Matthew 28 – The Resurrection of Jesus & The Soldiers Guarding Jesus’ Tomb

This is the last chapter of the Book of Matthews.  Tomorrow we’ll look at…

Matthew 28
The Resurrection of Jesus

Entrance to the Garden Tomb of Jesus. The photographer wrote, “The so-called ‘Garden Tomb’. This tomb was first proposed in the 19th century as the site of Jesus’ burial, in part as an alternative to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Unfortunately, it is very doubtful that this was actually Jesus’ tomb. Not only was there no ancient tradition associated with this location, but the tomb is not of the correct age. It was originally an ancient Israelite tomb and seems to have gone out of use during the time of Jesus. Hence it was not re-shaped in the distinct ‘niche’ or ‘kokkhim’ pattern of Second Temple Jewish burials. The tomb was then only re-used in the Byzantine period. Nevertheless, a dedicated Protestant group maintains a beautiful garden around the tomb and many (Protestants in particular) find the site more condusive to prayerful reflection than the busy and ornate Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”
Entrance to the Garden Tomb of Jesus?
The photographer wrote, “The so-called ‘Garden Tomb’.

This tomb was first proposed in the 19th century as the site of Jesus’ burial, in part as an alternative to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Unfortunately, it is very doubtful that this was actually Jesus’ tomb.

Not only was there no ancient tradition associated with this location, but the tomb is not of the correct age.

It was originally an ancient Israelite tomb and seems to have gone out of use during the time of Jesus.

Hence it was not re-shaped in the distinct ‘niche’ or ‘kokkhim’ pattern of Second Temple Jewish burials.

The tomb was then only re-used in the Byzantine period.

Nevertheless, a dedicated Protestant group maintains a beautiful garden around the tomb and many (Protestants in particular) find the site more condusive to prayerful reflection than the busy and ornate Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”

1 In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.

“First day of the week” – Sunday began by Jewish time at sundown on Saturday.  Spices could then be bought and they were ready to set out early the next day.  When the women started out, it was dark, and by the time they arrived at the tomb it was still early dawn.

“The other Mary” – the wife of Clopas.

2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

“A great earthquake” – only Matthew mentioned this earthquake and the one at Jesus’s death.  It is also clear from the parallel accounts that the events of vv. 2-4 occurred before the women actually arrived at the tomb.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

The Holy Face of Jesus is based off of the Shroud of Turin.
The Holy Face of Jesus is based off of the Shroud of Turin.

11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.

28:11-15 – only Mathew tells of the posting of the guard and he follows up by telling of their report.

12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,

13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.

14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.

15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

Tomb of the Virgin Mary, Jerusalem.
Tomb of the Virgin Mary, Jerusalem.

“Eleven” – remember Judas had committed suicide on 27:5.

17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

“Baptizing” – a sign of their union with and commitment to Christ, that is all baptism means.  It won’t save you, nor do you need to be baptized to be saved.

The photographer wrote, “The Baptism Site on the Jordan side of the Jordan River is one of the most important recent discoveries in biblical archaeology. Excavations only began here in 1996, following Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel in 1994, but have already uncovered more than 20 churches, caves and baptismal pools dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods. Although the identification is not absolutely certain, archaeology has shown that the area known as Wadi Kharrar has long been believed to be the biblical Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, where John the Baptist lived and Jesus was baptized. This area is also associated with the ascension of the Prophet Elijah into heaven.”
The photographer wrote, “The Baptism Site on the Jordan side of the Jordan River is one of the most important recent discoveries in biblical archaeology.

Excavations only began here in 1996, following Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel in 1994, but have already uncovered more than 20 churches, caves and baptismal pools dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods.

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Jesus is not dead:

“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and I have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev 1:18).

The Soldiers
Guarding Jesus’ Tomb

Tomb of Jesus Several places have been proposed as the tomb of Jesus, the place where Jesus Christ was buried: * Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, accepted by many Christians and scholars as built on ground on which Jesus was crucified and buried * Garden Tomb, discovered in the 19th century outside of the old city of Jerusalem, considered a possible site of Jesus's tomb by many Protestant scholars and pilgrims * Roza Bal in Srinagar, India, a shrine venerated by locals and Ahmadiyya Muslims as the grave of a sage named Yuz Asaf, or "son of Joseph" * Talpiot Tomb, rock-cut tomb in the East Talpiot neighborhood, five kilometers south of the Old City in East Jerusalem * Tomb of Jesus in Shingō, Japan, where, according to legend, Jesus died, aged 106, after he escaped the crucifixion in Jerusalem
Tomb of Jesus
Several places have been proposed as the tomb of Jesus, the place where Jesus Christ was buried:
* Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, accepted by many Christians and scholars as built on ground on which Jesus was crucified and buried

* Garden Tomb, discovered in the 19th century outside of the old city of Jerusalem, considered a possible site of Jesus’s tomb by many Protestant scholars and pilgrims
* Roza Bal in Srinagar, India, a shrine venerated by locals and Ahmadiyya Muslims as the grave of a sage named Yuz Asaf, or “son of Joseph”

* Talpiot Tomb, rock-cut tomb in the East Talpiot neighborhood, five kilometers south of the Old City in East Jerusalem

* Tomb of Jesus in Shingō, Japan, where, according to legend, Jesus died, aged 106, after he escaped the crucifixion in Jerusalem

Only Matthew mentions that soldiers guarded the tomb of Jesus. Mt 27:62-66 records that the chief priests and Pharisees recalled Jesus’ own prediction that he would rise again, and they cited their fear that the disciples might steal his body to support their request for an authorized guard.

Pilate’s reply in 27:65 literally means “You have a guard,” and on this basis some have surmised that the guard in question was the temple guard under the high priest’s own jurisdiction.

However, the language of 28:14 precludes this possibility and requires a Roman guard under Pilate’s direct control. Moreover, it is unclear why the chief priests and Pharisees would have requested permission for a guard that they themselves could have directed.

The tomb of Jesus was already sealed by a large stone, which was then probably affixed with an official seal that, if broken, would have attested to the opening of the tomb.

Matthew 28:11-15 records that some of the guards reported the things they had seen and were bribed into circulating a false report about their own negligence and the theft of Jesus’ body. The ensuing rumor is assumed in Jn 20:2,15 and appears later in Justin Martyr’s 2nd century Dialogue With Trypho (108:2).

The Roman concern for safeguarding tombs is reflected in an imperial inscription bearing the title Diatagma Kaisaros, acquired at Nazareth during the 19th century.

The marble slab containing 21 lines of Greek text, dates from between 50 B.C. and 50 A.D. The text attests to the sanctity of tombs and threatens with capital punishment any who would defile a tomb by removing the body.

Gethsemane “is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem most famous as the place where, according to the gospels, Jesus and his disciples are said to have prayed the night. The photographer asked, “2,000 years old olive tree… is it possible?”
Gethsemane “is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem most famous as the place where, according to the gospels, Jesus and his disciples are said to have prayed the night.

The photographer asked, “2,000 years old olive tree… is it possible?”

Scholars have considered the possibility that, in light of the disturbances between Jesus and early Christians over what happened to the body of Jesus, the Diatagma Kaisaros may reflect an early Roman response.

Although the present state of research does not allow for absolute certainty, the presence of this authentic decree lends historical credibility to Matthew’s account.

And if you walk with Him He will be there with you always.

Tomorrow we’ll start with the Book of Mark.

Matthew 27 – The Death of Judas Iscariot & The Location of Jesus’ Tomb

I wonder how many people would like to see Jesus’ tomb?  I know I would.  I would like to see anything that pertained to Him.

It’s okay to admire a person for the deeds that they have done, but don’t admire the person as though they are something.

For example (people you may admire for what they have done), Johnny Cash, General George Patton, President Thomas Jefferson, Joan of Arch, Anne Frank, Ingrid Bergman, etc.

Or it’s okay to admire Moses, the Prophet Elijah or John the Baptist because we know enough of what they did.  But don’t worship anyone, and that includes Jesus’ mother Mary or Mary Magdalene. 

Oh sure, Mary gave birth to Jesus, but that isn’t something she controlled and all Mary Magdalene did was be present when Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.  Who wouldn’t want to be there?

Now, if you admire people like Warren Beatty, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, that would be the same as admiring Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, President Bush and his clan or the Obamas.

There’s nothing they have done worth admiring so there you would be admiring the person which is the same as worshiping them and that is idolatry.  That would be the same as what the devil said to Jesus:

“And saith unto him, All these things will I gie thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me (Matt 4:9).

As I had said, I would love to see Jesus’ tomb, where He lived, everything about Him.  But why?  I don’t know, that’s just human nature, that’s the way You made us.  We like to see great things and there is nothing greater, more fantastic than Your Son.

Tomorrow we’re going take a look at…

Matthew 27
The Death of Judas Iscariot

1 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:

Pontius Pilatus known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from 26–36 A.D.

He is best known as the judge at the trial of Jesus and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus. As prefect, he served under Emperor Tiberius.

“When the morning was come” – the Sanhedrin couldn’t have a legal session at night, so at daybreak a special meeting was held to make the death sentence (26:66) official.

2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

“Delivered him to Pontius Pilate” – the Sanhedrin had been deprived by the Roman government of the right to carry out capital punishment, except in the case of a foreigner who invaded the sacred precincts of the temple.  So Jesus had to be handed over to Pilate for execution. 

3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.

5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.

Jer 7:31-34 and Jer 19:1-15 are talking about the Valley of Hinnom, which is the same place as the potter’s field, which is also where Judas was thrown.

Basically the 30 pieces purchased the field, but also purchased the curse on that land. Judas was a partial fulfillment of that curse (the firstfruit) where 70 A.D. was its fulfillment.

Just so you know the Zech reference says the money was to go to the potter in the house of the Lord (i.e. the person in charge of making ceremonial pottery for the temple). All misshapen pottery was to be thrown out as unclean and broken. It was to be thrown into the Valley of Hinnom.

7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.

8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.

“The field of blood” – cf. “the valley of slaughter” in Jer 19:6.

9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;

10 And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.

11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.

12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.

13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?

14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.

15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.

16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.

Potter’s field today in Jerusalem

“Barabbas” – he had rebelled against the Roman’s so he would have been a folk hero among the Jews.

17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?

18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.

19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

This incident is eerie and brings us back to the 15th verse of yesterday’s discussion – did Judas betrayed Jesus or was he following orders.

20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.

22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.

In Aramaic, the language which most Jews spoke in the early first century, hagel dema means “field of blood.” This picture depicts the Greek-Orthodox monastery of St. Onophrius and the remains of a building called Akeldama (Aceldama), which was used as a burial place for foreigners (and non-Jews) until the early part of the nineteenth century.

Some scholars believe this is the “potter’s field” which the authorities purchased with the “blood money” Judas gave back after he was filled with remorse for betraying Jesus.

23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

“Scourged” – Roman floggings were so brutal that sometimes the victim died before crucifixion – the movie Passion of Christ is a good example of that.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.

