Malchus’ Ear

This is a brief and partial commentary on the events of John 18 up to the arrest of Jesus on the Mt. of Olives. My focus here is on interpreting the historical and cultural context, not so much on discussing theology. Much of this is copied verbatim from a post I published in April 2013 and updated as late as September 2022 (Easter Myths, part 3). I would suggest you read it here, instead, for additional context on Jesus’ arrest.

From the Sacrifices to the Garden

1 After Yeshua had said all this [the prayer of John 17], he went out with his talmidim [disciples] across the stream that flows in winter through the Kidron Valley, to a spot where there was a grove of trees; and he and his talmidim went into it.
—John 18:1 CJB

This is the early morning hours of Friday, Nissan 15.

On the previous day, many thousands of sheep and goats (lambs and kids, in fact) had been sacrificed in the Temple. Two of Jesus’ disciples (probably Peter and John) had been sent into town as representatives of the group. Their first task was to rent a banquet facility (“The Upper Room). Then they took the lamb that they had selected days earlier to the Temple. When their turn came, they were led to the “Killing floor” in the inner temple court—the “Court of Israel”. After a “laying on of hands”, one of them held the lamb while the other slit its throat and drained its blood into a gold or silver bowl held by a priest who was overseeing them. After the sacrifice was complete, they carried the lamb to an adjacent butchering area north of the altar. It had to be skinned and cut into parts. Certain parts were given to the Priests and Levites. Some waste pieces were thrown onto the altar for burning. The remainder of the good meat was wrapped in the skins and carried off to be cooked for the Seder that evening.

The Passover sacrifices in progress. ©The Temple Institute

The Seder meals began in houses and meeting places all over Jerusalem after the arrival of sundown was announced by a shofar (ram’s horn) blast from the “Place of Trumpeting” on the southwest corner of Royal Porch, where the Muslim Al-Aqsa Mosque stands today. Many of Jesus’ last words to His disciples were spoken at His final Seder and are recorded in John 13–16. The individual Seders generally lasted until around midnight, when all the celebrants would gather on the streets and rooftops to sing the Hallel psalms together. Finishing this, Jesus and His disciples walked out of the city gate, crossed the Kidron Valley and gathered on the Mt. of Olives, at Gat Shimonim (Gethsemane), an olive garden with an olive press.

The Garden and the Threat

2 Now Y’hudah, who was betraying him, also knew the place; because Yeshua had often met there with his talmidim.
3 So Y’hudah went there, taking with him a detachment of Roman soldiers and some Temple guards provided by the head cohanim and the P’rushim; they carried weapons, lanterns and torches.
4 Yeshua, who knew everything that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Whom do you want?”
5 “Yeshua from Natzeret,” they answered. He said to them, “I AM.” Also standing with them was Y’hudah, the one who was betraying him.
6 When he said, “I AM,” they went backward from him and fell to the ground.
7 So he inquired of them once more, “Whom do you want?” and they said, “Yeshua from Natzeret.”
8 “I told you, ‘I AM,’” answered Yeshua, “so if I’m the one you want, let these others go.”
9 This happened so that what he had said might be fulfilled, “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
—John 18:2–9 CJB

Many commentators take the term “detachment of Roman Soldiers” to refer to a full cohort of 420 or 600 soldiers. The Greek (σπεῖραν) allows this meaning, but more generally, it can refer to an indeterminately sized band of men organized for some purpose. Given the total situation, it makes no military sense to me to assume that it was more than what we would term a “squad”, a handful of soldiers detailed in support of the Temple guards that the Sanhedrin dispatched to collect Jesus. My reasoning is as follows:

First, it was Passover night! There were as many as a million Jews in Jerusalem for the occasion, they’d just had a long, grueling day of milling around the Temple and getting ready for the week, including the sacrifices earlier in the day, and more sacrifices ahead on each day of the week; family ceremonies such as the formal elimination of hametz (leaven) from all Jewish homes that day; and elaborate preparations for the meals, feasts and ceremonies ahead. The Seders themselves adjourned late at night, and most folks were by then exhausted and anxious to go to bed and be ready for the next day of celebration.

The Roman garrison had been beefed up for the occasion. All hands were on deck, because there had been, in fact, unrest all over Israel, and many men would potentially be drunk and boisterous that night. Jesus was not the only threat. The Roman leaders were concerned about open rebellion, not about Jewish blasphemy.

Then consider Gat Shimonim (Gethsemane); it wasn’t a forest, it was a cultivated olive garden, with trees spaced out for sunlight and maintenance, and underbrush kept to a minimum for gathering, transporting and processing olives. There is a full moon every Nisan 15 (by design), so the garden is well lit, and surely many of the people in the garden had torches, as well. What went on that night was in full view of the city and Temple walls. A large number of civilians congregating in the garden would have dictated a need for more troops, but they were there at hand and could be easily summoned. Later that day, Pilate, the Governor, would show little alarm concerning the Nazarene and His band. The Roman military hierarchy there reporting to him would be cautious but would have no reason to make a “show of force”, and reacting to a popular rabbi in such a way would have been an unwise irritant to the people of the city.

Garden of Gethsemane, ©Ron Thompson

No, the show belonged to the Sanhedrin, and between them and Judas, they had a good idea what to expect. The High Priest sent a detachment of Jewish Temple guards, and he himself was probably only represented by his servant, Melech (Malchus). The Romans were a small but professional escort delegation, probably more concerned with making sure the Temple guards didn’t overstep. It was probably Malchus or a senior guard who spoke to Jesus, and the Romans probably never drew their swords, even after the minor scuffle that followed.

The Scuffle

10 ¶ Then Shim‘on Kefa, who had a sword, drew it and struck the slave of the cohen hagadol, cutting off his right ear; the slave’s name was Melekh.
11 Yeshua said to Kefa, “Put your sword back in its scabbard! This is the cup the Father has given me; am I not to drink it?”
—John 18:10–11 CJB

Short sword similar to what Peter would have used to maim Malchus.

According to Luke 22:38, two of the disciples were carrying “swords” that night. One of them obviously was Peter, the other probably his brother Andrew. It is unlikely that either was carrying a military sword; both were fishermen by trade and would be accustomed to carrying knives for tending nets and lines, and for gutting fish. The Greek term used here is machaira, which probably designated a double-edged knife or dirk, a shorter version of a sword design that had been introduced into Israel by the Phoenician Sea Peoples.

Nor do I think Peter was a trained fighter. We know he was impetuous, but was he an idiot? Did he think he could mow down a band of trained Roman soldiers and Temple guards? Was he distraught and attempting to commit “suicide by Roman soldier”? I think that if he had attempted a frontal assault in Jesus’ protection, he would have been reflexively cut to pieces before he drew a drop of blood, and quite likely the slaughter would have extended to the other apostles present, as well. Indeed, there is no textual evidence that any of the soldiers found it expedient to bare their blades.

What I think really happened was that Peter took advantage of the soldiers’ preoccupation with Jesus, slipped around behind Malchus—his intended target—and deliberately sliced off his ear. Why Malchus? Because he was the High Priest’s servant and right-hand man. The High Priest, if he was even there, was protected by bodyguards, but likely nobody was concerned for Malchus. Harming the High Priest would have resulted in quick execution. By merely defacing Malchus, though, Peter was insulting and effectively crippling the High Priest and, to some extent, the Sanhedrin. Why an ear, of all things? Because Peter wasn’t a killer, and taking an ear did the job! Priests, Levites and all other Temple officials were required to be more or less physically perfect. With a missing ear, he would be considered deformed and unfit for Temple service.

Yes, Peter was impulsive. But he was also smart.

And Finally

So the detachment of Roman soldiers and their captain, together with the Temple Guard of the Judeans, arrested Yeshua, …
—John 18:12 CJB

Jesus’ last steps. ©Leen & Kathleen Ritmeyer, from Jerusalem at the Time of Jesus. Annotated by me.

John 5 and the Bethesda Pool

The Pools of Bethesda were dual Roman baths (Figures 1 and 2) that are mentioned prominently in John 5. There is some confusion of place names there. Bezetha (Heb. Beitzata, probably meaning “house of olives”) is a mountain ridge trending southeast from above the top center of the map to just northeast of the Pools. The valley stream that feeds water to the Pools is also named Bezetha. That name was later applied to a broader area that became a suburban community also known as “the New City“, north of Biblical Jerusalem. The name Bethesda (Heb. BeitHisda, meaning “house of mercy”) appears in some manuscripts, and applies only to the Pools. Archaeologists, including Dan Bahat, author of this map, for long equated the Bethesda Pools with the “Sheep Pool“, where animals were washed prior to sacrifice, but I was skeptical of that from the day I first laid eyes on it, and in fact scholarship now equates the Sheep Pool with the Pool of Israel, just outside the Sheep Gate in the Northern wall of the Temple Mount. Why my skepticism? First, I couldn’t conceive of a possibility that the Romans would share their healing pool with Jewish livestock. Just as obvious to me was an observation that the Bethesda pools looked way too deep and steep-sided to dip and extract thousands of animals quickly enough, or even at all, on feast days (Figure 3). At the same time, the Pool of Israel, right outside the gate used for sacrificial animals, was ideally shaped for the purpose, with a shallow end and sloped bottom, and was clearly not suited for ritual cleansing of humans.

Figure 1: ©2007 Holman Bible Publishers. Problems with this map: Pool of Bethesda incorrectly identified also as Sheep’s Pool; Gordon’s Calvary (the Garden Tomb) incorrectly identified as Golgotha; Struthion Pool mislocated; pinnacle of the Temple mislocated; Upper Room mislocated.
Figure 2: Bethesda Pools, on Jerusalem model, Mt. Hertzl. Photo ©2008 Ron Thompson

Although Bethesda may have originally been a Jewish pool, by the 1st Century AD it was a thoroughly Roman facility. It was a two-pool bath house, either built or upgraded by Herod, for the use of soldiers stationed in the nearby Antonia Fortress (Figure 2). Almost certainly, it was an Asclepeion, a shrine to the Greek God of Medicine, Asclepius (Figure 4). Water flowing down the Bezetha Valley was collected in the upper pool and flowed across a weir into the lower pool, before spilling off into the Kidron Valley. Bathing in the pools would presumably bring healing.

Figure 3: Bethesda Pool excavation. Photo ©2008 Ron Thompson.
Figure 4: Asclepius, James Sands Elliott – Public Domain

John 5:1-9 (ESV)
The Healing at the Pool on the Sabbath
[5:1] After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
[2] Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. [3] In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. [5] One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. [6] When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” [7] The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” [8] Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” [9] And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath.

Most translations do not include the famous verses 3b – 4 because this wording is not present in “the best” manuscripts. Encyclopedia Judaica calls it a later gloss, but states that excavations reveal that “a health rite took place there during the Roman period.”

John 5:3-4 (KJV)
[3] In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
[4] For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

If these words are legitimate, it would help explain vs 7. Though the pools were intended for Roman use, this was during the days right before Passover, and it makes sense that Jews might have been given an annual privilege in its honor. It is inconceivable, though, that devout Jews would have expected a medical miracle at a pagan shrine dedicated to healing by a pagan deity! The story about an angel appearing in a pagan pool would have likewise been pure superstition, possibly explained by roiling of the water when attendants opened a sluice gate to move water from the stream, or from pool to pool.

To answer one more frequent question, based on verse 6, when Jesus asked the paralytic if he wanted to be healed: No, I don’t think He was really asking him if he wanted to have his sins forgiven. Nowhere in the chapter is it indicated that the paralytic had any interest in salvation. Jesus never explicitly offered him forgiveness, He just gave him a warning, after which he ratted Jesus out!

John 5:14-16 (ESV)
[14] Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” [15] The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. [16] And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.

Figure 5: For comparison, a reproduction of a 1st century Roman bath, in Bath, UK. From the column bases down, it is original construction from AD 60 – 70. From an online tourism promotion.

