Mark 16 – The Resurrection of Jesus & The Ending of Mark

This is the end of the Book of Mark so tomorrow we’ll being with…

Mark 16
The Resurrection of Jesus

1 And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

“Sabbath was past” – about 6:00 p.m. Saturday evening.  No purchases were possible on the Sabbath.

“Spices” – embalming wasn’t practiced by the Jews.  These spices were brought as an act of devotion and love.

“That they might come and anoint him” – the women had no expectations of Jesus’ resurrection.

2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.

3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?

“Who shall roll us away the stone…? – setting the large stone in place was a relatively easy task, but once it had slipped into the groove cut in bedrock in front of the entrance it was very difficult to remove, as it probably weighed several hundred pounds.

4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

5 And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

“He is risen” – the climax of Mark’s Gospel is the resurrection, without which Jesus’s death, though noble, would be indescribably tragic.  But in the resurrection He is declared to be the Son of God with power (Rom 1:4).

7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulcher; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they anything to any man; for they were afraid.

9  Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

16:12-13 – a shortened account of the two going to Emmaus.

13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

“Eleven” – Judas Iscariot had committed suicide (Matt 27:5).

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” – the Great Commission is found here and in all the Gospels (Matt 28:19-20; Lk 24:47-48; Jn 20:21), and in Acts 1:8.

Jesus’ final words are our “marching orders.”  They are important because apart from believing the gospel of Christ no one shall enter heaven (Jn 3:36; Rom 1:18).

16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

“Baptized” – baptism does not save, nor is it required for salvation.  Notice that in order to be “damned” one has only not to “believe.”  Nothing is said about not being baptized.  All the believers in the book of Acts are referred to as being baptized.

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

20 And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

The Ending of Mark

There are several different endings to the Gospel of Mark found in the various Greek manuscripts.

Codex Bezae facsimile page of Mark 16:6-15.

Most Greek texts and several ancient translations conclude with the ending familiar to us as Mark 16:9-20. The earnest Greek manuscript with that ending is from the 5th century, but evidence from the church fathers suggests that it was already in existence during the 2nd century.

Many scholars feel, however, that the vocabulary and themes of the traditional ending are inconsistent with the rest of the Gospel.

In the two oldest Greek manuscripts and in a number of ancient versions, Mark’s Gospel ends at 16:8.

Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of any ending of this Gospel account beyond verse 8, and Eusebius and Jerome affirm that nearly all Greek manuscripts known to them were concluded with this verse.

Most scholars believe that this is indeed the point at which the original Gospel probably ended and suggest that the other endings very likely developed during the 2nd century, after the Gospel of Mark was read alongside the other Gospels and appeared, by comparison, to lack a satisfactory conclusion.

Original Ending of Mark Found! (sort of)

Despite its abruptness, Mark 16:8 is arguably an appropriate ending for the Gospel, since one of its motifs is the fear caused by God’s powerful work in and through Jesus (see, e.g., 5:15,33; 9:6).

The women’s fear suggests that God had performed one more climactic, powerful work, confirming the testimony of the empty tomb and the angelic announcement that Jesus had indeed arisen from the dead, just as he had promised (8:31; 9:9,31; 10:34).

…the Book of Luke.

Mark 15 – Jesus Before Pontius Pilate & The Shroud of Turin Controversy

Archaeologists have found skeletons that are over a million years old, but would it be possible for clothes to last over 2,000 years? 

Archaeologists have unearthed six ancient skeletons dating back 1.8 million years in the hills of Georgia.
The Georgian bones – which include incredibly well preserved skulls and teeth – are the earliest humans ever found outside Africa.

I would have to say that wouldn’t be very likely.  Yet, in regards to clothing that Jesus wore, certainly because Jesus was and is life.

Remember the lady with the blood disease, how when she touched His garment He knew someone touched Him because power was taken out of His body (Mk 5:21-33).

Everything about Jesus is mysterious and powerful, his touch can heal or even rejuvenate.

Tomorrow we’ll read the last chapter of the Book of Mark and…

Mark 15
Jesus Before Pontius Pilate

1 And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.

“Straightway in the morning” – the working day of a Roman official began at daylight.

Even in Death We Do Not Part.
At Mantua, in an amazing echo of that heartrending story, archaeologists revealed the discovery of a couple locked in a tender embrace, one that has endured for more than 5,000 years.

“Morning” – Friday of Passion Week.

“Held a consultation” – apparently to accuse Jesus before the civil authorities for reason rather than blasphemy (see Lk 23:1-14).

“Pilate” – the Roman governor of Judea from 25 to 36 A.D., whose official residence was in Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast.  (In 1961 archaeologists working at Caesarea unearthed a stone contemporary with Pilate and inscribed with his name).

When he came to Jerusalem, he stayed in the magnificent palace built by Herod the Great, located west and a little south of the temple area.  Mark uses the Latin word “Pretorium” to indicate this palace in v. 16, and it was here that the Roman trial of Jesus took place.

2 And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.

“Pilate asked him” – judgment in a Roman court was the sole responsibility of the imperial magistrate.

3 And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.

A late 19th-century photograph of the Chapel of the Shroud

4 And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.

“Answerest thou nothing” – if Jesus made no defense, according to Roman law, Pilate would have to pronounce against Him.

5 But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marveled.

6 Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

7 And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.

“Barabbas” – probably a member of the Zealots, a revolutionary Jews group.

“Insurrection” – nothing from other sources is known about this insurrection, or uprising, though Mark speaks of it as if it were well known.  Under the Roman prefects such revolts were common (see Lk 13:1).

8 And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.

9 But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

10 For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.

11 But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.

12 And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?

Full length negatives of the shroud.

13 And they cried out again, Crucify him.

14 Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.

15 And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

“Scourged” – the Romans used a whip made of several strips of leather into which were embedded (near the ends) pieces of bone and lead. 

The Jews limited the number of stripes to a maximum of 40 (in practice to 39 in case of a miscount), but no such limitation was recognized by the Romans, and victims of Roman floggings often didn’t survive.

16 And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.

“Pretorium” – the word was used originally of a genera’s tent, or of the headquarters in a military camp.

“The whole band” – the soldiers quartered in the Pretorium were recruited from non-Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Land and assigned to the military governor.

17 And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,

“Purple” – probably an old military cloak whose color suggested royalty.

“Crown of thorns” – made of a prickly plant (the Greek word means simply “briers”), of which there are many in the Holy Land.  Both robe and crown were parts of the mock royal attire placed on Jesus.

18 And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!

Station biologique de Roscoff in Brittany, France where the first scientific analysis of the photographs of the shroud was performed by Yves Delage in 1902.

19 And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.

20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.

21 And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.

“A Cyrenian” – Cyrene was an important city of Libya in North Africa that had a large Jews population.

“Alexander and Rufus” – only mentioned by Mark, but referred to in such a way as to suggest that they were known by those to whom Mark wrote.  Rufus may be the same person spoken of in Rom 16:13.  Otherwise, who would care to know the names of this man’s children?

“Bear his cross” – men condemned to death were usually forced to carry a beam of the ross, often weighing 30 or 40 pounds, to the place of crucifixion.  Jesus started out by carrying His (Jn 19:17), but He had been so weakened by flogging that Simon was pressed into service.

22 And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.

17th-century Russian icon of the Mandylion by Simon Ushakov.

“Place of a skull” – it may have been a small hill (though the Gospels say nothing of a hill) that looked like a skull, or it may have been so named because of the many executions that took place there.

23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.

24 And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.

“Crucified” – a Roman means of execution in which the victim was nailed to a cross.  Heavy, wrought-iron nails were driven through the wrists and the heel bones.  If the life of the victim lingered too long, death was hastened by breaking his legs (Jn 19:33).

Archaeologists have discovered the bones of a crucified man, near Jerusalem, dating between 7 and 66 A.D., which shed light on the position of the victim when nailed to the cross. 

Only slaves, the basest of criminals, and offenders who were not Roman citizens were executed in this manner.  First century authors vividly describe the agony and disgrace of being crucified.

25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

A poster advertising the 1898 exhibition of the shroud in Turin.
Secondo Pia’s photograph was taken a few weeks too late to be included in the poster. The image on the poster includes a painted face, not obtained from Pia’s photograph.

26 And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

“His accusation” – it was customary to write the charge on a wooden board that was carried before the victim as he walked to the place of execution, and then the board was affixed to the cross above his head.  THE KING OF THE JEWS.

The wording of the charge differs slightly in the Gospels, but all agree that Jesus was crucified for claiming to be the king of the Jews.

27 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.

“Two thieves” – according to Roman law, robbery was not a capital offense.  Mark’s term must signify men guilty of insurrection, crucified for high treason.

28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.

Mark doesn’t include many Old Testament quotations, writing as he is for a non-Jewish audience, but these words are from Is 53:12.

29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,

30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross.

31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.

32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.

“They that were crucified with him” – one of the criminals later repented and asked to be included in Jesus kingdom (Lk 23:39-43).

The Garden Tomb is believed by many to be the garden and sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea, but it’s not for certain.
The Garden is owned and administered by The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, a Christian non-denominational charitable trust based in the United Kingdom.
The Garden Tomb is an alternative site to the famous Holy Sepulchre for you to consider the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

33 And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The words were spoken in Aramaic, but with some Hebrew characteristics, one of the languages commonly spoken in the Holy Land in Jesus’ day.  They reveal how deeply Jesus felt His abandonment by God as He bore the sins of mankind.

35 And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias.

“Elias” – the bystanders mistook the first words of Jesus’s cry (“Eloi, Eloi”) to be a cry for Elijah.  It was commonly believed that Elijah would come in times of critical need to protect the innocent and rescue the righteous.

36 And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down.

37 And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a Christian church within the walled Old City of Jerusalem. The ground on which the church stands is venerated by most Christians as where Jesus was crucified. It is said to also contain the place where Jesus was buried (the sepulchre). The church has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century.

“The loud voice and gave up the ghost” – the strength of the cry indicates that Jesus didn’t die the ordinary death of those crucified who normally suffered long periods of complete agony,  exhaustion and then unconsciousness before dying.

38 And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

“Vail of the temple” – the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place (Ex 26:31-33).  The tearing of the curtain indicated that Christ had entered heaven itself for us so that we too may now enter God’s very presence (Heb 9:8-10, 12, 10:19-20).

39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

40 There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;

41 (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.

42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,

43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

“Arimathaea” – see note on Matt 27:57.

“Kingdom of God” – see note on Matt 3:2.

“Craved the body of Jesus” – He wanted to give Jesus’ a decent burial.  Many criminals didn’t receive such.

44 And Pilate marveled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.

“Marveled” – crucified men often lived two or three days before dying and the early death of Jesus was therefore extraordinary.

45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

“He gave the body to Joseph” – the release of the body of one condemned for high treason and especially to one who was not an immediate relative, was quite usually.

46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulcher.

“Sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock” – Matthew tells us that the tomb belonged to Joseph and that it was new, i.e., it had not been used before (Matt 27:60).  The location of the tomb was in a garden very near the site of the crucifixion (see Jn 19:41).

There is archaeological evidence that the traditional site of the burial of Jesus (the Church of the Holy Sepulture in Jerusalem) was a cemetery during the 1st century A.D.  

However, there is also good evidence that the “Garden Tomb” was also used in the 1st century and that an early church was once constructed over the site as well.

47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.

The Shroud of Turin Controversy

No other artifact in the history of scholarship has been the subject of as much debate and study as the Shroud of Turin. This piece of linen cloth is said to bear the front and rear images of a man apparently crucified in Roman fashion. 

His injuries correspond to those suffered by Jesus. Proponents argue that this is the actual burial cloth of Christ, while opponents see to it as a clever hoax.

The History of the Shroud

The Shroud of Turin: modern photo of the face, positive left, negative right. Negative has been contrast enhanced.

The Shroud of Turin or Turin Shroud (Italian: Sindone di Torino) is a length of linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion.

There is no consensus yet on exactly how the image was created, and it is believed by some to be the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth, despite radiocarbon dating placing its origins in the Medieval period.[1] The image is much clearer in black-and-white negative than in its natural sepia color.

The basic historical details, as we know them, are as follows:

– The shroud’s first known appearance was in France in the 1350s.The original owner died in 1356 without having revealed where or how he had acquired the cloth.

– A fire in 1532 damaged the cloth, and repair patches were added.

– It has been housed in Turin since 1578.

– Some theorize that the shroud is the same as the Mandylion, a sacred relic of Constantinople that was said to have borne the divine and miraculous imprint of Jesus’ face.

The Mandylion is said to have been discovered in 525 in Edessa in eastern Turkey. It found its way to the Byzantine capital in 944 A.D.

The shroud disappeared from Constantinople in 1204, when a crusader army looted the city. The leaders of the expedition were French, which could explain the shroud’s westward journey.

Basic Facts About the Shroud

The shroud is a swath of linen cloth measuring 14 feet 3 inches  by 3 feet 7 inches. The figure on the cloth is naked, with hands folded across the pelvic area. He is bearded and between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 1 inch in height. The cloth bears a number of extraordinary features:

– It’s purple stains may be from blood.

– Potsherds or coins may have covered the eyes. Some argue that the outline of a coin from the time of Pontius Pilate is present, but the fabric is so coarse and the image so unclear that substantiation is difficult.

– The image is barely visible up close, and only a rough outline can be discerned by standing farther away. However, when photographed and viewed in negative, the shroud reveals a clear image, formed in such a way that a three-dimensional reconstruction of the man’s appearance is possible.

Full-length image of the Turin Shroud before the 2002 restoration.
The origins of the shroud and its image are the subject of intense debate among theologians, historians and researchers.