“the common hall” – the  praetorium was the governor’s official residence in Jerusalem.

28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.

Romans spent a lot of me outdoors, so they needed apparel that protected them from the elements. To this end, they wore a variety of capes, cloaks, and ponchos. It is hard to determine which is which from a monochrome relief sculpture or even from a colorful mosaic, since they were so similar.

“Scarlet robe’ – the outer cloak of a Roman soldier.

29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

“Cyrene” – a city in North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea about 700 miles west of Jerusalem.

33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,

“Golgotha” – 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.

34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

“Mingled with gall” – tradition says that the women of Jerusalem customarily furnished this pain-killing narcotic to prisoners who were crucified.  Jesus refused to drink it because He wanted to be fully conscious until His death.

Cyrene is an ancient Greek city founded in 630 B.C. by Battus I. It is present day Shahhat, Libya and it is also the important and oldest among the other five Greek cities of this region. The Cyrene city is also the home for Cyrenaics, a philosophy school founded by Aristippus around 3rd century B.C.

Cyrene was founded in the year 630 and it became of the one of the major cities in ancient Libya. The city prospered during the reign of Emperor Battus IV and in 460 B.C. the city became a Republic.

Around 96 BC the Romans took control over the city and served as the main state for the Romans for about 18 years.

The city also prospered for some years but in the year 115 A.D. a major part of the city was destroyed as a part of Jewish revolt. The city again prospered during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, but in the 365 AD an earthquake struck the city destroying temples and buildings.

35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

36 And sitting down they watched him there;

37 And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

38 Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

“Two thieves” – according to Roman law, robbery was not a capital offense. 

39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,

40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,

42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

Golgotha – The hill just above Jeremiah’s Grotto, is possibly the true site of Calvary (Calvary is the English-language name for Golgotha). Jesus was crucified outside the city gate (Hebrews 13:12). Golgotha overlooks the ancient main road that led to Jericho and Damascus in New Testament times.

“From the sixth hour…unto the ninth hour” – from noon until 3:00 p.m.

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

“Eli, Eli, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” – a mixture of Aramaic and Hebrew, one of the languages commonly spoken in the Holy Land in Jesus’ time.  They reveal how deeply Jesus felt His abandonment by God as He bore the sins of mankind.

For Jesus to quote the initial verse of Psalm 22 was to declare its fulfillment in His own life.

47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.

48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.

49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

The bystanders mistook the  first words of Jesus’ 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  (Mk 15:36).

50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

“Vail” – the inner curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place.  The tearing of the curtain signified Christ’s making it possible for believers to go directly into God’s presence (see Heb 9L1-14, 10:14-22).

52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

27:52-53 – an incident found only in Matthew’s Gospel.  These rose after Christ did.  Jesus was “the first fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor 15:20).  They were a witness to Christ’s victory over death.

53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

“Son of God” – it cannot be determined whether the centurion made a fully Christian confession, or was only acknowledging that, since the gods had so obviously acted to vindicate this judicial victim, Jesus must be one especially favored by them (the Greek can also be translated “a son”).

But in view of the ridicule voiced by “those passing by” (vv. 39-40), it seems probably that Matthew intended the former. 

55 And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:

56 Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.

57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:

58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.

59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

Jesus cleansed Mary Magdalene of “seven demons” (Mk 16:9; Lk 8:2), sometimes interpreted as referring to complex illnesses. But still, she was nothing more than a sinner like everybody else.

Of course, the Catholics have put her on a pedestal because she was present at Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. And therefore they think she is the second-most important woman in the New Testament.

60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.

61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulcher.

62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

“The next day, that followed the day of the preparation” – Saturday, the Sabbath.  Friday was the preparation day for the Sabbath (sunset Friday to sunset Saturday).

63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

64 Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

“The last error shall be worse than

the first” – the first would be that Jesus was the Messiah, the second that he had risen as the Son of God.

65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.

66 So they went, and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

The Location of Jesus’ Tomb

According to the New Testament, Jesus was buried in a new tomb hewn out of rock in a garden near the crucifixion site just outside the city.  In addition, the entrance was low and sealed with a stone and on the right side it was possible to sit where the body of Jesus had lain.

The Garden Tomb located in Jerusalem, outside the city walls and close to the Damascus Gate, is a rock-cut tomb which was unearthed in 1867 and has subsequently been considered by some Christians to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus.

The Garden Tomb is adjacent to a rocky escarpment which since the mid-nineteenth century has been proposed by some scholars to be Golgotha (it is also known as Skull Hill and Gordon’s Calvary).

In contradistinction to this modern identification the traditional site where the death and resurrection of Christ are believed to have occurred has been the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at least since the fourth century. Since 1894 the Garden Tomb and its surrounding gardens have been maintained as a place of Christian worship and reflection by a Christian non-denominational charitable trust based in the United Kingdom named The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association

Based upon the Biblical description and upon other known 1st century tombs, the tomb of Jesus can be reconstructed as having had a small forecourt, a low entry passage and a burial chamber with benches, or “couches,” on three sides for the placement of the deceased.

There are two main contenders for the location of Jesus’ tomb in the Old City of Jerusalem: the Garden Tomb, 275 yards north of the Damascus Gate, and the Church the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter. 

The Garden Tomb, however, has no authentic ancient tradition associated with it. It was suggested as the site of Jesus’ burial after the renowned British military hero Charles Gordon, while visiting Jerusalem in 1883, suggested that Calvary would have been located on a nearby hill.

His identification was based a fanciful interpretation of ancient Jerusalem as being in the shape of a skeleton, with the skull (i.e., Golgotha) positioned at a hill north of the Damascus Gate. This led to the identification of a tomb on the western side of the hill as Jesus’ burial place, once referred to as Gordon’s Tomb.

Modern investigations of the Garden Tomb and others in the vicinity, however, indicate that they were part of a cemetery dating to the divided monarchy period rather than to the 1st  century A.D.

The Christian quarter in the north-west section of the Old City comprises some 4,900 people. Most of the Christian institutions are clustered around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

This church is built over the remains of Golgatha where Christ was crucified and the tomb where he was buried and rose.The first Christian community held liturgical clebrations here until 66 AD. The emperor Hadrian in 135 built a pagan shrine over the spot. Constantine built a hugh Church of the Resurrection in the 300s. This is the most sacred place for Christians in Jerusalem.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher location, on the other hand, has a tradition going to early Christian times. When the Roman emperor Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem in 130/131 A.D., he constructed a temple to Jupiter and Venus over the site of the present Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

In 325 A.D. Constantine ordered the removal of Hadrian’s temple. Local Christian tradition had claimed this to be the site of Jesus’ tomb, and, remarkably, when Hadrian’s temple was cleared away, a tomb area was indeed discovered beneath it.

Constantine had a church constructed on the site and built a small structure, or edicule, within the building to enclose the tomb itself. The present Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the continuation of Constantine’s church.

In favor of the authenticity of this location is the fact that there was a continuous Christian presence in Jerusalem from Jesus’ death until Constantine uncovered the tomb.

This Christian community doubtless would have venerated the site of Jesus’ burial, preserving the memory of the location of his tomb. Also, the site of the church was an old quarry during the time of Jesus, although at least part of it had been made into a garden (Jn 19:41).

The fact that the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher had been a quarry implies that it was outside the walls of the city (it is today inside the Old City). This agrees with the fact that Jesus was crucified outside the walls.

The Garden Tomb (also known as Gordon’s Calvary), located in Jerusalem, outside the city walls and close to the Damascus Gate, is a rock-cut tomb considered by some to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus, and to be adjacent to Golgotha, in contradistinction to the traditional site for these—the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

There is no mention of the Garden Tomb as the place of Jesus’ burial before the 19th century.

Within this area at least four tombs cut into the western rock face have been discovered, only one of which corresponds to the type in which Jesus was buried.

The church was destroyed in 614 and rebuilt in 626.The edicule (a small shrine) was destroyed in 1009 by the Egyptian caliph al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah. Contemporary accounts suggest that the southern wall, the burial couch and part of the northern wall survived this destruction.

The rebuilt edicule has suffered damage and neglect over the centuries since that time, so that today it is a hodgepodge of reconstructions and repairs. Although absolute certainty is impossible, the evidence points to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as being the actual site of Jesus’ tomb.

…the soldiers that guarded Jesus’ tomb.

Matthew 26 – The Plot to Kill Jesus & The Last Supper and the Passover

I have said before that to truly know who Jesus is we have to read the Old Testament because the Old Testament spoke of and/or prepared things that pertained to Jesus in the New Testament. 

For example, the Passover (Ex 12), as well as His birth (Is 7:14).

Tomorrow we’ll look at the location….

Matthew 26
The Plot to Kill Jesus

The High Priest was the chief religious official of Israelite religion and of classical Judaism from the rise of the Israelite nation until the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem.

The high priests belonged to the Jewish priestly families that trace their paternal line back to Aaron, the first high priest and elder brother of Moses.

1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,

2 Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

3 Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,

“Caiaphas” – high priest 18-36 A.D. and the son-in-law of Annas, a former high priest who served 6-15 A.D.

4 And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him.

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

“An uproar among the people” – hundreds of thousands of Jewish pilgrims came to Jerusalem for Passover and riots were not unknown.  The religious leaders knew that many people admired Jesus.

“Bethany” – a village on the eastern slope of the mount of Olives, about two miles from Jerusalem and the final station on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem.

“Simon the leper” – mentioned elsewhere only in Mk 14:3, though Simon was a common Jewish name in the 1st century.  He was probably a well-known victim of leprosy who had been healed by Jesus.

6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,

Joseph Caiaphas, known simply as Caiaphas in the New Testament, was the Jewish high priest who is said to have organized the plot to kill Jesus. Caiaphas is also said to have been involved in the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus.

From the name written on two of the ossuaries the cave seems to be the family tomb of Qafa, in Greek Caiaphas, a name known to us from the New Testament and writings of Josephus, one of whom was the high priest who presided at the trial of Jesus.

One of these ossuaries is decorated beautifully in a rare and intricate pattern of two circles, each made up of six whorl rosettes, bordered by a pattern of palm branches. Inside were found bones from six different people, two infants, a child between 2 and 5, a young boy between 13 and 18, an adult woman and a male of about 60.

7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.

“Alabaster box” – most “alabaster” of ancient times was actually marble.

8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?

9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.

11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.

13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,

“Iscariot” – probably means “the man from Kerioth,” the town Kerioth-hezron (Josh 15:25), 12 miles south of Hebron (Jer 48:24).  The man that betrayed Jesus.

These jars come from Egypt and can be dated to the 2nd century BC. It is likely that a larger jar of type was used for the anointing.
Matthew 26:7
a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
Mark 14:3
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Luke 7:37
When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume.

15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

“Thirty pieces of silver” – equivalent to 120 denarii.  Laborers customarily received one denarius for a day’s work.  Judas sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver.

It is said that Judas sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver.  Yet, some say Judas did what he did at Jesus request.  I am unable to agree or disagree because God does uncanny/unbelieveable things and His crucifixion was prophesied centuries and centuries before He was born:

“And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.