The Jewish Feasts: Part 14, Tabernacles

After leaving Egypt, the Israelites lived in tents in the desert  for 40 years. Despite the hardships, God was living among them and protecting them from the ravages of the desert and from foes around them. God’s Divine Presence (Heb. Sh’khinah) was both spiritual and physical. He was constantly with them in the Tabernacle, and in the pillar of smoke and fire, but His Presence was and is not confined to those places; Sh’khinah, refers to any place where God dwells with His people, whether in a tent, a building, or in any other context. Other visible examples would include the burning bush, the fire atop Mt. Sinai, and clearly, the Incarnate Son, Jesus!

The 7-day Feast of Tabernacles (Heb. Sukkoth) commemorates this 40 year period of God dwelling with His people during their wilderness wandering. He is said during this period to have “tabernacled with His people.” Coming on the heels of the somber Days of Awe, this feast is the consummate time of rejoicing for all Jews. Leviticus 23 also mentions an eighth day, called Shemini Atzeret (“Eighth Day of Assembly“) which signifies the firstfruits of the fruit and vegetable harvest, and the end of the agricultural year. This eighth day is also called Simchat Torah (“Rejoicing with or of the Torah“), and as such it signifies the end of one annual public Torah-reading cycle and the beginning of another. Both the first and the eighth day of Sukkoth are Sabbaths, and the first day is one of the three days of the annual regalim, or Pilgrim Festivals, where attendance in Jerusalem is required of all adult Jewish males.

Example of a canvas sukkah, ©

Sukkoth is marked by daily festivities and sacrifices and, with there no longer being a possibility for the latter, especially by the commandment to build and live in Sukkoth for seven days. A sukkah (singular) is a small booth, or hut, set up outside, with at least three closed sides and a roof. The walls can be of any material, but the roof must be of made of vegetal material (lumber is permissible). To emphasize the temporary nature of the booth, the roof must be of loose enough construction that stars are visible through it on a clear night. Once built, the sukkah is decorated by real or simulated fruit tied to the structure with string. The sukkah must be large enough for at least one person and a table for meals. Typically, it is not necessary to sleep in the sukkah, though many do, but it is best to eat at least part of every meal there.

The Hebrew term Sh’khinah does not occur in the Old Testament, but the concept of God’s Devine Presence occurs in many places. In the New Testament, we see Jesus’ incarnation described by the Greek skenoo, “to reside or dwell, as God did in the Tabernacle of old“. The connection between the Hebrew and Greek concepts is explicit, for example, in

John 1:14 (CJB)
[14] The Word became a human being and lived [skenoo] with us,
and we saw his Sh’khinah*,
the Sh’khinah* of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.

I believe that Sukkoth, with its theme of Rejoicing in God’s dwelling with the Israelites, is prophetic of God again coming to dwell with his people during the First Advent of Jesus. As with all the other feasts, I believe that the prophecy specifies not only an event in Jesus’ life, but the very day, on the Jewish calendar, that the event was to occur. I conclude that Jesus was born on the first day of Sukkoth, Tishri 15, and was circumcised on the last day of the 8-day festival, Tishri 22

Christians celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25 with pagan décor and anachronistic legends; however, the only birthdays celebrated prior to Jesus’ crucifixion appear to have been those of pagan gods, including self-proclaimed god-kings. The traditional December date for Jesus’ birth was, I believe, chosen to corresponds to the pagan Saturnalia celebration. What is the evidence of Jesus’ birth on Sukkoth, instead?

  • First, the lack of evidence for a December birth must be noted.
  • According to early Jewish writing, sheep were not in fields during the winter months. From about November through February, they were usually brought in to “sheepfolds”, either a cave or a corral structure protected from the weather.
  • The Roman custom of recalling people to their places of origin is known to have generally been facilitated by scheduling around dates that were convenient to the inhabitants. Rather than expect people to travel during exceptionally hot or cold seasons, it makes more sense that in Israel they would have taken advantage of a festival. The pilgrim festival of Sukkoth would have been an ideal time for the census, when diaspora Jews were gathered within Israel.
  • Since so many events in Jesus’ life happened on feast days, His birth most likely did as well.
  • Unlike any other feast, Sukkoth lasted not one, not seven, but eight days. I think that Jesus was born on the first day of Sukkoth and was circumcised, under Jewish law, on the 8th day.

But Sukkot also speaks of events in Jesus’ Second Advent, and I believe this can be seen best in

Revelation 21:1-3 (CJB)
[21:1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had passed away, and the sea was no longer there. [2] Also I saw the holy city, New Yerushalayim*, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. [3] I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See! God’s Sh’khinah* is with mankind, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and he himself, God-with-them, will be their God.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series:
The Jewish Feasts: Part 13, Yom Kippur Factoids

The Jewish Feasts: Part 13, Yom Kippur Factoids

Cross section of Herod’s Temple, looking south. ©2012 Bristol Works, Inc. Rose Publishing Inc.

Interesting Facts and Misconceptions:

Where is the Ark of the Covenant now?

Based primarily on research done by Dr. Randall Price (Searching for the Ark of the Covenant and The Lost Ark and the Last Days: In Search of Temple Treasures) I believe that the Ark is in a cave beneath the Temple Mount. It was accessible and possibly seen after the 1967 “6-Day War” prior to the sealing of Warren’s Gate by the Jordanian Waqf.

When was the Ark ever in Herod’s Temple?

Never! Leviticus 16 describes God’s commandments for Yom Kippur in the Tabernacle. These were followed with appropriate modifications in the days of Solomon’s Temple, but when that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the Ark disappeared. Old Jewish traditions hold that Jeremiah hid it somewhere before the destruction.

How did Yom Kippur work without an Ark?

The problem was bigger than that: not only was the Ark gone, but as prophesied in Ezekiel 9 and 10, so was God’s Sh’khinah (Divine Presence), and even the two large cherubim statues were missing. There was nothing in there except haShetiya, the Foundation Stone on which the Ark sat. What was sprinkled with blood? Just the stone. There is, to this day, a shallow niche carved into the stone that is the exact dimension, location and orientation to have supported the Ark, so that is where the High Priest’s attention was focused.

How did it work with no Temple at all?

Some Jewish congregations still attempt to offer a blood sacrifice by wringing the neck of a chicken, but this is a minority practice. In the late 1st century, rabbis decided that the Temple ritual could be replaced by Tefilah (prayer), Teshuva (repentance), and Tzedakah (charity). Those are all good things, surely, but one might say, “Why not just accept your own Messiah?” What about the interval of the Babylonian Captivity, when there was also no Temple? I would ask you to remember that salvation was never a result of sacrifice! Sacrifice was a response of faith in a gracious God!

How did the High Priest accomplish so much in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur if he could enter only once a year?

It is not true that the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies only once a year. He went only on Yom Kippur, but on that day he went in four times: (1) He entered to lay coals from the altar, and to burn incense. (2) He entered again to sprinkle the bull’s blood for his own atonement. (3) He entered yet again to sprinkle the goat’s blood for the people’s atonement. (4) Finally, he entered to remove the spent coals at the close of the ceremony.

Given the unrighteousness of many High Priests, how many were struck dead entering the Holy of Holies?

None, as far a we know. But righteousness was not required, or none would have survived; only “ritual cleanness” kept them alive. There was a long process that was required to achieve this ceremonial virtue. It began four days earlier, and involved many washings, immersions, and changes of attire. Part of this procedure was Biblical, part was traditional.

Was a rope really tied to the High Priest’s leg so that he could be pulled out if his attendants quit hearing the tinkling of his bells and pomegranates?

Pure myth! To begin with, there were no bells and pomegranates, because Scripture required him to enter in pure white linens, with no decoration. In the second place, during the key moments of his entry, no other humans were allowed into even the inner Temple courts, let along into the Temple itself. Thirdly, it would have been impossible to pull him through the veil in any case. It was not one veil, it was actually two very heavy veils stretching from side to side and ceiling to floor, with no space on any side. There was a space of one cubit separating the two veils. The outer one was pinned to the left doorpost and the inner to the right doorpost so that they might never reveal what lay beyond. When entering the Holy of Holies, the Priest would pass below the pin on the left side of the outer curtain, walk between the curtains, pass beneath the pin on the right side of the inner curtain, and then walk beside that curtain until he reached the Ark. To exit, he reversed the route. It is impossible for me to conceive of a rope with a body attached being pulled through that circuitous route. Nor would this have been needed; see below regarding cleaning of the Holy of Holies.

Are the scarlet thread stories true?

I have heard two versions. One holds that a scarlet thread was attached to the wall beside the outer veil. If by the next day the thread was found to have turned snow white, then God had accepted the sacrifice. Otherwise, the sacrifice had been rejected and Israel’s sins were unforgiven. The continuation of this story holds that after Jesus’ crucifixion, and up to the AD 70 destruction of the Temple, the thread never changed color. This isn’t absurd on its face, like the rope theory, but if it were true, we would find volumes of lamentations over those 40 years of rejection. This would be known as the greatest national calamity ever to strike Israel. I think even more so than the Temples’ destruction. The second version is the same, except that the thread was attached to a horn of the Scapegoat. I reject this version as well. I think that this one is probably a corruption of a story in rabbinical literature which records that a scarlet strand of some sort was tied across both horns of the goat and used to secure a heavy rock so that the sure-footed goat would be pulled over the cliff to its destruction.

How far out of the Temple was the goat taken?

According to rabbinical sources, 90 ris. After five separate unit conversions, I worked this out to about 7 miles. Watchers were stationed at key locations between Temple and cliff so that successful completion of the goat’s assassination could be signaled back by means of flags, and the next steps of the ceremony begun.

Would the Ark with its poles even have fit into the Holy of Holies?

Very astute question! We know the dimensions of the room, of the Ark, and even of the poles. Yet almost every depiction of these things shows the Ark oriented with its poles parallel to the veil, which cannot be! In reality, the Ark went in like a car into a garage. And on either side of it stood a very large statue of a stylized cherub.

How was the Holy of Holies kept clean, or did it never get dirty?

Of course, it got dirty! Hundreds of years of dust bunnies, charcoal dust, incense smoke, insects, and mouse droppings, not to mention hundreds of years of bullock and goat blood! And, potentially, dead High Priests. Before you ask, no, the High Priest didn’t do the cleaning. Above the Holy of Holies was a “drop ceiling” consisting of wooden rectangular tiles set into a framework. Referring to the attached diagram, there was a large chamber over the Holy of Holies, and the ceiling below could be accessed from there. Workmen could, after suitable cleansing, be lowered on ropes to work using tools with long handles. The rules prevented them from touching anything in the room with their own bodies, nor were they allowed to dally or “sight-see”.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 12, Atonement
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 14, Tabernacles

The Jewish Feasts: Part 12, Atonement

Yom Kippur, not Passover, is the most important of the Jewish Feasts!

The Days of Awe are the most somber period of the Jewish Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the capstone of the Days of Awe. The correct form of the Feast name is Yom HaKippurim, (the Day of Coverings); but Yom Kippur is the more common name.

I have heard it said many times that Passover is the most important Jewish Feast. That is simply not true. With no Temple to worship in, Passover has certainly become the most well known and faithfully celebrated of the Feasts, but for sheer spiritual impact, Yom Kippur is by far the most vital. it is a recognition of personal and national sin, and a plea for salvation.

 Christians celebrate Easter as a salvation event, and rightly so, because Easter celebrates specifically the time and actuality of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Jews celebrate Passover at roughly the same time as Easter, but not at all as a salvation event. As stated in earlier parts of this series, Passover is a celebration of redemption from slavery and resurrection as a people.

©Ron Thompson 2020

 In AD 325, Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicaea officially severed Easter from Passover. This was unfortunately done for explicitly anti-Semitic reasons; however, given the salvation emphasis placed on Easter by non-Jews, it was probably best to do so.