Scientific and popular publications have presented diverse arguments for both authenticity and possible methods of forgery. A variety of scientific theories regarding the shroud have since been proposed, based on disciplines ranging from chemistry to biology and medical forensics to optical image analysis.

– The image, on the very surface of the cloth only, is said to be no more than two fibrils (filaments or fibers) deep.

– It was not painted on. Rather, some of the threads were themselves changed to produce the image. Adherents suggest that at the moment of the resurrection Jesus’ body radiated energy and fixed his image upon the shroud.

– The traces of flogging on the body are said to accurately depict Roman scourging. The 100+ lash marks evident on the image have a dumbbell shape, conceivably reflecting the use of a Roman flagrum.

– The shoulders are said to exhibit abrasions that could have been the result of the victim’s having carried the crossbar of a cross.

– Studies on the soil and pollen preserved in the fibers suggest that the cloth originated in or near Jerusalem.

Recent Developments

Supporters of the shroud’s authenticity argue that no individual in the Middle Ages could have had the expertise to deliberately create such a piece.

In 1988, however, British scientists released the results of carbon 14 testing that dated the cloth to between 1260 and 1390.

The shroud was judged to have been proven a fraud, yet subsequent researchers have argued that the sample for the carbon 14 test was taken from a part of the shroud that had been repaired and not from the original fabric.

In 2002 the shroud underwent substantial restoration, including the removal of the repair patches from 1532.

Some researches fear that this process will limit or invalidate any further testing.

The enigma of the shroud continues. It remains either the most significant archaeological artifact ever found or one of the most ingenious forgeries in history.

A poster advertising the 1898 exhibition of the shroud in Turin.
Secondo Pia’s photograph was taken a few weeks too late to be included in the poster. The image on the poster includes a painted face, not obtained from Pia’s photograph.

It would be something else to find out that the shroud was the actual one that Jesus wore.  And if it is ever proven you know it would be worth millions and millions of dollars, if not billions.

I can’t find anything that states whether the shroud was seamless or not, like the robe Jesus had worn:

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did (Jn 19:23-24). 

…there are some questions about it.

Mark 14 – Anoninting of Jesus at Bethany & The Upper Room

There are many, many debates on things around Jesus, such as which one of the three Jerichos were they talking about?  Was there one or two Upper Rooms?  But we know that there is only one Jesus Christ and only one true God.

Another subject that has and even larger debate is…

Mark 14
Anointing of Jesus at Bethany

Mt. Zion, a view from Abu Tor
Mount Zion is a hill in Jerusalem just outside the walls of the Old City. Mount Zion has been historically associated with the Temple Mount. In the Bible, Mount Zion is synonymous with Mount Moriah, the site of the binding of Isaac and the Jewish Temple. The term is also used for the entire Land of Israel.

1 After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.

“Passover” – the Jewish festival commemorating the time when the angel of the Lord passed over the homes of the Hebrews rather than killing their firstborn sons as he did in the Egyptian homes (Ex 12:13, 23, 27).

The lambs/kids used in the feast were killed on the 14th of Nisan (march-April), and the meal was eaten the same evening between sundown and midnight.  Since the Jewish day began at sundown, the Passover feast took place on the 15th Nisan.

“Unleavened bread” – this feast followed Passover and lasted seven days (Ex 12:15-20, 23:15, 34:18; Deut 16:1-8).

2 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.

“Not on the feast day” – during Passover and the week-long fest of unleavened bread the population of Jerusalem increased from about 50,000 to several hundred thousand.  It was thought to be too risky to apprehend Jesus with so large and excitable a crowd present.

3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.

Jerusalem, Dormitio church from the Mount of Olives.
According to the Book of Samuel, Mount Zion was the site of the Jebusite fortress called the “stronghold of Zion” that was conquered by King David, becoming his palace and the City of David.

It is mentioned in the Book of Isaiah (60:14), the Book of Psalms, and the first book of the Maccabees (c. 2nd century B.C.).

14:3-9 – in John’s Gospel this incident occurred before Passion Week began (see Jn 12:1).  Matthew and Mark may place it here to contrast the hatred of the religious leaders and the betrayal by Judas with the love and devotion of the woman who anointed Jesus.

“A woman” – we know from John’s Gospel (12:3) that she was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

“Alabaster box” – a sealed flask with a long neck that was broken off when the contents were used.

“Spikenard” – a perfume made from aromatic oil extracted from the root of a plant grown chiefly in India.

“Paused it on his head” – anointing was a common custom at feasts (see Ps 23:5; Lk 7:46).  Mary’s action expressed her deep devotion to Jesus.

4 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?

5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

“Three hundred pence” – practically an entire year’s wages.  This was no small sacrifice on Mary’s part.

“Given to the poor” – it was a Jewish custom to give gifts to the poor on the evening of Passover.

6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.

Between 1948 and 1967, when the Old City was under Jordanian occupation, Israelis were forbidden access to the Jewish holy places. Mount Zion was a designated no-man’s land between Israel and Jordan.

Mount Zion was the closest accessible site to the ancient Jewish Temple. Until East Jerusalem was captured by Israel in the Six-Day War, Israelis would climb to the rooftop of David’s Tomb to pray. The winding road leading up to Mount Zion is known as Pop’s Way (Derekh Ha’apifyor). It was paved in honor of the historic visit to Jerusalem of Pope Paul VI in 1964.

7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.

“Ye have the poor with you always” – this didn’t express lack of concern for the poor, for their needs lay close to Jesus’ heart.    Don’t let this confuse you, it is better to give to the poor then to a non-needy person.  This was an entire different situation, this is Jesus Christ and it was in preparation for his crucifixion by their customs.

8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.

“To the burying” – it was a normal Jewish custom to anoint a body with aromatic oils in preparing it for burial.  Jesus seems to anticipate suffering a criminal’s death, for only in the circumstance was there no anointing of the body.

9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

10 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.

11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.

12 And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?

“The first day of unleavened bread” – ordinarily this would mean the 15th of Nisan, the day after Passover.  However, the added phrase, “when the passover lamb was being sacrificed,” makes it clear that the 14th of Nisan is meant because Passover lambs were killed on that day (Ex 12:6).

The entire eight-day celebration was sometimes referred to as the feast of unleavened bread, and there is evidence that the14th of Nisan may have been loosely referred to as the “first day of unleavened bread.”

Derekh Ha’Apifyor (Pope’s Way) leading up to Mount Zion, so named by the Israeli government in honor of Pope Paul VI’s historic visit to Israel in 1964.

13 And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.

14 And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?

“Where is the guestchamber…?” – it was a Jewish custom that anyone in Jerusalem who had a room available would give it upon request to a pilgrim to celebrate the Passover.  It appears that Jesus had made previous arrangements with the owner of the house.

15 And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.

16 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.

17 And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.

18 And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.

19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?

20 And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.

21 The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.

Room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion

22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.

23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.

24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

27 And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.

28 But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.

29 But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.

30 And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Christian cemetery on Mount Zion

31 But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.

32 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.

“Gethsemane” – a garden or orchard on the lower slopes of the mount of Olives, one of Jesus’ favorite places.  The name is Hebrew and means “oil press,” i.e., a place for squeezing the oil from olives.

33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

“Abba, Father” – expressive of an especially close relationship with God.

Jerusalem on the Madaba Map.
The Madaba Map (also known as the Madaba Mosaic Map) is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan.

The Madaba Map is a map of the Middle East. Part of it contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem. It dates to the 6th century A.D.

“This cup” – the chalice of death of God’s wrath that Jesus took from the Father’s hand in fulfillment of His mission.  What Jesus dreaded was not death as such, but the manner of His death as the One who was taking the sin of mankind upon Himself.

37 And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?

38 Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.

“Enter into temptation” – be attacked by temptation.  Here the temptation is to be unfaithful in face of the threatening circumstances confronting them.

“The spirit truly is ready” – when that part of man that is spirit is under God’s control, it strives against human weakness.  The expression is taken from Ps 51:12.

39 And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.

40 And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.

41 And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Reproduction of the Madaba Map
The Madaba Mosaic Map depicts Jerusalem with the Nea Church, which was dedicated on the 20th of November, A.D. 542.

Buildings erected in Jerusalem after 570 are absent from the depiction, thus limiting the date range of its creation to the period between 542 and 570. The mosaic was made by unknown artists, probably for the Christian community of Madaba, which was the seat of a bishop at that time.

In 614, Madaba was conquered by the Persian empire. In the 8th century A.D., the Muslim Umayyad rulers had some figural motifs removed from the mosaic. In 746, Madaba was largely destroyed by an earthquake and subsequently abandoned. The mosaic was rediscovered in 1884, during the construction of a new Greek Orthodox church on the site of its ancient predecessor.

42 Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.

43 And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.

44 And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.

45 And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.

46 And they laid their hands on him, and took him.

47 And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.

48 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?

49 I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.

50 And they all forsook him, and fled.

51 And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:

52 And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

When Jesus was at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, Mary came up to him with an alabaster jar of very costly oil, and she poured it on his head… Jesus said to them… “she has done a beautiful thing to me… In pouring this oil on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial… wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her’” (Mt. 26:6-13).

But the beauty of what she did was not only in the symbolic gesture of preparation but in the love and the sacrifice that inspired this act of devotion.

This is important for us, since we cannot literally anoint the body of Jesus for burial, but there is much we can do to sacrificially express our love and devotion.

Mary spent a lot of money, probably more than she could afford, to purchase this expensive oil. It would have been a great sacrifice on her part, but she evidently felt that nothing was too good for her Lord and Master.

Not only was the cost of the oil an extravagance, the application of it was as well. For she didn’t merely anoint Jesus with it, she poured it out lavishly over his head.

There must have been more than one such anointing, for we hear from the Gospel of John that in the same town but in a different house, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with fragrant and costly oil.

53 And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.

14:53-15:15 – Jesus’ trial took place in two states: a Jewish trial and a Roman trial, each of which had three episodes.  For the Jewish trial these were:

1. The preliminary hearing before Annas, the former high priest (reported only in Jn 18:12-12, 19-23).

2. The trial before Caiaphas, the ruling high priest, and the Sanhedrin.

3. The final action of the council which terminated its all-night session.

The three episodes of the Roman trial were:

1. The trial before Pilate.

2. The trial before Herod Antipas.

3. The trial before Pilate continued and concluded.

Since Mark gives no account of Jesus before Herod Antipas, the trial before Pilate forms a continuous and uninterrupted narrative in this Gospel.

54 And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.

55 And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.

“Council” – the Sanhedrin, the high court of the Jews.  In the New Testament it was made up of three kinds of members: chief priests, elders, and scribes. 

It’s total membership numbered 71, including the high priest, who was presiding officer, Under Roman jurisdiction this council was given a great deal of authority, but they could not impose capital punishment.

56 For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.

“Many bare false witness against him” – in Jewish judicial procedure, witnesses functioned as the prosecution.

“Their witness agreed not together” – according to Deut 19:15, a person couldn’t be convicted unless two or more witnesses gave testimony, which assumes that their testimonies had to agree.

57 And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,

Ancient Alabastrons of Jesus Day
Origin: Israel /Circa: 300 BC to 100 B.C.

Biblical Hellenistic Period In the ancient Near East, there was a long tradition for carving vessels from radiant alabaster. Graceful cups, bowls and jars were made from this lovely stone, and its use has continued on until the present day. The best alabaster was found in or from Egypt, dated at the time of the ancient trade routes. The alabaster was of a better grade then and composed of calcite rather than gypsum.

Ancient alabastrons found today can actually be purchased through galleries who deal in ancient treasures. Believe it or not some of them sell for as little as $300 but can go for as much as $3000.

58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.

59 But neither so did their witness agree together.

60 And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?

61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

63 Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?

64 Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.

“Blasphemy” – the sin of blasphemy not only involved reviling the name of God (see Lev 24:10-16) but also included any affront to His majesty or authority (see Mk 2:7, 3:28-29; Jn 5:18, 10:33).

Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah and, in fact, to have majesty and authority belonging only to God was therefore regarded by Caiaphas as blasphemy for which the Mosaic law prescribed death by stoning (Lev 24:16).

65 And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.

66 And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:

67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.

68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.

During ancient times, Spikenard was the most expensive perfume in the world. A pound was said to cost an entire years salary for the average worker.

Spikenard was considered a herb of love, thus when Mary of Bethany poured out her perfume without reservation, it became a powerful symbol of abandoned worship. Her extravagant love caused a chain reaction.

Those around became indignant but that didnt stop her from boldly proceeding to anoint the One she loved. Yeshua vindicated her and her name will always be remembered and her fragrant worship spoken of.

69 And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.

70 And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.

“Galilean” – Galileans were easily identified by their dialect.

71 But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.

72 And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.

The Upper Room

Christian tradition, supported by Cyril of Jerusalem (c.310-386), identifies thee site of Holy Zion Church in Jerusalem as the place where the upper room was located.  This may well be correct, but the story is complicated and details are disputed by scholars.

The Cenacle room on Mt Zion in Jerusalem is where two major events in the early Christian Church are commemorated: The Last Supper and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.

• The Last Supper was the meal Jesus shared with his apostles the night before he died. During this meal he instituted the Eucharist.

• The coming of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost, is recognised as marking the birth of the Christian Church.

First, it is unclear whether there were one or two “upper rooms.”  Mk 14:15 and Lk2 2:12 each speaks of an upper room where the Last Supper was held, but Acts 1:13 uses a different Greek word to refer to the upper room where the disciples met after the resurrection of Jesus.

Even so, the two rooms may well have been one and the same.

The traditional location of the upper room at Holy Zion Church is called the Cenacle or, in Latin, the Coenaculum.

