clique or sect was a body of Jews, primarily made up of the priests, whose goal and interest was the worldly aspects of religion and politics. These two groups provoked each other into existence. Thus we have the Pharisees on one side and the Sadducees on the other.

The Pharisees as a body were influential way beyond their numbers. According to Josephus the number of Pharisees in Herod’s time was only about 6,000. Yet, despite their small number, they had in fact such a hold on the popular mind that no governing power could afford to disregard them.

The mark of the Pharisee – the ritualist – is that he is always ADDING TO – He is not content with the written Word of God, and with the plain truth of the Gospel. He must start adding his own ideas and ordinances, until religion and salvation are a highly complicated matter.

This is just what the Pharisees did, until, with the weight of their accumulated religious ceremonies and observances, they made religion a burden too heavy for men to bear.

The Sadducees

The Sadducees seem to have been in the first instance neither a religious sect nor a political party, but a social clique. Numerically they were a much smaller body that the Pharisees, and belonged for the most part to the wealthy and influential priestly families who were the aristocrats of the Jewish nation.

The Sadducees were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century B.C. through the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.
The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. As a whole, the sect fulfilled various political, social, and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple.

The leaders of the party were the elders with seats in the council, the military officers, the statesmen, and officials who took part in the management of public affairs. With the mass of the people they never had much influence; like true aristocrats, they did not greatly care for it.

Their one ambition was to make themselves indispensable to the reigning prince, that they might conduct the government of the country according to their own views.

The Sadducees held, like most modern politicians, that the law of God had no application to politics. If Israel was to be made great and prosperous it must be by well-filled treasuries, strong armies, skillful diplomacy, and all the resources of human abilities.

To expect a Divine deliverance merely by making the people holy, they accounted as sheer and dangerous fatalism.

As a body they rejected totally the Oral Law accumulated by the scribes and held to by the Pharisees, and professed to stand by the Written Law alone; though, even their stand on the Written Law alone was done so with great skepticism.

Matthew 22:23 and Acts 23:8 show how skeptical was their attitude to the Written Law, for we are told that they denied the bodily resurrection, and did not believe either in angels or spirits.

Thus, we can understand how intolerable to such a group was the teaching of Jesus and His Messianic claims. Their hatred is measured by their readiness to consort even with the detested Pharisees in order to kill Him.

A Statue of Pontius Pilate
The fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from 26–36 A.D. He is best known as the judge at the trial of Jesus and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus. As prefect, he served under Emperor Tiberius.

It was the Sadducees, in fact, who were directly responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion (compare Lk 3:2; Jn 11:49, 18:13,14,24, 19:15; Mk 15:11).

The mark of the Sadducee – the rationalist – is that he is always TAKING FROM. He cannot accept the written Word of God in its entirety, nor the truth of the Gospel as it stands without drastic deletions.

Everything must be tried at the bar of human reason. This, that, and the other thing must be cut out to make faith reasonable and tenable. This was precisely the attitude of the Sadducee. He could not or rather would not, believe either in angels or demons, either in the resurrection of the dead or in any other miracle.

The Herodians

In Matt 22:16, Mk 3:6 and 12:13 we find yet another Jewish clique, namely, the Herodians.  There is no explicit information as to their original banding together, but their very name, of course, speaks of the role.

Whatever the religious preferences of its members may have been, the group as such was in no sense a religious cult or union. This is a political group and the leading aim of its members was to further the cause of the Herod government.

Whether they were directly connected to the Herod household or throne is mere conjecture, but obviously the ready seal of royal approval would be theirs.

We can well imagine that many would consider it sound policy to strengthen the hold of the Herod house on Jewish leaders and public. What could be wiser than to back the Herodian throne, which enjoyed the favor of Rome, and thus giving Judea the protection of that mighty empire?

The Herodian road from the second temple era The Herodian road down the western wall of the temple mount, Jerusalem. The Herodian Dynasty was a Judean dynasty of Idumaean/Edomite descent. Herodian dynasty began with Herod the Great, who assumed the throne of Judea, with Roman support, bringing down the century long Hasmonean Kingdom. His kingdom lasted until his death in 4 B.C., when it was divided between his sons as Tetrarchy, which lasted for about 10 years. Most of those kingdoms, including Judea proper, were incorporated into Judea Province in 6 CE, though limited Herodian kingship continued in Northern Levant until 92, when the last Herodian monarch, Agrippa II, died and Rome assumed full power of his domain.