Recall that the ten Days of Awe are all about repentance and reconciliation. On the final day, on Yom Kippur, one’s deeds will be judged by God, and his or her state of salvation determined for the coming year. As you can see from Leviticus 23, above, the day is a Sabbath. Not only that, but the phrases “you are to deny yourselves” (stated twice) and “Anyone who does not deny himself on that day is to be cut off from his people” are regarded as a command to fast, on pain of excommunication. The Hebrew terms used here literally mean to “humble, or afflict one’s soul”. Traditionally they are taken to include fasting, abstinence from sex, and refraining from personal grooming. Yom Kippur is the only Biblically mandated fast day, though rabbinic Judaism does recognize certain other somber days as fast days, and Zechariah 8:19 mentions several months when ancient fasts were practiced.

The Temple Precincts

The ritual of Yom Kippur for Tabernacle observance is described in more detail in Leviticus 16. It is quite complicated. More so in Temple days, and still more after the addition of Oral Traditions. There are very strict and detailed regulations regarding the attire of the High Priest (Heb. Cohen HaGadol), his multiple cleansings, and who and at what times other people could enter the Temple precincts. The actual Temple/Tabernacle observance included the following, in brief:

  • The High Priest would cast lots over two male goats: one, designated as Chatat, was to be sacrificed; the other was to set aside “for Azazel”; this one would be “brought before the people” so that their sins would symbolically be laid upon him.
  • The Priest would sacrifice a young bull to atone for, or “cover”, his own sin and that of his household, and the sacrificial goat, to atone for the sins of the people.
  • Under smoke from incense, blood from these sacrifices was to be sprinkled, with his finger, inside the Holy of Holies, on the Mercy Seat, the front of the Ark, and “toward the east”, that is, between the Ark and the Veil.
  • Outside the Holy of Holies, blood was also to be sprinkled on the Horns of the Altar.
  • Having completed these actions, the High Priest was to lay his hands on the head of the live goat and “confess over it all the transgressions, crimes and sins of the people of Isra’el” (CJB). This, the “Scapegoat” now carrying all the sins of the people, was then to be led out of the city to an uninhabited area about 7 miles away, by a fit man appointed to the task. Ostensibly, this goat was to be released, but in practice, it was usually pushed off a cliff to prevent it from wandering back with the people’s sins. Accomplishment of this task was then signaled back to the Temple.
  • The bullock and the goat were then cut open; the fat and fatty organs were burned on the altar, and the rest of the carcass taken out and burned (on the Mount of Olives in Temple times).
  • The High Priest would then read from Torah in the Court of Prayer (aka, the Court of women).
  • Next, the Priest would sacrifice his ram, the ram for the people and seven additional rams.
  • Finally, he would remove the incense pan and ladle from the Holy of Holies.

For a really good description of the Temple ritual, derived from rabbinical documents, refer to this excellent article by a knowledgeable rabbi: The Service of the High Priest

Important Concepts

  • As seen previously, the Passover Lamb or Kid was a fellowship offering, to be killed and shared as a meal between friends or family.
  • The bull and goat sacrificed on Yom Kippur were sin offerings. As such, they could atone for (temporarily cover over), but not permanently remove, the sins of the people. Sin offerings had to be completely burned, not eaten. You don’t want to re-ingest your sins!
  • The rams were burnt offerings. They were consumed completely in fire, with the rising smoke symbolizing righteous prayer and thanksgiving.
  • The goat for Azazel was symbolically innocent, vicariously taking on itself the sins of the people and carrying them away. Its killing was not a sacrifice; it was merely a disposal.

Note especially: Hebrews 9:22 says that,according to the Torah, almost everything is purified with blood (CJB, emphasis mine). The context is speaking specifically about ritual vessels and implements, but the same is true with people. The Torah provides atonement through sacrifice for “unintentional sin”, i.e., for sins committed thoughtlessly, accidentally, negligently, or perhaps even in passion. No place in the entire Bible do we ever find a sacrifice for intentional disobedience or rebellion against God! There is no atonement for intentional sin! The theme of Yom Kippur is “regeneration”, that is, salvation. So how is any human being saved? Under Torah, it is by God’s grace, through faith–as pictured in the Scapegoat. Under the New Covenant, by God’s grace, through faith–as delivered for all times past or future by Jesus, the antitype of the Scapegoat!

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 11, Trumpets
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 13, Yom Kippur Factoids

The Jewish Feasts: Part 11, Trumpets

The Fall Feasts start on Tishri 1, a date which in modern times is generally called Rosh Ha-Shana (or Rosh Hashanah, “Head of the Year”). This is Israel’s, and Judaism’s, civil New Year. Celebrating the holiday as the start of a new year makes sense, because Yom Kippur on Tishri 10 does bring a new beginning to the land; however, of far more Biblical significance is the Leviticus Feast, the Day of Trumpets (Heb. Yom Teruah, literally, Day of Soundings).

In Jewish Eschatology, in the Olam HaBa (“the World to Come”), Messiah will one day climb the Mt. of Olives and angels will fly around the world, blowing trumpets and summoning all Israel back to the Land. Alive and dead alike will fly instantaneously to Jerusalem, where they will repent and, on Yom Kippur, be forever saved. Sound somewhat familiar?

Metal trumpets were used on many formal occasions in Israel, but rams’ horns (Heb. shofar, pl. shofarim) were used to warn of enemy attacks, to rally Israelite forces, to signal the calling of an assembly, and at other times when immediate corporate regathering was required. The ritual of Yom Teruah required that only shofarim be used. Typically, four types of “note” were blown in the morning, around the morning (Shacharit) prayer time, as described on the slide below.

I am a Premillennial, Pretribulational, Evangelical Christian. I believe that there will be a Rapture of the Church, followed by (not necessarily immediately by) a period of Tribulation on Earth, and then a “Millennial Reign” of Jesus from a throne in Jerusalem. Given that background and the fact that I believe the Feasts to be prophetical, perhaps you see why I find the Day of Trumpets tradition described above to be so interesting! Note also the congruent language of the following two New Testament scriptures:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (ESV)
[16] For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command [shout – KJV], with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. [18] Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Corinthians 15:51 (ESV)
[51] Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. [53] For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

At this point, I will shock many of you by stating that, as with all of the other Feasts, I believe that the day of this Feast, on the Jewish calendar, is the actual day that the prophesied event occurred during Jesus First Advent or will occur during His Second. You say, how can you possibly reconcile that view with

Matthew 24:30,36 (ESV)
[30] Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

[36] “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

My response is that Jesus is here comparing Himself to a bridegroom and quoting Jewish traditional wedding language. After betrothal, the groom would return with his father to the family home and begin adding to it living quarters for the new couple (“In my father’s home are many rooms…”). The groom would do the work, under his father’s supervision, and only his father could make the decision that enough progress had been made. There would be no advance warning. At some point, father would say to son, “Okay, that’s enough”, and that night the son and his attendants would go to collect the bride and her attendants. Jesus’ statement therefore is not a direct answer to the question posed and cannot be definitively said to preclude any effort to predict the date.

©Ron Thompson 2020, from my personal collection

I am not claiming to make a prediction of the date of the Rapture! It could be this Saturday (Yom Teruah, in AD 2020), or it may not happen for many years. I also don’t know what time of day it might occur, though I would guess sometime near morning prayers in Jerusalem. What I do think, is that the Rapture is likely to occur on Yom Teruah some year in the not too distant future.

For more on Jesus’ use of marriage metaphor, see: Jesus and Hebrew Wedding Imagery.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 10, The Days of Awe
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 12, Atonement

The Jewish Feasts: Part 10, The Days of Awe

©Ron Thompson 2020

As Israel’s hot summer months come to a close, we enter the Fall Feast season. The first two of these Feasts define the most solemn days of the Jewish year, and the final one, the most joyous. The first two are intimately connected: Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets (also known as Rosh Ha-Shanah, Head of the Year, the Jewish secular New Year), on Tishri 1, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement on Tishri 10. These two days and the intervening eight days are called, collectively, the Days of Awe (Heb. Yamim Noraim). The entire 10-day period is devoted to intense personal, individual repentance, prayer and righteous deeds (Heb. T’shuvah, tefilla, and tzedakah) and to acts of reconciliation. Joyous celebrations such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs do not take place during these days.

The “Book(s) of Life” are a concept that most Christian denominations don’t give much attention to, though there are quite a few somewhat obscure scriptures about them. There are mentions in Exodus, 1 Samuel, Daniel, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Luke, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, Hebrews, and of course, Revelation. Plus several Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal books. I won’t go into the Christian theology here, but I must talk about the Jewish, because it is extremely relevant to the Days of Awe.

The Book of Life (or Book of the Living, Heb. Sefer Hayyim) have taken on huge significance in the writings of Rabbi Akiva, and the Jewish Talmud states that,

 “Three books are opened in Heaven on Rosh Ha-Shanah, one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate. The thoroughly righteous are forthwith inscribed in the Book of Life, and the thoroughly wicked in the Book of Death, wile the fate of the intermediate is suspended until the Day of Atonement.”

Most people would certainly have considered themselves among the intermediate, but who really knows, so pretty much everyone must consider themselves as such. Thus, the 10-day span of the Days of Awe are marked by ritual cleansing (immersion), prayer and fasting, intense introspection, acts of repentance and, frankly, fear. But wait; the consequences are so dire for those not written in the Book of Life, that the rabbis very early decided than 10 days was not enough, and the tradition grew of starting a month early, on Elul 1.

©Ron Thompson 1008. On Masada, a typical Jewish baptistry (Heb. mikvah).

So here is what the period looked like: On Elul 1, all Jews went to the most convenient mikvah (ritual baptistery), spring or river for immersion and cleansing from sin, then, for 40 days, the process of virtual self-flagellation would proceed, culminating in the Pilgrim Festival of Yom Kippur, to be covered in Part 12. Of course, all intervening Sabbaths and the Day of Trumpets/Rosh Ha-Shanah Feast were scrupulously observed. At the conclusion of the 40 days, Jews from around Israel and the Diaspora convened at the Temple Mount for the most important Feast of the year.

The Parapet of the Temple, adapted from Rose Guide to the Temple,
© Copyright 2012 Bristol Works, Inc.

Consider now a late summer in AD 29. It is Elul 1, and John the Baptizer is standing by the water near the village of Bethany Beyond the Jordan, not too far from Jericho (Luke 3). He is baptizing devout Jewish men and women from the district, and chastising those simply obeying their legalistic impulses. He raises his head and sees, walking towards him, his cousin Jesus of Nazareth, who some 33 years earlier had caused him to jump in his mother’s womb. Jesus speaks to John, then steps into the water and is baptized, not for His own sin, but in order to conform to the ritual necessities expected of Him, and to receive the blessing given Him by Father and Spirit that day.

Following His baptism, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for the requisite 40 days of prayer and fasting. At the end of this time, on Yom Kippur, Satan appears to Him and tests Him in three ways:

Luke 4:1-12 (CJB)
[4:1] Then Yeshua*, filled with the Ruach HaKodesh* [Holy Spirit], returned from the Yarden* [Jordan] and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness [2] for forty days of testing by the Adversary. During that time he ate nothing, and afterwards he was hungry. [3] The Adversary said to him, “If you are the Son of God, order this stone to become bread.” [4] Yeshua* answered him, “The Tanakh* [Old Testament] says, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’

[5] The Adversary took him up, showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world, [6] and said to him, “I will give you all this power and glory. It has been handed over to me, and I can give it to whomever I choose. [7] So if you will worship me, it will all be yours.” [8] Yeshua* answered him, “The Tanakh* says, ‘Worship ADONAI* your God and serve him only.’”

[9] Then he took him to Yerushalayim*, set him on the highest point of the Temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, jump from here! [10] For the Tanakh* says,

‘He will order his angels
to be responsible for you and to protect you.
[11] They will support you with their hands,
so that you will not hurt your feet on the stones.’”

[12] Yeshua* answered him, “It also says, ‘Do not put ADONAI* your God to the test.’”