It is located outside the Old City near the Zion Gate and may be seen on the 6th century Madaba Map, an ancient mosaic map on the Holy Land. The Cenacle is also (erroneously) referred to David’s Tomb.

Holy Zion Church was damaged in the 948 war, and this allowed Israeli archaeologist Jacob Pinkerfeld to investigate the site.  He concluded that a Roman-period synagogue had stood on the spot, arguing that the building had a niche that could have been a repository for Torah scrolls and that it was oriented toward the temple mount. 

The Cenacle is on the upper floor of a two-story building near the Church of the Dormition, south of the Zion Gate in the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
here Peter was left knocking.

According to early Christian tradition, the upper room was in the home of Mary the mother of John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark .

This house was a meeting place for the followers of Jesus inside the city walls of Jerusalem.
It was also the house to which Peter went after an angel of the Lord released him from prison.

Christian scholars responded that this was probably a Jewish-Christian church built after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. to commemorate the site of the Last Supper (the present-day Holy Zion Church being a later structure built at the same site).

They note that the building appears to have been constructed from reused stone from the fallen temple of Herod and that it is actually oriented toward the Holy Sepulcher (obviously implying that the builders were Christian).

Since then numerous scholars have weighted in on to both sides of the issue, some favoring the interpretation of the structure as a synagogue and others as a church.  The debate is also complicated by questions involving comments by ancient writers.

No one is suggesting that the actual building where the Last Supper took place has been located, but only that remains of a church that commemorated its location have been unearthed.

We should note debate here centers not upon the of the historicity of the Last Supper account but simply upon whether or not the traditional identification of its location is accurate.  The traditional Cenacle still remains the strongest candidate for being that location.

…the Shroud of Turin Controversy.

Mark 13 – Signs of the End of This Age & The Imperial Cult

In chapter 14 Jesus prepares for the Last Supper, so tomorrow we’re going to look at…

Mark 13
Signs of the End of This Age

Venus and Mars sculpture group reworked to portray an Imperial couple (created 120–140 AD, reworked 170–175).
The Imperial cult of ancient Rome identified emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority of the Roman State. The framework for the Imperial cult was formulated during the early Principate of Augustus, and was rapidly established throughout the Empire and its provinces, with marked local variations in its reception and expression.

Augustus’ reforms transformed Rome’s Republican system of government to a de facto monarchy, couched in traditional Roman practices and Republican values.

1 And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!

13:1-37 – the Olivet discourse, as this chapter of Mark is commonly called, falls into five sections:

1. Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple and the questions of the disciples (vv. 1-4).

2. Warnings against deceivers and false signs of the end (vv. 5-23).

3. The coming of the Son of man (vv. 24-27).

4. The lesson of the fig tree (vv. 28:31).

5. Exhortation to watchfulness (vv. 32-37).

“What manner of stones” – according to Josephus (Antiquities, 15.11.3), they were 37 feet long, 12 feet high and 18 feet wide.

2.And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,

4 Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?

The disciples thought that the destruction of the temple would be one of the events that ushered in the end times (see Matt 24:3).

5 And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:

6 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

7 And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.

8 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.

Repoussé pendant of Alexander the Great, horned and diademed like Zeus Ammon: images of Alexander were worn as magic charms (4th-century Roman).
When the Romans began to dominate large parts of the Greek world, Rome’s senior representatives there were given the same divine honours as were Hellenistic rulers. This was a well-established method for Greek city-states to declare their allegiance to an outside power; such a cult committed the city to obey and respect the king as they obeyed and respected Apollo or any of the other gods.

“Beaten” – infraction of Jewish regulations was punishable by flogging, the maximum penalty being 39 strokes with the whip (see 2 Cor 11:23-24).

10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations.

11 But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

12 Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.

13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:

“The abomination of desolation – see  Dan 9:25-27; and see the notes in Matt 24:15.

“Standing where it ought not” – see 2 Thess 2:4.

“Let them that be in Judea flee to the mountain” – see note on Matt 24:16.

15 And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take anything out of his house:

Augustus as Jove, holding scepter and orb (first half of 1st century A.D.).
In 30/29 BC, the koina of Asia and Bithynia requested permission to worship Octavian as their “deliverer” or “saviour”. This was by no means a novel request but it placed Octavian in a difficult position. He must satisfy popularist and traditionalist expectations and these could be notoriously incompatible.

“The housetop” – see note on 2:4 and Lk 17:31.

16 And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.

17 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!

“Them that are with child, and to them that give suck” – representative of anyone forced to flee under especially difficult circumstances.  A nursing baby and its mother might perish under such conditions.

18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.

19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.

“Affliction, such as was not from the beginning” – see note on Matt 24:21.

20 And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.

21 And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:

22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,

“Tribulation” – see v. 19 and note on Matt 24:21.

25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.

Augustus in Egyptian style, on the temple of Kalabsha in Egyptian Nubia.
In the Eastern provinces, cultural precedent ensured a rapid and geographically widespread dissemination of cult, extending as far as the Augustan military settlement at modern-day Najran.

The description in vv. 24-25 doesn’t necessarily refer to a complete breakup of the universe.  It was language commonly used to describe God’s awesome power and frightening judgment on a fallen world (Eze 32;7-8; Joel 2:10, 31, 3:15; Amos 8:9.

Yet, it doesn’t mean that God won’t tear up the entire universe.  He made it, He can certainly destroy it and create it.  As He said after the end He will create a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1-2).

26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

“Coming in the clouds with great power and glory” – a reference to Christ’s second coming (see 8:38; 2 Thess 1:6-10; Rev 19:11-16, 22:12-13).

27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

“Gather together his elect” – in the Old Testament God is spoken of as gathering His scattered people (Deut 30:3-4; Is 43:6; Jer 32:37; Eze 34:13, 36:24).  This post-tribulation even is probably the gathering of those who managed to be saved through the Great Tribulation.

It is debated whether Jesus’ second coming is before or after the Great Tribulation.

I believe that Jesus will come back before that Great Tribulation, which is the last 3½ years of the 7 years.  I believe this partly because:

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?

And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:13-14).

I believe it is the non-believers/heathens/pagans that will experience the Great Tribulation.  Yet, Jesus may not come until after the 3½ years, but nobody but the Father knows (v. 32).

Temple of Augustus and Livia, Vienne (modern France). Originally dedicated to Augustus and Roma. Augustus was deified on his death in 14 A.D.: his widow Livia was deified in 42 A.D. by Claudius.

28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:

29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.

30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.

35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:

36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.

37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. 1 After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.

Cameo depicting the apotheosis of Claudius (mid-1st century CE).

The Imperial Cult

The Roman imperial cult was essentially a “religion” based upon the deification of Roman emperors. It had its origins in eastern and Greek practices, in which kings were often said to be gods.

Roman emperors were regularly deified after their deaths by an act of the Senate. 

The attribution of deity was seen as the highest possible manifestation of gratitude and honor, and participation in the imperial cult was a religious way of expressing gratitude for the benefits experienced during that emperor’s rule.

There was no expectation that the deified emperor would continue to intervene in human affairs, and sacrifices were also made to the “genius,” or spirit, embodied in his current, living successor.

The imperial cult had both a religious and a political function, serving as a unifying factor in the empire and as a test of loyalty. Refusal to participate in the cult by offering sacrifices In honor of the emperor could result in execution.

Temple to Caesar near the Cave of Pan at Caesarea Philippi

The New Testament’s central confession that “Jesus is Lord,” as well as references to Christ as “Savior” and the “Son of God,” while based upon Jewish and Christian theology, also served to undermine the lofty assertions of the imperial cult.

Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD) and members of the Imperial family offer sacrifice in gratitude for success against Germanic tribes.

In the backgrounds stands the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitolium (this is the only extant portrayal of this roman temple). Bas-relief from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius.

The silver denariu mentioned in Mk 12:15 bore the image of the emperor Tiberius and the inscription “Augustus Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus,” reflecting both the deification of Augustus and Tiberius’s desire to highlight his filial relationship to his deified predecessor.

The imperial cult placed early Christians in the empire in a dilemma. On the one hand the cult was fundamentally a manifestation of the antichrist, while on the other, Christians were called upon to respect the institution and power of government (Rom 13).

This quandary was anticipated in the Jews’ question about paying taxes, and Jesus’ answer pointed to a paradox of the Christian life: Believers, though in the world, are not to be of it. 

…the Upper Room.

Mark 12 – The Parable of the Husbandmen & The Lost Cities of Africa: Meroe (3 of 5)

The first amendment of the United States Constitution gives us freedom of religion.  The Roman Empire was the same, sort of, tomorrow we’ll look at…

Mark 12
The Parable of the Husbandmen

Statues of the Nubian kings of Eygpt, known as The Black Pharaohs”.

1 And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.

12:1-12 – most of Jesus’ parables make one main point.  This one is rather complex and the details fit the social situation in Jewish Galilee in the 1st century. 

Large estates, owned by absentee landlords, were put in the hands of local peasants who cultivated the land as tenant farmers.  The parable exposed the planned attempt of Jesus’ life, and God’s judgment on the planners.

2 And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.

3 And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.

4 And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.

5 And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.

6 Having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.

An Egyptian wall carving showing Nubian slaves.

7 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.

“The inheritance shall be ours” – Jewish law provided that a piece of property unclaimed by a heir would be declared “ownerless,” and could be claimed by anyone.  The husbandmen assumed that the son came as heir to claim his property and that if he were slain they could claim the land.

Which is exactly why the crucified Jesus, they thought if he was dead then they could rule.

8 And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

10 And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:

Nubians bringing payments of food and valuable objects to the Egyptian Pharaoh. These payments are called tribute.

11 This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?

12 And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.

13 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.

14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?

15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.

16 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s.

17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marveled at him.

18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,

19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.

21 And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.

22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.

23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.

24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?

25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

Meroe pyramid, Nubia – Kush kingdom

26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?

27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?

“Which is the first commandment of all?” – Jewish rabbis counted 613 individual statutes in the law, and attempted to differentiate between “heavy” (or “great”) and “light” (or “little”) commands. 

To God, a sin is a sin while we live on earth.  The level severity of sins committed on earth change if you go to hell, see Lk12:47-48),

29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

After Hrihor and Smendes had split-up Egypt, it was now governed from two separate capitals, Thebes in the south and Tanis in the north; this begins the third intermediate period.

For a time, relations between the two halves of the country were amicable and cooperative. However before long, Smendes (Nesbanebded), asserted his claim to the throne, thus begins the Twenty-first Dynasty, which appears to be in truth, a theocratic dynasty of priests, some of whom were even pious.

32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:

33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

35 And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David?

36 For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.

“The LOD said to my LORD” – God said to David’s Lord, i.e., David’s superior – ultimately the Messiah.  The purpose of the quotation was to show that the Mesiah was more than a descendant of David – he was David’s Lord.

37 David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.

38 And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,

39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:

“Chief seats in the synagogues” – a reference to the bench in front of the “ark” that contained the sacred scrolls.  Those who sat there could be seen by all the worshipers in the synagogue.

40 Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.

“Devour widows’ houses” – since the scribes were not paid a regular salary, they were dependent on the generosity of patrons for their livelihood.  Such a system was open to abuses and widows were especially vulnerable to exploitation.

41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

“Two mites” – the smallest coins then in circulation in the Holy Land.

43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

The Lost Cities of Africa (3 of 5) 

Meroë /ˈmɛroʊeɪ/ (also spelled Meroe) (Meroitic: Medewi or Bedewi; Arabic: مرواه Meruwah and مروى Meruwi, Ancient Greek: Μερόη, Meróē) is an ancient city on the east bank of the Nile about 6 km north-east of the Kabushiya station near Shendi, Sudan, approximately 200 km north-east of Khartoum. Near the site are a group of villages called Bagrawiyah.

This city was the capital of the Kingdom of Kush for several centuries. The Kushitic Kingdom of Meroë gave its name to the Island of Meroë, which was the modern region of Butana, a region bounded by the Nile (from the Atbarah River to Khartoum), the Atbarah and the Blue Nile.


Location: Sudan
Date of Construction: c 750 B.C.
Abandoned: c 350 C.E.
Built By: Kushites
Key Features: Pyramids; Temples of Amun and Apedemak; Royal Baths; Bronze Head of Augustus.

Beyond the borders of ancient Egypt another civilization rose and fell and rose again, lasting almost half as long as that of the Egyptian pharaohs and producing fabulous arts and crafts and distinctive architecture of its own, yet it has kept very much below the popular historical radar.

Meroe’s distinctive pyramids. In their very steep angle they were inspired by Egyptian private tombs of the New Kingdom (1550-1070 B.C.), rather than by the classic royal pyramids of Egypt’s Old and Middle Kingdoms (27th to 17th centuries B.C.).

The Kingdom of Kush had, for much of its history, its capital at ancient Meroe, a city fabled by ancient authors and marked by its distinctive pyramids and exotic tomb treasures, but which met its end in an industrial-ecological crisis that offers a stark warning to our modern world.

The Land of Kush

The kingdom to the south of ancient Egypt has gone by many different names, but is best known as Kush (sometimes Cush), in the land of the Nubians.

Here along the upper reaches of the Nile, from the First Cataract down to the far south, in what is now Sudan, Africans built a long-lasting civilization that both drew inspiration from and contended with the mighty Egypt in a relationship characterized by constant struggle and occasional fruitfulness.

The first Kushite kingdom from around 2400 B.C. centered on Kerma, relatively far down the Nile (i.e. to the north, nearer ancient Egypt).

It was able to flourish during a period of relative instability and weakness in its powerful neighbor, but when new dynasties reestablished control over Egypt they also regained their dominance over the lands to the south.

