God wants to be with God’s people. This is a crucial thing we learn from the story of Moses and the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt. God leads the Hebrews, like a shepherd leading his sheep – God leading the people as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire at night.
When Moses is commanded by God to build a tabernacle, it is entirely unlike the temples of Egypt. Egypt’s temples do not convey intimacy or give any importance to the people, priests, or worshipers, but rather emphasize the might, power, and awe of Pharaoh, and the Egyptian gods – conveying the message that the average man or woman is nothing in comparison to Pharaoh and the gods. When entering the Great Temple of Pharaoh Ramses II, at Abu Simbel, a man or woman is dwarfed by the huge statues of Ramses, one’s head not even reaching above Ramses’ footstool. This is a continuing theme of Egyptian temples, and an obvious intent of the pyramids, as well, showing people how small and unimportant they are.
But the Tabernacle YHVH commands Moses to build is entirely different. It is small and mobile, merely a modest tent. The only items in the Tabernacle that are in any way impressive, are the Ark of the Covenant, and the other furnishings. But even they are small and mobile. There is nothing present in the Tabernacle to bring glory to Moses, or to any other human leader. And what is the Tabernacle called, not a temple, but rather, “the tent of meeting,” the place were God’s people and YHVH meet.
God never commands a temple be built for him, nor does the Bible call it a temple. In the Bible, the Jerusalem “temple” is called “the House of God”, “Bet Av” in Hebrew. Yes, sin and evil separated us from God. But it is always God’s intention that this “barrier of separation” be breached, that human beings and God would once again enjoy perfect fellowship with one another. This is the story of the Bible – God restoring the broken relationship between us and our Creator. To Learn more about Daniel Molyneux and his books go to: https://www.angelofa.com
This is “The Mona Lisa of Galilee” a 2000-year old floor mosaic, called this because of the artist’s skill in capturing the subject’s beauty. It is located in Sepphoris. During Jesus’ childhood, Sepphoris was Galilee’s capital and largest city. Many mistakenly think Jesus grew up in a tiny rural village. But Nazareth was a suburb or Sepphoris, only three miles away. During Jesus’ childhood, Sepphoris was undergoing a tremendous building project. This is likely one of the main reasons Joseph and Mary moved their family to area. Sepphoris had plenty of employment for Joseph. Joseph and Jesus were not “carpenters,” as has been mistranslated. The correct translation is “builder.” Even the word “mason” would be a more accurate than “carpenter.” The Greek word used in the New Testament for Joseph and Jesus is “tekton”. From it we get our English words “technician” and “architect (meaning head builder)”. There is little wood in Israel, and homes are not built from wood. In Galilee, homes and other buildings were built of stone, such as black basalt. Herod Antipas rebuilt Galilee’s capital, Sepphoris, in Greco-Roman style. It is likely Joseph, and perhaps even Jesus, worked as builders in Sepphoris. Although I have little evidence to back it up, I wonder if Joseph, Jesus, and family, could have specialized in the construction of synagogues. We also have indications of Jesus’ familiarity with theatre in Sepphoris, because he frequently used the Greek word “hypokrites” meaning actor. In Greco-Roman theatre, the actors wore masks, hiding their faces. They were literally two-faced. So, when Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites, he was calling them actors, hiding their true selves behind a false façade.
Trivia time… What is the bestselling book in Russia since the fall of Communism (besides the Bible)?
We went to Doma Knegy (House of Books bookstore) last week. I bought a book that looked interesting. Turns out it is the bestselling book in Russia since the fall of communism. First Published in 2011, within a year the book had sold more than 1 million hard copies and several million e-book copies.
Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) is the bestselling book in Russia since communism’s fall.
Everyday Saints is a 500 page book written by a Russian Orthodox monk (Archimandrite Tikhon), telling about his conversion to faith in Soviet Russia during the early 1980s while attending film school, his subsequent experiences as a Monk in the Pskov Caves Monastery, and the stores of various monks in the monastery.
It is a fantastic book. I highly recommend it.
Can you imagine a Christian book being the equivalent of “Harry Potter” in the Russian publishing world? This is truly AMAZING.
If you want to learn more about the persecutions of Christians during the Communist era, and about Orthodox spirituality, this is the book for you. It is available in an English translation from Amazon, etc. All proceeds go to build a church in memory of the millions of Christian martyrs killed during Soviet rule.
Photos of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, in Saint Petersburg, taken from our hotel room window.
The story of Kazan Cathedral, on Nevsky Prospect, across from Doma Knegy (House of Books bookstore), is really amazing. Kazan was closed by the communists after the Russian Revolution. In the 1930s the communists turned Kazan into the Museum of Atheism. But Kazan was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1990s. It is now the Primary Cathedral for Saint Petersburg, and the seat of the bishop for the Eparchy (diocese) of St. Petersburg.
Almost all churches in the Soviet Union were closed under Stalin in the 1930s, and again under Khruchev in the 1950s. (And virtually all priests and pastors were arrested, tortured, sent to the Gulags and/or killed. It is difficult to estimate how many millions of Christians were killed under the communists.) Even in the late 1980s only 20 churches were allowed to legally function in Saint Petersburg, a city of 5 million people.
Today, the number of functioning churches in Russia has multiplied by 10 fold since the fall of communism; and the number of monasteries has grown from only 1 to many 100s, with more churches and monasteries opening every day.
The most recent estimates are that 75% of all Russians now profess faith. In spite of its many problems and issues, Russia today is one of the most religious countries in the world.
The Nazis began the mass arrests of French Jews in 1942. Many Jews came to Father Dimitri Klepinin asking him for baptismal certificates, to avoid being deported and sent to the Nazi death camps. Father Dimitri believed his Christian Faith demanded that he act saying, “I think the good Christ would give me that paper if I were in their place. So I must do it… If a man surprised by a storm takes shelter in a church, do I have the right to close the door?”
In February, 1943 he Father Dimitri was interrogated by a German Gestapo officer named Hoffman.
Hoffman: “If we release you, will you promise never again to aid Jews?” Father Dimitri: “I can say no such thing. I am a Christian, and must act as I must.” Hoffman: (striking the priest across the face he screamed) “Jew lover! How dare you talk of those pigs as being a Christian duty!” Father Dmitri: (raising the Cross from around his neck) “Do you know this Jew?”
Father Dimitri was then sent to a prison camp. He was abused and ridiculed by the guards who shoved him shouting, “Jew! Jew!” In response Dimitri said, “Remember that Jesus Christ had to bear much greater humiliations.”
A year later, Father Dimitri was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, in Germany. His health broken, suffering from pneumonia, he died on February 9, 1944 and his body was burned in the Buchenwald crematorium.
“A single seed of religious instruction, planted by mother or father into the heart of a child, produces a bigger harvest than a bag-full of seeds planted by clerics and priests.” Elias the Teacher (The Angel of Antioch)
“The wars of Israel were the only ‘holy wars’ in history… there can be no more wars of faith. The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving him.”
“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
“Christian love draws no distinction between one enemy and another, except that the more bitter our enemy’s hatred, the greater his need of love. Be his enmity political or religious, he has nothing to expect from a follower of Jesus but unqualified love. In such love there is not inner discord between the private person and official capacity. In both, we are Disciples of Christ, or we are not Christians at all.”
“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (from “The Cost of Discipleship)