And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD” (Zech 11:12-13).

“He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.

Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.

For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips” (Ps 22:16-18).

Of course, the Jews say Jesus was never crucified and try and use Psalm 91 to prove their evil lie or some of them through their ignorance. They say it because if Jesus would not have been killed and resurrected then we could not be saved.  They want to hold to their ridiculous idea that the Messiah has not yet come.

Ancient Village of Kerioth
Home of Judas Iscariot

Of course, Jesus told us that these Jews are of the devil (Jn 8:44; Rev 2:9, 3:9).

16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.

17 Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover?

“The first day of the feast of unleavened bread” – the 14th of Nisan (March-April), it was also called the preparation of the Passover.  The Passover meal was eaten the evening of the 14th after sunset – and therefore technically on the 15th, since the Jewish day ended at sunset.

The feast of unleavened bread lasted seven days, from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan (Lev 23:5-6), but in the time of Christ the entire period, Nisan 14-21, was referred to under that name.

18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.

26:18-30 – these verses clearly indicate that Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples the night before His crucifixion.

Cave Dwellings at Kerioth

“My time” – a reference Jesus’ crucifixion.

19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.

20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.

21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?

23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.

“Dippeth his hand with me in the dish” – it was the custom – still practiced by some in the Middle East – to take a piece of bread, and dip it into a bowl of sauce (made of stewed fruit) on the table.

“Shall betray me” – in the culture, as among Arabs today, to eat with a person was tantamount to saying, “I am your friend and will not hurt you.”  This fact made Judas’s deed all the more despicable (see Ps 41:9).

24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.

25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

Ancient Wine Press at Kerioth

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

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

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

32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.

5th/6th Century Monastery at Kerioth

34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.

“Gethsemane” – the name means “oil press,” a place for squeezing the oil from olives.

37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.

“Peter and the two sons of Zebedee” – the latter were James and John.  These three disciples seem to have been especially close to Jesus.  They were the only disciples to accompany Jesus into Jairus’s house and to the mount of transfiguration.

38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

The city of Hebron is located 20 mi. [33 km.] southwest of Jerusalem. Roads from the Negev, from Arad to the south and Beersheba to the southwest join here making Hebron a natural meeting point of peoples from the Negev with those of the Hill Country of Judah.

Abraham purchased a cave here and buried his wife Sarah in it. In turn Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their spouses, were buried in Hebron. Joshua captured it and gave it to Caleb. Here David was made the king of Judah and later of both Judah and Israel. His son Absalom began his revolt here.

Today Hebron is a city of about 125,000 people – all of them Moslem Arabs save for about 500 Israelis who live in, or near, the city.

40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

R41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.

44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.

49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.

“A servant of the high priest’s” – Malchus.

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

The Gospel of Judas is a fragmented Coptic (Egyptian)-language text that portrays Judas in a far more sympathetic light than did the gospels that made it into the Bible.

In this version of the story, Judas turns Jesus over to the authorities for execution upon Jesus’ request, as part of a plan to release his spirit from his body.

53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

“Legions” – a Roman legion had 6,000 soldiers.

54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

“Scriptures be fulfilled” – in view of v. 56 and pro a reference to Zech 13:7.

55 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.

56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

57 And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.

26:57-27:26 – for a summary of the two stages (religious and civil) of the trial of Jesus .

58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.

59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;

60 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,

Top row left to right: 157 BC Roman Republic, A.D 73 Vespasian, A.D 161 Marcus Aurelius, A.D 194 Septimius Severus;
Second row left to right: A.D 199 Caracalla, A.D 200 Julia Domna, A.D 219 Elagabalus, A.D 236 Maximinus Thrax.

In the Roman currency system, the denarius (/dɪˈnɛərɪəs/ di-nair-i-əs; plural: denarii /dɪˈnɛərɪaɪ/ di-nair-i-eye) was a small silver coin first minted about 211 BC during the Second Punic War. It became the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased in weight and silver content until its replacement by the double denarius, called the antoninianus, early in the 3rd century AD.

The word denarius is derived from the Latin dēnī “containing ten”, as its value was 10 asses, although in the middle of the 2nd century BC it was recalibrated so that it was now worth sixteen asses or four sestertii; it may also be the origin of the words dinar and penny.

61 And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

62 And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?

63 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.

“I adjure thee” – Jesus refused to answer the question of v. 62, but when the high priest used this form He was legally obliged to reply.

64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

65 Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.

“Rent his clothes” – ordinarily the high priest was forbidden by law to do this (Lev 10:6, 21:10), but this was considered a highly unusual circumstance.  The high priest interpreted Jesus’ answer in v. 64 as blasphemy.

66 What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

67 Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,

68 Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?

69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.

70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.

71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.

72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.

73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.

74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

The Last Supper and the Passover

Exodus 12 records the deaths of all males in Egypt, except for those born to Israelites whom God spared or “passed over” when the avenging angel saw the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. Passover is the annual festival commemorating God’s miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.

Depictions of the Last Supper in Christian art have been undertaken by artistic masters for centuries, Leonardo da Vinci’s late 1490s mural painting in Milan, Italy, being the best-known example.

Every year thousands of 1st century Jews would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate this holy day (the fourteenth day of the first month). 

The Passover celebration involved a sacrifice on behalf of each family present, followed by a sacrificial meal consisting of unleavened bread, bitter herbs and wine. The following day (the fifteenth) was the first day of the seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread.

During the eight days of these two festivals no one was permitted to eat bread with leaven; this was commemorative of the need to prepare to leave Egypt in haste at the time of the exodus (there  being no time to wait for a dough to rise).

There has been a good deal of debate over whether the Last Supper of Jesus was a Passover meal.  It certainly appears that Jesus understood it to be such (Mk 14:12-16; Lk 22:15).  Arguments against it being a Passover meal include the following:

Jn 19:14 indicates that Jesus was crucified on that day of the preparation for the Passover; thus the previous evening could not have been that of the Passover.

– The Passover is traditionally eaten with one’s family, whereas the Last Supper was shared among a group of men, some of whom (such as Simon Peter) were married but who for the most part were unrelated to one another.

– The Gospel accounts of the Last Supper do not mention the lamb or the bitter herbs of the Passover, nor do they use the normal Greek word for” unleavened bread,” speaking instead of ordinary bread.

– Passover wine was consumed using individual cups, but the wine of the Last Supper was drunk from a common cup.

On the other hand, many elements associated with the Passover were present at the Last Supper:

The sacrifice of lambs played a very important role in the Jewish religious life and sacrificial system.

When John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the Jews who heard him might have immediately thought of any one of several important sacrifices.

With the time of the Passover feast being very near, the first thought might be the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. The Passover feast was one of the main Jewish holidays and a celebration in remembrance of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.

In fact, the slaying of the Passover lamb and the applying of the blood to doorposts of the houses (Exodus 12:11-13) is a beautiful picture of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Those for whom He died are covered by His blood, protecting us from the angel of (spiritual) death.

– The meal was consumed at night, which was the time for the celebration of Passover,

– The drinking of wine was obligatory at Passover, and wine was central to the Last Supper.

– During New Testament times, Jews ordinarily sat when taking meals, but Jesus and the disciples habitually reclined while taking the Passover. At the Last Supper they reclined.

– At Passover, a dish of hors d’oeuvres preceded the breaking of bread; such a dish is mentioned in Matt 26:23.

– A hymn was sung at Passover, as in verse 30.

Some of the arguments against the Last Supper having been a Passover meal probably indicate that Jesus was transforming the Passover and creating a new institution for the new covenant:

– Jesus’ taking the meal with his disciples implies that the church is the family of God (see Mk 3:31-34).

– Jesus may well have used unleavened bread at the Last Supper, but the Evangelists may have used the ordinary word for bread to avoid the implication that it is essential that the Lord’s Supper be taken with unleavened bread.

– The lack of mention of a lamb is probably significant. Jesus was presenting himself as the sacrificial Lamb of the new covenant, and the mention of a literal lamb would have been a misleading distraction in the narrative.

…where Jesus was placed after His crucifixion.

Matthew 25 – The Parable of the Ten Virgins & The Lost Cities of Africa: The Great Zimbabwe (1 of 5)

Tomorrow weren’t going to go back into the Bible and look at…

Matthew 25
The Parable of the Ten Virgins

1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

The parable of the ten virgins is a direct reference to the Rapture of the Church – the removal of all born again Christians, dead and alive from the Earth, into the clouds to meet the Lord Jesus and be taken to Heaven until the Second Coming and Armageddon.

In this parable Jesus teaches an important and startling lesson: some Christians will miss the Rapture and be left behind to experience God’s wrath unleashed on Earth during the end times Day of The Lord.

2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

Pearly gates of heaven opening to a high altitude sunrise between two layers of clouds in a landscape orientation

“The day nor the hour” – Christ’s coming is always imminent, therefore be ready; watch.

14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

“Talents” – the term was first used for a unit of wei9ght (about 75 lbs.), then for a unit of coinage.  The present-day use of “talent” to indicate an ability or gift is derived from this parable since they received 5, 2, or just 1 talent, “to  every man according to his several ability.”

16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matt 7:24-25 NIV).

20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

“The exchangers” – the Greek for this word comes from traveza (“table”), a word seen on the front of banks in Greece today.  Bankers sat at small tables and changed money.

“Usury” – the Greek for this word was first used in the sense of offspring, interest being the “offspring” of invested money.

28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

The main point of the parable is being ready for Christ’s coming involves more than playing it safe and doing little or nothing.  It demands the king of service that produces results.

30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and brought it” (Matt 13:45-46).

25:31-46 – the two most widely accepted interpretations of this judgment are: 1. It will occur at the beginning of an earthly millennial kingdom (vv. 31, 34).  Its purpose will be to determine who will be allowed to enter the kingdom (v. 34). 

The criterion for judgment will be the king of treatment shown to the Jewish people (“these my brethren,” v. 40) during the preceding great tribulation period (vv. 35-40, 42-45).  Ultimately, how a person treats the Jewish people will reveal whether or not he is saved (vv. 41, 46).

2. The judgment referred to occurs at the great white throne at the end of the world (Rev 20:1-15).  Its purpose will be to determine who will be allowed to enter the eternal kingdom of the saved and who will be consigned to eternal punishment in hell (vv. 34, 46). 

The basis for judgment will be whether love is shown to God’s people (see 1 Jn 3:14-15).

I believe that either or both of the above suggestions could be true.  We can’t control how we feel about someone, but we have control over our behavior.  For example, there’s nothing I can do about my evil hopes for Obama and his family, but it is my choice to pray for them or not, in which I do. 

I know that my prayers aren’t that sincere, but it doesn’t matter because my sincerity of praying for them is true.  I pray for them for God, not for me.

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

“Or what woman having ten sliver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?

When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost,’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:8-10).