Kush was a valuable source of agricultural products and, crucially, gold. New Kingdom (1539-1075 B.C.) pharaohs took hundreds of kilograms of gold in tribute from Kush each year.

Relief of a ruler, a Candace of Meroë named Kandake Amanitore

Later phases of Kushite development saw its center shift further away from Egypt and towards sub-Saharan Africa, initially geographically when the Egyptians reasserted control and moved the capital south to Napata, and later culturally as well, when the capital eventually moved to Meroe.

The collapse of the New Kingdom and the disarray of Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period once again allowed Kush to develop as an independent kingdom, with its capital at Napata and a dynastic cemetery established at the nearby site of El-Kurru.

The power of this Napatan kingdom grew until Nubian kings were dictating terms to the Egyptians, culminating in Kushites taking complete control of Egypt and establishing the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty, which ruled, at first in tandem with northern dynasties and later in sole power, from 747-656 B.C.

The Rise of Meroe

Invasion by the Assyrians and later, re-establishment of native Egyptian dynasty, forced the Kushites back into their own lands and attempts by Kushite kings to reconquer territory to the north were repulsed.

From around 750 B.C. the city of Meroe (on the east bank of the Nile, about 124 miles northeast of modern-day Khartoum) had become an important administrative center for the south of Kush and when the Egyptian pharaoh Psametik II raided far into Kushite territory in 591 B.C., sacking Napata, its strategic benefits became more obvious.

Bas reliefs at the Mero pyramids, showing a procession of figures personifying the produce of the royal estates.

The Kushite King Aspelta relocated the royal court to Meroe, although the royal burial ground remained at Nuri, close to Napata, where it had been established around 690 B.C. Eventually, around 270 B.C., the royal burial grounds were also relocated to Meroe, and it remained the capital of Kush until around 350 CE.

A rich and powerful city far to the south of territory familiar to the Egyptians and the successive masters of Egypt – the Persians, the Greeks and eventually the Romans – Meroe became a fabled land.

The Persian emperor Cambyses sent a huge expeditionary force up the Nile, lured by the promise of great booty, but it turned back, defeated by the harsh terrain. Classical writers such as Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus spoke of Meroe in terms of wonder.

It was said to sit on a great island in the Nile, possibly reflecting the fact that in reality it was surrounded on three sides by water.

The Ptolemies managed to maintain the integrity of Egypt’s borders and keep Kush at bay. They were succeeded by the Romans, with whom the Kushites enjoyed a relationship rivalled only by the Parthians for longevity.

The two empires got off to a bad start in 23 B.C., when the brutal suppression by Rome of a rebellion of mainly Nubian subjects triggered a Kushite raid in which a statue of Augustus was torn down, its bronze head removed and buried beneath the entrance to a temple in Meroe, so that everyone crossing the threshold would symbolically trample upon it.

The Kingdom of Kush or Kush was an ancient African kingdom situated on the confluences of the Blue Nile, White Nile and River Atbara in what is now the Republic of Sudan.

Established after the Bronze Age collapse and the disintegration of the New Kingdom of Egypt, it was centered at Napata in its early phase.

After king Kashta (“the Kushite”) invaded Egypt in the 8th century BC, the Kushite kings ruled as Pharaohs of the Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt for a century, until they were expelled by Psamtik I in 656 B.C.

The head was recovered in 1912 by British archaeologists excavating Meroe and now sits in the British Museum in London, testament to Kushite ability to match Rome in force of arms.

To avenge this insult a force under the prefect Gaius Petronius penetrated deep into Kush, sacking Napata and taking thousands of slaves, but Kushite resistance eventually forced the Romans to retreat behind their borders and they never threatened Meroe again.

City of Industry

The pre-eminence of Meroe was largely economic. One of the economic foundations of Kush was its iron industry. It was rich in ore and manufactured iron for export as well as domestic use.

For instance, iron tools helped increase agricultural productivity, allowing Kush to develop a mixed farming economy that made full use of the tropical wet season, as well as providing weapons to its formidable armed forces.

Meroe was the center of iron smelting, supplied with water from the Nile and, crucially, a rich source of wood for charcoal production in the form of dense acacia groves. It has been described as the “Birmingham of ancient Africa,” attested to by ancient slag heaps, such as the one on which Meroe’s Lion Temple sits.

Trade in iron but also gold, domestic products such as cotton textiles, and commodities from far-flung parts of Africa was another source of wealth.

Ruins of the Merotic temple at Musawwarat es-Sufra. This temple complex, called the “Great Enclosure”, lies south of Meroe near the Sixth Cataract. It may have been a pilgrammage center or a royal palace.

A number of towns were located on the banks of the Atbara, Blue Nile and White Nile, in which lived craftsmen who met local needs and exported along the trade route that ran from Red Sea port towns in the East to beyond Lake Chad in the West. This route eventually connected to the major center of iron production in Jenne Jeno.

In the early days of Kush, trade depended on passage up the Nile to the Mediterranean and thence to the rich markets of the ancient world, but as its center shifted south, so new trade routes independent of Egypt opened up.

The north-south trade route was superseded by an east-west axis. The growth of trade routes along the Red Sea, mediated by Greek and Nabatean merchants cut out the need to travel via the Nile, while the increasing use of camels from the 2nd century B.C. opened caravan routes extending across the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.

Meroe became part of a lucrative trade network stretching from West Africa to India and China.

Pools and Pyramids

Meroe may have been home to up to 25,000 people. Excavations have revealed the remains of a quay by the river, several palaces and a number of temples, including both Egyptian ones (the biggest temple was to the chief Egyptian god Amun) and indigenous ones, such as the lion-headed Apedemak.

One notable find – a brick-lined pool 23 feet square and 10 feet deep with lion-headed spouts around the sides – was labelled the Royal Baths by the colonial era archaeologists, and although aspects of Meroitic Kushite culture were influenced by the Hellenistic powers to the north.

This description may reflect typical colonial chauvinistic attitudes i.e. the assumption that an African culture must have borrowed or copied European models. It is now thought that the ‘baths’ may actually have been a water shrine of some sort or even a swimming pool.

The primary cultural and religious influence on Kush was undoubtedly Egyptian. The most notable expression of this influence was in the adoption of pyramids for the royal tombs.

Ancient Kush

Although the very steep angle of Kushite pyramids was inspired by Egyptian private tombs of the New Kingdom (1550-1070 B.C.), rather than by the classic royal pyramids of Egypt’s Old and Middle Kingdoms (27th to 17th centuries B.C.).

When the tombs were excavated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, no mummies were found (they may not have survived or the Kushites may not have practiced mummification), but rich troves of grave goods were uncovered.

Most spectacular of all were the finds of the treasure hunter Giuseppe Ferlini in 1834, who destroyed many pyramids in his hunt for loot, but successfully uncovered the tomb treasures of Queen Amanishakheto, including much exquisitely crafted jewelry.

After the capital moved to Meroe, Kushite culture became increasingly African and the tomb treasures of Meroe help to illustrate this cultural evolution. According to Dr. Salah el-Din Muhammed Ahmed, director of fieldwork at the National Museum in Khartoum:

Sudan: An Exploration of Ancient Kush

From the graves and from the images painted on tombs we can see that people looked much more African than Mediterranean.

The jewelry is really of an African nature – like anklets, bracelets, ear studs and earrings – and you can still find the style of the jewelry used by the Meroites on tribes of the savannah belt south of Khartoum.

The Line of Queens

One of the most intriguing features of ancient Meroitic Kush was the importance of its queens, known via the Greeks as kandakes, which in turn was mistaken as the personal name “Candace” by some ancient writers.

The kandake shared power with a qore, or king, but he was often a purely ceremonial figure, while his consort was commander-in-chief, prime minister and chief priestess. She might even lead the armies of Kush into battle.

Candace of Meroë is a legendary queen of the Kingdom of Kush, with capital in Meroë. The legend says that she defeated Alexander the Great when he tried to conquer territories South of Egypt.

References to this warrior queen are among the earliest made to the Nubian Kentakes.

The name “Candace” is actually a form of the title “Kentake” (“Queen”), and not the actual name of a person.

According to legend, a person called “Candace of Meroë” was the queen of Nubia at the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great. Alexander allegedly encountered her when he invaded Nubia.

In fact, Alexander never attacked Nubia, and never attempted to move further south than the oasis of Siwa in Egypt.

One famous legend tells of how Alexander the Great led his armies to the walls of Meroe but halted and turned back when confronted by Queen Candace and her legions.

Probably the most famous kandake was Amanirenas, who ruled from c 40-c 10 B.C. and led numerous campaigns against the Romans, eventually forcing them to limit their ambitions for conquest and guaranteeing Kushite independence for another three centuries.

The End of Meroe

Exactly what happened to Meroe is unclear. Traditionally it was thought that the rising power of the kingdom of Aksum (also Axum) in Ethiopia led to the decline of Kush and that Meroe fell to the invading Akumsite king Ezana c 350 CE.

A stele erected at Meroe bears testament to his triumph. But it is now generally believed that Meroe was already largely abandoned by this time and that by then the region was mainly inhabited by the pastoral Noba tribe.

So what had happened to the glories of Meroe and its thriving population?

The rise of Aksum may well have contributed to the decline of Meroe, by cutting its access to the lucrative trade routes of the Red Sea, but historians now suspect that Meroe’s iron industry was the true culprit.

Extensive deforestation to produce the charcoal needed to fire the furnaces may have led to ecological collapse. Top soil eroded, rainfall declined and the region became arid and unproductive.

In combination with the failure of the trade routes and pressure from the Noba, this was too much for Meroitic Kush and it collapsed. Ancient Meroe stands as one of the world’s first examples of a civilization destroyed by untrammeled industrial development. 


The Kushite kandake Amanirenas was a formidable queen and a courageous general. When the Romans imposed their control on the stretch of the Nile between Egypt and Kush, Amanirenas and her son led an army north to capture the territory, enslave the populace and carry off the statue of Augustus.

In defending Kush against Gaius Petronius’s punitive expedition she lost an eye, but succeeded in halting the Roman advance. Eventually the Romans were forced to sue for peace, the emperor Augustus himself meeting with her representatives.

According to legend, they presented him with a bundle of arrows and the message:

“The kandake sends you these arrows. If you want peace they are a token of her friendship and warmth. If you want war, you are going to need them.  

…the Imperial Cult.

Mark 11 – The Triumphal Entry & Jericho

Tomorrow we’re going to look at another one of the lost cities of Africa…

Mark 11
The Triumphal Entry

1 And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,

Storejars of Grain
Both Garstang and Kenyon found dozens of storejars full of grain from the last Canaanite city of Jericho.

The obvious conclusion: these were from the time of the harvest when the city was burned (not looted) by Joshua. As such, the archaeological record fits the biblical record at this point precisely.

The storejars pictured here still remain in one of Kenyon’s balks at Jericho.

“Bethphage” – the name means “house of figs.”  It’s not mentioned in the Old Testament and in the New Testament only in connection to the Triumphal Entry. 

“Bethany” – the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  Ancient Bethany occupied an important place in the life of Jesus.

“Mount of Olives” – directly east of Jerusalem, it rises to a height of about 2,700 feet, some 200 feet higher than Mount Zion.  Its summit commands a magnificent view of the city and especially of the temple.

Olive trees still grow on this mount and the Garden of Gethsemane, with its ancient olive trees, as at the base of its western slope.

2 And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.

3 And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.

4 And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.

5 And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?

Bethany is located on the south-eastern slope of The Mount Of Olives (its western slope, as viewed from Jerusalem, is shown in the photo below – Jesus would have walked through this scene many times on His way to Bethany).

Jesus Christ often visited the village, so much so that some even refer to it as His Judean home.

6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.

7 And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

8 And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.

9 And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

“Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” – a quotation of Ps 118:26, one of the Hallel (“Praise”) Psalms sung at passover and especially fitting for this occasion.

10 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.

“Went out unto Bethany” – apparently Jesus spent each night through Thursday of Passion Week in Bethany at the home of His friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

View of tombs on the Mount of Olives looking across the Kidron Valley.
Notice the monument with the pyramid shaped roof in the valley, called Absalom’s tomb…

this tomb from the first temple period was not really that of Absalom.

When people hear the name Jesus they either:

– Scoff at it – this is those are the idiots, the same ones that praise morons like Obama, or

– They shake in absolute fear because they know they are going to spend eternity in hell – this would be Satan and his cronies or people that blasphemed the Holy Ghost, like the Catholics) or

– They praise Him and bow down in honor and respect to the King out of complete “uncomfortable” fear – this is those who will be going to heaven and they know exactly who Jesus is, but don’t really know him or

– They bow down in honor and respect to the King with complete “appreciative” fear – this is those who will be going to heaven but also enjoy Jesus company here on earth.  Jesus is not just the King of Kings; He’s also a person and a friend.  It is great to talk to Jesus now, but it will be really cool to hang out with Him in person.

When God tells us to fear Him, He doesn’t mean His person, but what He is capable of doing (Lk 12:5).  God doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him, would you want your child to be afraid of you or be afraid of your authority?

12 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:

“On the morrow” – Monday of Passion Week.

Another view from Mount of Olives looking toward temple mount and Jerusalem. Notice the Jewish tombs the cover the Mount of Olives

13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.

14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever. And his disciples heard it.

“No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever” – perhaps the incident was a parable of judgment, with the fig tree representing Israel (see Hos 9:10: Nah 3:12).

15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

“The temple” – this refers to the court of the Gentiles, the only part of the temple in which Gentiles could worship God and gather for prayer.

16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.

17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.

“Of all nations the house of prayer” – Is 56:7 assured godly non-Jews that they would be allowed to worship God in the temple.

View from the mount of Olives, with snow covering the ground. One of the rare times it snows in Jerusalem.

