Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 6 – The Witness of the Scriptures on Matthew

THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES

What do the Scriptures tell us about the Author of Matthew’s Gospel?

Church tradition holds that the apostle Matthew (also called Levi) wrote this Gospel for a Hebrew audience, and originally wrote his account in Hebrew (Aramaic).  So, let’s see what we can learn about Matthew from the scriptures to discover whether that confirms or conflicts with the church tradition.  

Matthew, like Jesus and all his twelve apostles, was a Hebrew, a Jew.  His parents had given him a Jewish name, “Matthew” comes from the Hebrew, mattija – meaning, “the gift of the Lord”.  This is suggestive of a conservative, religious family.  His other name “Levi”, is suggestive of someone from the priestly tribe of Levi.  His father, Alphaeus, is named in Mark so was probably a respected member of the Jewish community.  Also like the other apostles, Matthew was living in the traditional and religious region of Galilee and would have received the traditional Jewish schooling of five years in the Bet Sefer (House of the Book) learning to read, write and memorise the Torah, then graduated to the ‘Beit-Talmud’ (House of Learning) where he would have memorised the rest of the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures), learnt the art of rhetorical debating and begun studying the Pharisees’ Oral Law and interpretations.    

Here are the Gospel accounts of his calling:

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.  And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many tax-gathers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples.    Matthew 9:9-10 NASB

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow me!”  And he arose and followed Him.  And it came about that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax-gathers and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them and they were following Him.     Mark 2:14-15 NASB

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax-gatherer named Levi sitting in the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow me.”  And he left everything behind, and rose and began to follow Him.  And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax-gatherers and other people who were reclining at the table with them.   Luke 5:27–28 NASB

Jesus was heading out from Capernaum, a large Jewish village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  He was probably following an important trading route – the road which passed through Capernaum from Damascus to the seaports of Phoenicia, when he saw Matthew collecting taxes.   The term “tax collector” or “tax-gatherer” is from the Greek word “telones” and some versions of the Bible translate it as “publican.”   Telones were essentially customs officers who charged a tax on all imports and exports and were renowned for their ingenuity in inventing taxes on everything; crossing rivers, entering or leaving a town, travelling on a road, admission to markets, taxes on axels, wheels, pack animals, pedestrians and anything else they could think of.  The tax offices for “receipt of custom” were at city gates, on public roads and on bridges.  The telone could walk up to any traveller on any road within his district and ask them to unload all their goods and open all packages so they could be valued by him and taxed on that value.  Many scholars believe that the customs raised at Capernaum went into the treasury of Herod Antipas, apart from the amounts kept by the telones for their income.     The dominant school of Pharisees in Jesus’ day were separatists and would not lower themselves to have anything to do with a tax collector, whom they saw as no better than a Gentile, defiled by their constant contact with the heathen which would have necessitated fluency in the Greek language, and regarded as traitors and apostates.  To them the tax collector was irredeemable, excluded from all religious fellowship including the Temple and Synagogue, unfit to be a witness in any Jewish court and their money considered tainted such that it defiled anyone who accepted it.  (27) (28) (29) (30) (31) (32)

Could a despised tax-collector, considered unredeemable and unfit to be a court witness, become the author of the Gospel that was most frequently quoted by the early church fathers?  Matthew would be the least likely person for the early church to name as author if they were just looking for the name of one of the apostles to attach to this Gospel to give it credibility, as some have proposed. 

As a member of the priestly tribe Matthew would likely be well educated in Jewish law. (33)   It appears that at some stage during his teens Matthew rebelled against the strict separatist Judaism that he had been taught in order to follow a more financially prosperous path.  Maybe his rebellion was sparked by what he saw as hypocrisy in his teachers and religious leaders – fifteen of the twenty denunciations of hypocrites in the gospels come from Matthew’s Gospel.   Like many a young person, Matthew had not rejected God just the hypocrisy that he saw in his religious leaders.  When he saw Jesus totally without hypocrisy Matthew was willing to give up everything to follow him.   He was intelligent, excelled in maths, could keep ordered accounts and records, had been trained in a shorthand to record people’s statements verbatim, and knew Greek well enough to ingratiate himself to the Romans in charge of revenue collections.  The price he paid for this was the derision of many and being ostracised from his community, but so many were ostracised from the religious Jewish community at this time that they formed their own communities of outcast ones.  Matthew had no difficulty attracting a large crowd of these to the dinner he held for Jesus (Luke 5:29).

