healing of blind Bar-Timaeus (Βαρ-Τιμαῖος), in Mark 10, may appear to be one of
the simplest and least spectacular of Jesus’ miracles, but beneath the surface
of this brief periscope is a key reoccurring theme of Jesus’ ministry and
Greco-Roman culture. Providing hospitality to travelers/beggars (Xenia – ξενία), and the related concept of gods,
angels and/or heroes arriving disguised as travelers or beggars (Theoxenia – θεοξενία), are
frequent themes in the Bible (in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures), as
well as in Greco-Roman myth and culture.
be more than a blind beggar. His “hidden identity” may be that of a Greco-Roman
has chosen a beggar’s life. And his deepest desire may not be the restoration
of physical sight, but obtaining spiritual enlightenment that only Jesus, the
Son of David (Υἱὲ Δαυὶδ) can give.
healing, in Mark’s gospel, is also a pivotal point for Jesus revealing his
“hidden identity,” what some have termed the “messianic secret.” Earlier in his
ministry, Jesus instructed those he healed to not “tell this to anyone” (Mark
1:44). When demons begin to announce Jesus’ hidden identity as “Son of God,”
Jesus commands them to be silent and “gave them strict orders not to tell
others about him” (Mark 3:11-12). Mark 1:34 says, “(Jesus) cast out many
demons, but he would not allow the demons to speak because they knew he was the
Messiah.” When speaking to the Twelve, Jesus told them, “To you has been given
the secret of the kingdom of God. But to those on the outside everything is
given in parables” (Mark 4:11). Later, when Jesus asked his closest disciples,
“‘Who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’ Jesus
warned them they should tell no one about him” (Mark 8:29-30).
Jesus encounters Bar-Timaeus, however, Jesus no longer seeks to conceal his
“hidden identity.” When Bar-Timaeus calls him “the Son of David,” synonymous
with Messiah, Jesus does not command him to be silent; and several hours later,
when Jesus nears Jerusalem, he rides into the city in a symbolic manner that
proclaims his “hidden identity” to anyone familiar with the scriptural
prophesies about the Messiah, the anointed King of Israel.
Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod the Great, in the shadow of Herod’s awe-inspiring fortresses, palaces, aqueducts, hippodromes, gymnasiums, and temples. The Gospel of Luke tells us Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem because Joseph “was of the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:4-7)
Bethlehem is five-miles from Jerusalem, where Herod the Great had built an opulent new palace; and Bethlehem virtually rests in the shadow of Herod’s human-made mountain, a massive palace/fortress called the Herodeion. King Herod also built ornate and massive palaces at: Masada, Caesarea Maritima, Jericho, Hyrcania, Alexandrion, and Machaeros.
Herod was a Roman citizen (Julius Caesar had conferred citizenship on Herod’s father, Antipater I) and was officially named “King of Israel” by the Roman Senate. Herod became the richest King of Israel since Solomon, the size of his kingdom rivaling Solomon’s. And Herod the Great was friends and allies with the most powerful people of his day: Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Cassius, Augustus Caesar, even Cleopatra.
During his reign, Herod built grandiose Greco-Roman cities, including his new capital, Caesarea Maritima. Herod’s crowning engineering feat, at Caesarea, was the construction of the largest human-made harbor, built in the open sea using concrete stronger and superior to anything in use today.
King Herod’s greatest architectural achievement was Jerusalem’s Temple, built in glistening Hellenistic style. The Temple’s platform was the size of twenty football fields, constructed from massive stones weighing as much as one-hundred-tons each. Four Roman Coliseums could be placed on the Temple’s platform, with room to spare.
King Herod’s building projects were not limited to Israel. He constructed gymnasiums, theaters, aqueducts, entire streets, and pagan temples as far north as Antioch, and as far west as Greece. When the Emperor Augustus proposed a large city on Greece’s western coast, Nicopolis, Herod appears to have erected most of the city’s public buildings. During the peak period of King Herod’s reign, he built more monumental projects than the rest of the Roman Empire combined.
Herod the Great even sponsored and endowed the Olympic Games, presiding as president (agonothetes) in 12 BC, and was named president of the Olympics for life.
Contrast Herod to Jesus. The King of Kings was born in a stable, most likely a cave. Caves scattered around Bethlehem and its region were used as stables and sheep pens, to protect the herds at night. The Messiah, God in human flesh, is born in a cave, surrounded by sheep; while the earthly king, Herod, had his choice of opulent palaces, surrounded by luxury and riches.
Herod was friends with the most powerful Romans, receiving accolades and gifts. But Jesus’ birth was announced only to lowly, “shepherds in the area, sleeping in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night…the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, for I have come to announce good news that will bring great joy to all the people. Today a savior has been born to you, in the City of David, who is Messiah, the Lord. And this is the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and laying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:8-12)
Despite his power and riches, Herod was unhappy and paranoid, afraid someone may take away his crown. Herod executed several of his own sons, and one of his wives, fearing they were plotting to take his throne. He was even afraid of a baby born in a manger. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that after Herod heard of Jesus’ birth, he had all the young babies of Bethlehem killed, fearing the baby Messiah may threaten his reign. (Matthew 2:1-12)
God is the opposite of Herod. Being the King of everything, God freely gave up power and glory to become a human baby. God willingly sacrificed for the poor and lowly, for those caught in the grips of evil and oppression – for you and me. Good Friday is not the only example of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Christmas is also about sacrifice, when God came to live on earth as a human-being, to dwell with us in our humble circumstances.
The contrast between King Herod and King Jesus reveals much. Those who worship earthly power and riches are the ones who are the truly impoverished, unable to find peace or happiness, no matter how much fame, money or power they may possess. But God, the creator of all things, willingly gave up everything for the sake of those in need. God came to bring us the gift of peace and joy. This is the story of Christmas.
New Orleans – The Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group (IBPPG) has named the best indie books of 2018. The Next Generation Indie Book Awards are the world’s largest not-for-profit book awards program for independent publishers.
The winners and finalists were honored June 22 at Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, coinciding with the American Library Association Annual Conference. The awards are judged by leaders of the indie book publishing industry, including many with long careers at major publishing houses. Their love of a great read and experience in the publishing arena identify books deserving a wider audience.
Catherine Goulet, Co-Chair of the 2018 awards proudly said, “Our program has become known as the Sundance of the book publishing world.” Independent book publishing companies are independent of the major conglomerates dominating the book publishing industry. Indies include: small presses, larger independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors.
Daniel Molyneux’s historical novel, JUDAS SON OF SIMON (Moriah books) was chosen as the winner of the Christian Fiction category.
It and other works by Molyneux are available from Baker & Taylor, Cokesbury, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, christianbook.com and through your local independent bookseller.
“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.”
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.