“Den of thieves” – not only because they took financial advantage of the people but bb they robbed the temple of its sanctity.

18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.

19 And when even was come, he went out of the city.

20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.

“Dried up from the roots” – this detail indicates that the destruction was total (Job 18:16) and that no one in the future would eat fruit from the tree.  It served as a vivid warning of the judgment to come in 70 A.D.

21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.

“Is withered away” – perhaps prophetic of the fate of the Jewish authorities who were now about to reject Jesus.

22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

Eastern Gate on the Mount of Olives Side.

23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

27 And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,

28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?

29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.

30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.

The space inside the Eastern Gate is now used as an Islamic school.

31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?

32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.

33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.


There were three different Jerichos, on three different sites, the Jericho of Joshua, the Jericho of Herod, and the Jericho of the Crusades.

View from Cypros
The “City of Palms” spreads out on the west side of the Jordan River at 825 feet below sea level.

The Old Testament site of Tell es-Sultan is in the distance and is the city Joshua destroyed. In Jesus’ day a new center had been constructed on the wadi banks in the foreground by the Hasmonean rulers and Herod the Great.

Er-Riha, the modern Jericho, dates from the time of the Crusades. Dr. Bliss has found in a hollow scooped out for some purpose or other near the foot of the biggest mound above the Sultan’s Spring specimens of Amorite or pre-Israelitish pottery precisely identical with what he had discovered on the site of ancient Lachish.

He also traced in this place for a short distance a mud brick wall in situ, which he supposes to be the very wall that fell before the trumpets of Joshua.

The wall is not far from the foot of the great precipice of Quarantania and its numerous caverns, and the spies of Joshua could easily have fled from the city and been speedily hidden in these fastnesses.

Jericho was a fenced city in the midst of a vast grove of palm trees, in the plain of Jordan, over against the place where that river was crossed by the Israelites. Its site was near the ‘in es-Sultan, Elisha’s Fountain, about 5 miles west of Jordan.

It was the most important city in the Jordan valley, and the strongest fortress in all the land of Canaan. It was the key to Western Canaan.

Tell es-Sultan
After Jerusalem, Jericho is the most excavated site in Israel. Charles Warren in 1868 sank several shafts but concluded that nothing was to be found (he missed the Neolithic tower by a meter!).

Germans Sellin and Watzinger excavated 1907-13, Garstang 1930-36 and Kenyon 1952-58. An Italian-Palestinian team excavated for several years beginning in 1997.

According to Associates for Biblical Research, the inhabitants of Jericho at Joshua’s time were generic Canaanites. Beyond that we really cannot say anything definite.

In one of the Amarna tablets Adoni-zedec (q.v.) writes to the king of Egypt informing him that the ‘Abiri (Hebrews) had prevailed, and had taken the fortress of Jericho, and were plundering “all the king’s lands.”

It would seem that the Egyptian troops had before this been withdrawn from Canaan.

In New Testament times Jericho stood some distance to the southeast of the ancient one, and near the opening of the valley of Achor. It was a rich and flourishing town, having a considerable trade, and celebrated for the palm trees which adorned the plain around.

It was visited by our Lord on his last journey to Jerusalem. Here he gave sight to two blind men (Matt. 20:29-34; Mk 10:46-52), and brought salvation to the house of Zacchaeus the publican (Lk 19:2-10).

Neolithic Tower
Discovered and excavated by Kathleen Kenyon in her Trench I, the Neolithic tower was built and destroyed in Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, which Kenyon dated to 8000-7000 BC. The 8m diameter tower stands 8m tall and was connected on the inside of a 4m thick wall.

On the basis of this discovery, archaeologists have claimed that Jericho is the “oldest city in the world.” Clearly such monumental construction reflects social organization and central authority, but there are good reasons to question both its dating to the 8th millennium BC. and its function as a defensive fortification.

Excavations at the ancient mound of Jericho in the southern Jordan valley of Palestine have yielded extraordinary finds that verify the veracity of Biblical accounts. The only surviving written history of Jericho is that recorded in the Bible.

Archaeology has demonstrated that the Biblical record is a precise eyewitness account of events that transpired there many thousands of years ago.

The most famous story about Jericho, of course, is that of the walls falling, as detailed in Joshua 6. Another less known, but nonetheless important, account is that of Eglon, king of Moab, building a palace there and extracting tribute from the Israelites for 18 years (Jud 3:12-30).

Proof of its existence:

– At the time of the Israelite Conquest, Jericho was heavily fortified, as the Bible implies (Josh 2:5, 15).

– Piles of mud bricks from the collapsed city wall were found at the base of the tell, verifying that “the wall fell beneath itself” (Hebrew, watippol hahomah tahteyha, Josh 6:20).

– An earthen embankment around the city required the fighters to go “up into the city” (Josh 6:20).

– Houses were built against a portion of the city wall that did not collapse, verifying that Rahab’s house was built against the city wall (Hebrew, betah be qir hahomah, Josh 2:15), and that her house was spared (Josh 2:14-21; 6:22-23).

– A layer of ash 3-foot thick with burned timbers and debris demonstrates that the Israelites “burned the whole city and everything in it” (Josh 6:24).

– The destruction occurred at the end of the 15thcentury B.C., precisely the time of the Conquest of Canaan according to the internal chronology of the Bible (I Kgs 6:1; Jud 11:26; I Chr 6:33-37).

Many large jars full of charred grain were found in the destroyed buildings. This is a very rare find since, because of its value; grain was normally plundered from a vanquished city. The large amount of grain at Jericho indicates:

MB Revetment Wall
From the excavations of Sellin and Watzinger, archaeologists have recognized the existence of a large revetment wall that supported the slope of the tell in the Middle Bronze Age.

This revetment wall was composed of large Cyclopean stones and supported a mudbrick wall above it. This southern portion of the wall was exposed in 1997.

  1. The harvest had just been taken in (Josh 2:6; 3:15).

  2. The siege was short (seven days, Josh 6:15).

  3. The Israelites did not plunder the city (Josh 6:18).

There was evidence of earthquake activity, possibly the agency God used to dam up the Jordan (Josh 3:16) and bring the walls down.

Following the destruction of Jericho the site lay abandoned for a number of decades. Then, an isolated palace-like structure was constructed. It was excavated by British archaeologist John Garstang in the 1930s.

He called it the “Middle Building,” since it was sandwiched between Iron Age structures above and the destroyed 15th century B.C. city below. The archaeological finds in this stratum match the Biblical description exactly.

– The Middle Building dates to the second half of the 14thcentury B.C., the time of Eglon’s oppression according to Biblical chronology (ca. 1400 B.C. less the remainder of the life of Joshua, Jud 2:6-9; the eight-year oppression by Cushan-Rishathaim, Jud 3:8; and 40 years of peace under Othniel, Jud 3:11).

– The plan of the building is similar to other palaces of the period and fits the description given in the Bible.

Collapsed MB Wall
Sellin and Watzinger and later Kenyon found remains of a collapsed mudbrick wall at the base of the stone revetment wall.

Bryant Wood points to the base of that mudbrick wall. All agree that the wall fell down, but they differ on the date. Wood’s conclusions are the most informed and they date the destruction of the wall to the time of Joshua (1400 BC)

– The Middle Building was an isolated structure, as the Bible implies. There was no evidence for a town at Jericho at this time.

– The resident was well-to-do, as seen by a large quantity of imported Cypriot and other decorated pottery.

– The resident was involved in administrative activities, as evidenced by a cuneiform tablet, a rare find in Palestine.

– The building was occupied for only a short period of time and then abandoned.


Mark 10 – Marriage and Divorce & The Lost Cities of Africa: Tanis (2 of 5)

We have seen many different kingdoms and cities, but one we haven’t seen yet is…

Marriage and Divorce

Throughout his life, Ramses II went on to build various monuments and thus his legacy of being a builder in Ancient Egypt and Nubia was born.
Ramses II constructed monuments such as Abu Simbel, the mortuary temple Ramesseum, Pi-Ramesses in the Delta, and most notably completed the Temple at Karnak.

1 And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.

“Coasts of Judea” – the Greek and Roman equivalent to the Old Testament

land of Judah, essentially the southern part of the Holy Land (now exclusive of Idumea), which formerly had been the southern kingdom. 

2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.

“Came to him, and asked him” – the question of the Pharisees was hostile.  It was for unlawful divorce and remarriage that John the Baptists denounced Herod Antipas and Herodias (6:17-18), and this rebuke cost him first imprisonment and then his life. 

Jesus was now within Herod’s jurisdiction and the Pharisees may have hoped that Jesus’ rely would cause the tetrarch to seize Him as he had John.

“Is it lawful…to put away his wife?” – Jews of that day generally agreed that divorce was lawful, the only debated issue being the proper grounds for it.

3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?

4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.

5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.

Whatever his original status, after the death of Ramesses XI, Smendes became a king of Egypt, and is recorded as such in most reference material.
However, only two sources specifically name him as pharaoh, consisting of a stela in a quarry at Dibabia near Gebelein (Jebelein), and a small depiction in the temple of Montu at Karnak.

“For the hardness of your heart” – divorce was an accommodation to human weakness and was used to bring order in a society that had disregarded God’s will, but it was not the standard God had originally intended, as vv. 6-9 clearly indicate. 

The purpose of Deut 24:1 was not to make divorce acceptable, but to reduce the hardship of  its consequences. 

6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.

“From the beginning of the creation” – Jesus goes back to the time before human sin to show God’s original intention.  God instituted marriage as a great unifying blessing, bonding the male and female in His creation.

7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;

8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.

“No more twain, but one flesh” – the deduction drawn by Jesus affirms the ideal of the permanence of marriage.

9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

“What therefore God hath joined together” – Jesus grounds the sanctity of marriage in the authority of God Himself, and His “No’ to divorce safeguards against human selfishness, which always threatens to destroy marriage.

10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.

11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.

Sheshonq I was known as a strong ruler who once again brought together a divided Egypt, which had been fragmented between Thebes in the South and Tanis in the north.
Hence, his reign is seen as a highpoint in the otherwise bleak Third Intermediate Period.

“Whosoever shall put away his wife” – in Jewish practice divorce was effected by the husband himself, not by a judicial authority or court.

“Committeth adultery against her” – a simple declaration of divorce on the part of a husband could not release him from the divine law or marriage and its moral obligations – this enduring force of the marriage bond was unrecognized in rabbinic courts.

12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

“She committeth adultery” – in Roman culture women, as well as men, could divorce, whereas in Jewish society, only men could divorce their spouses.

13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Heqakheperre Shoshenq II was an Egyptian king of the 22nd dynasty of Egypt. He was the only ruler of this Dynasty whose tomb was not plundered by tomb robbers.
His final resting place was discovered within an antechamber of Psusennes I’s tomb at Tanis by Pierre Montet in 1939. Montet removed the coffin lid of Shoshenq II on March 20, 1939, in the presence of king Farouk of Egypt himself.

“Of such” – the kingdom of God belongs to those who, like children, are prepared to receive the kingdom as a gift of God.

15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

“As a little child” – the point of comparison is the usual openness and receptivity of children.  The kingdom of God must be received as a gift,; it cannot be achieved by human effort (cf. Eph 2:8-9).  It may be entered only by those who know they are helpless, without claim or merit.

16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

“What shall I do…?” – the rich man was thinking in terms of earning righteousness to merit eternal life, but Jesus taught that it was a gift to be received.

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

“Why callest thou me good?” – Jesus wasn’t denying His own goodness but was forcing the man to recognize that his only hope was in total reliance of God, who alone can give eternal life.  No human being is good, only God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother.

“Defraud not” – the prohibition of fraud may have represented the 10th commandment.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

Jean Pierre Marie Monte excavated at Byblos (modern Jbail) in Lebanon between 1921 and 1924, excavating tombs of rulers from Middle Kingdom times.

Between 1929 and 1939, he excavated at Tanis, Egypt, finding the royal necropolis of the Twenty-first and Twenty-second Dynasties — the finds there almost equalled that of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Wendebauendjed’s unique cups from his intact Tanis tomb were discovered by Pierre Montet in 1946

In the 1939-1940 Egypt excavation season, he discovered the completely intact tombs of 3 Egyptian pharaohs at Tanis: Psusennes I, Amenemope, and Shoshenq II along with the partially plundered tomb of Takelot I in Lower Egypt at Tanis.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast” – there is nothing wrong with having money, but hoarding it when there are others that need help is basically telling God to mind His own business.  See v. 10:25.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!

25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?

27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

“With men it is impossible, but not with God” – God can do anything and salvation only comes from Him.

28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

The Valley of the Kings (Arabic: وادي الملوك Wadi Biban el-Muluk; “Gates of the King”) is a valley in Egypt where for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the kings and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom (the Eighteenth through Twentieth Dynasties of Ancient Egypt).

The valley stands on the west bank of the Nile, across from Thebes (modern Luxor), within the heart of the Theban Necropolis. The wadi consists of two valleys, East Valley (where the majority of the royal tombs situated) and West Valley.

“Now in this time…the world to come” – these two terms take in all of time from the fall of man to the eternal state.  The present age is evil (Gal 1:4), but the coming righteous age will begin with the second advent of Christ and continue forever.

31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

“First shall be last” – a warning against pride in sacrificial accomplishments such as Peter had manifested (v. 28).

32 And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,

33 Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:

34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.

35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.

36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?

37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

“Drink of the cup that I drink of” – a Jewish expression that meant to share someone’s fate.

King Tut, XVIII dynasty, about 1352 BC. This is his golden throne made of sheet gold worked around a wooden base and inlaid with faience, colored glass, lapis, lazuli, and calcite.

“Be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with” – the image of baptism is parallel to that of the cup, referring to His sufficient and death as a baptism which equals eternal life.