The Gospels differ in the order presented, but I think that Luke is most likely chronologically correct by putting Him last on the “highest point of the Temple“, the parapet on the southeastern corner of Solomon’s Porch (see diagram). Yom Kippur being a required Pilgrim Festival, as many as a million people would have been below him in the Temple courts, the Plaza outside, or down in the City of David or its surroundings. Many would have only to raise their eyes to see the drama if Jesus had failed this test.

The Temptation of Jesus does not get the attention it deserves! It is, in my opinion, one of the key events in all of human history.

Jesus, just like Adam, was placed on earth without a sin nature, meaning that they did not have the innate propensity to challenge God’s will. But both were human, and both could be persuaded by temptation. Adam and his mate were tempted by Satan in three ways that we have come to call, The Lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes, and The Pride of Life. They failed this test and condemned all their descendants to a life of sin. Jesus was tempted in the same fashion and resisted on all counts! He passed all three tests. Had He not done so, we would have no Savior!

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 9, Weeks
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 11, Trumpets

The Jewish Feasts: Part 9, Weeks

Shavuot, also known as Late Firstfruits, or by its Greek equivalent, Pentecost, is another agricultural festival, this time marking the beginning of the late spring wheat harvest. Also, it celebrates the fact that the Israelites reached Mt. Sinai “in the third month”, Sivan, traditionally on the date Sivan 1. Also by tradition (probably true) the 10 Commandments and “Rulings”, Israel’s Torah, were given to Moses on Sivan 6 or 7, 50 days after crossing the Reed Sea. That date is therefore associated with revelation and revival. Assuming, as I do, that Nisan 17 is the correct date of the Early Firstfruits celebration (see Part 8), then Sivan 7 is the correct date for Late Firstfruits.

Leviticus 23 establishes precisely that Shavuot is to be celebrated on the 49th week and a day, i.e., the 50th day, counting from Day #1 on Early Firstfruits. Traditionally, the days are counted off formally; this is known as the Counting of the Omer. An omer is a measure of dry produce volume, about the amount of barley or wheat that can be held by one person without tying, or bundling; a “sheaf”.

©Ron Thompson 2020

In terms of typology, as mentioned above, and in previous parts:

  1. Passover looks back at Israel’s Redemption from slavery to Egypt by the Death Angel, and, by Jesus’ proclamation of the New Covenant on the actual evening of the Feast, forward to all believers’ Redemption from slavery to sin .
  2. Unleavened Bread looks back at Israel’s Sanctification by removal of the stain of slavery, and, by Jesus’ death on the actual day of the Feast (not on the sacrifice day), forward to all believers’ Sanctification by removal of the stain of sin.
  3. Early Firstfruits looks back at Israel’s Resurrection as a people as they cross the Reed Sea, and, by Jesus, the Firstfruit of Resurrection, on the actual day of the Feast, forward to all believers’ Resurrection.

In the same pattern, Shavuot looks back to Israel’s Revelation in God’s Torah delivered at Sinai, and, by Jesus’ delivery of the Holy Spirit (Heb. Ruach HaKodesh) on the actual day of the Feast, forward to all believers’ Revelation in New Testament Torah. John 14:26 (ESV), [26] But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Notice also that, unlike the previous feasts, Shavuot bread must contain leaven! Why is this? Because it represents the sin that we enter with on the Feast day. The required animal sacrifices then cover that sin, so that the worshippers leave ritually clean.

Shavuot is another of the three regalim, or pilgrim feasts, a Shabbat which all adult males in Israel or the Diaspora must attend annually, if they are physically able.

This is a good place for a parenthetical slide. Leviticus 23:22 seems to hang line a non sequitur between Shavuot and the Fall Feasts. Is there something we can learn from it? I think it bears a very important truth! We are living in a parenthetical time. All other verses in the Chapter represent historical events in the life of Israel, but with prophetic themes that benefit both Israel and the New Testament church. In this verse, the command for Israel is pretty much, “Step aside and leave the gleanings to ‘the poor and the foreigner (non-Jew)'”. Days after Jesus’ Ascension, on and after Shavuot (Pentecost), the Holy Spirit was imparted to all Believers. It is now the so-called “church age” when we, both Jew and non-Jew, glean from what Israel planted. The Spirit will, by the Theology I follow, depart again at the Rapture of the Church, which we will talk about more in the next Part of this Series.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 8, Early Firstfruits
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 10, The Days of Awe

The Jewish Feasts: Part 8, Early Firstfruits

The next and last of the Spring Feasts is Yom ha-Bikkurim, the Day of Early Firstfruits. This is considered an agricultural festival; a celebration of the beginning of the spring barley harvest. It was commanded at Mt. Sinai, but was not to take effect until the Israelites were in the Promised Land, planting their own crops. The timing corresponds to the day that the redeemed slaves miraculously crossed the Red Sea (actually, the Yam Suf, or Sea of Reeds–I personally believe this is a reference to the upper reaches of the Gulf of Suez, near the town of Suez, where I think that papyrus and other reedy swamp plants would have washed down from the Bitter Lakes region at the ebb tides; but there is much scholarly disagreement on this). The theme of Resurrection attaches to this Feast because it is seen to commemorate both their resurrection from sure death at the hands of Pharaoh’s army, and more particularly, their resurrection as a people who essentially lost their national existence when they were enslaved.

©Ron Thompson 2020

I don’t think it needs to be said that Jesus’ resurrection took place on this, the third day after His death and burial! I do not want to spend much time here arguing the exegesis of Matthew 12:40 (ESV), were Jesus said, [40] For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Some well-meaning conservative Christians have argued on this basis that the Crucifixion must have taken place on a Wednesday; however, this is well-attested Hebrew idiom, and my preferred hermeneutic requires that figures of speech must be considered (see Zuck, Roy B., Basic Bible Interpretation) in translating and properly understanding Scripture. In my view, both Scripture and ancient traditions force the acceptance of a Friday Crucifixion.

©Ron Thompson 2020

Please study closely the slide above, where I have laid out the timeline, as I believe it to be, for the Jewish Spring Feasts, beginning with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Note that I have enumerated each day during the period Nisan 10 through 21. Note, too, that I have placed the Lamb Sacrifices and the “First day of Unleavened Bread” on Thursday, Nisan 14, the day before the start of the traditional “Passover Week”,  as I have previously explained. Next, see that I have placed the Day of Early Firstfruits, on Sunday, Nisan 17, the same as the third day of the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread.

 More on this timing below, but first, look closely at the three heading lines, colored blue on the slide. The middle line shows an equivalent Gregorian date for each of the days covered. I have often been curious about where the Crucifixion and Resurrection would fit on our modern Gregorian calendar.  You can find a lot of conflicting—guesses—on the Internet. Finally, I determined to figure it out for myself. Most attempts that I have seen place them in the period AD 30 – 33, which make sense from a historical point of view. Another vital clue is that every Jewish month, by definition, begins on a New Moon. With some searching, I was able to find charts showing calculated new moon dates going back much farther than I needed. Assuming the Crucifixion was indeed on a Friday, it turns out that it is somewhat rare for Nisan 15 to fall on a Friday, and that fact led me to decide that it must have occurred on Friday, April 5, 0030.

Other historical events corresponding to the Feast Day. I waffled here on whether to the Feast was on Nisan 16 or 17. In reality, I am convinced it was Nisan 17, as explained below, and here.

Although I am personally convinced that the Resurrection had to have been on Sunday, Nisan 17, you may have noticed that in the second and forth slide, I have shown it as Nisan 16 or 17. This is a nod to conflicting opinions based on Leviticus 23:11 (CJB) [11] He is to wave the sheaf before ADONAI*, so that you will be accepted; the Cohen* is to wave it on the day after the Shabbat*. A Biblical “wave offering” is a ritual waving of an agricultural product by a Priest (Heb. Cohen) in an up/down left/right, in out pattern–sort of like a 3D genuflection. The question about this verse that has puzzled the sages from antiquity is, what Shabbat does this verse refer to–the Nisan 15 Shabbat, as the Pharisees believed, or the included Saturday Shabbat, as the Sadducees believed? Modern scholars tend to favor the former because they suppose that (a) the Pharisees were more powerful, and (b) the Nisan 15 Shabbat was more important. Both of those suppositions are wrong! The Saturday Sabbath is more important, and the Pharisees, while most popular with the am ha-aretz, or common people, had little actual power. The Sadducees had almost total control over the Temple and its ritual.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 7, Unleavened Bread
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 9, Weeks

The Jewish Feasts: Part 7, Unleavened Bread

My last two blog entries dealt with the Jewish Feast of Passover, its preparation (including the sacrifices) during the preceding days, the actual Biblical Feast, lasting only through the twilight time between Nisan 14 and 15, and it’s correct relationship to Biblical Soteriology. Today I’m moving on to the second Feast, Unleavened Bread.

Unleavened Bread is the second of the Spring Feasts, and in fact it spans the entire seven days now traditionally called “Passover“. The first and last days of the feast are “convocations”, or Sabbaths, no matter on which day of the week they occur. The Saturday Sabbath within this seven-day span is considered an “especially holy Sabbath”, particularly if it falls on Nisan 15. If the Saturday Sabbath and either of the holiday Sabbaths occur on consecutive days, then cooking and other related Sabbath prohibitions are relaxed during the first of the two days.

Deuteronomy 16:16-17 (ESV) designates three days each year as regalim, or “pilgrim festivals“, which all ritually clean adult males (12 and above) are required to attend:

[16] “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. [17] Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.

In practice, attendance during Unleavened Bread is only required until the end of the first full day. In fact, many Jews started home on Nisan 16, though many stayed for the entire week. I am confident that an early return to Nazareth was the context in which Jesus’ family left him behind as recorded in

Luke 2:41-47 (CJB)
[41] Every year Yeshua’s* parents went to Yerushalayim* for the festival of Pesach*. [42] When he was twelve years old, they went up for the festival, as custom required. [43] But after the festival was over, when his parents returned, Yeshua* remained in Yerushalayim*. They didn’t realize this; [44] supposing that he was somewhere in the caravan, they spent a whole day on the road before they began searching for him among their relatives and friends. [45] Failing to find him, they returned to Yerushalayim* to look for him. [46] On the third day they found him—he was sitting in the Temple court among the rabbis*, not only listening to them but questioning what they said; [47] and everyone who heard him was astonished at his insight and his responses

Adapted from Rose Guide to the Temple,
© Copyright 2012 Bristol Works, Inc.

Where in Jerusalem was Jesus most likely “sitting … among the rabbis? Most likely on these stone steps (on the Temple diagram) or on the porch at their top (the Hel). The rabbis mentioned were probably Pharisee members of the Sanhedrin, who at that time regularly convened in the Chamber of Hewn Stone (below the arrow). During times like this they would often walk out to the porch to talk to worshippers and answer theological questions.

Historically, Exodus 12:39 (CJB) records that the Israelites prepared unleavened dough for their flight from Egypt: [39] They baked matzah* loaves from the dough they had brought out of Egypt, since it was unleavened; because they had been driven out of Egypt without time to prepare supplies for themselves. Leaven later came to prefigure sin to Israel, so that the removal of leaven from the Land during this feast symbolized the removal of sin–i.e., sanctification.

By His crucifixion, Jesus bought our salvation, in all its aspects. His crucifixion is seen in all of the Feasts, and each Feast prefigures at least one of those aspects. It turns out that important events in either Jesus’ first or second advent have evidently occurred or are scheduled to occur on Feast days relevant in some way to the events themselves. So far:

  1. Passover symbolized redemption from slavery (to Egypt/to Sin), and it was precisely on the Feast of Passover (during the Seder) that Jesus proclaimed the New Covenant as foretold in Jeremiah 31:32 (CJB),: [32] (33)“For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra’el* after those days,” says ADONAI*: “I will put my Torah* within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people.
  2.  Unleavened Bread symbolized Sanctification, or removal from Israel (of Egypt/of Sin), and it was precisely on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread that Jesus was crucified to provide salvation, including payment for, and sanctification from, sin.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 6, The Lamb of God
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 8, Early Firstfruits

The Jewish Feasts: Part 6, The Lamb of God

“Theology” is the study of God, and “Soteriology” is the study of, or theology of, salvation.