“Before him shall be gathered all nations” – the word ethne, nations, properly means here ethnic groups.  All people will be judged as individuals.  No one enters God’s kingdom because of his relationship with a certain country, but rather because of his or her relationship with Jesus Christ.

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

25:34-40 – rewards in the kingdom of heaven are given to those who serve without thought of reward.  There is no hint of merit here, for God gives out of grace, not debt.  What Paul says would make one think otherwise:

“Know ye not that they which run in a race urn all, but one receiveth the prize?  So run, that ye may obtain.

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Cor 9:24-25).

Yet, the 1 Cor 9:23 explains it:

“And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.”

The Gospel is Jesus Christ, all that we do we do for Him, not for a reward.  Our reward is out salvation.  Like me praying for Obama and his family.  I don’t do it for a reward, I do it for His sake.

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

The Lost Cities of Africa 

Overview of Great Zimbabwe. The large walled construction is the Great Enclosure. Some remains of the valley complex can be seen in front of it.

The Great Zimbabwe

Location: Zimbabwe
Date of Construction: c 13th century CEA
Abandoned: late 15th century C.E. Built By: Mwene Mutapa Empire
Key Features: Great Enclosure; Sophisticated Dry-Stone Masonry; Conical Tower; Hilltop Complex; Stone Birds

The greatest archaeological site in sub-Saharan Africa and perhaps the only one to lend its name to a modern-day state, Great Zimbabwe was once the center of a mighty trading empire. Its ruins have inspired exotic speculations and been at the center of political storms.

Great Zimbabwe is the collective name given to a group of ruins spread across a valley and adjoining hills on the Zimbabwe Plateau – a region of high ground between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers in southern Africa.

View west from the Eastern Enclosure of the Hill Complex, showing the granite boulder that resembles the Zimbabwe Bird and the balcony.

It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Its most prominent and best-known feature is a circular wall known as the Great Enclosure, a feat of sophisticated monumental masonry that continues to awe and inspire today as it must have when it was first constructed, probably during the 13th-15th centuries CE.

This was the height of the Mwene Mutapa Empire (known by Europeans as Monomotapa), a kingdom of the Shona (the peoples who still live in the area) that developed from about 900 CE.

At first the empire was based on cattle herding, but from around 1100 Mwene Mutapa took over control of the lucrative trading networks that linked ivory, iron and gold production centers inland with the merchants on the coast, who brought in return luxury goods from the Middle and Far East. Goods found at the site include silk, cotton,

Chinese porcelain, Persian faience, glass from Syria and beads from India. In particular, rich gold fields were opened up to the west of Great Zimbabwe and considerable wealth flowed through the hands of the king, or mambo.

It was this wealth that funded construction of Great Zimbabwe’s monumental masonry and attracted a growing population.

The Hill Complex

The whole complex covers about 1,800 acres, but the ruins are concentrated at three main sites.

Atop a rocky hill sits the group known as the Hill Complex, which includes an oval stone enclosure about 330 feet across at its widest point and up to 36 feet high, within which sit a number of huts and small buildings made of daga – mud, gravel and earth from termite mounds, mixed to give a sort of concrete, which forms the most common building material in Africa.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins

The hill was probably the part of the site that was occupied earliest. Remains indicate that it was first settled by Iron Age herders and farmers as early as the 5th century CE, probably attracted by the area’s rich grazing, fertile soil and, thanks to its altitude, relative lack of tsetse-fly spreading sleeping sickness.

When Great Zimbabwe became rich and powerful, the Hill Complex was developed into the enclave of the mambo and possibly other figures of power, such as priests. A number of stone birds perched on top of stone pillars were found inside the complex, one of which has since become the national emblem of Zimbabwe.

The Great Enclosure

Below the Hill Complex is the most iconic and impressive of Great Zimbabwe’s wonders – the Great Enclosure, known by the 19th century residents of the area as the Imbahuru, which means either ‘great house’ or ‘house of the great woman’ in the local Karanga dialect of Shona.

The conical tower in the Great Enclosure, possibly a giant symbol, but also thought to be a symbolic replica of a grain store. No mortar is used to hold together the stone blocks.

This latter translation would prove to have significant resonance for early European interpretations of the site. The Great Enclosure is an elliptical space enclosed by a giant wall with a circumference of 735 feet, which is up to 33 feet high in places.

It is constructed of two layers of rectangular granite blocks, laid together with such precision that no mortar was required, filled with earth and stones. The wall is about half as thick at the base as it is high and tapers in towards the top.

Almost one million blocks were used in its construction. The blocks come from the surrounding hills, where granite domes erode through a process known as exfoliation, whereby thin sheets of rock peel off and natural heating and cooling cause these to crack along existing fault lines to give handy brick-shaped blocks.

The medieval Shona people would accelerate the process by artificially heating and cooling the granite and by driving wooden wedges into cracks.

Notable features of the Great Enclosure include an inner wall that runs around part of the main wall to create a180-foot long alley, openings and doorways, smoothly rounded walls and rounded steps crafted with great skill. Inside the enclosure is a solid conical tower 30 feet high, a number of standing stones and traces of many daga huts.

The Valley Ruins

Scattered through the valley that surrounds the Great Enclosure are the ruins of many smaller stone enclosures and traces of more daga huts.

View of part of the 180 foot long alley that runs between the inner and outer walls of the Grand Enclosure.

Not the skill and precision of the dry stone masonry. The function of the alley is unclear – perhaps it was defensive, or perhaps it had some ritual function linked to the greater religious symbolism of the whole site.

These structures are the youngest and archaeologists speculate that they were built to accommodate the swelling population of Great Zimbabwe as its power and wealth drew in greater and greater numbers.

At its height the population may have reached 17-19,000, equivalent to that of medieval London. One of the enclosures is thought to have been where the wives of the mambo lived – there may have been up to 1,000 of them.

The layout of the site had socio-political aspects. The physical separation and elevation of the Hill Complex mirrored and demonstrated the status of the king, while lesser chiefs of the kingdom maintained smaller enclosures of their own on less elevated points and the common people spread around the valley.

When the population was at its height, Great Zimbabwe would have been a busy metropolis, with traders bringing in raw materials for craftsmen to process and farmers and herders keeping them supplied with food.

The function of the Great Enclosure itself, however, remains something of a mystery. It is thought that it may have been a royal palace or played a role in initiation rites and/or religious ceremonies.

Part of the wall is decorated with a frieze of chevrons, thought to have sexual symbolism, while the conical tower is an obvious phallic symbol that may have been a symbolic replica of Shona grain storage structures.

View of part of the 55-metre (180-foot) long alley that runs between the inner and outer walls of the Grand Enclosure. Note the skill and precision of the dry stone masonry. The function of the alley id unclear — perhaps it was defensive, or perhaps it had some ritual function linked to the greater religious symbolism of the whole site.

King Solomon’s Mines

The city began to diminish from the mid-late 15th century, probably because the gold fields that underpinned its wealth began to run dry, but possibly also because the area could not support the environmental demands – particularly firewood and grazing – of the population.

It was almost entirely deserted by the time that European explorers began to penetrate the interior of the continent, although subsequently there may have been low-level reoccupation of parts of the site and the Great Enclosure was still used for religious ceremonies.

This meant the largely empty city was available as a template for the assumptions and preoccupations of European explorers and treasure-hunters.

The stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe National Monument, a mysterious site once thought to be the source of King Solomon’s gold.

The first Europeans to report the existence of the site were the Portuguese, who had set up trading forts on the East African coast to access gold, ivory and the other riches of the continent, but who did not penetrate inland.

Native informants told them of the rich gold mines of the empire of Monomotapa and of its great fortresses called Symbaoe (possibly a misinterpretation of ‘Zimbabwe7), built of stones joined without mortar.

The Portuguese and subsequent Europeans connected Monomotapa with the legendary Ophir, said in the Bible to be the home of the Queen of Sheba and the location of the gold mines that were the source of King Solomon’s fabulous wealth.

By the mid-19th century, European explorers and missionaries finally penetrated the interior.

In 1870 eccentric German explorer Karl Mauch (who typically eschewed the use of porters or bearers and carried all his gear himself, while dressed in a suit of antelope hide leather and sporting a large umbrella as a sunshade) heard tales of Monomotapa from a missionary and determined to win glory – and possibly riches – as the discoverer of Ophir.

After various tribulations he reached the site and found the evidence he sought. Chipping a piece of wood from the lintel of a doorway he decided that it resembled his pencil, made from cedar, and must therefore have come from Lebanon.

To his mind this confirmed the obvious: such marvelous structures could not have been built by Africans, but must have been constructed by Phoenicians, ancient inhabitants of Lebanon. He went further, speculating that the Hilltop Complex was the Queen of Sheba’s attempt to replicate Solomon’s Temple.

Alas for Mauch, a search of the site revealed neither gold nor gemstones, while his discoveries were greeted with relative indifference back in Europe. He died in relative obscurity five years later, after falling from a window back in his native land.

Whitewash

This extraordinary and completely unfounded interpretation of the site was to dominate subsequent European conceptions.

The view from the hill complex

At the end of the 19thcentury the land around Zimbabwe fell into the hands of Cecil Rhodes, whose project for a British-dominated Africa required certain basic ideological and anthropological assumptions, namely that Africans were barbarous savages incapable of civilization and that it was the ‘white man’s burden’ to lift them out of their benighted state.

The British archaeologists dispatched to survey Great Zimbabwe confirmed Mauch’s earlier theory. The city had clearly been built by Phoenicians or other Mediterranean visitors, concluded James Bent in his 1892 book The Ruined Cities of Mashonaland, which inspired H. Rider Haggard’s adventure novel King Solomon’s Mines.

Bent’s successor, Richard N. Hall, was incompetent and destructive, clearing 12 feet of soil and rubble from the ruins in an attempt to ‘restore’ them and thus irreparably damaging the archaeological record.

In subsequent decades the area became the country of Rhodesia and Great Zimbabwe became an ideological battleground.

For the white elite governing Rhodesia it was important that the ruins should have a non-African background, but as early as 1905 the archaeologist David Randall-Maclver compared finds at the site with the prevalent use of identical artefacts and technology by the Shona peoples still living in the area.

The tower is completely filled in with rock; its purpose is unknown.

He drew the obvious conclusion: Great Zimbabwe had been built by Africans, probably by essentially the same people that still lived there. Archaeologist Gertrude Caton-Thompson, sent to disprove his findings, instead proved them accurate.

The Rhodesian authorities would not accept this line. A cavalcade of eccentric theories was advanced, linking the ruins with everyone from the pharaohs and the Lost Tribes of Israel to the Vikings. Access to the site for Africans was restricted and government archaeologists were fired for straying from the party line.

Meanwhile the ruins became a key symbol for the African independence movement and when the country finally broke free of its apartheid system the nation’s name was changed to reflect this (although there is disagreement over which dialect of Shona ‘Zimbabwe’ actually derives from and thus whether it means ‘houses of stone’ or ‘venerated houses’).

