“The story is most powerful when incorporating details of the time period. Even readers familiar with Judas’ life may not grasp the finer differences among the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes or the threat of revolution apparent at the time. Likewise, information about the intersection of Roman and local powers provides insight into how a figure like Jesus, so seemingly innocuous to the mighty Roman Empire (particularly when compared with the violent Zealots), could be put to death in such a grisly way. Period particulars augment this multilayered portrayal of Judas.”
San Francisco Review of Books
“As in Daniel’s other novels Judas Son of Simon is history shared and the early stages of Christianity explored in a manner that makes them irresistibly fascinating…Daniel’s gift for storytelling is fully unleashed here as he re-writes stories we have all learned and in doing so makes them so very much more real and tenable. Another very fine book from this young and sophisticated religious historian.”
North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is the most repressive nation in the world, for Christians. The country is ruled by the Stalinist dictator, Kim Jong-un, and the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).
Catholicism was first introduced to Korea in the 17th century. The first protestant (Presbyterian) missionaries arrived in the late 19th century. Today, 30% of South Koreans are Christian. What are the circumstances for Christians in North Korea today?
Communist regimes are founded upon the philosophy of “scientific atheism.” In North Korea, Christianity is not only seen as the “opiate of the people”; but Christianity is also viewed as alien and evil.
North Korean Christians hide their faith, to avoid arrest and being sent to labor camp. One’s faith is a closely guarded secret, even within families. Parents do not train their children in the Christian faith, to safeguard their families, if the children are questioned. Constant surveillance by the secret police, and their informants, means that many Christians pray with eyes open. Gathering for worship or fellowship is virtually impossible.
Worship of the communist dictators is required of all citizens. Those who do not comply are arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or killed. It is reported that entire Christian families are imprisoned in strict-regime labor camps, where uncounted masses die from torture, beatings, overexertion, and starvation. Those who attempt to flee North Korea risk execution or life imprisonment. It is estimated that 50,000 Christians are currently being held in North Korean gulags (labor camps). Since 1953, it is believed that at least 200,000 Christians have been killed. It has been documented that believers have been: hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot.
North Korea permits only five official Christian churches to function, all located in the Capital, Pyongyang: three Protestant, one Catholic, and one Orthodox. Any show of “religious freedom” is extremely limited, aimed at visitors and foreigners, for propaganda purposes.
It is estimated that 300,000 “secret” Christians remain in North Korea. However, before Communist China opened to the West in the early 1970s, Western experts assumed Christianity had been eliminated by communist repression of religion. Instead, the number of Chinese Christians had grown by leaps and bounds under persecution. Today in China, there are more Christians than members of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Please remember North Korea in your prayers. Let us pray that God would give strength and encouragement to North Korean Christians, and that the waves of persecution would recede. Let us also pray for the whole nation, which has suffered terribly under Stalinist dictatorship for 70 years. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. And the Bible also tells us to pray for rulers and those in authority – not just our own leaders, but those of other lands. Let us pray for a peaceful solution to the tensions with North Korea. There is a wonderful example of this: beginning in 1982, Christians worldwide began to pray for the Iron Curtain to be miraculously brought down. That prayer was answered, and the Cold War peacefully resolved in 1989.
About the Author: Daniel Molyneux made his first trip behind the Iron Curtain in 1983, to aid Christians suffering under communist rule. He subsequently made numerous trips to Russia and the Soviet Republics during: communist rule, the transition, and afterwards. Molyneux is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, in Fairfield, California, and is the author of three books.
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 photo is of a first-century Judean tomb, like the one Jesus would have been placed in. Notice how low the entrance is, little more than three-feet high; and the large stone to block the entrance. (Part of the outside wall to the tomb has collapsed.)
Matthew 27 says, Joseph (of Arimathea) took the body (Jesus’) and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.
If an Israelite family could afford a family tomb, it was a cave hewn out of the rock. A rock bench would be there on which the body was placed. And the body would be wrapped in a shroud, but was otherwise uncovered.
Tombs were visited and watched for three days by family members and friends. On the third day after death, the body was examined.
At this point, the body would be treated by the women of the family with oils and perfumes.
After visiting the tomb on the third day the body was then left for a year, by which time it had decomposed. The bones were then collected and placed in an ossuary, a ‘bone box’.
One of the great archeological finds of recent times was discovery of Caiaphas’ tomb. It was accidently found by a construction workers almost 30 years ago.
Inside the tomb archeologists found several ossuaries (bone boxes). On one of the ossuaries was written in Aramaic, “Caiaphas,” and on another was written, “Joseph Bar Caiaphas.”
We know from the ancient Jewish/Roman historian, Flavius Josephus, that Joseph Bar Caiaphas is the Caiaphas mentioned in the New Testament as the high priest who presided over Jesus’ trial and death.
Inside the ornate bone box marked “Joseph Bar Caiaphas” the bones of a sixty-year-old male and several other family members were placed.
On this day after Good Friday, we have Caiaphas’ bones who rotted inside his tomb; but for Jesus, we have the empty tomb of Easter.
What day and year was Jesus crucified? The following is part of Appendix 1 of my book, Judas Son of Simon.
Luke 3:1-2 provides numerous historical references to the religious and political leaders during John’s and Jesus’ ministries. It says, “in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesars’ reign, when Pontius Pilate was ruler of Judea, Herod (Antipas Bar-Herod) was Tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip (Philip Bar-Herod) Tetrarch of Iturea…while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John.”
The fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign – circa 28AD
Pontius Pilate – Prefect of Judea, 26-36AD
Antipas Bar-Herod – Tetrarch of Galilee/Perea 4BC-39AD
Philip Bar-Herod – Tetrarch of Iturea, 4BC-34AD
Joseph Bar-Caiaphas – High Priest, 18-36AD
Annas Bar-Seth – High Priest, 6-15AD. Annas continued as the power behind succeeding High Priests for decades. Caiaphas was his son-in-law, and five of Annas’ sons served as High Priest.
So, from Luke 3 we know that John’s and Jesus’ ministries took place between 26 and 34AD.
Luke 3:23 says, “Jesus was about 30-years old when he began his ministry.” – circa 26-28AD.
John 2:20 says, “It has taken us 46-years to build this temple.” Herod began to rebuild the Temple circa 18-19BC. Therefore, John 2:20 takes place circa 28AD
The Gospel of John records three Passovers during Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptizer and Jesus both appear to have begun their ministries circa 27-28AD. Jesus’ baptism by John likely took place in January of 28AD.
During Pontius Pilate’s term of office as Prefect of Judea, there were only two years when Passover fell on a Sabbath – the years 30 and 32AD. So, Jesus’ crucifixion appears to have occurred on one of these two dates. Given the overall timeline, it is most likely that Jesus was crucified on April 7, 30AD.
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.