It is interesting that in the Gospel according to Matthew there is no mention of Matthew until after the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus’ stilling the wind and waves, sending the legion of demons into the herd of swine, and forgiving and healing the man who was paralysed.  Mark and Luke’s gospels both introduce Matthew (Levi) earlier in the narration but all three accounts place Matthew’s calling directly after Jesus proving that He had the authority to forgive sins by healing the man who was paralysed.  Christ’s authority to forgive sins is the essential pre-requisite for His calling a tax collector to follow Him.   Almost a third of Matthew’s Gospel is written about events which happened prior to any indication in it that Matthew had encountered Jesus.   As one who had close contact with all travellers, Matthew probably heard many of the stories of the miracles that Jesus was doing and it could be that he was part of the crowd for some of these earlier events, particularly the Sermon on the Mount, was drawn to Jesus’ teaching and took meticulous notes but never thought that Jesus would accept one such as him for a disciple.   That would explain Matthew’s immediate response to Jesus’ call.

The only other time that Matthew is named in any of the gospels is when Jesus chose twelve of his disciples and named them apostles (Matthew 10:1-4,  Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16) then sent them out to the lost sheep of Israel to preach, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons (Matthew 10:5-8).   Matthew is not named again until the twelve are listed once more in Acts 1:13.  He is specified nowhere else in scripture, although it is clear that he continued faithfully following Jesus with the other apostles and then testifying to his resurrection after Pentecost.

Some sceptical scholars have argued that Matthew could not be the author of this Gospel because the writer never identifies himself with Matthew the tax collector, or with anyone else in the text.  There are no instances of “I”, “me”, “we” or “us” anywhere in the Gospel according to Matthew, everything is written in the third person.   Bart Erhman and others argue that this precludes Matthew, or anyone who walked with Jesus, from being the author of this Gospel.  It was not, however, uncommon for ancient auto-biographers to write in the third person about themselves; Xenophon, Josephus and Julius Caesar all did so.  Therefor it is plausible for the author of this Gospel to also write in the third person when referring to himself, so this does not preclude Matthew from being that author.  (34)

Another objection raised by sceptical scholars is that Jesus’ followers were unlearned and therefore could not have written such high quality works.  Matthew’s Gospel is the one that focuses most strongly on Jesus being the fulfilment of the Jewish scriptures and contains the most quotes thereof so some have argued:  “If the Gospel of Matthew was written by a tax collector, the gospel couldn’t have such intimate knowledge of the Law—because tax collectors were religious outsiders”.  (25)   It appears that such scholars think that the disciples both started off ignorant of their own religion and never learnt anything more after Jesus called them as teenagers or young men.   Although some experts have concluded that literacy rates in the Greco-Roman world were seldom been more than 20 percent (35) (36), in 59 BC Julius Caesar established a daily newspaper Acta Diurna which was distributed throughout the Roman Empire and was continued on by subsequent rulers, suggesting sufficient literacy among the populace to have a social impact. (37)  It should also be noted that the Jewish people were a people “of the Book”, they highly valued literacy even for the ‘common man’ as it enabled one to read from the holy scriptures in the Synagogue and every Synagogue in every village had a number of different people each week read to the congregation from the Torah and Prophets.   Having grown up in this the apostles then had three years of intensive training with Jesus and it gave them a love for learning and for the Word as we can see in Acts 6:2,4.  The original expression used here for “give ourselves continually” is very emphatic.   It denotes intense and persevering steadfast application to a thing, unwearied effort in it.   While most commentaries focus on the proclamation of the Word, such also requires prayerful study of the scriptures.   The evidence suggests that the 12 apostles, 11 after James was killed by Herod, remained based in Jerusalem – the centre of Jewish religious life and debate – for around twenty years after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, until after the Acts 15 council in Jerusalem.  Two decades in the epicentre of Jewish thought and debate, steadfastly applying themselves to prayerfully studying and reflecting and preaching under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and debating with the most learned of their Jewish counterparts who did not see Jesus as the fulfilment of the scriptures read every Saturday in their Synagogues and proclaimed daily in the Temple.   Such would have produced a very deep and thorough understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures.