Many would see in the Herods the one Jewish hope of separate national continuance; the one alternative to direct heathen rule. Others would be inclined to favor a blend of the ancient faith and Roman culture such as the first Herod and his successors had sought to effect as the highest consummation of Jewish hopes.

This group was hated by the Pharisees. The two parties were bitterly intolerant of each other, which makes the consorting of the Pharisees with the Herodians against our Lord all the more astonishing.

The mark of the Herodian – the secularist – he cared neither for adding to nor taking away from. Like the careless Galileo, he “cared for none of these things.”

The written Word of God, the message of the Gospel was far from his first concern. His prime consideration was the life that now is. What does it matter that a heathen Herod reigns on a throne made crimson with crime so long as material interests are furthered?

While the ritualist Pharisee was busy adding to, and the rationalist Sadducee was skeptically taking away from, the secularist Herodian was heedlessly passing by.

The Sanhedrin

There is one further Jewish institution which had its beginning during the inter-Testament period, which plays a big role in the Four Gospels: that is the Sanhedrin, quite often translated as “council”.

The Sanhedrin was the supreme civil and religious tribunal of the Jewish nation. The supreme judicial and administrative council of the Jewish people. With that representative body must lay forever the real responsibility for the crucifying of Jesus Christ.

Jesus stands before the Sanhedrin In the New Testament, Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin (a Jewish judicial body) following his arrest in Jerusalem and prior to his dispensation by Pontius Pilate. The trial is reported by all four gospels. Jesus is condemned by the Jewish authorities when he will not deny that he is the Son of God. The Jewish leaders did not have the authority to crucify Jesus so they demanded that the governor, Pontius Pilate approve of it and he did (Matt 27:11-26, Mk 15, Lk 23, and Jn 18:28-19:42).

The Sanhedrin consisted of 71 members, made up, so it would seem, of:

  • The high priest;
  • Twenty-four “chief priests” who represented all twenty-four orders of the whole priesthood;
  • Twenty-four “elders,” who represented the laity, often called “elders of the people”.

Twenty-two “scribes,” who were the expert interpreters of the law in matters both religious and civil.

Jesus Christ presumably had in mind the president and 70 senators of the Sanhedrin when He chose His 70 representatives and co-workers, as recorded in Luke 10., just as He had the twelve tribes of Israel in mind when He appointed the twelve apostles.

His choice of those 70 was prophetic perhaps, among other significances that the authority of that old-time Jewish court was indeed now passing away in favor of a new “70” under His own presidency.

The Common People

There is, yet, one very important aspect of the old-time Judaism which we must not on any account overlook. It is not only courts and schools and leaders and parties which compose a nation, but those thousands and thousands of individuals who are only known anonymously and collectively as “the common people.”

These common people, far removed from the pomp of earthly courts and the strife of factions and the heated atmosphere of political and religious fanaticism were waiting for the consolation of Israel.

And now at last as we enter into the New Testament and the long awaited Messiah.

 

Before the Bible

Before the Bible

Exactly when God first created the earth and put life on it is unknown.  Close to 100 years ago, astronomers and mathematicians calculated the existence of the earth to be 2 billion years, and life on earth to be 300 million years.  Through studies of the many sciences, most believe that the earth is around 4.5 billion years old.  This is actually of no importance, but it’s interesting to some.  All that’s important is God (Matt 6:33).

According to James Ussher (and I haven’t heard of any disagreements from anyone) the creation of us began in 4004 B.C. Genesis 1:1 says,

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” 

And Genesis 1:2 says, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God (the Holy Ghost) moved upon the face of the waters.” 

There are many that believe there was a wide gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

God made us in His own image and after his likeness (Gen 1:26), and that explains why there were others before us that were not quite like us, such as Neanderthal man (around 24,000-130,000 years ago). 

Neanderthals (or Neandertals) are our closest extinct human relatives. There is some debate as to whether they were a distinct species of the Homo genus (Homo neanderthalensis) or a subspecies of Homo sapiens. Our well-known, but often misunderstood, fossil kin lived in Eurasia 200,000 to 30,000 years ago, in the Pleistocene Epoch.