As an Evangelical Christian, I believe that Salvation is by God’s Grace, through Faith implanted by God and acting in us. I believe that Salvation has always been by Grace, through Faith. In Temple times, yes, certainly there were many Jewish legalists, but the sages always understood that the sacrifices were a response of faith to Salvation, not a means of it. And if not, were Jews of the Babylonian Captivity forever lost because they had no Temple and therefore no sacrifices? No, they had their faith and a gracious God!

We understand that Salvation is, in one sense, a process (personal conviction of sin), culminating in an event. Not, I think, a result of following some yellow brick road through random verses in Romans with a well-meaning friend or stranger, and then repeating back a magic prayer. The best statement I know of to explain salvation is:

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
[6] And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

While the Salvation event is a jewel to be sought, it is in reality a jewel with many separate facets (see slide, below): It gathers us into fellowship with likeminded believers; in fact, usually, God brings people into contact with believers in order to introduce them to the reality of His existence. The key facet is regeneration, replacement of our old nature by the new. This results in short- and long-term joy. It also brings redemption from slavery to sin. As we live among God’s people and learn God’s will, we experience sanctification, a turning from sin towards a purer life. Eventually, we all die, but we look forward to ultimate resurrection, followed by revelation of all truth.

So, these facets of Salvation are typified by the recognized themes of the Jewish Feasts! The order is precisely that of the feasts, on Israel’s civil calendar beginning in the fall.

It is important, and the reason for this article, that you recognize that

Jesus is not just the archetype of the Passover Lamb; He is also typified by, and fulfills the prophetic vision of, all Biblical Jewish Feasts and Sacrifices.

In1 Peter 1:18-19 (ESV), the Apostle tells us, “You were ransomed … with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb… without blemish or spot” The emphasis on “like” is mine, and I removed a comma that is not in the Greek. Peter is here comparing Jesus with, really, all of the efficacious sacrificial animals, not just the Passover Lamb.

John the Baptizer, in John 1:29 (ESV), said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  But, what does it mean to call Him “The Lamb of God“? Was John prophesying that Jesus would be crucified during the Passover Feast, some 3-1/2 years in the future? The people hearing John in that day, in that place, would have missed that point and immediately known that John was pointing out to them the person who he believed to be the promised Messiah!

Prior to Jesus’ appearance, the Jewish rabbis taught that personifications of “the Lamb” in the Old Testament were speaking of the coming Messiah. Take, for example,

Isaiah 53:7 (ESV)
[7] He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.

At the bottom of Part 4, I mentioned some reasons that many theologians mistakenly think that the Gospel of John conflicts with the synoptics, and thus proves that the Last Supper could not have been a Passover Seder. Part of their belief is that Jesus must have been crucified at the exact same time as the Passover sacrifices because “He was the Passover Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.” That, too, is a misreading of John.

Here is a list of some things that I think make it impossible for Jesus to have died on Nisan 14, at the same time as the sacrifices:

  • Most importantly, a proper understanding of the scriptures and the cultural traditions make the narrative of the four Gospels clear and consistent. The sacrifices were on Nisan 14, the Crucifixion on Nisan 15.
  • In Exodus, the killing of the sacrifice was of little importance; what mattered is what happened in the home that night—the smearing of the blood on the doorposts and the sharing of the final meal in slavery. Followed, of course by the passing over by the angel of death. In the commemoration, the sacrifice was governed by ritual, but it was still not a holiday occurrence—the meal was now the essential feature and made more-so by Jesus. During that one, all-important twilight, at the Passover Seder, Jesus proclaimed for all time the New Covenant in His body and blood!
  • If Jesus had died alongside the Passover sacrifices, His death would have been forever connected with that one sacrifice alone. In fact, His death represented every other sacrifice as well!

The key take-home from this lesson is that, while Jesus was certainly the ultimate Passover Lamb, it was not as the Passover Lamb that He saved us! Passover lambs were never sin offerings. A sin offering became a symbolic receptacle for the sins of the people, and could not be eaten, because one would be symbolically re-ingesting the same sins. The Passover lambs were a type of fellowship offering, a remembrance of redemption from slavery, and a celebratory meal between family and/or friends. It not only could be eaten, but it must be eaten.

So, where did salvation truly lie? In Jesus, the Scapegoat of Yom Kippur!
Stay tuned for a future instalment.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 5, Passover
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The Jewish Feasts: Part 5, Passover

Leviticus 23:5 
Passover (Pesach) 
[5] '"In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the 
month, between sundown and complete darkness, 
comes Pesach* for ADONAI*.

Passover—as commanded in Lev 23—is the only major Jewish feast that lasts less than a day. It spans, in fact, only the relatively short amount of time “between sundown and complete darkness“. Ring a bell? This is the period between Jewish days, as explained in Part 2 of this series. The annual Passover dinner, the Seder, begins during this time span, but ends around midnight. The passage below, from Exodus, describes the original Passover, in Egypt, and the preparation days in advance of it.

Exodus 12:1 (CJB)
Chapter 12
[12:1] ADONAI* spoke to Moshe* and Aharon* in the land of Egypt; he said, [2] “You are to begin your calendar with this month; it will be the first month of the year for you. [3] Speak to all the assembly of Isra’el* and say, ‘On the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb or kid for his family, one per household—[4] except that if the household is too small for a whole lamb or kid, then he and his next-door neighbor should share one, dividing it in proportion to the number of people eating it. [5] Your animal must be without defect, a male in its first year, and you may choose it from either the sheep or the goats.
[6] “‘You are to keep it until the fourteenth day of the month, and then the entire assembly of the community of Isra’el* will slaughter it at dusk. [7] They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame at the entrance of the house in which they eat it. [8] That night, they are to eat the meat, roasted in the fire; they are to eat it with matzah* and maror*. [9] Don’t eat it raw or boiled, but roasted in the fire, with its head, the lower parts of its legs and its inner organs. [10] Let nothing of it remain till morning; if any of it does remain, burn it up completely.
[11] “‘Here is how you are to eat it: with your belt fastened, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand; and you are to eat it hurriedly. It is ADONAI‘s* Pesach* [Passover]. [12] For that night, I will pass through the land of Egypt and kill all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both men and animals; and I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt; I am ADONAI*. [13] The blood will serve you as a sign marking the houses where you are; when I see the blood, I will pass over [Hebrew: pasach*] you—when I strike the land of Egypt, the death blow will not strike you.
[14] “‘This will be a day for you to remember and celebrate as a festival to ADONAI*; from generation to generation you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation.

The passage above was the command given by God to the Israelite slaves after Pharaoh refused to let them leave following the ninth plague on Egypt. The Israelites obeyed, the Egyptians scoffed, and that night (Nisan 15) at midnight, God killed the firstborn children and livestock of any family in the land that did not have the blood smeared on their doorposts. The next morning, Pharaoh let the Israelites leave, and they began their trek to the Promised Land.

Some 50 days after the exodus from Egypt, Moses halted the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, where God delivered the Torah (the “teachings”, commonly called “the Law”) to them. Leviticus 23 is part of that Torah, and the Spring Feasts are annual commemorations of the Exodus.

The celebrations in following years and centuries are somewhat of a reenactment. They have always differed from the original events, and in years with no Tabernacle or Temple, they are in some ways quite different—but there are noted similarities.

Verse 2 of Exodus 12 defines Nisan as the starting month for the religious, or ecclesiastical, not the civil, calendar. Nisan is a borrowed Akkadian name; in Moses’ day it was called Aviv.

Verses 3 through 5 were followed as long as there was a Temple. The purpose of the time span between selection and sacrifice was twofold. First, to allow time for inspection and observation of the animal, to ensure that it met the standards of verse 5. Second, in so doing it would allow the owners to become emotionally invested in the animal; it isn’t an offering, it’s a sacrifice—with a cost. Unlike other sacrifices where a pigeon or grain product could be substituted by a poor family, in this case it had to be a lamb or kid, but the expense could be divided between the participants.

In Egypt, animals were sacrificed at individual homes, without priestly supervision, during the dusk period. In Temple times, all sacrifices had to be done in the Temple, and because there were so many they were done before dusk and before the actual Feast days. In Egypt, the blood was smeared around the doors, but in Tabernacle and Temple, it was splashed on the altar base. In Egypt and later years, the animal was roasted (no other method of cooking was permitted), then fully consumed that night, with unleavened bread (Heb. matzah, symbolizing sinlessness) and bitter herbs (Heb. maror, symbolizing the bitterness of slavery).

In the absence of a Temple, there are of course no sacrifices. Different Jewish sects modify the traditions in ways they judge are appropriate. The Seder generally includes some sort of roast meat, and there are generally shank bones from a lamb on each plate.

The table ritual of verse 11 was specified in Egypt, but not thereafter. Traditionally the Passover meal, or Seder, begins at sundown and the ritual portions are finished by complete darkness; then the remainder of the time until midnight is spent in table fellowship. In Egypt, the entire animal was spitted and roasted; in later ritual, the animal was butchered in advance, and only edible meats were roasted. In both Egypt and later tradition, none of the meat could be left for morning; if it was, it had to be burned.

The Passover Seder Plate, from the Haggadah

Verses 11 – 13 only applied in Egypt, of course. At midnight, in tradition, guests break from the table and stream out to the streets and rooftops to sing the hallel (“praise” songs, Psalm 113 – 118) together—an entire city in choir!

More on this next time, but the Passover was not a sin offering, and you had to already be ritually sinless to partake of it. The theme of the Feast is Redemption from slavery, not salvation or regeneration. Though there were rigid requirements for the animal being sacrificed, it was the meat that was ultimately important, not the actual act of sacrifice. To clarify this important point, I plan to dedicate the entire next article to the actual meaning we should attach to Passover, in terms of Christian soteriology, or salvation theology.

Passover Plate and Coasters, from my personal Judaica collection. ©Ron Thompson 2020

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 4, Spring Feasts
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 6, Lamb of God

The Jewish Feasts: Part 4, Spring Feasts

©Ron Thompson 2020

Technically, there are three Feasts in the spring month of Nisan, as bracketed in the slide above; but because they are contiguous (even overlapping) and so closely related, it became traditional practice to lump them together as a single Feast, which was called Passover (Heb. Pesach). I will present details of each component Feast in future posts, but for now I want to provide, in narrative form, a description of the events that preceded a typical Passover week, with notes about Jesus’ last Passover.

Since all bar mitzvah (Son of Commandment) Jewish males, age 13 and over, were required to be in Jerusalem for this Feast, nearby roads, bridges, wells and mikvoth (ritual baths, baptistries) were repaired well in advance and the city cleaned up for hordes of out-of-town visitors. Groups of roughly 7 to 12 people would share one lamb or kid, sized so that no meat would be left over after the upcoming Seder. Usually these groups were families, so that’s how I will refer to them here, but frequently small families or more loosely related groups would combine.

Selection of the animals had to be done no later than Nisan 10, so that was the date that most families would begin arriving. Jesus arrived that day (which we now refer to as “Palm Sunday”) on a donkey colt, with Peter and John who appear to have shared the preparation duties in the following days.

Though the Passover Week would not start until the Seder meal during the period of dusk between Nisan 14 and 15, the sacrifices had to be completed during the day on Nisan 14. This day was also called “the first day of unleavened bread”, because all leaven had to be consumed, sold to Gentiles or destroyed before the Seder and the following week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread.