Today Great Zimbabwe remains a politically charged place; a national monument that helps to define Zimbabwe’s cultural identity, but also a focus of grievances over the nations troubled colonial history.

…the Last Supper and the Passover.

Matthew 24 – Signs of the End of this Age & Lost Cities of Africa: Introduction

The Lost City we’ll look at tomorrow is…

Matthew 24
Signs of the End of this Age

1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.

2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

“There shall not be left here one stone upon another” – fulfilled literally in 70 A.D., when the Romans under Titus completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple buildings.  Stones were even pried apart to collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple was set on fire.

“Thrown down” – excavations in 1968 uncovered large numbers of these stones, toppled from the walls by the invaders.

3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

“Mount of Olives” – a ridge a little more than a mile long, beyond the Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem and rising about 200 feet above the city.

“When shall these things be?  And what shall be the sign of they coming, and of the end of the world?” –  Jesus doesn’t go into great detail, but He does tells us what to watch out for in this chapter.

4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

In 70 A. D. the Romans burned the temple and destroyed the city. In the words of Jesus, “there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

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

6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

“Sorrows” – the rabbis, as well as the prophets, spoke of “birth pangs.”  They will lead into the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7).

9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Ancient rock-cut tombs on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives. The rectangular openings to the tombs have been enlarged, probably when the tombs were used as dwellings by Christian monks.

14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

“The abomination of desolation” – the detestable thing causing the desolation of the holy place.  The primary reference in Daniel (9:27, 11:31, 12:11) was to 168 B.C., when Antiochus Epiphanes erected a pagan altar to Zeus on the sacred altar in the temple of Jerusalem.

There are two more stages in the progressive fulfillment of the predictions in Daniel and Matthew: (1) the Roman destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. and (2) the setting up of an image of the antichrist in Jerusalem (see Thess 2:4; Rev 13:14-15).

16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

“The Mountains” – the Transjordan mountains, where Pella was located.  Christians in Jerusalem fled to that area during the Roman siege during shortly before 70 A.D.  a similar fleeing will occur during the future great tribulation period (identified with Daniel’s 70th “week,” Dan 9:27).

17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house:

18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.

19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!

20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day:

“Neither on the Sabbath” – only Matthew includes this because he was writing to Jews, who were forbidden to travel more than about half a mile on the Sabbath.

21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

“Great tribulation” – Josephus, the Jewish historian who was there, describes the destruction of Jerusalem in almost identical language.  Many believe that reference is also to a future period of great tribulation (see Dan 12:1).

22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

“Days should be shortened” – some hold that t

The Prophet Daniel Described The New World Order This Way.
Dan 7:7-8, 7:23-25

his statement means that the tribulation will be of such intensity that, if allowed to continue, it would destroy everyone.  Other believe that Christ is referring to the cutting short of a previously determined time period (such as the 70th “seven” of Dan 9:27 or the 42 months of Rev 11:2, 13:5).

I believe we are in the tribulation at this time, but not the Great Tribulation.  The Bible doesn’t tell us when the tribulation begins.  I believe the “shorting of days” is being done now because it seems to me that the days go by quickly, and that is what I believe Jesus was talking. 

God is making the time go quicker so we can get out of here and be with Him forever.

“The elect’s sake” – the people God, during the tribulation, including some Jews and Gentiles.

23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.

24 For there shall arise false Christ’s, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

25 Behold, I have told you before.

26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

The abomination of desolation is definitely one of the most interesting and misunderstood prophecies found in the Bible.

The element that makes this prophecy especially intriguing is that Jesus identifies it as a specific sign that the end is near. A careful study of Matthew 24 reveals that it is one of the many Bible passages that has a dual application.

It speaks not only of the abomination of desolation that warns of the imminent destruction of the temple and Jerusalem but it also parallels this with the end of this world as we know it and the second coming of Jesus.

28 For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

“There will the eagles be gathered together” – the coming of Christ will be as obvious as the gathering of vultures around a carcass.

29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

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

33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Jesus’ words are more certain than the existence of the universe, i.e., “verily.”

36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,

39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

Sun Shining Down on the Clouds

42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

43 But know this, that if the Goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

49 And shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;

50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,

51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Lost Cities of Africa: Introduction

The five cities in this review span a vast gulf of history, from the 11th century B.C. to the 15th century CE. But they also span a cultural gulf, between the super-Saharan world of the famous civilizations of antiquity and the sub-Saharan world that remains little known and poorly understood.

Corinthian columns at Leptis Magna, in Libya, one of the best preserved Roman cities.

The former is the familiar world of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, in which the extraordinarily long narrative of Egyptian history, represented here through the tale of the lost city of Tanis, gives way to the Classical world, and the famous names of Alexandria, a Greek city with an Egyptian flavor, and Leptis Magna, one of the best preserved of all Roman cities.

The sub-Saharan world has its own rich history, with its own narrative of the rise and fall of empires, but the lack of written sources, combined with the relative paucity of archaeological research, means that this narrative is largely unknown.

The haunting site of Great Zimbabwe offers a rare window on this untold history, although it took the efforts of unbiased and professional archaeologists to start to unravel its mystery.  It has been subject to interpretation (or misinterpretation) through ideologically rather than scientifically motivated research.

Great Zimbabwe is a ruined city in the southeastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo, close to the Chimanimani Mountains and the Chipinge District.

t was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age.

The two worlds are bridged by the ancient city of Meroe and the venerable Kushite civilization of which it was capital. The Kushites are rarely seen as much more than adjuncts to their more famous neighbor to the north, Egypt, but in practice they represent a coming together of the super- and sub-Saharan worlds.

Initially they developed in imitation of the Egyptians, but the establishment of Meroe signaled a geopolitical shift towards the sub-Saharan world and the development of a new, uniquely sub-Saharan culture.

Corinthian columns at Lepti) Magna, in Libya, one of the be.it preserved Roman cities.

…the Great Zimbabwe.

Matthew 23 – The Woes Upon the Pharisees & The Capernaum Synagogue

For the next two chapters we’re going to step out of the Bible and start our review of the five Lost Cities in Africa, tomorrow will be…

Matthew 23
The Woes Upon the Pharisees

1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,

James Tissot, Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees. The Woes of the Pharisees is a list of criticisms by Jesus against the Scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel of Luke 11:37-54 and Gospel of Matthew 23:1-39.[1] Mark 12:35-40 and Luke 20:45-47 include warnings about the scribes.

2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:

3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

“Phylacteries” – these small boxes, worn on forehead and arm, contained four passages (Ex 13:1-10, 13:11-16; Deut 6:4-9, 11:13-21).

6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

“Chief seats in the synagogue” – 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.

7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

23:8-10 – the warning is against seeking titles of honor to foster pride.  Obviously, we should avoid unreasonable literalism in applying such commands.

9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

Catholics believe the pope is the successor of Peter, and we also say he was the first pope, that he first held the office. We reference Matthew 16:18 a lot, and rightly so.

“The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.” Matthew 23:2-3

13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Jesus doesn’t criticize the Pharisees for their evangelistic zeal (I sure would, I couldn’t ignore them like You do).  He objects to its results.  The converts wound up “out-Phariseeing’ the Pharisees and that meant they became even more children of hell (i.e., bound for hell) than their teachers.

16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.

19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?

20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.

The commandment to wear tefillin, referred to as ‘phylacteries’(from an ancient Greek term meaning ‘amulet.
A small leather box containing Hebrew texts on vellum, worn by Jewish men at morning prayer as a reminder to keep the law.

Tefillin (Askhenazic: /ˈtfɪlɨn/; Israeli Hebrew: [tfiˈlin], תפילין) also called phylacteries (/fɪˈlæktəriːz/ from Ancient Greek phylacterion, form of phylássein, φυλάσσειν meaning “to guard, protect”) are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, which are worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers. Although “tefillin” is technically the plural form (the singular being “tefillah”), it is loosely used as a singular as well.

The hand-tefillin, or shel yad, is placed on the upper arm, and the strap wrapped around the arm, hand and fingers; while the head-tefillin, or shel rosh, is placed above the forehead. The Torah commands that they should be worn to serve as a “sign” and “remembrance” that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt.

21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.

22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Jesus does not criticize the observance of the minutiae of the law (He says, “these ought ye to have done”), but He does criticize the hypocrisy often involved.

24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

“Strain out” – the strict Pharisee would carefully strain his drinking water through a cloth to be sure he did not swallow a gnat, the smallest of unclean animals.  But figuratively, he would swallow a camel – one of the largest.

25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

“Whited sepulchers” – a person who stepped on a grave became ceremonially unclean (see Num 19:16), so graves were whitewashed to make them easily visible, especially at night.  They appeared clean and beautiful on the outside, but they were dirty and rotten on the inside.

28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous,

30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.

31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.

“Ye blind guides, which strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matt 23:24).

32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:

35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

“Abel unto…Zacharias” – the murder of Abel is recorded in Gen 4:8 and that of Zechariah, son (probably grandson) of Jehoiada, in (Chr 24:20-22 (Chr is placed at the end of the Old Testament in the Hebrew arrangement of the books).

Last time we considered the absurd lack of proportion demonstrated by the Pharisees. They strained at gnats and swallowed camels. In other words they obsessed over minutiae and ignored the whole point of the Scriptures.

But how did it come to this? How did they end up having such a diabolical problem with perspective?

Well the chilling answer is that they made the kinds of errors that we are tempted to make every day. They focussed on the externals while ignoring the festering darkness within.

The expression was somewhat like our “from Genesis to Revelation.”  Jesus was summing up the history of martyrdom in the Old Testament.

36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

The Capernaum Synagogue

The city of Capernaum features prominently in the Gospel narratives as a location from which Jesus conducted much of his public ministry (Matt 4:13; Mk 2:1).  He performed many miracles there and is reported to have frequently entered the Capernaum synagogue in order to teach (Mk 1:21, 3:1-5; Lk 4:31; Jn6:59).

According to Lk 7:5 the synagogue of Capernaum was constructed under the auspices of a Roman centurion who felt great love for the people of Israel.

The ruins of a synagogue were recognized by Edward Robinson in 1852 at the site of Tell Hum. Charles Wilson conducted the first excavation there in 1865-1866. 

In 1894 the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land acquired the site from the Turks, built a monastery, covered the ruins and planted crops over them in order to keep them safe until the political situation would permit careful excavation.

During the years 1905-1926 the ancient synagogue was excavated and partially restored by German and Franciscan teams.

The Capernaum Synagogue

The wait had been worthwhile.  The teams discovered a large, ornate, limestone synagogue planned as a rectangular basilica approximately 60 feet wide by 80 feet long.  The floor plan consisted of a central nave flanked by aisles.

Stone benches lined the eastern and western walls.  The focal point of the structure faced south, toward Jerusalem.  For a number of years scholars believed that these visible ruins represented that actual structure in which Jesus had taught.

Architectural from the Synagogue

However, continuing excavations begun in 1968 have revealed the remains of an earlier structure, built of black basalt stone, with a similar floor plan. The 4 foot thick basalt walls are slightly out of line with the limestone walls and, therefore, could not have served as their foundation.