There are other clues to the author of this Gospel in its style and content.  It is the most unequivocally Hebrew of the four Gospels, most focused on the scribes and Pharisees, and has a greater focus on money than the other Gospels.

The Gospel according to Matthew is clearly written by a Jew and for other Jews to show them that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law and God’s promised Messiah.  He quotes the Hebrew scriptures over sixty times, more than twice as many times as any other Gospel author, and refers to Hebrew prophecies of Christ’s virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), His return from Egypt after the death of Herod (Hosea 11:1), His ministry to the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1-2; 60:1-3), His miraculous healings of both body and soul (Isaiah 53:4), His speaking in parables (Psalm 78:2), and His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9).  Matthew both uniquely depicts Jesus affirming the importance of the law (Matt. 5:17-20) and contrasts Jesus’ interpretation of the law with that of the Pharisees “you have heard that it was said… … But I say unto you… …”  He refers to but does not explain Jewish customs (unlike Mark who provides explanations for a Gentile audience).  He emphasis Jesus’ role as ‘Son of David’ and provides his genealogy back to Abraham.  He also directly responds to the Jewish leader’s initial objections to the narrative about Jesus, such as claims that the empty tomb was from his disciples stealing the body (Matthew 28:11-15).   This focus on writing for Jewish believers has led some scholars to agree with church tradition that Matthew’s Gospel was written very early in the history of the church, possibly even in response to the first scattering of believers mentioned in Acts 8:1, when they would have been separated from the apostles’ direct testimony of all that Jesus taught and did.   (38)  (39) (40) (33) (41)

The author of the Gospel according to Matthew shows a greater focus on the scribes and Pharisees than the authors of the other Gospels.  In Matthew scribes and Pharisees are mentioned a combined 54 times, compared with 42 in Luke, 33 in Mark and 20 in John.   This is consistent with someone who grew up under their training then rebelled against it and suffered their shunning.

Matthew’s Gospel references money 44 times, compared with Luke’s 22 times and Mark’s 6 times.  This author is the only one to record payment of Jesus’ and Peter’s temple tax to the tax collector in Capernaum (Matthew 17:24-27).  He is also the only one to record the parable of the payment of the vineyard workers, and accurately states the rate for a day’s wages at that time (Matthew 20:1-6).  It is the only Gospel that records anything about the Pharisees swearing by the gold in the temple (Matthew 23:16-17) and attaches more specific monetary detail to Jesus’ directions about taking nothing with them (compare Matthew 10:9, Mark 6:8 and Luke 9:3).   Such detail with regard to monetary matters is also consistent with the author being a former tax-collector.  (42) (39)  (38) (41) (34) (40)

The church tradition that Matthew’s Gospel was originally written in Hebrew (Aramaic) fits well with it being composed for early Jewish believers but not, according to scholars, with the way the earliest copies that we have of it are written in the Greek.  The fluid Greek of the Gospel suggests that, in its current form, it was first written in Greek and not translated from Aramaic (43). Nevertheless, Matthew may well have originally recorded Jesus’ sayings and actions in his native Aramaic and shared these with others before formally writing his account of Jesus’ life in Greek for the Jewish diaspora living in a Greek speaking world.

While we do not have sufficient evidence to prove that the former tax-collector turned apostle, Matthew, penned the Gospel attributed to him, what we do know collaborates this church tradition.   (25)