Neanderthals (or Neandertals) are our closest extinct human relatives.
There is some debate as to whether they were a distinct species of the Homo genus (Homo neanderthalensis) or a subspecies of Homo sapiens.
Our well-known, but often misunderstood, fossil kin lived in Eurasia 200,000 to 30,000 years ago, in the Pleistocene Epoch. Neanderthals’ appearance was similar to ours, though they were shorter and stockier with angled cheekbones, prominent brow ridges, and wide noses.
Though sometimes thought of as dumb brutes, scientists have discovered that they used tools, buried their dead and controlled fire, among other intelligent behaviors.
It is theorized that for a time, Neanderthals, humans and probably other Homo species shared the Earth.

Neanderthal man was thick-skulled and heavy-boned; he stooped forward and could not hold his head as erect as we do.  He was chinless and probably incapable of speech, he was very thick-set, not quite one of our species.  Yet, his brain-case was at least as large as ours, and there can be no dispute about his inclusion in the genus Homo. 

Many people believe in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, also recognized as Natural Selection or Survival of the Fitness.  But where did everything come from, the Big Bang?  Where did space come from so there could be a Big Bang?

Darwin’s Theory suggests that man evolved from an ameba to whatever up to the Neanderthal Man and on up to what we are today. 

Problem here is that Neanderthal Man, Paleolithic Man, and Cro-Man all became extinct.  Adam and Eve did not evolve from anything they were created by God.

We may not be the first beings created, but we are the first beings created in God’s likeness and after his image.  And not only that, to prove how much we mean to God, everything He created, besides us, he just spoke into existence.  He made us with His own hands and breathed life into us (Gen 2:7).

Archaeology and the Bible

The data recovered from archaeological excavations can be used by the biblical scholar in many ways.  Archaeology has provided the basic chronology for both the Old and New Testaments. Our knowledge of the biblical languages – Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek – has greatly increased through ancient texts discovered in excavations. 

Entire civilizations mentioned in the Bible have been resurrected by the work of the archaeologist.  Occasionally archaeology has provided data that has clarified the meaning of a biblical text. The meaning of the term Millo in 2 Samuel 5:9 formerly puzzled scholars.  Discovery of a vast stone terrace that supported structures in David’s Jerusalem – the “millo” – makes clear what the ancient term meant.

Stratigraphy and Typology

Excavation proceeds on a scientific basis by employing the twin principles of stratigraphy and typology.  Stratigraphy refers to the different layers or strata that make up the tell (areas built up by successive settlement at a single site).

Archaeologists have found one of the oldest artifacts of Jewish culture on the Iberian Peninsula. This marble plate has a Hebrew inscription, “Yehiel”, at an excavation site in the south of Portugal and it is believed to be a tomb slab.

The first task of field work is to untangle the different layers found in the tell and establish a stratigraphic sequence.  Each layer represents a separate part of the site’s overall history and must be distinguished from other layers to avoid confusion.

Archaeologists normally excavate in 5 x 5 meter squares and leave a catwalk or balk either of 1/2 or 1 meter unexcavated along the perimeter.  The balk reveals the different layers to the trained eye.  All objects and remains recovered from each layer are kept separate, their exact locations carefully noted.

During the last forty years, greater emphasis has been given to the principle of stratigraphy, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Kathleen Kenyon, resulting in greater precision and more accurate results.

Perhaps most importantly, archaeology has brought the biblical world to life and allowed us to understand it on its own terms.  The illustrative value offered by archaeology cannot be overemphasized.  Through archaeology the biblical text and the world in which it was written have been given flesh by the dedication of countless excavators working on thousands of ancient sites.

Archaeology: Recovering Ancient Societies

King David’s Palace and the Millo The Millo was the Stepped Stone Structure.

Since about 1860, the archaeologist has provided a wealth of material enriching biblical studies. The remains of long-dead civilizations and forgotten cities have given life to the biblical text. We’re in a much better position than ever before to understand the Bible and its world.

The Old Testament is not in an exact chronological order, meaning that many of the incidents that happen are mentioned in more than one book and/or different events occur in the same time frame so that the years/books may cross one another. 

Or the books may just be out of place, for example, it appears that Job lived during the Book of Genesis, but the Book of Job is the 18th book of the Bible. 

I’m not going to change the order of the books of the Bible, and following the Bible isn’t difficult, but placing historical facts in the right place, without repeating myself, will be impossible in many places. 