In 1981 a basalt cobblestone floor was discovered, together with pottery from the first century A.D. Thus, it is no doubt this earlier structure from which Jesus declared:

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: If any man1 eat -of this bread, he shall live forever…” (Jn 6:51 ). 

…the introduction.

Matthew 22 – The Marriage Dinner & The True King Riding on a Donkey

The Pharisees were always trying to trap Jesus into something and Matthew 19 showed how much they also disliked eunuchs.

Jesus wasn’t an evangelist or preacher or anything like that, He didn’t even have a church (He is the head of the church – Col 1:18). 

As far as we know from the Bible He just went around teaching and healing people.  He probably spent most of His time doing that in Jerusalem and Capernaum.  But tomorrow we’ll look more into…

Matthew 22
The Marriage Dinner

1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,

2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,

3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.

5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:

6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.

7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.

9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.

10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.

11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:

“Had not on a wedding garment” – it has been conjectured that it may have been the custom for the host to provide the guests with wedding garments.  This would have been necessary for the guests at this feast in particular, for they were brought in directly from the streets. 

The failure of the man in question to avail himself of a wedding garment was therefore an insult to the host, who had made the garments available.

Ephesians 1:4-6
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

A proverbial summary of the meaning of the parable.  God invites “many” (perhaps “all” in view of the Semitic usage of “many”) to be part of His kingdom, but only a “few” are chosen by Him. 

This does not mean that God chooses arbitrarily.  The invitation must be accepted, followed by appropriate conduct.  Proper behavior is evidence of being chosen.

15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

22:15-17 – the Pharisees were ardent nationalists, opposed to Roman rule, while the Herodians, as their name indicates, supported the Roman rule of the Herods.  Now, however, the Pharisees enlisted the help of the Herodians to trap Jesus in His words.

After trying to put Him off guard with flattery, they sprang their question: “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar (Tiberius Caesar Augustus), or not?” (v. 17).  If He said “No,” the Herodians would report Him to the Roman governor and He would be executed for treason.

If He said, “Yes,” the Pharisees would denounce Him to the people as disloyal to His nation.

16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

Roman Law
The “Laws of Caesar”
~ Treaty of Friendship and Reciprocal Military Alliance Between the Roman People and the Lycian Federation, including the Criminal ‘Laws of Caesar,’ International Law, and Law of Jurisdiction. ~

The treaties between the Romans and their allies were the cornerstones of the Roman Empire, and were one of the main causes of their military success and stability over centuries.

19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

“Penny” – The denarius, the common Roman coin of that day.  On one side was the portrait of Emperor Tiberius and on the other the inscription in Latin: “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augusts.”  The coin was issued by Tiberius and was used for paying tax to him.

20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

“Unto God the things that are God’s” – in distinguishing clearly between Caesar and God, Jesus also protested against the false and idolatrous claims made on the coins.

22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way.

23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,

24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

Moses said” – Jesus quoted from the Pentateuch when arguing with the Sadducees, since those books had special authority for them. 

The reference (Deut 25:5-6) is to the levirate law (from Latin levir, “brother-in-law”), which was given to protect the widow and guarantee continuance of the family line.

25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:

22:25-40 – the Sadducees was an aristocratic, politically minded group, willing to compromise with secular and pagan leaders.  They controlled the high priesthood at this time and held the majority of the seats in the Sanhedrin.

They did not believe in the resurrection or an afterlife, and they rejected the oral tradition taught by the Pharisees (Josephus, Antiquities, 13.10.6).

26 Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.

27 And last of all the woman died also.

28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.

29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,

The Enclosure of the Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron. This large rectangular enclosure around the famous caves is the only Herodian structure to survive fully intact.

Herodian architecture is a style of classical architecture characteristic of the numerous building projects undertaken during the reign (37 B.C. – 4 B.C.) of Herod the Great, the Roman client king of Judea.

Herod undertook many colossal building projects, most famously his reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (ca. 19 B.C.). Many of his structures were built upon comparable, previous Hasmonean buildings and most of his have, in their turn, vanished as well.

32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.

35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

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

22:37, 39 – “Love” – the Greek verbs is not phileo, which expresses friendly affection, but agapao, the commitment of devotion that is directed by the will and can be commanded as a duty.

“With all thy heart…soul…mind” – with your whole being.  The Hebrew of Deut 6:5 has “heart…soul…might,” but some manuscripts of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) add “mind.”  Jesus combined all four terms in Mk 12:30.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

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

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Tiberius Iulius Caesar Augustus

“All the law and the prophets” – the entire Old Testament.

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,

22:41-46 – Most of the people knew that the Messiah was to be from the family of David.

42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.

43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,

44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?

45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?

46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

The True King Riding on a Donkey

Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday represents one of the most significant public events of his ministry. Each of the four Gospels records this incident, though with distinctive details (Matt 21:1-11; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:29-38; Jn 12:12-15).

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti: entering the city on a donkey symbolizes arrival in peace rather than as a war-waging king arriving on a horse.

Central to each report is Jesus’ deliberate choice to enter the city riding upon a donkey. Scholars have noted three significant points regarding this chosen mount. These aspects are not mutually exclusive, and each contributes to a more complete appreciation of the meaning of Jesus’ symbolic action and its decisive consequences:

– The donkey was a traditional mount for kings and rulers in the ancient Near East (Jdg 10:4; 12:14; 2Sa 16:2); Jesus was therefore making an implicit claim to be the king of his people.

– The act of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey near the time of the Passover celebration invoked a central image of Messianic expectation, linked to key Biblical texts such as Gen 49:10, Is 62:11; Zech 9:9.

Two of the four Evangelists explained the significance of Jesus’ entrance explicitly as the fulfillment of Scripture (Matt 21:5; Jn 12:15). In Jewish literature and teaching, moreover, the image of a king on a donkey approaching Jerusalem was consistently understood to signify the arrival of the Messianic King.

Jerusalem, located on a plateau in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Thus, Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah and proclaiming that the restoration was dawning through His own person.

– In light of the frequent Old Testament association of horses with war and human pride, the donkey may have presented an image of peaceful humility. Jesus, in this interpretation, was making a statement regarding the nature of his kingship (cf. Deut 17:16; 2 Sam 15:1; Ps 20:6-9, 33:16-18, 147:10-11; Prov 21:31; Zech 9:9-10). 

…the synagogue in Capernaum.

Matthew 21 – The Triumphal Entry & Eunuchs

Powerful men and women, in ancient times and even today, all had to have extravagant things like palaces, homes, vehicles, jets, jewelry.  And they had to parade themselves around like they were gods.

The capstone relief of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem in the Dominus Flevit Church.
Daniel’s Prediction—The Triumphal Entry Missed

The Prophet Daniel foretold that exactly 483 Jewish years—or 476 Gregorian years—from the rebuilding of Jerusalem in March 444 B.C., “Messiah the Prince” would appear (Daniel 9:25).

If the religious leaders had taken seriously Daniel’s challenge “to know and discern” the timing (Daniel 9:25), Jesus would have topped the hill as He did in March of AD 33 to see a banner draped over the walls of Jerusalem: “Welcome, Messiah!”

When Jesus – the “…KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS” (Rev 19:16) – went to Jerusalem…

Matthew 21
The Triumphal Entry

1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,

“Bethphage” – the name means “house of figs” and pertains to the Triumphal Entry.

2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.

“An ass” – the donkey was symbolic of humility, peace and Davidic royalty.

3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.

4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,

5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,

7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.

The Church of Bethphage, also spelled Beitphage, meaning “house of the early figs”, is a Franciscan church located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It contains a stone traditionally identified as the one which Jesus used to mount the donkey at the start of his procession into Jerusalem.

The modern church, built in 1883, rests on the foundations of a 12th-century crusader chapel which was located in the ancient village of Bethphage, which is now a part of Jerusalem, but two thousand years ago would have been a separate village between Bethany and Jerusalem.

“Brought the ass, and the colt” – According to Mark and Luke Jesus rode the colt.  Typically, a mother donkey followed her offspring closely.  Matthew mentions two animals, while the other Gospels have only one.

8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.

“Spread their garments in the way” – an act of royal homage (see 2 Kgs 9:13).

“Branches” – these were readily available in nearby fields.  John identifies the branches as palm branches (Jn 12:13), which apparently came from Jericho, since they are not native to Jerusalem.

9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

These are three separate quotations, not necessarily spoken at the same time.

“Hosanna” –both prayer and praise.

“In the highest” – that is, may those in heaven sing “Hosanna” (see Ps 148:1-2; Lk 2:14).

10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?

11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Jericho, the world’s first city, was built in the Stone Age sometime between 11,000 and 10,000 years ago.

The wild grasses its inhabitants gathered were later domesticated. That is, they were genetically engineered via selective breeding to produce ever fatter seeds. We know the results today as wheat and barley.

14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,

16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

“Bethany” – a village on the eastern slope of the mount of Olives, about 2wo miles from Jerusalem and the final station on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem.

18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.

19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

20 And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

Store Jars 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.

21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things.

25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?

26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.

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

28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard.

The Mount of Olives was studded with olive trees in the time of Jesus. He spent much time here in his last days, preaching and teaching his disciples.

At the Last Supper, he predicted that one of the disciples would betray him. Then he took Peter, John, and James to pray with him in the garden of Gethsemane. These ancient olive trees are only 500 years old, but they add a lot of atmosphere to the surroundings.

The Bible says that Jesus prayed that he not have to go through the agony he knew was before him, but he accepted the will of God that it must happen. All four gospels recount the agony in the garden. The disciples kept falling asleep during this vigil, and Jesus said, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:

“Tower’ – for guarding the vineyard, especially when the grapes ripened and for shelter.  The rabbis specified that it was to be a raised wooden platform, 15 feet high and 6 feet square.

34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.

35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

“Hosanna” was the shout of praise or adoration made in recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” It is used in the same way in Christian praise, especially on Palm Sunday which commemorates that event.

21:35-37 – the husbandmen are the Jews, or their leaders.  The servants represent the Old Testament prophets, many of whom were killed.  The son represents Christ, who was condemned to death by the religious leaders. 

“They will reverence my son” – the owner stands for God, even though He knew what they would do to His son.

36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.

37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.

38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.

39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.

40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?

41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

“Other husbandman” – gentiles, to whom Paul turned when the Jews for the most part, rejected the gospel (Acts 13:46, 18:6).  By the second century the church was composed almost entirely of Gentiles.

42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?

Jerusalem has always been significant to Christians because of the places there where Jesus ministered and, most importantly, where he died and rose again. This is the obvious and simple significance of Jerusalem to the Christian world.

This is why Helen, mother of Constantine, built churches there in the 4th century that commemorated these events in the life of Jesus and is why Christians from every denomination on earth visit Jerusalem and these very churches and sites.

43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.