There were usually as many as a million people in Jerusalem for Passover, so around a hundred thousand animals had to be sacrificed in a single day! All 12 courses (rotations) of priests and as many Levites as possible would be on duty. Typically, one or two representatives from each family, with their animal, would gather around the Temple Mount, on its top, and in the outer courts and the Court of Prayer (also known as the Court of Women, or the Treasury). As quickly as possible, these worshippers would be led in groups through the Nicanor Gate separating the Court of Prayer from the Court of Israel. Two lines of priests would be stationed in the slaying area on the north side of the altar, each priest holding a gold or silver bowl as shown below.

Property of the Temple Institute, Jerusalem

The function of the family representatives in this ceremony was to bring the animal and the slaying knife, to kneel in front of one of the priests, and to tenderly hold the animal as a way of identifying with it, emotionally and spiritually. The representative, not the priest, would then slit its throat quickly and humanely. The blood would be drained into the priest’s bowl and passed down the line of priests to be splashed at the base of the altar, near a drain that would channel much of it down into the Kidron Valley, below. After finishing with the slaying, the representatives would carry their dead animals to an adjacent area where they would hang it from one of several posts provided for the purpose and quickly cut out portions of meat dedicated to the temple personnel, and parts forbidden for consumption. The forbidden parts would be carried by priests up a ramp onto the altar and tossed into a fire. The representatives would skin the rest of the offering and cut it up for cooking. The meat would be wrapped in the skins and taken back into the city to be roasted on a spit in ovens constructed for that purpose.

The reason I spent so much energy describing the above process is that it can’t be understood from the Bible alone, and probably 98% of what you read on the Internet is flawed. Many Christians say that there had to have been two Seders, or the Last Supper must have been some other meal. There are three main reasons for this confusion:

  1. First, many believe that Jesus was crucified “on Passover”, at the same time the lamb (singular) was sacrificed. For historical and theological reasons that I will go into in future posts, the Crucifixion absolutely could not have been on Passover, and it could not have been on the same day as the sacrifices (plural). Jesus was crucified during traditional Passover week, but not until after the Biblical Passover Feast, the one and only Seder. There were not two Seders.
  2. There is also confusion about terminology–the Preparation Day was on the first day of unleavened bread, but that is the day before the first day of The Feast of Unleavened Bread.
  3. Also, in John 18:28, when the Pharisees refused to go into Pilate’s headquarters with Jesus in the morning lest they be defiled and unable to “eat the Passover” (ESV), the meal they were concerned about could not have been the Seder, because defilement from entering a Gentile home only lasted until sundown! Instead, it had to refer to the important chagigah meal at noon following the Seder. More on all these issues later.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 3, An Overview
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 5, Passover

The Jewish Feasts: Part 3, An Overview

The Jewish calendar year is divided into 12 lunar months, each beginning on a new moon. In seven out of every 13 years, an additional lunar month is added to keep the seasons in their proper time frames; think of these extra months as “leap months”. For most of its history, Israel has actually used two separate calendars that differ only in their starting months. The civil calendar starts in the month of Tishri, and it is this calendar that you will see used most often today. The religious calendar begins seven months later, in the month of Nisan. The Bible primarily uses the religious calendar, and in particular, “the first month of the year”, Nisan, is the proper time for the Spring Feasts, and “the seventh month of the year”, Tishri, is the time for the Fall Feasts. What about the Gregorian calendar, used by most of the world in modern times? Well, of course modern Israel uses that, too, but only for international dealings.

In addition to Shabbat, we will be looking at seven Major Feasts spread over three Festival Seasons:

  1. The Spring Feasts take place in Nisan, the first month of the religious calendar. There are three feasts in quick succession, related, for our purposes, to Israel’s past and to Jesus’ first advent.
  2. The Interval Feast is in Sivan, the third month of the religious calendar. There is one feast, relating to the present age and the time between Jesus’ advents.
  3. The Fall Feasts take place in Tishri, the seventh month of the religious calendar. Three feasts that relate to Israel’s future and to Jesus’ second advent.

As we progress through the Feasts, I’ll show that each has both historical and prophetic significance, and that, in particular, each speaks volumes about the Messiah, Jesus. Additionally, there are agricultural aspects to each feast, but those have more significance to Israel’s history than to us. Finally, the rituals of the feasts hold a lot of significance with respect to a believer’s walk, but my emphasis here is more theological, and not on the ritual, so that will be a bit out of our scope.

Given the fact that I’m limiting my scope, both to increase the probability that I can accomplish what I’ve set out to do, and to avoid boring anyone by actually trying to cover all 69 slides that I started out with… I’ve just presented you with a comprehensive list of study topics related to the feasts, but I’m going to leave gaps going forward, and I encourage you to study some on your own.

©Ron Thompson 2020

This is a slide you will see over and over, with various parts emphasized. Please look it over now, and yes, before you ask, I am going to claim that the events listed in the final column are not only pictured by the related Feast, but took place, or will take place, on the actual Feast days.

Next time, I will delve into the Spring Feasts.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 2, On Sabbaths and Days
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 4, Spring Feasts

The Jewish Feasts: Part 2, On Sabbaths and Days

Before proceeding to discussions of the seven annual Principal Feasts in the remainder of Lev 23, verse 3 emphasizes, by its placement in the chapter, the equal or greater importance of the regular, weekly, Saturday Sabbath. As we will see, there are Sabbath days embedded within some of the Feasts. These days are in addition to the weekly Sabbaths. If a Feast Day Sabbath falls on a Saturday, the rituals for the two, already fairly similar, are combined into one.

In the Bible, the term “Sabbath” (Heb. Shabbat, Shabbos, or Shabbes) means “rest“, or “ease“. A Sabbath Day, therefore, is a “day of rest or ease.” As a child, I was taught that “Sabbath” means “seventh.” That is a myth! Sabbath and its Hebrew equivalents aren’t even close to meaning seventh; nevertheless, the weekly Sabbath is always on Saturday. The concept of a “Christian Sabbath” on Sunday has no Biblical support and is merely a product of the heretical theology that claims that Israel permanently forfeited God’s Promises and was subsequently replaced in God’s Kingdom by the Church.

The Jewish Change of Day: 
The Twilight 
Any Jewish calendar day 
Sundown: The 
trailing edge of the 
sun dips below the 
to both 
da s 
The next Jewish calendar day 
Nightfall: Three 
stars first visible in 
the sky
©Ron Thompson 2020

This is a good time to introduce the Jewish concept of “days“, which we’ll need to understand going forward. Most Christians understand that the Jewish day starts and ends somewhere around the evening hours. It is actually much more complicated than that, and I have tried to illustrate it in the above slide.

Every Jewish day officially ends at sundown, which is defined by ancient Jewish law as the instant that a priest standing on the Temple ramparts signals that the last sliver of the sun has dipped below the western horizon. If for weather or other reasons (like, there is no Temple!) that instant could not be observed, then estimation was allowed. In present days, it’s all determined by computer, with latitude, longitude and altitude all taken into account.

Here is where it starts to get strange! It turns out that the next day doesn’t start when the previous day ends. It doesn’t start until nightfall, officially the instant at which a priest, standing in the same location, can first distinguish three “medium-magnitude” stars in the sky. Try doing that in a modern, brightly lit city sky! As to how one defines a star’s magnitude, that’s obviously very subjective. But again… computers to the rescue.

So, what do we do with the twilight period between sundown and nightfall? Technically, it belongs to both days–or to neither of them. Let me give an example: Right now, as I sit here at the keyboard, it is not quite 5 pm on a Friday evening where I am. Today, where I am (based on my latitude, longitude and height above standard sea level), will formally end at Sunset (Shkia), 6:54 pm local time. The twilight, or dusk, period (Tzait Hakochavim) will last 72 minutes, and end at 8:06 pm.

Tomorrow is Shabbat. Anything that is illegal for a Jew to do on Shabbat, must be completed by 6:54 pm today, at the absolute latest. Tomorrow, dusk ends at 8:05 pm. Anything illegal for a Shabbat must not begin until that time or later. Thus, the twilight time acts as a safety factor to make sure one does not violate Shabbat! This is part of what we call “building walls around Torah.” We will run across this twilight thing again…

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 3, An Overview

The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction

The Jewish Principal 
Leviticus 23

Leviticus 23 provides a convenient outline for a discussion of the eight principal Feasts of Israel, including the weekly Sabbath observance.

The first two verses of the chapter set the theme for the rest, and perhaps require some explanation for non-Jewish readers:

Leviticus 23:1-2 
Chapter Theme 
[23:1] ADONAI* said to Moshe* , [2] "Tell the people 
of Isra'el*: 'The designated times of ADONAI* which 
you are to proclaim as holy convocations are my 
designated times. 
All passages quoted from The Complete Jewish Bible, 
ODavid H. Stern. 
* Indicates transliterated Hebrew names and terms

In most English translations of the Bible, we see “lord”, in lower or mixed case, used to indicate a functional title for a ruler, and “LORD”, spelled in all-caps, as a reverent substitution for the “Covenant Name”, or “Divine Name” יהוה, yud-heh-vav-heh, YHVH, Yahweh, Jehovah, etc. “Adonai” and “ADONAI” are equivalent Hebrew substitutions for “the lord” and “the LORD”, respectively.

“Moshe” is an English transliteration of the Hebrew name that has come to our standard English versions in its Anglo-Saxon rendering as “Moses”. In this and future slides, transliterations are indicated by a following asterisk.

One other term on this slide requires explanation: A “convocation” (Heb., miqra) is “a sacred assembly, calling, or reading.” Though translations of the term in Lev. 23:1 appear at first glance to refer to the feasts themselves, the context of the remaining verses in the chapter clearly indicate that the “convocations” are here the associated Sabbaths, or days when ordinary work is not permitted.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 2, On Sabbaths and Days

Did God Abrogate the Dietary Laws for Jews?

Updated January 2022; fist posted February 2019.

Traditional interpretations of Scripture often seem to become Scripture over time. Peter’s vision in Acts 10 is a case in point:

Acts 10:10-15 (CJB)
[10] He began to feel hungry and wanted something to eat; but while they were preparing the meal, he fell into a trance [11] in which he saw heaven opened, and something that looked like a large sheet being lowered to the ground by its four corners. [12] In it were all kinds of four-footed animals, crawling creatures and wild birds. [13] Then a voice came to him, “Get up, Kefa, slaughter and eat!” [14] But Kefa said, “No, sir! Absolutely not! I have never eaten food that was unclean or treif.” [15] The voice spoke to him a second time: “Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.”

The Hebrew term “treif“, here (literally, “torn”, as if by wild animals or by falling off a cliff), and its Greek equivalent, “koinos“, include any food that is non-kosher, profane (common), defiled, unclean, or unholy.

Most Christian theologians today, would say, “That is an object lesson, but it is also a clear statement that God has cancelled His own commandment!” But did He? First, let’s be clear, the Jewish dietary laws have never applied to non-Jewish believers! Torah was God’s teachings to Jews, His commandments to them to set them apart from the profane ungodly, as His holy people. The closest we have in the New Testament to a dietary commandment for non-Jewish believers, is an opinion delivered by James at the first church council, in Jerusalem:

Acts 15:19 (CJB)
[19] “Therefore, my opinion is that we should not put obstacles in the way of the Goyim [essentially, Gentiles] who are turning to God. [20] Instead, we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication, from what is strangled and from blood.

What was Peter’s understanding of his trance? At first, he didn’t get it at all! The voice had to tell him three times, “Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean” (vs 16). Yet, in the following verse, when he awoke from his trance, he “was still puzzling over the meaning of the vision he had seen” (vs 17). Then “While Kefa’s [Peter’s] mind was still on the vision, the Spirit said, “Three men are looking for you” (vs 19).