But the Catholics and Jews use Peter’s words and tell lies to people saying that you have to be baptized with water to be saved.  For example, having your baby baptized by the Catholic priest does only two things: (1) the baby is wet and (2) your pocketbook has less.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, an dye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).

39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.

Egypt’s most famous mummified king, Tutankhamun, had malaria and bone abnormalities that likely contributed to his death, according to recent findings published in the Journal of the E

Although King Tut’s mummy has been examined before, the researchers took two years to conduct detailed anthropological, radiological, and genetic (DNA) analysis to examine the boy pharaoh and 10 other royal mummies.

King Tut died in circa 1324 B.C. at age 19 after nine years on the throne and left no heirs.

42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.

43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:

44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Psusennes I, was the third king of the Twenty-first dynasty of Egypt who ruled from Tanis (Greek name for Dzann, Biblical Zoan) between 1047 – 1001 B.C.
Psusennes is the Greek version of his original name Pasebakhaenniut which means “The Star Appearing in the City” while his throne name, Akheperre Setepenamun, translates as “Great are the Manifestations of Ra, chosen of Amun.” He was the son of Pinedjem I and Henuttawy,
Rameses XI’s daughter by Tentamun. He married his sister Mutnedjmet.

46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

“Jericho” – a very ancient city located five miles west of the Jordan and about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem, but down a decline of 3,700 feet to more than 1,000 below sea level.

In Jesus’ time Old Testament Jericho was largely abandoned, but a new city south of the old one, had been built by Herod the Great.

47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.

51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.

52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.


The Lost Cities of Africa (2 of 5)

The city of Tanis is relatively unknown among Egypt’s wealth of historical sites, though it yielded one of the greatest archeological troves ever found. Once the capital of all Egypt, Tanis’s royal tombs have yielded artifacts on par with the treasures of Tutankhamun.


Location: Nile Delta, Egypt
Date of Construction: c 1070 B.C.
Abandoned: Pre-7th Century C.E.
Built By: Pharaoh Smendes and the Twenty-First and Twenty-Second Dynasties
Key Features: Re-Use Of Blocks and Statuary from Older Sites; Temple Compound with Wall; Temple Of Amun; Royal Tombs and Treasures.

Scattered blocks and the stumps of obelisks litter the top of a huge sand mound, marooned along the former course of a long-since silted-up branch of the Nile Delta.

Part of a stele from the temple compound (also known as the Sanctuary) at Tanis.
It shows the pharaoh Ramesses II making an offering to a god.

This stele was recycled by the constructors of Tanis from the ruins of the nearby city of Pi-Ramesses, founded by Ramesses II.

Such recycling initially caused Egyptologists to misidentify Tanis as Pi-Ramesses.
Overleaf: Remounted blocks and statues at Tanis, demonstrating why the mound containing the remnants of the city came to be called San el-Hagar, the Place of Stones.

Here was the site of Tanis, one-timecapital of ancient Egypt and the site of the only authentically undisturbed royal tombs, the extraordinary though unheralded contents of which rival the glories of Tutankhamun.

Tanis is the Greek name for the ancient Egyptian city of Djanet, a site known today as San el-Hagar – “the place of stones”.

Technically speaking, San el-Hagar actually refers to the northernmost and larger of two huge sand mounds or gezira: it rises over 9,814 feet above the surrounding flood plain and has an area of 437 acres.

From around the 11th century B.C. until the late 8th century B.C. it was capital of Egypt (albeit one of several at some points).

Before and after this it was an important regional capital and as well as its administrative role it was a major religious and trading center, funneling trans-Mediterranean trade into and out of Egypt, until its branch of the Nile silted up and it was left high and dry.

Despite this prominence, the circumstances of its construction made Tanis extremely difficult for latter-day archaeologists to identify, for the site is a kind of structural palimpsest, composed of the building blocks of other cities and other times.

Delta Pharaohs and Southern High Priests

Tanis was the product of a confused and divisive period of ancient Egyptian politics. The Twentieth Dynasty was weak and failing and in Upper Egypt (the southern part of the country) the pharaoh had lost most real power to the high priests of Amun in the city of Thebes.

Djanet (formerly known as Fort Charlet) is an oasis city, and capital of Djanet District, in Illizi Province, southeast Algeria. It is located 256 miles south of the provincial capital, Illizi.

According to the 2008 census it has a population of 14,655, up from 9,699 in 1998, and an annual population growth rate of 4.3%. It is inhabited by the Kel Ajjer Tuareg people.

By the end of the reign of Ramesses XI, last pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty, the High Priest Herihor was openly sharing power as co-ruler.

The rise of the high priests saw the pharaonic power base shift to the north of Egypt in the Nile Delta region, where the city of Pi-Ramesses had been made capital.

At the death of Ramesses XI, the throne passed to the governor of Tanis, one Smendes, who may have been Ramesses’ son-in-law. As his residence he took Tanis, superseding Pi-Ramesses, whose own branch of the Nile was now drying up.

Smendes’ Twenty-First Dynasty had Libyan connections, which became more marked with the transition to the Twenty-Second Dynasty under Shoshenq I, which retained Tanis as its seat.

However, in the mid-9th century B.C. the south of Egypt broke away to become a separate kingdom, and by the 8th century B.C. several rival dynasties were established, running concurrently and each ruling a portion of Egypt; Tanis was now only the capital of a small local kingdom.

Egypt was reunited by a Nubian Dynasty around 720 B.C. and Tanis henceforth reverted to the role of a provincial capital.

Ramesses XI (also written Ramses and Rameses) reigned from 1107 BC to 1078 BC or 1077 BC and was the tenth and final king of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt.

He ruled Egypt for at least 29 years although some Egyptologists think he could have ruled for as long as 30 years.

Ramesses XI was once thought to be the son of Ramesses X by Queen Tyti who was a King’s Mother.

With only intermittent control of the country and much civil strife, the view of the dynasties of the Third Intermediate Period has traditionally been that they were poor shadows of former glories, scraping by in pale imitation of the wealth and opulent splendor of the preceding New Kingdom.

Discoveries made at Tanis were to both reinforce and undermine this accepted view.

Decoding Tanis

The first archaeology at Tanis was little more than looting, with quantities of statuary carted off to European capitals.

But Egyptologists such as Auguste Mariette and Flinders Petrie also uncovered inscriptions, statues and names dating back to the Middle Kingdom and the Twelfth Dynasty (c 1900 B.C.), as well as ones that seemed to identify the site as the lost city of Avaris, which was later re-named Pi-Ramesses.

When French Egyptologist Pierre Montet began what was to be the most significant exploration of the site in 1929, he also found similar evidence.

But later Egyptologists have realized that Montet and his predecessors were wrong and that the inscriptions were misleading: the blocks and statuary were recycled – moved from elsewhere and pressed into service.

It is now clear that the nearby, but probably largely abandoned, city of Pi-Ramesses had served as a sort of quarry for the builders of Tanis. Other blocks, obelisks and statues came from other locations.

Napoleon Bonaparte had the site surveyed in the late 1700s, but afterwards, in the early 1800s, most of the work at Tanis was concerned with the collection of statuary.

Jean-Jacques Rifaud took two large pink granite sphinxes to Paris, where they became a part of the Louvre collection. Other statues were taken to Saint Petersburg and Berlin.

Henry Salt and Bernardino Drovetti found eleven statues, some of which were also sent to the Louvre, but also to Berlin and Alexandria, though those sent to Alexandria are now lost.

Some dated back as far as the Old Kingdom. This evidence of a capital cobbled together from the recycled detritus of older cities would appear to tie in with the traditional view of the impoverished Intermediate dynasties.

However, it may have been that the northern delta kings did not have access to the quarries of Upper Egypt when they built their new capital and were simply being practical.

Excavations have revealed that the primary feature of the city was a massive wall of mud brick, which enclosed a sandy bowl between four raised areas on the San el-Hagar mound, creating a huge temple compound.

The wall was 33 feet high and 49 feet thick. It was built by Psusennes I, third pharaoh of the Twenty-First Dynasty (reign 1039-991 B.C.), in an apparent effort to create a northern Thebes.

Thebes was the religious capital of Egypt, with a complex of temples to the “divine family” – Amun, Mut and Khonsu. Its importance as the focus of Egyptian religious and cultural life brought power and prestige.

Thebes, chief city of Boeotia, in ancient Greece. And the capital of ancient Egypt. In ancient egypt, Thebes means “Apet” or “Apit,”
It was originally a Mycenaean city.

Thebes is rich in associations with Greek legend and religion. Sometime before 1000 B.C., Thebes was settled by Boeotians and rapidly replaced Orchomenus as the region’s leading city.

At the end of the 6th century B.C. it began its struggle with Athens to maintain its position in Boeotia and in Greece. In the Persian Wars, Thebes, motivated by hostility to Athens, sided (480–479 B.C.) with the Persians.

Psusennes created his own temple complex with shrines to the divine family and then went further and created a northern analogue of Thebes’s Valley of the Kings – the sacred valley where the great pharaohs of ages past had been interred (see Tombs to Rival Tutankhamun below).

Other structures that have been identified include smaller temples (chapels) built by later pharaohs. After the Persian occupation of Egypt (525-405 B.C.), Nectanebo I of the Thirtieth Dynasty (reign 380-362 B.C.) initiated a new program of building at Tanis.

He built a new, enormous mud-brick enclosure and started new temples, as well as constructing a sacred lake in the northern corner of the city. Egypt soon fell again to the Persians and then to Alexander the Great and afterwards was ruled by the Greco-Egyptian Ptolemies.

They completed some of these unfinished temples, but by now the original

great temple to Amun was gone, its site built over with houses.

The Ptolemies gave way to the Romans, but by the end of the Roman Era the branch of the Nile that gave Tanis its raison d’etre had silted up and it was – like Pi-Ramesses before it – defunct and largely abandoned by the time of the Islamic conquest.

Lime burners destroyed much of the fabric of the city, leaving little but the granite blocks and obelisks that litter the site today.

Tombs to Rival

The unprepossessing detritus of ancient Tanis on the surface concealed something spectacular beneath. Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings had electrified the world of archaeology with its astonishing collection of grave goods, but even King Tutankhamun’s tomb had not escaped the attentions of ancient tomb raiders.

Reapplied seals on the doors, chests with contents that did not match the inventories listed on their exteriors and the general disarray of parts of the tomb all indicated that it had been broken into and robbed in antiquity, before being resealed and later lost to the world.

Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis
Thebes, the city of the god Amon, was the capital of Egypt during the period of the Middle and New Kingdoms. With the temples and palaces at Karnak and Luxor, and the necropolises of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, Thebes is a striking testimony to Egyptian civilization at its height.

Tanis, however, hosted a mini-Valley of the Kings and included a royal tomb that had never been disturbed, complete with all its grave goods – treasures to rival those of Tutankhamun.

In 1939, in his eleventh season of excavation at Tanis, and with the gathering clouds of war in faraway Europe casting a long shadow over his endeavors, Montet unearthed a tomb within the temple precinct.

Inscriptions identified it as that of Osorkon II (ruler during the Twenty-Second Dynasty 872-837 B.C.) and although it had been long plundered, the thieves had left behind heavy objects such as a stunning quartzite sarcophagus, shabtis (tomb statues supposed to come to life in the afterlife as servants for the dead pharaoh) and alabaster jars for his internal organs.

Far more impressive was the adjoining tomb, which proved to be undisturbed. Nested within a granite sarcophagus and a granite coffin was a coffin of solid silver; within lay incredible jewelry and a glorious face-mask of solid gold (the mummy itself had largely decomposed).

Although the inscriptions on the wall attributed the tomb to Psusennes I, who had originally built it for himself and his queen Mutnodjmet, there were numerous other burials in the five-chambered tomb, including three more Twenty-First Dynasty pharaohs:

Queen Nodjmet, the wife of High Priest Herihor (1080-945) and possibly sister of Ramses IX, in April 2006, at Cairo Museum, Egypt. She died a long time after her husband and carried the title of ‘Mother of the King’.

General Wendebauenjed (an important military man), and the previously unknown pharaoh Shoshenq II (ruler during Twenty-Second Dynasty), who occupied an unusual silver coffin with a head shaped like a falcon.

In all Montet discovered six tombs, which hosted the burials of at least 14 royals and nobles.

The exquisite treasures, including face-masks of workmanship at least as fine as that of Tutankhamun, and fabulous jewelry of gold and lapis lazuli (not to mention sets of golden sandals to protect the feet of kings on the road to the afterlife), show that the kings of the Intermediate Period were far from impoverished.

Yet the tombs also show the continuing practice of reusing materials. Sarcophagus lids were carved from statues while a huge granite block used to plug the entrance to one of the tombs had originally been part of an obelisk in praise of Ramesses II.

The use of a sarcophagus from Thebes reminds us that Psusennes’ brother was High Priest at Thebes and was apparently responsible for state-sanctioned looting of the Valley of the Kings.

Montet’s discoveries, which included no less than five intact and undisturbed royal mummies, made in 1939 and 1940, were overshadowed by the war in Europe and never got the publicity that attended Carter’s success.

Herihor was an Egyptian army officer and High Priest of Amun at Thebes (1080 BC to 1074 BC) during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses XI.

Today the wonders of Tanis sit in Cairo Museum, often overlooked by tourists eager to see the more celebrated treasures of Tutankhamun.

Tanis and the Lost Ark

The name of Tanis is probably best known today as the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant in the blockbuster movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, which presents an entirely fanciful and inaccurate picture of the city.

