Zephaniah – PB


Zephaniah lived about 2600 years ago. He mig ht have been a great grandson of King Hezekiah. If so, then Zephaniah would have been a cousin of King Josiah, during whose reign he prophesied.

Zephaniah was a prophet to Judah (the southern part of the Jewish homeland, which includes Jerusalem), during the year before its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Zephaniah was stern and austere, much like the prophet Amos.

He announces the doom of idol worshipers, greedy people, treacherous merchants, faithless prophets, and some of the surrounding nations. The message of Zephaniah was a strong affirmation of the first commandment:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3).

The Book of Zephaniah deals mainly with the Day of Judgment.  He also predicted Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria, would become a deserted ruin (which it is, today, despite the fact that it was in Zephaniah’s time the capital of the Assyrian Empire).

Zephaniah’s ministry followed Isaiah’s ministry by about 75 years.

Zephaniah means “The Lord has hidden away.” His book is the ninth book of the Minor Prophets.

Zechariah – PB


ZechariahZechariah was a prophet from 520 B.C. to 518 B.C. in Jerusalem.  During that era, many Jews were returning from the Babylonian Captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians.

Zechariah, the son of Iddo, was instrumental in inspiring his fellow Jews to rebuild the Temple (see Ezra 6:14).

Zechariah began prophesying during the same year as the prophet Haggai, in about 520 B.C. Zechariah’s prophecies came from visions that showed God’s power, God’s judgment of sin, the importance of spiritual strength, and the promise of things to come, including the promise of the Messiah.

Zechariah’s prophecies often looked far into the future, a future in which the Jews would again be exiled from their homeland and scattered throughout the world.

His prophecies said that Jews would be persecuted worldwide, that Jerusalem would become a battleground of nations, and that Jerusalem would become the religious center of the world.

Today, we can see with our own eyes that Zechariah’s prophecies accurately described the worldwide dispersion of Jews that has taken place during the past 1900 years, as well as the fact that Jerusalem has become a focal point of the international community (the United States and Europe, and the United Nations) and a religious focal point among Jews, Christians and Moslems.

Zechariah, means “Yah has remembered.”  The Bible’s book of Zechariah is the 11th book of the twelve minor prophets.

Xenophon – PB


The Greek historian, essayist, and m ilitary expert Xenophon (ca. 430-ca. 355 BC) was the most popular of the Greek historians. He facilitated the change from the Thucydidean tradition of history to rhetoric.

The son of Gryllus of the Athenian deme of Erchia Xenophon was of aristocratic background and means. He studied under Socrates. Married to Philesia, he had two sons, both of whom were educated in Sparta.

In 401, despite a warning from Socrates and consultation with the oracle at Delphi, he became involved in the expedition of Cyrus against Artaxerxes at the invitation of Proxenus of Thebes.

Xenophon was initially unaware of Cyrus’s true purpose, which was to gain the crown of Persia. After Cyrus was killed at the battle of Cunaxa in Babylonia, his troops dispersed; Clearchus and other Greek commanders were treacherously murdered by the Persian satrap Tissaphernes, and Xenophon was elected general.

Titus Flavis Josephus – PB


Joseph was born in Jerusalem in 37 CE as the son of Matthias, a man from priestly descent, and a mother who claimed royal blood. Stated differently, he was born as a Sadducee and an aristocrat (the two main sects in Jesus’ time were the Sadducees and the Pharisees, both are bad.  The Apostle Paul had been a Pharisee before he met Jesus).  Joseph must have been a real know-it-all because he excelled in all his studies and at the age of 16 he decided to find out for himself what philosophy was best, that of the Sadducees, that of the Essenes, or that of the Pharisees. 

He was also fluent in Aramaic (I believe that is what Jesus spoke), Hebrew, and Greek.  Although he studied all three systems, he wasn’t content and for three years he lived in the desert with a hermit named Bannus.  Returning to Jerusalem at the age of 19 he chose to become a Pharisee.

The writings of Josephus are considered important secular historical documents that could shed light on the origins of Christianity.  His works include material about individuals, groups, customs, and geographical places.  Some of these, such as the city of Seron, aren’t referenced in the surviving texts of any other ancient authority.  His writings provide a significant extra-Biblical account of the post-Exilic period of the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great, Agrippa I, Agrippa II, John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and a disputed reference to Jesus (for more see Josephus on Jesus).  He is an important source of studies of immediate post-Temple Judaism and the context of early Christianity.

A careful reading of Josephus’ writings and years of excavation allowed Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist from Hebrew University, to discover that location of Herod’s Tomb after a search of 35 years.  It was above aqueducts and pools at a flattened desert site halfway up the hill to the Herodium, 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem, as described in Josephus’s writings.  Josephus is not mentioned in the Bible, but he had a lot to say about people, places, and events of the Bible.

Socrates – PB


Socrates (469-399 B.C.) was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes.

Many would claim that Plato’s dialogues are the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity.  Plato’s “The Apology” is an account of the speech Socrates makes at the trial in which he is charged with not recognizing the gods recognized by the state, inventing new deities, and corrupting the youth of Athens.  

Socrates’ speech, however, is by no means an “apology” in our modern understanding of the word.  The name of the dialogue derives from the Greek “apologia,” which translates as a defense, or a speech made in defense.  Thus, in “The Apology,” Socrates attempts to defend himself and his conduct, certainly not to apologize for it.

For the most part, Socrates speaks in a very plain, conversational manner.  He explains that he has no experience with the law courts and that he will instead speak in the manner to which he is accustomed: with honesty and directness.

He explains that his behavior stems from a prophecy by the oracle at Delphi which claimed that he was the wisest of all men.  Recognizing his ignorance in most worldly affairs, Socrates concluded that he must be wiser than other men only in that he knows that he knows nothing.

In order to spread this peculiar wisdom, Socrates explains that he considered it his duty to question supposed “wise” men and to expose their false wisdom as ignorance.  These activities earned him much admiration amongst the youth of Athens, but much hatred and anger from the people he embarrassed.  He cites their contempt as the reason for his being put on trial.

Socrates then proceeds to interrogate Meletus, the man primarily responsible for bringing Socrates before the jury.  This is the only instance in “The Apology” of the elenchus, or cross-examination, which is so central to most Platonic dialogues.  

Meletus (Greek: Μέλητος; fl. 5th–4th century BCE) was an ancient Athenian Greek from the Pithus deme known for his prosecuting role in the trial and eventual execution of the philosopher Socrates.

His conversation with Meletus, however, is a poor example of this method, as it seems more directed toward embarrassing Meletus than toward arriving at the truth.  In a famous passage, Socrates likens himself to a gadfly stinging the lazy horse which is the Athenian state.  Without him, Socrates claims, the state is liable to drift into a deep sleep, but through his influence, irritating as it may be to some, it can be wakened into productive and virtuous action.

Socrates is found guilty by a narrow margin and is asked to propose a penalty.  Socrates jokingly suggests that if he were to get what he deserves, he should be honored with a great meal for being of such service to the state.  On a more serious note, he rejects prison and exile, offering perhaps instead to pay a fine.  

When the jury rejects his suggestion and sentences him to death, Socrates stoically accepts the verdict with the observation that no one but the gods know what happens after death and so it would be foolish to fear what one does not know.  He also warns the jurymen who voted against him that in silencing their critic rather than listening to him, they have harmed themselves much more than they have harmed him.

Socrates isn’t mentioned in the Bible, but he was Plato‘s instructor who was Aristotle‘s instructor who was Alexander the Great‘s tutor who conquered the Persian Empire.