I think that is when the light dawned for Peter. The sheet was a vision, not a reality. The food on it was a vision. God wanted to teach him something. The vision wasn’t about food, it was about people! He was given an object lesson; the lesson taught him

Acts 10:28 (CJB)
[28] He said to them, “You are well aware that for a man who is a Jew to have close association with someone who belongs to another people, or to come and visit him, is something that just isn’t done. But God has shown me not to call any person common or unclean…”

Something else needs to be clarified: Peter’s attitude going into this incident was wrong to begin with. There is no commandment in scripture that tells Jews to shun non-Jews! There are only the traditions of the rabbis to account for it. A “cultural construct”. Got created all mankind “clean” from the very beginning. A Gentile in sin is no more defiled than a Jew in sin—in fact because God gave Torah to Israel, He holds them to a higher standard. God doesn’t defile mankind, we defile ourselves. Only God’s grace can restore the holiness we relinquish.

Resurrection Day: Nisan 16, or 17?

The Feast of Early Firstfruits is Nisan 17 on the Jewish calendar. In the year of Jesus’ crucifixion, that was a Sunday, by our terminology. By my own reckoning, based on astronomical new moon tables, I believe that the resurrection occurred on April 7, AD 30.

So why do I show this on “Nisan 16 or 17″ on the table of feasts? It isn’t because I question the date, but simply because the subject of the table is not specifically the resurrection, but rather the date of the feast, Early Firstfruits, or Yom haBikkurim, as celebrated by Israel. Lev 23:10-11 (CJB) says

[10] “Tell the people of Isra’el, ‘After you enter the land I am giving you and harvest its ripe crops, you are to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the cohen. [11] He is to wave the sheaf before ADONAI, so that you will be accepted; the cohen is to wave it on the day after the Shabbat.

Calendar of Feasts - Nisan 16 OR 17

The question of the day was, which Shabbat (Sabbath); the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or the normal weekly Shabbat? Modern Jewish calendars follow the view of the Pharisees, who insisted on the latter; but in the First Century, the Sadducees controlled the Temple and the calendar, and they held to the former.

So, even though Jewish calendars today show Yom haBikkurim on Nisan 16, which was a Saturday in 30 AD, Jesus was indeed the embodiment of the resurrection theme of the feast, and He rose from the dead on the exact day of the celebration!

Historic Anchors for Israel in Egypt

Updated January 2022; original posted July 2016

I am presenting here a list of dates for key events in Egyptian/Biblical history. Dating of Biblical events during the Egyptian period is very firm, if you believe as I do that the Bible is inerrant and its time references are literal. Dating of the Egyptian King Lists is more problematic, as I will discuss below.

Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty

Dating the reigns of Middle Kingdom monarchs is particularly difficult, with a particularly large range of proposed possibilities. I have a fairly large library of Egyptian history. In this post I will list, separated by slashes, two of the newest chronologies that seem reasonable: First is the timeline presented by Van De Mieroop in A History of Ancient Egypt; second, the one I personally prefer, taken from the Wikipedia article, “Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt”, as last edited on 21 December 2021. A radically different chronology by Egyptologist David Rohl, has recently been popularized by the Patterns of Evidence series of videos. I plan to review this series in the near future, but for now, I like most of what is presented in the first two videos, but not so much the second two or the anticipated fifth. Rohl, a self-styled agnostic, follows the lead of various evangelical scholars who shorten the period of the Hebrew “sojourn” in Egypt from the explicitly stated 430 years to 350 years, based on what I believe is a simplistic misunderstanding of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Egypt’s capital throughout the 12th Dynasty period was located in ancient Itj-Tawy, located around 35 miles south of modern Cairo and 21 miles south of ancient Memphis.

Pharaoh Amenemhat II, 1911-1877/1929-1895 BC. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt around 1899 BC, at 17 years old (Gen 37:2-29). Most of my sources would put this event somewhere in Amenemhat’s reign. I would place the timing shortly before a brief coregency of Amenemhat and Senusret II.

Pharaoh Senusret II, 1877-1870/1897-1878 BC. Joseph languished in Egyptian slavery and prison for some 13 years before he “stood before Pharoah” at age 30 (1886 BC) to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and to be elevated to Vizier rank (Gen 41:46). By my accounting, this Pharaoh was Senusret II, who seems to have devoted the final eight years of his reign to promoting Joseph’s recommendations for the productive years. Domestically, he is best known for developing the Fayyum Basin area west of the capital. This is a basin watered by a natural offshoot of the Nile, anachronistically named Bahr Yussef (“the Waterway of Joseph”). Although widening of this waterway was done well before the Middle Kingdom era, Senusret built numerous canals for irrigation and to control the levels of the valley’s Lake Moeris for the purpose of land reclamation. He also built new settlements in the center and around the borders of Egypt and appears to have greatly expanded his bureaucracy in these regions. Regarding foreign affairs, he is known to have fostered a period of peaceful trade with the hated “Asiatics” of the Levant.

Pharaoh Senusret III, 1870-1831/1878-1839 BC. This powerful Pharaoh began his reign about eight years after the elevation of Joseph. I believe that his story is told in

Genesis 41:54-57 (CJB)
[54] and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Yosef had said. There was famine in all lands, but throughout the land of Egypt there was food. [55] When the whole land of Egypt started feeling the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food, and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Yosef, and do what he tells you to do.” [56] The famine was over all the earth, but then Yosef opened all the storehouses and sold food to the Egyptians, since the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. [57] Moreover all countries came to Egypt to Yosef to buy grain, because the famine was severe throughout the earth.

Senusret III, ©MET Museum NYC

Senusret continued the agricultural developments begun by his father and attempted to maintain peace within Egypt and with Egypt’s neighbors, but the balance of power within Egypt changed radically during his reign. Since no later than the 3rd Dynasty, Egypt had been divided into individual districts called “nomes“, each ruled by a hereditary “nomarch“. These powerful nobles had decentralized Egyptian rule and placed limits on the Pharaohs. Senusret III seems to have used the famine years and his monopolistic control of Joseph’s well-stocked granaries to break the economic power of the nomarchs and to recentralize power within his kingdom.

In 1876 BC, near the beginning of the famine years, Jacob and the rest of his family and their retinues moved to Egypt (Gen 46:1-47:9). Why were they offered seemingly prime space in the fertile land of Goshen, the eastern Nile Delta region? Was this land gift purely out of Pharaoh’s love for Joseph? I doubt it. Their “Asiatic” origins were a heavy strike against them. They ignored Joseph’s warning not to mention that they were shepherds. Egypt’s herds were cattle, and sheep tend to overgraze pastures and make them unsuitable for raising cattle.

Late 12th Dynasty. Joseph died at 130 years old, in 1806 BC, having lived in Egypt during the reigns of Senusret III, Amenemhat III, and Amenemhat IV. Queen Sobekneferu was just coming into power for a brief, 4-year reign.

Hyksos Period

Hyksos Cities in Lower Egypt

While there is no question that the 12th Dynasty Pharaohs recognized Joseph’s wisdom and supported his programs as Vizier, as mentioned above, I personally have reservations about the sincerity of their welcome of his Hebrew family. Senusret III, in particular, hated the Nubians of Africa and was at best ambivalent about “Asiatics”—foreigners from eastern Mediterranean lands, many of whom had been infiltrating Lower Egypt for generations. I suspect that the Pharaohs’ invitation to Jacob and their tolerance of the Hebrews was more to keep Joseph happy and his relatives under observation.

At the close of the chaotic 14th Dynasty, a group of Asiatics, speaking an Aramaic/Canaanite west-Semitic dialect, took control of Egypt. They came to be called “Hyksos“, meaning “the rulers of foreign lands”. They were settled throughout Goshen and along the Lower Nile Valley, with scattered settlements into Upper Egypt. Dynasties 15, 16 and 17 consisted primarily of Hyksos rulers with their capital first in the eastern Nile Delta city of Avaris, and later in Thebes. They were not deposed until Amose I, founder of the 18th Dynasty, unseated them. He and his successors eventually drove them out of Egypt.


Aside from secular and Deistic theories that equate the Hyksos with the Hebrews, I have never seen or heard a discussion of the inevitable dispersal of the Israelites in Egypt during the Hyksos rule and early 18th Dynastic period. Exodus 1:5-7 implies that the original 70 “sons of Israel” had multiplied until they occupied not just Goshen, but rather “filled” all of the habitable land of Egypt. I imagine that they were displaced completely from Goshen itself, but in any case, as slaves they would have been required to concentrate close to where they worked. By Moses’ time, most of their work would certainly be in Upper Egypt, except at flood times. Travel from the Delta to Thebes by foot would probably have taken them around two weeks, at best. Without any archaeological or written records either way, I am assuming that the bulk of the slaves were sheltering along the Nile wherever they were needed at any given time.

Exodus 1:7-21 covers an undatable period of history after the death of Joseph and before the birth of Moses. A traditional understanding of the chapter assumes that the entire passage describes a single wicked Pharaoh, but I would rather divide it as follows:

  • the Pharaoh who “did not know Joseph”, and who ordered their enslavement—possibly as early as late in the 12th Dynasty (Ex 1:8-11);
  • a long period of increasing oppression and further population expansion (Ex 1:12-14); and
  • the Pharaoh who, during that period, tasked the midwives to kill Israelite boys (Ex 1:15-21).

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty

Most scholars today use a Conventional Egyptian Chronology for this period. The currently popular Patterns of Evidence series is pushing David Rohl’s alternative “New Chronology”, which most Egyptologists agree is way off the mark. Within the 18th Dynasty, the Conventional view has two primary variations, due to an ambiguity in tying the ancient Egyptian calendar to our Gregorian calendar. The so-called “Low Chronology“, which is most popular, contains later dating; use of the “High Chronology” results in dates 20 years earlier. Personally, I prefer a variation of the Low Chronology, as presented by Christian Egyptologist, Kenneth Kitchen. Though I don’t agree with his conclusions about Biblical dating, his Egyptian dating seems to me to fit better with the Biblical narrative as I interpret it.

Pharaoh Amenhotep I, 1532-1511 BC. Moses was born in 1526 BC, by Kitchen’s Chronology, during the 6th year of Amenhotep’s reign. The order to throw newborn boys into the Nile was probably issued shortly before that time, so it is safe to say it was Amenhotep’s order (Ex 1:22). There is a problem with this chronology, though: the following passage (Ex 2:1-11) states several times that it was “Pharaoh’s daughter” who rescued Moses and later adopted him, but Amenhotep had no male or female heirs at all except for one son, who died at a very early age. If the dating is correct, then this wording can still be regarded as correct if she was the daughter of either a past or future Pharaoh. There is precedent for this type of royal ambiguity both in scripture and in other ancient writings. If so, there are three possible scenarios:

  • She could have been a daughter of Amenhotep’s father, Pharaoh Ahmose I. Ahmose had 12 children, including several daughters, but those who survived to 1526 would have been fairly old by the standards of the day. I think it would have been unlikely that any of them would be at the river under these circumstances.
  • Amenhotep was succeeded by Thutmose I, who was a military figure and not related to him at all. Thutmose did indeed have a daughter, Hatshepsut, who was 16 years old in 1526, and was suitable for other reasons, as well. See below.
  • Thutmose might have been considered the current Pharaoh if he was coregent with Amenhotep. This would not have been unusual, and there is some evidence of a coregency; but it would have to have lasted at least 15 years, which is very unlikely.

Pharaoh Thutmose I, 1511-1498 BC. Thutmose’ birth date and parentage are unknown. Amenhotep died without an heir, and it is likely that Thutmose, probably close to Amenhotep’s age, was promoted from a senior military position. Thutmose had five children over his lifetime, of which three died before his accession. His daughter, Hatshepsut, was born around 1541 BC, in the 16th year of Ahmose I’s reign. She would have been 16 years old when Moses was born, in the 6th year of Amenhotep’s reign, which certainly would have made her the ideal candidate for the (eventual) “Pharoah’s Daughter”. When Thutmose became Pharaoh, Moses was 15 and Hatshepsut undoubtedly a “headstrong” princess at 31 years old.

Exodus 2:5 (CJB)
[5] The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the river while her maids-in-attendance walked along the riverside. Spotting the basket among the reeds, she sent her slave-girl to get it. [6] She opened it and looked inside, and there in front of her was a crying baby boy! Moved with pity, she said, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children.”