Most scholars dismiss this link as a convenient fiction, invented by the moviemakers to justify an exotic Egyptian location. There is, however, a genuine if tenuous link between Tanis and the Ark, for the Bible speaks of an Egyptian king called Shishak who invaded Israel and took Jerusalem. 

One theory about the missing Ark is that it was looted from the Temple of Solomon by Shishak. Could Shishak have been Shoshenq of Tanis?

This was thought to be the case for many years (although more recently the link has been disputed), in which case perhaps the Ark was stolen away to Tanis, just as Indiana Jones discovered.


Mark 9 – The Transfiguration & The City of Sepphoris

I think it might make people wonder why Sepphoris wasn’t mentioned in the Bible since Jesus probably spent a lot of time there, let alone that’s where his mother was born.  It wasn’t mentioned because there’s no purpose to mention it.

Excavated streets in Sepphoris; Joseph and the young Jesus, from nearby Nazareth, may have worked here as builders.

The Bible is about You, Jesus and the Holy Ghost, not about Mary.  And even though Jesus may have spent a lot of time there He obviously didn’t do anything miraculous or at least nothing that we are supposed to know about.

Tomorrow we’re going to look at the lost city of…

Mark 9
The Transfiguration

The pictures below are buildings or cities that Jesus knew.

1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

“Not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” – see the note on Matt 16:28.

Of course no-one knows exactly what Mary and Joseph’s house in Nazareth was like. The house disappeared many centuries ago. But we do know what ordinary village houses looked like in 1st century Palestine, and in Nazareth in particular.

The basic floor plan had a central courtyard with rooms opening off it. These rooms were small by our standard, with a minimum of windows. Lattice work and shutters were used to cover window openings.

Rooms were small. Stairs or a wooden ladder led up onto the roof, which was used as an outdoor room partly shaded by matting or a tent-like superstructure.

The inside rooms tended to be dark, so the courtyard and the roof were important parts of the house, used for tasks that needed good light – Mary of Nazareth and the women of her family would have spun yarn, woven fabric and prepared food there. In hot weather family members slept there as well.

 2 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.

“Transfigured” – see the note on Matt 17: 2.

3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.

4 And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.

“Elias with Moses” – see note on Matt 17:3.

5 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

“Three tabernacles” – Peter may have desired to erect new tabernacles where God could again communicate with His people (Ex 29:42).  Or he may have been thinking of the booths used as the feast of tabernacles (Lev 23:42).

Or just being with Jesus would be incredible, but being with Him during the transfiguration might have just blown his mind so he was ecstatic and he was extremely eager to find fulfillment of the promised glory then, prior to the sufferings that Jesus had announced.

As I have said many times, I talk to God every day and He talks back.  But sometimes when I’m in my home office working on this blog or whatever, He just pops in and it is incredible.  I don’t have a feeling that He’s here, nor do I see Him, I have an “inner knowing” of Him.

He doesn’t stay long, a few minutes at the most because usually I have to ask Him to leave.  He’s too much.  I can’t even begin to imagine how it must have been with Moses. 

To tell you how incredible and fantastic His presence is, I’ll tell you, He will come anytime I ask Him to, but I rarely do that because as I said, He’s too much.  When He comes I love it, it’s great, but it’s also quite scary.

6 For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.

7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

8 And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.

Reconstruction of a type of house that was common in 1st century Galilee: courtyard, living quarters, storage area for animals and equipment.

9 And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.

10 And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.

“What the rising from the dead should mean” – as Jews they were familiar with the doctrine of the resurrection; it was the resurrection of the Son of Man that baffled them, because their theology had no place for a suffering and dying Messiah.

11 And they asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come?

9:11-12 – “Elias” – see note on Matt 17:10.

12 And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.

Modern-day excavations in Nazareth: the houses ordinary people lived in usually had rough stone foundations and mud-brick walls


13 But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him.

“Elias is indeed come” – a reference to John the Baptist (see Matt 17:13). “Elias must first come” – see note on Matt 17:10.

“As it is written of him” – what scripture says about Elijah in his relationship to Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kgs 198:1-10).  There is no prediction of suffering associated with Elijah’s ministry in the end times. 

However, what happened to Elijah under the threats of Jezebel foreshadowed what would happen to John the Baptist.  The order of events suggested in vv. 11-13 is as follows:

1.Elijah ministered in the days of wicked Jezebel;

2.Elijah was a type of John the Baptist, who in turn suffered at the hands of Herodias;

3.The Son of man suffered and was rejected a short time after John was beheaded.

14 And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them.

15 And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.

16 And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them?

Aerial photograph of the reconstructed 4th century synagogue at Capernaum; note also the foundations of ancient houses surrounding the synagogue

17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;

18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.

Demonic possession was responsible for the boy’s condition.

19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.

20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.

22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.

23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

King Herod’s Masada fortress: administrative buildings on the flat top of the plateau (centre),
the luxury palace on three levels at the edge of the precipice (bottom left).

“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” – the question was not whether Jesus had the power to heal the boy but whether the father had faith to believe it.  A person who truly believes will set no limits on what God can do.

There’s nothing God can’t do, remember, He created everything so He controls everything so that means there is nothing He cannot do.

24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

“I believe help thou mine unbelief” – since faith is never perfect (it isn’t within ourselves) so belief and unbelief are often mixed.

25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

Part of an intricate mosaic floor at Masada.
Floors like this were extraordinarily expensive and indicative of high social status.

28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?

29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

“This kind” – seems to suggest that there are different kinds of demons, and actually Paul implied that in Eph 6:12.

It sounds like the boy had epilepsy and they say there is no cure for it.  I had epilepsy and even though I didn’t have a seizure every day like some people do, but one doctor told me that my seizures were of the most violent.

My seizures would wrack my body so bad that after one my entire body ached for six days.  Yet, the pain during and after wasn’t the worst part, the worst part was fear.  Every seizure was the same so I was never surprised.  Yet, I was always frightened and I didn’t know why, and I still don’t know why.

I truly believe that the devil himself controls epilepsy, but now that I walk with Jesus I no longer have seizures, I don’t even feel the electricity that I always felt in my body.  I haven’t had one since 2008 and I’ve been walking with Jesus since June 29th of 2007.

An epileptic seizure and seizure caused by drugs or something is not the same.  If you don’t have epilepsy you cannot even try to understand them, it is a horrible experience. 

When I used to have them I would usually sleep for about three hours once I passed out, I always passed out when the convulsions began.  Once I woke up I would be up for a few minutes and then go back to sleep for another three or so hours.

One of the enormous water reservoirs excavated under the plateau at the top of Masada: water in the desert.

One time I had one in downtown Puyallup, Washington, and I woke up right after the seizure and I had an audience, that was embarrassing and one guy yelled out, “When’s the next show.”  If you see someone have a seizure, please don’t be an ass like that guy.

“Can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” – the disciples apparently had taken for granted the power given to them or had come to believe that it was inherent in them.  Lack of prayer indicated they had forgotten that their power over the demonic spirits was from Jesus.

Sometimes fasting is also required.  It demonstrates to God our determination and perseverance, our willingness to sacrifice to see God’s will accomplished.

I agree with the above statement, but Jesus meant a bit more than that.  He meant that for us to be able to defeat demons we must walk with Him always.  Not sometimes, but always.  As Paul had pointed out in Eph 6:12-17.

30 And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it.

31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.

32 But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.

There is no way of knowing whether Jesus ever went to Machaerus, but it certainly had strong associations for him since, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, Machaerus was the place in which John the Baptist was imprisoned and then beheaded (Bellum VII.6.1-2). Jesus was only too aware of this event.

Herod was frightened by John’s fearless criticism of him, and of his power to stir people up – as he would later be frightened/intrigued by Jesus. Herod sensed he had met someone he could not control. Putting John into the prison at Machaerus removed John from his followers, and stopped them from communicating with their charismatic leader.

It was a forbidding fortress, built to intimidate and control the troubled area between Palestine and Petra. It did its job well. No-one could get in or out of Machaerus without Herod knowing about it.

When Herod decided to kill John, the walls of the fortess meant there could be no-one to oppose him.
When the Jewish Revolt broke out in 66AD, the rebels holed up within Machaerus’ seemingly impregnable walls. But the Romans built siege works around the base of the fortress and when the lower part of the fortress was captured and burned, the people in the upper city surrendered.

You can still see part of the Roman siege ramp on the west side of the mound, and ruins of the Roman camp lie on the hill to the west.

33 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?

34 But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.

“Who should be the greatest” – questions of rank and status are normal and played an important role in the life of Jewish groups at this time, but they had no place in Jesus’ value system.

35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

36 And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,

37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

“Followeth not us” – the man apparently was a believer, but he wasn’t one of the exclusive company of the twelve.  Nevertheless, he acted in Jesus’ name and had done what the disciples had not been able to do.

39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

“Forbid him not” – Jesus’ view of discipleship was far more inclusive than the narrow view held by the twelve.  Doctrinal differences are important, but we must remember that all true believes are still one in Christ.

40 For he that is not against us is on our part.

41 For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

“Give you a cup of water” – God remembers even small acts of kindness extended to believers because they are believers.

42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

“One of these little ones that believe” – perhaps the little children mentioned in vv. 36-37, or the man mentioned in v. 38.  Jesus’s point is clear: To cause even those whom we might consider to be the least of believers to sin will bring serious judgment.

That is why I pray even for people like the Obamas and Oprah

43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

This the other mosaic of the extraordinary 1st century A.D. mosaics that have been excavated at Sepphoris.

“Cut it off” – hyperbole, a figure of speech that exaggerates to make its point, is used here to emphasize the need for drastic action.  Often sin can be conquere4d only by radical “spiritual surgery.”

44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:

Aerial view of Sepphoris

“Kingdom of God” – see note on Matt 3:2.

48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Is 66:24 speaks of the punishment for rebellion against God.  As the final word of Isaiah’s message, the passage became familiar as a picture of endless destruction.

“The fire is not quenched” – the fire in hell is real.  That is clearly taught here; in Jesus’ explanation of the burning of the tares in Mat 13:41-42 and in His plain statements in Matt 25:41, 46.  That’s a horrible thing, just imagine, being on fire forever and ever and ever.

49 For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.

The saying means that everyone who enters hell will suffer, but some will suffer more, depending on the severity of their sins – see Lk 12:47-48.

This stone floor is said to be the central courtyard of the Roman praetorium. Jesus may have stood here when he was interrogated by Pontius Pilate.

And it could also mean that all Christians will suffer for Jesus in some way in this life.

50 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

The City of Sepphoris

The city of Sepphoris (modern Zippori) is mentioned nowhere in the Bible, even though it was a town that Jesus must have known well. Located just four miles northwest of Nazareth, Sepphoris had become quite prominent by the 1st century B.C.

The Greek-style theater at Sepphoris; devout Jews did not attend these theaters, and were reluctant to enter sophisticated cities like Sepphoris

In the winter of 39/38 B.C., Herod the Great captured it and used it as his northern base. At his death the city rebelled but was harshly defeated by the Roman governor, Varus.

Herod Antipas inherited this territory from Herod the Great and set about rebuilding the town, transforming it into the most opulent city of Galilee.  A theater seating three thousand, possibly built by Herod Antipas, was located there.

A beautiful mosaic of a woman’s face has been unearthed there, dating much later, to the 3rd or 4th century A.D.

The 1st century inhabitants of the city appear to have been staunchly pro-Roman, since they refused to join the Jewish revolt of 70 A.D. During the 2nd century A.D., however, the city did become a center of Jewish learning.

The elaborate rebuilding of this city, carried out by Herod Antipas, occurred during the lifetimes of both Joseph and Jesus.  Since the two were craftsmen (perhaps carpenters; see Mk 6:3), some suggest that they may have in fact worked at construction projects there.

One of two extraordinarily sophisticated floor mosaic from the city of Sepphoris; the woman depicted is called the Mosa Lisa of Galilee.

Sepphoris is the traditional birthplace of Jesus’ mother, Mary. 


Mark 8 – The Four Thousand Fed & Gergesenes, Gerasenes or Gadarenes?

I don’t see anything wrong with anyone finding out where this incident, or anything, happened.  Yet, if the project becomes more important to us then You, then there’s a problem.  You were real clear on that when You said:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Ex 20:3).


Monument of the Holy Mother of God in Haskovo with the highest statue of the Virgin Mary in the world.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God…‘” (Ex 4-5).

It’s obvious why You hid Moses when you buried him, and the devil wasn’t happy about that (Jude 1:9).  If Satan would have known where Moses was buried He would have turned the grave into a shrine and we’d have all them Jews and the Catholics hootin’ and hollerin’.

The Jews and Catholics have already turned Jesus into nothing more than an icon, putting Mary above Him.  I can’t even begin to imagine what they would be doing with Moses.

Now Father, You have me doing this blog to educate people about You and Jesus, and to true knowledge involves telling the truth, as well as false accusations.  I mean, without knowing the lies how can anyone know the truth?

Therefore, I need to be fair and let all the pagans, like the Catholics and Jews know, just in case they don’t know. 

Anyone can go to Haskovo, Bulgaria and gawk at this 102 foot statute of Mary, called “The Holy Mother of God,” and it has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest statue of the Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus in the world.  And I think it’s free of charge.

Yet, if you can’t make it to Bulgaria and you just got to have a statue of Mary you can purchase a handmade wooden carving of Mary on eBay for a measly $760, plus $35 shipping and handling.  

I can’t give you the site to purchase it because then I’m promoting ignorance, being evil.  That would be like telling your kid to go out and play on the highway.  If I wanted to be foolish I’d become a Catholic.

Tomorrow we’re going to take a look at…

Mark 8
The Four Thousand Fed

Jerash: the street of columns looking toward the modern city.

