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…
The Woes Upon the Pharisees
1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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 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…
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.
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?
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,
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.
“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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
Yesterday, chapter 19, Jesus talked about Eunuchs, so…
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.
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.
“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.
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,
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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?
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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).