46 But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.

 

Eunuchs

A eunuch is a man who may have been castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences. Less commonly, in translations of ancient texts, “eunuch” may refer to a man who is not castrated but who is impotent, celibate, or otherwise not inclined to marry and procreate. Most eunuchs who are castrated before puberty are asexual.

Relief: king and eunuch attendant, 883–859 B.C.; Neo–Assyrian period, reign of Ashurnasirpal II.
On this relief slab, the king Ashurnasirpal II wears the royal crown, a conical cap with a small peak, and a long diadem.

He holds a bow, a symbol of his authority, and a ceremonial bowl. Facing him, a eunuch, the “beardless one,”

Castration was typically carried out on the soon-to-be eunuch without his consent in order that he might perform a specific social function; this was common in many societies. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the Sumerian city of Lagash in the 21st century B.C.

Over the millennia since, they have performed a wide variety of functions in many different cultures: courtiers or equivalent domestics, treble singers, religious specialists, government officials and guardians of women or harem servants.

Eunuchs would probably be servants or slaves who, because of their function, had been castrated, usually in order to make them reliable servants of a royal court where physical access to the ruler could wield great influence.

At least ten tombs of court eunuchs who flourished during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) have been discovered in the Institute of Geomechanics near Wanshou Temple in Haidian district in Beijing.

Seemingly lowly domestic functions—such as making the ruler’s bed, bathing him, cutting his hair, carrying him in his litter, or even relaying messages—could in theory give a eunuch “the ruler’s ear” and impart de facto power on the formally humble but trusted servant.

In Latin, the words eunuchus, spado, and castratus were used to denote eunuchs.

Ten Fascinating Eunuchs in the World

Thomas Corbett

Most of the men on this list were, understandably, castrated against their will. Thomas ‘Boston’ Corbett is an exception. Having lost his wife in childbirth the widowed Corbett found himself tempted by prostitutes.

To avoid committing sin he took a pair of scissors and removed his testicles. Showing a level of fortitude and stoicism he then went to a prayer meeting and had dinner before seeking a doctor to treat his wounds.

Corbett’s fame rests not on his self-castration however but on his pursuit and killing of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln.

When Booth was surrounded while hiding in a barn by soldiers Corbett found he could see Booth through a hole in the wall. He shot and killed Booth, against orders that he be taken alive.

After this Corbett returned to his former profession of hat making. Some have suggested that, as with so many hatters, the mercury used in his job led to the bouts of madness which he suffered.

Judar Pasha

Judar was born in Spain in the 16th century. As a baby he was taken by Muslim slavers. Castrated, as was fashionable for servants at the time, he was sold into the service of the Moroccan Sultan.

There was a long history of Christian children being able to serve Muslim rulers; the Janissaries of the Ottoman empire are a well-known example.

Judar rose to the rank of Pasha in the sultan’s service and was put in command of an army. He led the Moroccan invasion of the Songhai empire in sub-Saharan Africa. At the time the Songhai was the largest empire in Africa.

This he achieved with relative ease and captured the capital of the empire, though the arduous journey across the desert had taken its toll on his own troops. The Songhai Emperor offered a tribute to the Moroccans in an attempt to get them to return home and give him back his empire.

Judar was inclined to accept, but the Sultan refused. Judar was replaced as commander and later executed in a power struggle with a new sultan.

Pothinus

Pothinus was the most powerful person in Egypt of the 1st century B.C. He has been cast as a villain by the Roman sources that mention him, but there was a cultural bias against eunuch in the Roman world.

It is Pothinus who is blamed for turning the Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII against his sister and, later, wife Cleopatra. When Pompey the Great was defeated by Caesar he fled to Egypt. On arrival he was beheaded, many believing this to be on Pothinus’ command.

When Caesar himself arrived in Egypt Pothinus openly mocked him. Caesar was known to tolerate mockery, having forgiven the poet Catullus for some scurrilous verses, but when Pothinus was implicated in a plot to have Caesar murdered Caesar acted first. Pothinus was executed and Cleopatra set on the throne.

 

 

Sporus

The Emperor Nero had a wife called Sabina. While pregnant with his child Nero kicked her in the stomach until she died. Later repenting of his murderous outburst Nero did the only thing he could to bring his wife back.

He found a pretty boy called Sporus who he thought resembled his dead wife and had him castrated. Sporus was then married to Nero, whom he now called Sabina, in a lavish ceremony in Greece and dressed in the style of an empress.

When Nero was murdered Sporus was wooed by the commander of the guard’s regiment. When the commander was murdered he started a relationship with Otho, who was emperor for three months. When Otho was murdered Sporus had less luck with the Emperor Vitellius.

Vitellius wanted to parade the notorious Sporus before the plebs for their amusement. Unwilling to take part in this entertainment Sporus committed suicide.

Some historians believe he was still under twenty years old when he died.

Narses

Narses was a eunuch who served at the court of Justinian the Great, Byzantine Emperor. Nothing is known of Narses’ youth, how he came to be castrated, nor how he rose to the high position of Chamberlain.

When the Nika riots, the most destructive sports riot in history, broke out Narses was the person sent to bribe the crowds into submission. This help he gave to Justinian led to Narses’ advancement to power in the army.

Justinian’s dream was to re-conquer Italy and especially Rome. When his general Belisarius lost his trust the mission was turned over to Narses.

Despite having never commanded in a battle Narses won several stunning victories and completed the conquest.

He was over seventy when he started his career as a general. He outlived Justinian but fell from favor with his successor and was recalled to the east.

Cai Lun

The Chinese imperial system was generally run by large numbers of eunuchs. The emperors favored eunuchs for several reasons. With no hope of starting their own dynasty a eunuch could be trusted not to try to supplant the emperor.

Eunuchs were taken from their own families while young and so owed loyalty only to their master. Cai Lun was one of the grand eunuchs under Emperor He (79-106A.D.). The Chinese bureaucracy of the time required vast amounts of paperwork.

Unfortunately paper was not widely used at the time, so the paperwork was done on pieces of expensive silk or slivers of bamboo. Cai Lun saw the advantages of paper and created a system for a widespread production of it.

His name was so associated with paper that he is often credited with inventing paper, though he merely popularized it. He found fame and fortune for his championing of paper.

Unfortunately when the emperor died his successor wanted to be free from the old, powerful eunuchs. Cai Lun committed suicide before he could be imprisoned.

Alessandro Moreschi

The castrati were prized singers who maintained a high pitched voice into adulthood through the somewhat extreme practice of castration. Since women were not permitted to sing in certain settings, the Vatican for example, to achieve higher notes castrati were needed.

Many boys were castrated by parents hoping their sons would become famous singers, only to find that their voices were not good enough.

The practice died out as women became more able to appear in public. The last of the castrati was Alessandro Moreschi.

Origen

Origen (184-253A.D.) was one of the early church fathers. After his father was martyred for his Christian beliefs the young Origen travelled to receive further learning in philosophy and theology.

He seems to have taken what Jesus said seriously:

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it (Matt 19:12).

Taking this as a literal command he castrated himself.

This story of Origen’s self-castration has been told since antiquity but some modern historian’s doubt its truth.

 

Abelard

Of all the eunuchs on this list Peter Abelard (1079-1142 A.D.) is the only one renowned for being one of the great lovers of history. His relationship with Heloise was one of the most famous of the middle ages.

Abelard was a famous logician and teacher. When Heloise needed a teacher her uncle sent for Abelard. Being of an amorous disposition he began an affair with his young pupil. She gave birth to a son and the two married.

Heloise’s uncle was not pleased by this turn of events. With several friends he broke into Abelard’s chamber and castrated him. Heloise was sent to a nunnery and Abelard to a monastery.

The two wrote letters to each other for the rest of their lives.  It is these love letters which are read far more often than Abelard’s philosophy today.

The two were reunited after death in a tomb in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Admiral Zheng He

Zheng He, another of the Chinese Imperial eunuchs, has become famous in the west thanks to the popularity of the book 1421 by Gavin Menzies. This book explains, alongside less accepted theories, how Zheng He led several great fleets of exploration around Asia and Africa.

The ships of Zheng He’s fleet were the largest in the world at the time, and the largest wooden ships ever constructed. His mission was to spread Chinese influence and bring home tribute from the lands he visited.

In seven voyages he visited hundreds of kingdoms. A change of emperor put an end to these expeditions when the new emperor decided to end all communication with the world outside China. Zheng He did not live to see this change of policy however, as he died on the return from the final voyage.

Eunuchs were used for many things, including for sex.  Most, if not all, powerful rulers had at least one Eunuch, even Cleopatra did.

…He rode in on a donkey.

Matthew 20 – Jesus Foretells His Death & The Legend of the Needle’s Eye Gate

Yesterday, chapter 19, Jesus talked about Eunuchs, so…

Matthew 20
Jesus Foretells His Death

1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard.

Crown of Life
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (Jas 1:12).

20:1-16 – this parable emphasizes the sovereign graciousness and generosity of God extended to “latecomers,” i.e., the non-believers becoming converted.  It doesn’t matter if you grew up believing in Jesus or you became a believer at the age of 75, God treats everybody the same.

Yet, the rewards you will or will not receive in heaven depends on what you do here on earth (Crown of Life – Jas 1:12; Incorruptible Crown – 1 Cor. 9:24-25; Crown of Rejoicing – 1 Thess 2:19-20; Crown of Righteousness – 2 Tim. 4:8; Crown of Glory – 1 Pet. 5:1-4.

2 And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

“A penny” – this coin, the denarius, was the usual daily wage of a common laborer.  A Roman soldier also received one denarius a day.

3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

“Third hour” – 9:00 a.m.

4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

Incorruptible Crown
“Know ye not that they, which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Cor. 9:24-25).

“Sixth and ninth hour” – noon and 3:00 p.m.

6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

“Eleventh hour” – 5:00 p.m.

7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

“When even was come” – because farm workers were poor, the law of Moses required that they be paid at the end of each day (cf. Lev. 19:13; Deut 24:14-15).  Jesus, just like us, live under the law of Moses, accept for the changes that Jesus made. 

Yet, don’t become confused with scriptures like:

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

We all live under God’s, the law God gave Moses, but believers, when they sin they are punished through God’s grace, while the heathen is punished by the law.

Crown of Rejoicing
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy” (1 Thes 2:19-20).

9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the Goodman of the house,

12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

“Is thine eye evil…?” – apparently the evil eye was associated with jealousy and envious (cf. ! Sam 18:9).  Today you are either paid by the hour or by salary, if paid by the hour you are paid a certain amount per hour that you work. 

If you are paid by salary you will work as long as the boss wants you to and get paid the same amount each day.  The men that worked in the vineyard were paid by salary.

16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

17 And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them,

18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,

Crown of Righteousness
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

“And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him” – an additional statement in this third prediction of the passion. Jesus wouldn’t be killed by the Jesus, which would be by stoning, but would be crucified by the Romans later.

20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.

Crown of Glory
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.

Feed the flock of God, which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 5:1-4).