Based on tradition, and possibly documentation that was available to him at the time, 1st Century Jewish historian Josephus reported that Moses was indeed a “prince of Egypt”, without question receiving the same education that any other Egyptian prince would have received in the eventuality that he might one day inherit the throne of Pharaoh. Josephus reported that Moses led the Egyptian army in at least one successful campaign against the perennial enemy in Nubia.

Pharaoh Thutmose II, 1498-1485 BC. When Thutmose I died in 1498 BC, he was replaced by his only surviving son, Thutmose II. Egyptian Pharaohs were almost always male, but succession was determined through a matriarchal system which frequently resulted in brother/sister marriages. Thutmose II was the son of Thutmose I by a minor wife, which made his claim to the throne weak. This he remedied by marrying his older half-sister, Hatshepsut, a daughter by Thutmose I’s chief wife.

Although I believe that Hatshepsut was Moses‘ adoptive mother, and I have no doubt that she carefully supervised his education, I think that he later became a liability to her own ambitions. When Moses fled from Egypt in 1486, it was clear (as is evident from the state of his mummy) that Thutmose II was dying. Hatshepsut had her own plans going forward, and there may have been a risk that Moses would be seen as a viable heir. When she heard that Moses had killed an Egyptian, she had an excuse to get rid of him, either in her husband’s name or her own:

Exodus 2:15 (CJB)
[15] When Pharaoh heard of it, he tried to have Moshe put to death. But Moshe fled from Pharaoh to live in the land of Midyan.

I am not ignoring the masculine pronoun in “he tried”. Because Pharaohs were almost always male, Hatshepsut began dressing and acting as a male Pharaoh, and insisted that she was king, not queen, of Egypt. All references to her during much of her reign were masculine.

I think that Moses was savvy enough to recognize his danger. It is also significant to me that he was not sentimental about her at this point, either:

Hebrews 11:24 (CJB)
[24] By [faith], Moshe, after he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. [25] He chose being mistreated along with God’s people rather than enjoying the passing pleasures of sin. [26] He had come to regard abuse suffered on behalf of the Messiah as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he kept his eyes fixed on the reward.

A young Hatshepsut, ©MET Museum NYC

Pharaoh Hatshepsut, 1485-1464 BC. When Thutmose II died in 1485 BC, he was succeeded by his infant son, Thutmose III, so Hatshepsut became queen regent. She reigned as actual Pharaoh for 19 years, until her own death. She is regarded by many as one of the most powerful woman monarchs of history. She died when Moses was 62 years old, roughly the midpoint of his 40 years in Midian.

Pharaoh Thutmose III, 1464-1431 BC. Thutmose III became sole ruler on Hatshepsut’s death. He is known as the “Napoleon of Egypt” for his many military campaigns and is considered to have been a military genius.

Thutmose III, ©MET Museum NYC

The Exodus and the loss of his armies occurred in 1446 BC, in approximately the 18th year of his reign after Hatshepsut’s death. His extreme reluctance to release the Hebrew slaves, despite the severity of the plagues, can probably be explained by Thutmose’s unwillingness to use potential fighting men in their place for common labor. In the few years after the Exodus, he continued his foreign invasions, and claimed great victories, but scholars discount these claims because there was apparently so little booty taken. There is no reason to assume, however, that the loss of so many of his fighting men in the Red Sea would have suppressed his military might for long.

Some commentators object to Thutmose III as the “Pharaoh of the Exodus” because they read some verses elsewhere in the Bible as stating that he had to have drowned with his army—for example:

Psalms 136:13 (CJB)
[13] to him who split apart the Sea of Suf,
for his grace continues forever;
[14] and made Isra’el cross right through it,
for his grace continues forever;
[15] but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Sea of Suf,
for his grace continues forever;

I don’t believe that this poetic description is meant to be precise; just flowery! In any case, the Hebrew text does not support the strength of the “and” interpretation.

Pharoah Amenhotep II, 1431-1406. Amenhotep was Thutmose III’s son by a minor wife. Interestingly, Thutmose’ firstborn son, Amenemhat, son of chief wife Satiah, was the heir-apparent until his death “between years 24 and 35 of Thutmose’ reign.” When accounting for the period of coregency with Hatshepsut, this conforms quite nicely with the Biblical account of the killing of the firstborn!

Jesus’ Last Steps

This past summer, a number of people from my church went on a tour of Israel. On their return, one of the pastors was marveling at the great distance that Jesus was required to walk on the morning of his crucifixion. Of course, it is not possible to say with total certainty what route He took that morning, but I believe with a little research it is possible to make some fairly good guesses. The relevant passages in Scripture are Matthew 26:17-27:45; Mark 14:12-15:37; Luke 22:7-23:51; and John 13:2-19:38.

©Leen & Kathleen Ritmeyer, from Jerusalem at the Time of Jesus. Annotated by me.

The paragraph numbers below correspond to points on the accompanying map.

  1. The Upper Room – The trek, of course, began at the Upper Room. Most of the sites visited can be located today with some degree of confidence. Not so the Upper Room. Church tradition places it at the site of the Church of the Apostles on Mt. Zion, in the southwestern quarter of the city, in an upper story directly above the traditional location of the Tomb of David. I don’t believe that this is the correct location of either shrine. David’s real tomb was probably in a known cave complex on the southeastern slope of the City of David, but the Upper Room could be anywhere in the city. Due to the proximity of the Gihon Spring and given that the host was described as a man carrying a jar of water, some authors tentatively place it on the Ophel, south of the Temple Mount; however, everybody in Jerusalem had to fetch water, and the room was described as “large”, leading me to place it somewhere in the more upscale Upper or Lower City (the Western Hill or the Tyropoeon Valley). After killing the sacrifices on Thursday, Nisan 14 (probably April 4, AD 30), food for the Seder had to be prepared and the Sabbath candles lit before sundown. Then the meal could begin during the twilight period. Most celebrations wrapped up at around midnight and the celebrants went outside, either into the streets or onto the roofs, to join in citywide singing of the Hallel psalms.
  2. The Mount of Olives – After singing the Hallel, Jesus and his party adjourned to the Mount of Olives, presumably leaving the City of David via the Water Gate, above Gihon Spring. There was most likely a switch-back road descending from the gate into the Kidron Valley below, intersecting with a road running along the valley floor. Matthew and Mark describe this stage of the trek similarly: as they arrived at The Mount of Olives, Jesus prophesied that his apostles would lose faith in him that night. He quoted from the apocalyptic 13th chapter of Zechariah which speaks of the End of Days (acharit hyamim). At that time, the people in the Land will be scattered, with 2/3 of them purged and those who remain purified. He then said that after His resurrection He would meet the disciples in Galilee. At this point, we see the exchange with Peter, when his threefold denial is foretold. They then proceeded on to Gethsemane. Luke only says that Jesus told them to pray that they might not be put to the test. He then went “about a stone’s throw away” to pray—presumably the John 17 prayer—and returned to find them sleeping. John’s account is quite different. There is no clear transition from the Upper Room to the Mount of Olives. Chapters 13 through 17 cover in great detail the exhortations and warnings to the disciples, and Jesus’ prayer. Given only this passage, one would conclude that the entire conversation, including the prayer, took place around the Seder table, though that is not actually stated. From this passage it appears that the exchange with Peter occurred near the end of the Seder, in the Upper Room. Conservative hermeneutics, based on examination of ancient literary practices, allows conversations to be paraphrased and chronologies to be out of order, as long as the message is not distorted by doing so, so this part of the conversation could have taken place in either location. Another likely possibility is that Jesus said the same thing twice in order to drive the point home to Peter.
  3. Gethsemane – From the Mount of Olives, the party moved on to the Garden of Gethsemane (Gat-Sh’manim), where Jesus was arrested. Since Gethsemane is an olive grove and olive press on the Mount of Olives, this can of course be interpreted to mean that they simply moved from outside to inside the borders of the grove; however, I have a personal theory based on the passage in John. John records that after the prayer of chapter 17, “He went out with his talmidim (disciples) across the stream that flows in winter through the Vadi (Vale, or Valley) Kidron, to a spot where there was a grove of trees; and He and His talmidim went into it (CJB).” They must at some time have crossed the Brook Kidron, but is this the stream referred to? At that time the Kidron was fed year-round by the seasonally varying Gihon Spring, and by other sources in the mountains to the east and north during the rainy seasons of early and late winter. Since they would have had to cross this stream below Gihon, it would have always held water. I don’t see how it would be described as “the stream that flows in winter.” I am therefore postulating that the stream may have been just a small rill spilling down off of the Mount, to the south of the grove. That would allow the entire conversation of chapters 13 through 17 to have taken place on the Mount close to, but not strictly within, Gethsemane. One possibility is a small stream that separates what we currently think of as the Mount of Olives and the Mount of Offense. In those days these two mountains, along with Mount Scopus to the north were all considered part of the Mount of Olives.
  4. Annas’ House – Only John mentions that after His arrest, Jesus was first taken to the house of Annas, father-in-law of the current High Priest. Annas was an extremely wealthy man who, though no longer High Priest, was still perhaps the most powerful man in the city. Annas was probably the inhabitant of a house in the richest part of the city which has been excavated, partially restored and named the “Palatial Mansion.” The arresting party is likely to have taken one of two routes from Gethsemane: I have drawn them retracing Jesus’ earlier steps to the Water Gate, then taking the most direct route to Annas’ house. As an alternative, they could have entered the city on the north side near the present Lions’ Gate, passing between the Pool of Israel and the Bethesda Pools and rounding north of the Antonia Fortress. The second route is longer, the first more tortuous.
  5. Caiaphas’ House – After briefly questioning Jesus, Annas sent Him to Caiaphas. Matthew and Mark say that “The head cohanim (priests) and the whole Sanhedrin” then put Him on trial. Luke says, “Having seized Him, they led Him away and brought him into the house of the cohen hagadol (High Priest).” Caiaphas’ house has been identified by many with an archaeological site in the southwestern portion of the city, near the traditional site of the Upper Room. Many scholars have long assumed that since the Sanhedrin was involved, Jesus must have then been moved to the Chamber of Hewn Stones in the Temple complex, since that was where they normally met until a few years later when they moved into the Royal Porch. This view is not credible, because (a) they were holding an illegal trial at that time of day (before daybreak); (b) the Temple gates were still locked at that time of day; (c) Peter was described as “outside in the courtyard, (of a residence); and (d) the accompanying Roman soldiers had custody and would not have handed him over to the Jews at this time, which would have been necessary since they could not enter the inner courts of the Temple.
  6. The Praetorium – This was Pilate‘s (the governor’s) headquarters. It has been variously identified as (a) the Antonia Fortress; (b) The Hasmonean Palace, near the Palatial Mansion; and (c) Herod the Great’s Palace, at the site of the later Citadel. It is presently believed that (c) is the correct location. Jesus was taken here “early in the morning”, around daybreak, and questioned by Pilate.
  7. Herod Antipas – This son of Herod the Great normally lived in Caesarea Maritima but was visiting Jerusalem for the Passover. When in Jerusalem, he normally lodged in the Hasmonean Palace (see above). Only Luke mentions this side trip. Herod questioned Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate.
  8. The Praetorium again – When Herod sent Jesus back to the Praetorium, Pilate tried unsuccessfully to release him in order to avoid confrontation with the masses of common people. Instead, he was compelled to kill Jesus instead of Barabbas (Bar-Abba). Jesus was led inside, tortured, and prepared for crucifixion.
  9. Golgotha (Gulgolta) and Joseph of Arimathea’s (Yoseph from Ramatayim’s) Tomb – In a previous blog I explained why Gordon’s Golgotha and the Garden Tomb are not possibly where Jesus’ life was temporarily put to an end. Instead, the crucifixion and burial almost certainly occurred at the traditional Christian site inside the Church of the Resurrection.