Assyria, a major Mesopotamian kingdom and empire of the ancient Near East, existed as an independent state from perhaps as early as the 25th century BC, until its collapse between 612 BC and 599 BC, spanning the mid to Early Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age.
From the end of the 7th century BC to the mid-7th century AD, it survived as a geopolitical entity, for the most part ruled by foreign powers, although the Neo-Assyrian Empire and successor states arose at different times during the Parthian and early Sasanian Empires between the mid-second century BC and late third century AD, a period which also saw Assyria become a major center of Syriac Christianity and the birthplace of the Church of the East.
Centered on the Tigris in Upper Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and the northwestern fringes of Iran), the Assyrians came to rule powerful empires at several times.
A substantial part of the greater Mesopotamian “cradle of civilization”, which included Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, and Babylonia, Assyria was at the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements for its time. At its peak, the Assyrian empire stretched from Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea to Iran, and from what is now Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus, to the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and eastern Libya.

Therefore, instead of being redundant I will separate the historical facts within different books of the Bible.  For example, the Assyrians were quite active for many, many years.  They’re mentioned in Genesis, Kings, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Zephaniah. 

Yet, they also play a part with the Philistines, Israel, Judah, Babylon, and others.  Therefore, I will try and place the facts where they best fit.

Some of these, let me call them, historical plates will be quite lengthy, but I will try and keep them short and in sync with what you just read, or in some cases, what you are about to read, in the Bible, but I’m not God, I cannot put a square in the corner of a circle.

This isn’t my scheme, but God’s.  And I’m not trying to get your attention, God is.  If you aren’t right with Jesus when He comes back and you end up going to Hell, I won’t cry over it because I won’t have any recollection of this life (Is 65:17-18), but God will, you can count on that (Eze 33:11; 2 Pet 3:9).  Wouldn’t you cry if your child died?

Jesus returns

Book of Revelation

Business and management writer Peter Druck said, “Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.”

Patmos is a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea, most famous for being the location of both the vision of and the writing of the Christian Bible’s Book of Revelation. One of the northernmost islands of the Dodecanese complex, it has a population of 2,998 and an area of 13.15 sq mi (34.05 km). The highest point is Profitis Ilias, 883 feet (269 m) above sea level. The Municipality of Patmos, which includes the offshore islands of Arkoi (pop. 44), Marathos (pop. 5), and several uninhabited islets, has a total population of 3,047 (2011 census) and a combined land area of 17.390 sq mi (45.039 sq km). It is part of the Kalymnos regional unit. Patmos’ main communities are Chora (the capital city), and Skala, the only commercial port. Other settlements are Grikou and Kampos. The churches and communities on Patmos are of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The current mayor of Patmos is Grigoris Kamposos.

None of us knows what tomorrow holds, but the Lord Jesus Christ, Alpha and Omega, knows the end from the beginning, and in the book of Revelation He tells how history will conclude.

It’s true that Revelation is full of apocalyptic visions, but the very title of the book implies God wants to reveal His plans to us.

A special blessing is promised those who study this book, and without it our lives would be incomplete.

The apostle John received Revelation while exiled on the Island of Patmos. The immediate recipients were seven churches in Asia Minor.

After an opening introduction in chapter 1, and exhortations to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3, the writer launched  into chapter after chapter of vivid descriptions of the events of the Great Tribulation, leading to the dramatic moment of Christ’s return in chapter 19 and a tour of our eternal home at the end of the book.

The book of Revelation tells us that regardless of what happens in life – no matter how depressing the news or difficult the times – life in Christ has a happy ending for those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, who pray: Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Key Thought:

God has a plan for the future and for eternity. Regardless of what happens in life, no matter how depressing or difficult the news, life in Christ has a happy ending for those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Key Verse:

“And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him” (Rev 22:3).

In September 2008, the municipality of Patmos refused landing to a group of undocumented refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq. On the weekend of September 19, 2008, about 134 refugees were rescued at sea. The refugees were taken to Patmos, the nearest municipality, for processing and care. The administration refused them permission to land. Eventually they were sent to the Island of Leros where they were processed and given humanitarian aid.

Key Action:

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17).