25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

“Ransom” – Jesus put down a deposit on our salvation when He was crucified, and we were redeemed by His resurrection.  Without Him doing that we would all spend eternity in Hell (see 1 Tim 2:6).

29 And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.

30 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

31 And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

32 And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?

33 They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.

34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.

The Legend of the Needle’s Eye Gate

Since the Middle Ages commentators have considered the possibility that Jesus’ statement concerning the “eye of a needle” (Matt 19:24) may have been a reference to certain doors or gates that actually existed in his day.

The Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew; Egypt, 4th century A.D.

Some homes did in fact have large doors that would allow a fully loaded camel to enter into the courtyard. Since such doors were cumbersome and required great effort to open, there were often smaller doors cut within them, permitting easy passage of people and smaller animals into the house.

Some interpreters have argued that this smaller door was the “needle’s eye gate,” while others have suggested that the needle’s eye referred to smaller doors within larger city gates, such as those at Jaffa and Hebron.

Passage through the smaller gate, it was said, would have forced a camel to its knees. Thus, the point of Jesus’ teaching in v. 24 is supposedly that a rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven only if he falls down to his knees.

As illustrative as these theories are, they in fact diminish the force of Jesus’ words. The point is not that salvation is difficult without God but that it is impossible without him. Jesus’ contrast of the largest animal known in Palestine with the smallest of holes created a vivid and memorable illustration.  

The fact that modern-day gates have been so named can most likely be attributed to the influence of this and similar statements within the Talmud (Jewish Bible) and the Koran (Islamic Bible).  

Jaffa is a place for beginnings, both of many tours of Israel.

Jaffa, Tel Aviv’s “older sister” boasts bountiful biblical history, along with charming lanes, antiquities, quiet churches, galleries and a picturesque fishing port.

In other words, the term “needle’s  eye gate” most likely did not precede the teaching; rather, the popularity of the term evidently came a because of the teaching.  The Jews have always done their best to twist Jesus’ for their own profit.  As they, the Catholics and the Muslims still do today.

But in Jesus’ original setting, it is very likely that a needle’s eye was simply a needle’s eye and not a gate at all.

Bible readers do well to beware of legendary, pseudo-archaeological interpretations, which can be quite misleading and even distort or undermine the true meaning of a Biblical text.

…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 (Matt 19:24).

Jesus’ meaning in the above scripture is simple and easy to understand, unless the reader wants to try and manipulate God for their own greedy gain, such as the Jews and Catholics do.

Hebron is the largest commercial and industrial city in the West Bank.

The area had been under Muslim control from the twelfth century until 1967, when Israel occupied the city after its victory over Jordan in the 1967 war. Extremist Jewish settlers moved into town starting in 1968, and now there are 5 settlements in and around the city of Hebron.

There is no way that a camel can go through the eye of a needle so neither will a greedy wealthy man go to heaven.

…let’s take a closer look at them.

Matthew 19 – Marriage and Divorce Houses in the Holy Landof the 1st Century A.D.: Peter’s House In Capernaum

Many people were quite superstitious back then, as they still are today.  And back then they had Greek Mythology, and there were also many different Legends of different things. 

Including things that Jesus had said, so tomorrow we’re going to look at…

Matthew 19
Marriage and Divorce
 

1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

“Beyond Jordan” – the east side, known later as Transjordan or Perea and today simply as Jordan.  Jesus now began ministering there.

2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

“For every cause” – the last part of the question is notin the parallel passage in Mark (10:2).  Matthew possibly included it because he was writing to the Jews, who were aware of the dispute between the schools of Shammai and Hillel over the interpretation of Deut 24:1-4. 

Shammai held that “some uncleanness: meant “immorality” (Matt 19:9) – the only allowable cause for divorce.  Hillel (c. 60 B.C.-20 A.D.) emphasized the preceding clause, “she finds no favor in his eyes.”

He would allow a man to divorce his wife if she did anything he disliked – even if she burned his food while cooking it.  Jesus clearly took the side of Shammai (see v. 9), but only after first pointing back to God’s original ideal for marriage in Gen 1:27, 2:24.

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Sunset over the Sea of Galilee.

7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing ofdivorcement, and to put her away?

8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

9 And I say unto you, Whosoevershall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

19:10-12 – see 1 Cor 7:7-8, 26, 32-35.

11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

“This saying” – the disciples’ conclusion in v. 10 “it is not good to marry.”  Not everyone can accept this teaching because it is not meant for everyone.  Jesus then gives three examples of person for whom it is meant in v. 12.

The tomb of Shammai in the Meron river, Israel.
Hillel and Shammai were two leading rabbis of the early 1st century BCE who founded opposing schools of Jewish thought, known as the House of Hillel and House of Shammai.

12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

“Made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” – those who have voluntarily adopted a celibate life-style in order to give themselves more completely to God’s work.  Under certain circumstances celibacy is recommended in scripture, but it is never presented as superior to marriage.

It is unknown if the Apostle Paul had been marriedprior to his conversion to Christ, but once he accepted Christ he wasn’t married, nor was he a eunuch, but he gave his life to God.  Paul recommends marriage to those that cannot maintain life without having sex; it would be better to marry then to fornicate and burn in hell.

13 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.

14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

God delights in marriages

17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

“There is none good but one” – the good is not something to be done as meritorious in itself.  God alone is good and all other goodness derives from Him – even the keeping of the commandments, which Jesus proceeded to enumerate (vv. 18-20).

“If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” – “To enter into life” is the same as “have eternal life.”  The requirement to “keep the commandments” is not to establish one’s merit before God, but is to be an expression of true faith. 

The Bible always teaches that salvation is a gift from God’s grace received through faith, not by works (Eph 2:8).  There is nothing we have to do to please God to be saved, our faith in Jesus Christ is all that is necessary (Heb 11:6).

18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

19 Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

The Lord is saddened by divorces because He can fix ANYTHING! But He has to be asked from a true heart of faith.

“Perfect” – Greek teleios, “goal, end.”  His goal was eternal life, but wealthy/greed stood in his way (cf. 1 Jn 2:15-17).

“Go and sell that thou hast” – in His listing of the commandments, Jesus omitted “do not covet.”  That was the rich man’s main problem and was preventing him from entering life. 

If you have wealthy friends enjoy their company while you can because most of them won’t be going to heaven (v. 24; Matt 7:13-14).

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

24 And again I say unto you, 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.

25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then canbe saved?

26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?

28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Judging” – governing or ruling.  Some think that the 12 disciples will someday rule with Christ in His literal millennial kingdom on this earth.  Yet, that would mean God sees them better than others and that would contradict what Peter (and others) said on Acts 10:34 – “God is no respecter of persons.”

But then again, God does have His favorites, as He said to Moses:

…I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (Rom 9:15). For a clearer explanation see Ex 33:13-23.

29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

“Shall receive a hundredfold” – we are to place Jesus first in our life, nobody or anything should be more important to you than Him because only Jesus can save you.

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

Houses in the Holy Land
of the 1st Century A.D.: 

Peter’s House In Capernaum

Housing conditions in the 1st century Holy Land varied dramatically according to people’s financial situations. The best preserved homes are those that were built for the upper classes and constructed with obvious craftsmanship from lasting materials.

A Key found at Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found)

Of these, the most splendid examples are the remains of Herod the Great’s lavish palaces in Jerusalem, Masada and Jericho.

These structures, along with other luxurious houses discovered in Jerusalem’s upper city, reflect the stylistic conventions of contemporary Roman villas.

The villa was structured around an open, colonnaded courtyard and contained a large reception room and dining area to accommodate large gatherings. Floors were covered with detailed stone mosaics, and walls were painted with frescoes.

These upper-class houses and palaces in Judea also contained distinctively Jewish features, such as ritual baths alongside ordinary bathrooms, the absence of human or animal representation in mosaics and frescoes and the presence of Jewish symbols  (e.g., the menorah).

Since relatively few people lived in palatial homes, many more examples of middle-class dwellings have been revealed through archaeology. An important example, discovered in Jerusalem in 1970, is known as the “burnt house.”

This home was completely buried with soot and ash from the destruction of the city in 70 A.D. and, therefore, has been well preserved. The floor plan reflects a common pattern of three medium-sized rooms, a small storage room, a small kitchen and a stepped, ritual bath built around a paved courtyard.

Measuring about 30 square feet, the Burnt House had a Mikveh, a kitchen, a courtyard, and four rooms. These seven spaces made up the first level of what would have stood as a much larger home.

Throughout the house, archeologists discovered scorched beams and stones and layers of ash that revealed the house had been destroyed by fire. The wooden ceiling collapsed under its own weight, burying this house for 20th-century archaeologists to find. Interestingly, the bones from a woman’s forearm were found in the kitchen area. After discovery, they were buried.

The walls were covered with a thin layer of limestone plaster, and the floors consisted of pressed earth. Furnishings within the house included rectangular stone tables, bowls, plates, cups and cylindrical weights, one of which identifies the owner as Bar Karos.

Other significant examples of 1st century houses have been unearthed in Capernaum.  Excavations near the ruins of the ancient synagogue there revealed a group of approximately 12 homes constructed of black basalt rocks and small pebbles and arranged around a central courtyard containing ovens and grinding stones.

These single-story dwellings had floors of beaten black earth and stairways leading to flat roofs. The less-substantial roofs were probably built with tree branches covered with mud and straw (cf. Mk 2:4).

The largest of these homes attracted particular attention in that it featured a crushed limestone floor and had plastered walls filled with decorations (including flowers, pomegranates and numerous crosses) and inscriptions, which were fragmentary and in many languages: 124 in Greek, 18 in Syriac, 15 in Hebrew and 1 in Latin.

Most the inscriptions were short prayers, such as “Christ have mercy” or “Lord Jesus Christ help.” Others contained the name Peter, suggesting that this house was venerated in antiquity as a place of Christian pilgrimage associated with the memory of Peter.

A shy, private person would not have an easy time of things in ancient Rome. Bathing was typically conducted as a group activity, the baths of Caracalla in the city of Rome could accommodate upwards of 1600 bathers, and “going to the powder room” was often a group effort as well. Rome gave us lots of amazing things that we take for granted today: central heating, giant sports stadiums, vaulted ceilings, concrete and coin operated machines to name a few.

The most important innovation, in my opinion, however was the flushing toilet. Not the porcelain gods we have come to know and appreciate (sometimes praying to after a night of excessive, youthful partying), but often large, sometimes elaborate communal affairs–marble cladding, statuary, shrines.

Thus, this dwelling has come known as the house Peter in Capernaum (Mt 8:14: 1:29; Lk 4:38).

The lowest urban classes inhabited crowded treatment buildings called insuloe  – multi-storied buildings divided numerous apartments called cenaculi. The lowest floor generally contained a shop in which the proprietor also lived.

The upper floors were accessed through outside staircases. The insulae usually lacked any system of heating, running water or sewage.

Eutychus most likely fell from the third floor window of an insula while listening to Paul preach Christ in Troas (Acts 20:7-12). 

…the Legend of the “Needle’s Eye Gate.”