1 In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,

8:1-10 – although there are striking similarities between this account and 6:34-44, they are two distinct incidents, as indicated by the fact that Jesus Himself refers to two feedings (see vv. 18-20).  The differences in details are as definite as the similarities.

2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat:

3 And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.

4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?

5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.

6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.

7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.

Dalmanutha is the unknown destination of Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Gallilee after he fed the four thousand, as recorded in Mark’s gospel, (Mark 8:10).

It is sometimes believed to be in the vicinity of Magdala, the alleged home town of Mary Magdalene, since the parallel passage in Matthew’s gospel, Matthew 15:39, refers instead to “Magadan”, which has been taken to be a variant form of “Magdala”.

Ken Dark has reported finding a possible location of Dalmanutha.[1][2] That there was ever a town called Dalmanutha is disputed by biblical scholar Joel L. Watts. He maintains Dalmanutha is a cue to Mark’s readers regarding the battle around Magdala during the Jewish Revolt

8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.

9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.

10 And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.

“Dalmanutha” – south of the plain of Gennesaret a cave has been found bearing the name “Talmanutha,” perhaps the spot where Jesus landed.  Matthew says Jesus went to the vicinity of Magdala (Matt 15:39). 

Dalmanutha and Magdala, located on the western short of the Sea of Galilee, may be names for the same place or for two places located close to each other.

11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.

12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.

“Leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” –in the New Testament, leaven is s symbol of evil or corruption.  The metaphor includes the idea of a tiny amount of leaven being able to ferment a large amount of dough. 

The ruins of a Roman fisherman village, near the Arbel cliffs, on the shores of Sea of Galilee. It was the birthplace of Mary Magdalene.

In this context it refers to the evil disposition of both the Pharisees and Herod Antipas, who called for Jesus to produce a sign, i.e., a proof of His divine authority.

14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.

15 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.

16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.

17 And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?

18 Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?

19 When I break the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.

20 And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.

21 And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?

22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.

23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.

24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.

The Grounds from Under the Main Memorial
The Battle of Bergendal (also known as the Battle of Belfast[citation needed] or Battle of Dalmanutha[citation needed]) was the last set-piece battle of the Second Anglo-Boer War. It lasted from 21–27 August 1900 and took place on the farm Bergendal (Hill and Dale) near the town of Belfast.

The 5,000 Boers were under the command of General Louis Botha and the 20,000 British Empire forces were led by General Sir Redvers Buller under the overall command of Lord Roberts.

25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.

26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.

27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.

29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.

31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

8:31-10:52 – a new section beings in 8:31 and centers on three predictions of Jesus’ death.  It indicates a geographical shift from Galilee, where most of Jesus’ public ministry reported by Mark took place, to Jerusalem and the closing days of Jesus’ life on earth.

This is what a Milestone looked like, they had them every mile on the road to mark your distance in ancient times

In this section Jesus defines the true meaning of “Christ” as the title applies to Him.

32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.

“Satan” – Peter’s attempt to dissuade

Jesus from going to the cross held the same temptation Satan gave at the outset of Jesus’ ministry, so Jesus severely rebuked him.

34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

“Take up his cross” – the picture is of a man, already condemned, required to carry the beam of his own cross to the place of execution.  Cross-bearing is a willingness to suffer and die for the Lord’s sake

Everyone is condemned when they are no longer seen as children in the eyes of the Lord, unless that person(s) has already accepted Jesus into their heart.

The main character, Christian, of “The Pilgrim’s Promise” by John Bunyan, does just that.  It’s an incredible story.  I think the closest summary of the Bible, I’ve read it four times.

35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

“Save his life” – physical life may be saved by denying Jesus, but eternal life will be lost.

36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

“The whole world” – there is nothing in the world that is necessary or will be around forever.  You can’t take it to heaven or hell.  The only thing that will accompany to heaven or hell once you leave this world is your soul.  Where will you spend eternity?  

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

This is the site where Jesus went into the temple

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 Jn 15-17).

37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

“Ashamed of me and of my words” – a person who is more concerned about admiring people than Jesus Christ (which many do, especially up north like Washington State), will find themselves denied by Jesus when He returns.

Gergesenes, Gerasenes or

Three of the four Gospels record the miracle of the healing of the demoniac (and, as a consequence, of the pigs rushing into the sea), but a vexing issue remains: Did this take places in the region of the Gerasenes, the Gadarenes or the Gergesenes?

Jerash: the Arch of Hadrian

All three can be found among the Greek manuscripts of the Gospels. On textual evidence alone manuscripts of Matt 8:28 probably favor “Gadarenes,” but those of Mk 5:1  and Lk 8:26 both suggest “Gerasenes.”

Gadara, modern Umm Qeis, was about 5 miles from the Sea of Galilee and thus cannot have been the place where the miracle took place. Gerasa (Jerash) contains magnificent Roman ruins and a number of pagan temples, but it is 37 miles southeast of Galilee and thereby also out of the question as the site of the miracle.

Geresa, modern Kursi, is situated on the eastern shore of the Sea of and is also the only spot on this shore with a steep bank overlooking the sea (Mk 5:13).The church historian Eusebius identified this as the site of the miracle.

UMM Ques: the site of Gadara

The remains of a Byzantine monastery, built in the 6th century to commemorate this healing, have been found here.

Based upon this evidence, it would appear that the earliest texts rendered the site “Gergesenes” but that, because the name was unfamiliar to many scribes and because of the similarity in pronunciation and spelling, it was erroneously copied as both “Gerasenes” and “Gadarenes.”

…the city of Sepphoris.

Mark 7 – What Defiles a Man & Messianic Conflicts and the Fall of Jerusalem

Wow, that sounds like the United States congress.  And Herod, I wonder if Bush or Obama are related to him?

Chapter five mentioned the town of Gadarenes, and Jesus made thedemons leave a man and enter into a bunch of pigs that ran over the cliff (Mk 5:3-13)

Tomorrow we’re going to look at…

Mark 7
What Defiles a Man

1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.

3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.

4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.

“Market” – where Jews would come into contact with Gentiles, or with Jews who didn’t observe the ceremonial law and thus become ceremonially unclean.

5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?

6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

“Esaias prophesied” – Isaiah roundly denounced the religious leaders of his day (Is 29:13), and Jesus  uses a quotation from this prophet to describe the tradition of the elders as “the commandments of men.”

7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

“The commandment of God…the tradition of men” – Jesus clearly contrasts the two.  Go’s commandments are found in Scripture and are binding; the traditions of the elders (v. 3) are not Biblical and therefore not authoritative or binding.

9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

10 For Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

“Corban” – the transliteration of a Hebrew word that means “offering.”  By using this word in a religious vow an irresponsible Jews son could formally dedicate to God (i.e., to the temple) his earnings that otherwise would have gone for the support of his parents.

The money, however, didn’t necessarily have to go for religious purposes.  The Corban formula was simply a means of circumventing the clear responsibility of children toward their parents as prescribed in the law.

The teachers of the law held that the Corban oat was binding, even when uttered rashly.  The practice was one of many traditions that adhered to the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit.

12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;

13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

“Making the word of God of none effect” – the teachers of the law appealed to Num 30:1-2 in support of the Corban vow, but Jesus categorically rejects the practice of using one Biblical teaching to nullify another.

The scribal interpretation of Num 30:1-2 satisfied the letter of the passage but missed the meaning of the law as a whole.  God never intended obedience to one command to nullify another.

14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:

15 There is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

“Defileth” Jesus replaced the normal Jewish understanding of defilement with the truth that defilement coms from an impure heart, not the violation of external rules.  Fellowship with God is not interrupted by unclean hands or food, but by sin.

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

24 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.

“Tyre” – a Gentile city located in Phoenicia (modern Lebanon), which bordered Galilee to the northwest.  A journey of about 30 miles from Capernaum would have brought Jesus toe the vicinity of Tyre.

25 For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:

26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.

“Syrophenician” – at that time Phoenicia belonged administrative to Syria.  Mark possibly used the term to distinguish this woman from the Libyan-Phoenicians of North Africa.

27 But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

28 And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.

“Yes, Lord” – the only time in this Gospel that Jesus is addressed as “Lord.”  It’s astounding to behold the great reserve the Gospel writers used in not referring to Jesus as “Lord.”  At the time Mark was written, Paul and others had already spoken of  Christ (in their “epistles” or “letters”) as “the Lord” Jesus Christ.

But Mark is recalling the history of the developing awareness of this truth, during which time it was still not generally known that Jesus was God.

29 And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.

30 And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.

31 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.

“Departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, eh came unto the Sea of Galilee” – apparently Jesus went north from Tyre to Sidon (about 25 miles) and then southeast through the territory of Herod Philip to the east side of the Sea of Galilee.

The route was circuitous possibly to avoid entering Galilee, where Herod Antipas was in power and where many people wanted to take Jesus by force and make Him king.  Herod had intimated a hostile interest in Jesus.

32 And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.

33 And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue;

34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.

35 And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.

36 And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it;

37 And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

Messianic Conflicts
and the Fall of Jerusalem

Messianic Movements and Other Conflicts

One of the most explicit Messianic images of the Old Testament, the vision of four successive empires in Daniel 2 and 7, was understood to signal the advent of the Messianic kingdom after the downfall of Rome.

Herod died in Jericho.
Since the work of Emil Schürer in 1896 most scholars have agreed that Herod died at the end of March or early April in 4 BCE. However, Schürer’s consensus has not gone unchallenged in the 20th century, with several scholars endorsing 1 BCE as the year of Herod’s death.

Evidence for the 4 BCE date is provided by the fact that Herod’s sons, between whom his kingdom was divided, dated their rule from 4 BCE, and Archelaus apparently also exercised royal authority during Herod’s lifetime. Josephus states that Philip the Tetrarch’s death took place after a 37-year reign, in the 20th year of Tiberius (34 CE).

Josephus tells us that Herod died after a lunar eclipse. He gives an account of events between this eclipse and his death, and between his death and Passover. A partial eclipse took place on March 13, 4 BCE, about 29 days before Passover, and this eclipse is usually taken to be the one referred to by Josephus. There were however three other, total, eclipses around this time, and there are proponents of both 5 BCE—with two total eclipses, and 1 BCE.

Bronze coin of Herod the Great, minted at Samaria.
Josephus wrote that Herod’s final illness—sometimes named “Herod’s Evil”—was excruciating.[50] Based on Josephus’s descriptions, one medical expert has diagnosed Herod’s cause of death as chronic kidney disease complicated by Fournier’s gangrene. Similar symptoms attended the death of his grandson Agrippa I in 44 CE.

For this reason a number of Messianic movements arose within this period. According to Josephus, the actions of Messianic teachers and the failure of Judean and Roman leaders to deal effectively with them propelled the nation toward open revolt.

A review of select Messianic incidents reveals the tension, potential violence and general atmosphere in which Jesus proclaimed the “good news of the kingdom” (Matt 4:23):

– Near the time of Herod’s death in 4 B.C., two leading Jewish teachers incited their students to remove the large, golden eagle (the symbol of Rome) that Herod had erected over the great gate of the temple.

Herod arrested the teachers and their students and proceeded to burn them alive, also deposing the reigning high priest for his assumed complicity (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.6.2).

– The census of Quirinius in A.D. prompted an open revolt, led by Judas of Galilee, which was violently suppressed (Antiquities, 18.1.1; Acts 5:37).

– When Pilate became prefect in A.D. 26 he commanded his troops to bring standards bearing the image of Caesar into Jerusalem. A large crowd followed him to Caesarea and sat outside his palace for five days and nights in protest.

When he surrounded them with troops, they fell prostrate, exposed their necks and confessed themselves willing to die rather than to have the (Mosaic) Law transgressed (Antiquities, 18.3.1).

– Pilate later used funds from the temple treasury to build an aqueduct and crushed all public opposition to this action. (Antiquities, 18.3.2).

He also slaughtered a group of Galileans while they were offering sacrifices in Jerusalem (Lk 13:1).

– John the Baptist appeared in Judea around 29 A.D., preaching repentance, the imminent advent of God and public criticism of Herod Antipas. He was arrested and subsequently executed (Mk 6:16-29).

– A few years later Pilate crucified Jesus of Nazareth on the charge that he claimed to be “the king of the Jews” (Matt 27:37; Antiquities 18.3.3)        .

– In 36 A.D. Pilate brutally suppressed a Messianic movement in Samaria, which precipitated his removal from office (Antiquities, 18.4.1-2).

– In 41 A.D. the emperor Caligula sought to have a statue of himself erected in the temple of Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of Jews protested, demanding that they be slain first (Antiquities, 18.8.2-3).

Around 45 A.D. a would-be prophet, Theudas, led a large crowd to the Jordan, promising to part the river at his own command as the sign of a new exodus.  Roman troops slaughtered most of his followers and carried the head of Theudas to Jerusalem (Antiquities, 20.5.1; Acts 5:36).

Many other such incidents are described in ancient sources, providing an important window into the complex and challenging world of the Holy Land during the time of Jesus.

The End of Jerusalem

All of these tensions ultimately led to the Jewish revolt and the destruction of  Jerusalem.  Josephus blamed the incompetence and insensitivity of the later procurators for the disastrous revolt.

Despite initial Jewish success, the rebellion was crushed and the temple destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 70 A.D. After the war Judea was governed by a legate of senatorial rank who was under the direct supervision of the emperor.

A second Jewish revolt in 132-135 A.D. led by the Messianic pretender Bar Kokhba (“son of the star”; cf. Num 24:17), resulted in a great slaughter of Jews and the forcible removal of surviving Jews from the land.

The Romans named the province Palestine and converted the temple into a pagan shrine. Jerusalem itself became a Roman city, named Aelia Capitolina.

…Gergesenes, Gerasenes or Gadarenes?