 

Book of Jude

Tyre was founded around 2750 B.C. according to Herodotus and was originally built as a walled city upon the mainland.
Phoenicians from Tyre settled in houses around Memphis, south of the temple of Hephaestus in a district called the Tyrian Camp.
Tyre’s name appears on monuments as early as 1300 B.C. In Jesus’s time the city was particularly known for the production of a rare and extraordinarily expensive sort of purple dye, produced from the murex shellfish, known as Tyrian purple (Acts 16:14).
This color was, in many cultures of ancient times, reserved for the use of royalty, or at least nobility. Jesus visited the region of Tyre and Sidon and healed a Gentile (Matt 15:21; Mk 7:24) and from this region many came forth to hear him preaching (Mk 3:8; Lk 6:17, Matt 11:21–23).
A congregation was founded here soon after the death of Saint Stephen, and Paul the Apostle, on his return from his third missionary journey, spent a week in conversation with the disciples there.

A recent book about backpacking in Canada warns us to purchase accurate maps before hiking in remote areas. Several travelers have died by following hastily printed maps with erroneous data.

Doctrine is the roadmap of life, and the New Testament writers vigorously warned against following faulty teachers. The tragedy of such heresy is the theme of the small book of Jude.

Jude grew up in the carpenter’s family of Joseph and Mary. He was the half-brother of the Lord Jesus. He became a leader in the early church and apparently wanted to write a book about what he called “our common salvation.”

But the spread of false doctrine caused him to change subject matter and appeal to God’s people to stay alert, to contend for the truth, and to keep themselves spiritually and theologically strong.

This brief letter divides into three parts.

  • The first section exhorts God’s people to contend for the faith.

  • The second section warns against destructive teachers.

  • The final part urges us to stand firm in truth and love.

According to Jude, we’re to explain and defend the Gospel as best we can while humbly rooted in the knowledge, love, and practice of the truth.

In today’s world, heresy spreads with the click of a button or the turn of a knob. We must follow Jude’s call to be built up in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and to contend earnestly for the integrity of the faith entrusted to the saints.

Key Thought:

God’s people must defend the doctrines of the faith by preserving biblical truth, battling heresy, and humbly standing up for the Good News.

Key Verses:

“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,

Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21).

Today it is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and houses one of the nation’s major ports. Tourism is a major industry. The city has a number of ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome.

Key Action:

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

Book of 3 John

Damascus is where Paul was going to persecute Christians when Jesus spoke to him (Acts 9). Today it is the capital and the second-largest city of Syria after Aleppo prior to the civil war. It is now most likely the largest city of Syria, due to the decline of Aleppo because of the ongoing battle for the city. It is commonly known in Syria as ash-Sham and nicknamed as the City of Jasmine.

Dr. A. W. Tozer pointed out that a hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork will automatically be tuned to each other.

In the same way when each of God’s workers is tuned to Christ we’ll be in harmony with one another. But beware the discordant note.

One of the joys of being a pastor, as I’ve been for many years, is watching how harmoniously God’s people labor side-by-side for His kingdom.

One of my sorrows is seeing how one person with a personal agenda, jealous spirit, or harsh personality, can disrupt the work.

The apostle John faced the same thing as he wrote 3 John. He expressed gratitude for those working alongside his friend Gaius, and he encouraged them to show continued hospitality toward traveling workers.

But John expressed dismay at one man,

Diotrephes, who loved attention, sowed discord, and turned away John’s emissaries.

In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major cultural and religious center of the Levant. The city has an estimated population of 1,711,000 as of 2009. Doesn’t look bad here from a distance, and even up close, but then again…

This short letter, small enough to be written on a single parchment, tells us that those who selflessly support the Lord’s work are to be commended, but those serving Satan’s agenda, particularly if they infiltrate the church, must be confronted.

God wants you to be a Gaius, not a Diotrephes. Maybe He doesn’t intend for you to preach before an entire congregation, but He wants you to support those who do.

We each have a place in God’s work; and as we labor in harmony and mutual support, we’re walking in truth, and that brings joy to the whole church.

Key Thought:

Those who selflessly support the Lord’s cause are to be commended; those who don’t must be confronted.

Key Verses:

“For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.

One of the rare periods the Barada river is high, seen here next to the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Damascus

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 Jn 1:3-4).

War hasn’t scared civilians away.

Key Action:

Diligently encourage God’s work and show hospitality to His workers.

Book of 2 John

Khirbat Karraza was a Jewish town known as Chorazin in the 1st century C.E.
The town was partially destroyed in the 4th century, possibly as a result of an earthquake.
Khirbat Karraza was populated by the Zanghariyya Bedouin tribe and the village contained a shrine for a local Muslim saint, al-Shaykh Ramadan.
The villagers used to store grain close to the shrine, certain that nobody would steal it and thereby violate the sanctity of the shrine.

A strange thing has happened to the concept of “tolerance.” It once meant we accepted the fact other people had a right to their own views, even if those views were different from ours, and even if they were wrong. But culture now defines tolerance as accepting all other views as being equally valid to our own.

The Bible proclaims an objective truth and an exclusive Gospel. As a result, Christians are sometimes accused of being unloving and intolerant. The message of 2 John is: We should love one other deeply, but we cannot tolerate error and evil in our homes or churches.

John addressed this short note to a woman and her children, which metaphorically may indicate a church and its members. He reminded them of the command, both old and new, to love one another. But in plain language he also warned his readers to reject the false teachers who were traveling about.

Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge Christ as coming in the flesh, John said, is a deceiver and an antichrist. We mustn’t accept such people, he wrote,

“For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 Jn 1:11).

What a vital balance! We’re to be loving, but discerning. Every day we come face-to-face with a world God loves; but we also daily encounter a world in which we must stand for the truth. Only John could have articulated such a delicate balance, and only 2 John explains it so concisely and plainly.

Key Thought:

Khirbat Karraza was a Palestinian Arab village in the Safad Subdistrict.
It was depopulated during the 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine on May 4, 1948 by the Palmach’s First Battalion of Operation Yiftach.
It was located 5.2 miles (8.5 km) southeast of Safad.

While we must love one another deeply, we cannot tolerate error and evil in our churches.

Key Verse:

“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” (2 Jn 1:9).

Key Action:

“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (2 Jn 1:8). 

Book of 1 John

Chorazin was an ancient village in northern Galilee, 2½ miles (4 km) from Capernaum on a hill above the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Chorazin is now the site of a National Archaeological Park. Extensive excavations and a survey were carried out in 1962-1964. Excavations at the site were resumed in 1980-1987.
The site is an excavated ruin today, but was inhabited starting in the 1st century. It is associated with modern-day Kerazeh.

In a world of complexity, people crave simplicity.  Retailers use simple slogans to sell us products, and the best teachers make complicated issues as simple as ABC.

Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple Computers, said, “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean, to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there you can move mountains.”

That describes 1 John. It’s deep as the ocean, yet simple enough for anyone to read with benefit. John didn’t write in a linear way, so his book is hard to outline. But its circular style corresponds to the way we live and learn.

John emphasized a number of subjects – love, light, knowledge, life – and kept circling back to them throughout his letter.

He presents Jesus as the Son of God who came in the flesh. Those who reject Him are heretics, antichrists, and liars. Those who receive Him are children of light with assurance of everlasting life. It’s as simple as that, and as certain.

The purpose of 1 John is stated at the end of the letter:

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn 5:13).

The majority of the structures are made from black basalt, a volcanic rock found locally.
The main settlement dates to the 3rd and 4th centuries. A mikvah, or ritual bath, was also found at the site. The handful of olive millstones used in olive oil extraction found suggest a reliance on the olive for economic purposes, like a number of other villages in ancient Galilee.

Christian living isn’t easy, but it is simple and certain – a matter of staying in the light, walking with Jesus, confessing sins, loving others, and knowing we have eternal life. That’s the wonderful message of 1 John.

Key Thought:

Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh. Those who reject Him have the spirit of antichrist. Those who receive Him are children of light with the assurance of everlasting life.

Key Verse:

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn 5:13).

Key Action:

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16).

Book of 2 Peter

Nazareth is the capital and the largest city in the Northern District of Israel.
Nazareth is known as “the Arab capital of Israel”. The population is made up predominantly of Israeli Arabs, almost all of whom are either Muslim (69%) or Christian (30.9%).
In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events.

If you were dying but had the opportunity of writing a final letter to friends, what would you say? That’s a heavy question, but it helps us understand 2 Peter.

Knowing his remaining time was short, Peter wrote this letter, probably from Rome, as he neared the time of his martyrdom.

Had you been Peter, what would you have written? Perhaps you’d want to give a reminder of your core beliefs, then you might leave instructions about a critical issue, finally you’d focus on the joy of Christ’s return.

That’s exactly what Peter did in the three chapters of his letter.

  • In chapter 1, he affirmed that God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness, and we must diligently grow in these virtues.

  • In chapter 2, he warned us against false teachers who speak with great swelling words of emptiness.

  • He concluded with chapter 3 devoted to the Lord’s return, when heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat.

In light of this what sort of people ought to be? We should be people who are known, Peter said, by our holy conduct and godliness, as we look for and hasten the coming of our Lord.

Caesarea Philippi: remnants of the temple of Pan with Pan’s grotto. The white-domed shrine of Nabi Khadr shows in the background.

Key Thought:

While awaiting our Lord’s return, we must stand on His great and precious promises, which provide all we need for life and godliness.

Key Verse:

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Pet 1:10). 

Key Action:

“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Pet 3:14).

Book of 1 Peter

Nazareth is the capital and the largest city in the Northern District of Israel. Nazareth is known as “the Arab capital of Israel”.
The population is made up predominantly of Israeli Arabs, almost all of whom are either Muslim (69%) or Christian (30.9%).
In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events.

If someone had the capacity to retain everything he read, of remembering every fact and date, of summoning to mind every particle of learning; if he could tell you the answer to every question on every exam and provide every statistic known to man, he still would have nothing valuable to say without one other component, experience.

That’s why we read 1 Peter with such interest. Simon Peter was one of our Lord’s original followers and he experienced every dimension of discipleship, both good and bad.

  • He’d been on the mountaintop with Christ,

  • Had walked to Him on the water,

  • Had fled from Him at the cross, and

  • Had served Him in the early Church.

In 1 Peter, the old fisherman drew from a lifetime of experience to tell us how to conduct ourselves as pilgrims and strangers in the world.

Peter hit several themes in his letter, including:

  • Our conduct,

  • The power of grace,

  • The importance of submission and

  • Separation, and the role of tribulation in life.

    Nazareth Illit (“Upper Nazareth”) is built alongside old Nazareth, and had a Jewish population of 40,312 in 2014.
    In 1954, 1,200 dunams of Nazareth’s land, which had been slated for future urban expansion by the municipality, was confiscated by state authorities for the construction of government offices.
    In 1957, for the construction of the Jewish town of Nazareth Illit. The latter was built as a way for the state to counterbalance the Arab majority in the region.
    In 1958 May Day rally where marchers demanded that refugees be allowed to return to their villages, an end to land confiscations, and self-determination for Palestinians. Several young protesters were arrested for throwing stones at security forces. Martial law ended in 1966. As of the early 1990s, no city plans drafted by Nazareth Municipality have been approved by the government (both the British Mandate and later Israel) since 1942.
    In the 1980s, the government began attempts to merge the nearby village of Ilut with Nazareth, although this move was opposed by residents from both localities and the Nazareth Municipality.
    In 1991, Ilut was designated by the Interior Ministry as a separate local council.
    In 1997, permission was granted to construct a paved plaza to handle the thousands of Christian pilgrims expected to arrive. A small group of Muslims protested and occupied the site. Government approval of plans for a large mosque on the property triggered protests from Christian leaders.
    In 2002, a special government commission permanently halted construction of the mosque.
    In March 2006, public protests followed the disruption of a prayer service by an Israeli Jew and his Christian wife and daughter, who detonated firecrackers inside the church. The family said it wanted to draw attention to their problems with the welfare authorities.
    In July 2006 a rocket fired by Hezbollah as part of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict killed two children in Nazareth.
    In March 2010, the Israeli government approved a $3 million plan to develop Nazareth’s tourism industry.

Much of his letter is written with suffering in mind, teaching us how to respond when grieved by various trials. We’re to commit ourselves to God, to follow in the footsteps of Christ, and to give others an answer for the hope within us.

Peter’s letter is a reminder for Christian pilgrims to look at their passports occasionally so we’ll remember we’re citizens of another kingdom, purchased by the blood of Jesus, and headed toward an inheritance that can never fade away.

Key Thought:

Suffering is an opportunity to walk in our Lord’s steps and live as pilgrims in a pagan world.

Key Verse:

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet 4:12-13). 

Key Action:

 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet 3:15).