Reference List

25. ZA Blog. Who Wrote the Gospels and How Do We Know for Sure? Zondervan Academic. [Online] 20 Sept 2017. [Cited: 5th Sept 2019.] https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/who-wrote-gospels.
26. International Bible Society. Introduction to NIV Study Bible 1 Peter. Biblica. [Online] [Cited: 5th Sept 2019.] https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-1-peter/.
27. Bible History. Tax Collectors – First Century. Bible History. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] https://www.bible-history.com/taxcollectors/.
28. —. Tax Collectors Overview. Bible History. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] https://www.bible-history.com/taxcollectors/TAXCOLLECTORSOverview.htm.
29. —. The Name Tax Collector. Bible History. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] https://www.bible-history.com/taxcollectors/TAXCOLLECTORSName.htm.
30. Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. s.l. : Hendrickson Publishers, 1992 (first published 1883). 0943575834.
31. Bible History. Brief History About the Tax Collectors. Bible History. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] https://www.bible-history.com/taxcollectors/TAXCOLLECTORSHistory.htm.
32. —. The Customs of Tax Collectors. Bible History. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] https://www.bible-history.com/taxcollectors/TAXCOLLECTORSCustoms.htm.
33. Mead, Aaron. Who Wrote the Gospel according to Matthew? Aaron Mead Writer, Theologian, Philosopher. [Online] 10th Aug 2018. [Cited: 8th Sept 2019.] http://www.ameadwriter.com/who-wrote-the-gospel-according-to-matthew/.
34. Manning, Erik. Did Matthew Write the Gospel of Matthew. Is Jesus Alive. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] https://isjesusalive.com/did-matthew-write-the-gospel-of-matthew/.
35. Harris, H.V. Ancient Literacy. s.l. : Harvard University Press, 1989.
36. Literacy in the Roman World. Routledge. [Online] [Cited: 16th Sept 2019.] http://documents.routledge-interactive.s3.amazonaws.com/9781138776685/Ch8/Literacy%20in%20the%20Roman%20World.pdf.
37. Wright, Brian J. Ancient Rome’s Daily News Publication With Some ikely Implications For Early Christian Studies. 1, 2016, Tyndale Bulletin, Vol. 67, pp. 145-160.
38. The International Bible Scoiety. Matthew – Introductionfrom the NIV Study bible. Biblica. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-matthew/.
39. Chilton, Brian. Who Wrote the Gospel of Matthew? Cross Examined. [Online] 11th June 2017. [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] https://crossexamined.org/wrote-gospel-matthew/.
40. Got Questions. Gospel of Matthew. Got Questions Miistries. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] https://www.gotquestions.org/Gospel-of-Matthew.html.
41. Hamilton, Seraphim. Matthew: Date and Authorship. Orthodox Christianity. [Online] 2nd March 2016. [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] http://orthochristian.com/91189.html.
42. Nelson, Ryan. Who Was Matthew the Apostle? The Beginner’s Guide. Overview Bible. [Online] 1st April 2019. [Cited: 7th Sept 2019.] https://overviewbible.com/matthew-the-apostle/.
43. Hagner, Donald A. Word Biblical Commentary Matthew 1-13, Volume 33A. Michigan : Zondervan, 2015. 978-0-310-52098-3.

Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 5 – The Witness of the Scriptures on Mark

THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES

What do the Scriptures tell us about the Author of Mark’s Gospel?

The universal and unanimous church tradition is that Mark authored this Gospel as a collection of Peter’s teachings as one of the twelve appointed witnesses to all that Jesus taught and did.

And the elder used to say this, Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.    Papias of Hierapolis (60-130AD)

There is nothing in the scriptures which contradicts this tradition and some attributes of the Gospel which support it.  This Gospel focuses on the events that Peter was part of and tends not to include other information, like the birth narrative, that Peter had not directly witnessed.  It has the fast paced narration of someone with an engaging preaching style.  It is not necessarily in chronological order but more like a collection of different narrations than one single story.  It contains explanations of Jewish customs and uses some Latin terms, suggesting that the intended audience was not only the Jews that Peter’s ministry had focused on.  This would fit with someone who had also ministered with Paul and so had in mind both Jewish and Gentile readers.  (24) (25)

Does what we know of John Mark from the rest of scripture fit with him having a close relationship with Peter and having authored this Gospel to convey Peter’s testimony of Christ?     We first learn of John Mark in Acts 12:12.  His mother Mary owned a house in Jerusalem that had been frequented by Peter the apostle.  Many gathered together in this house for prayer. When Peter had been miraculously released from prison by an angel he came first to this house to let the brethren praying there know of his release and instruct them: “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren”, indicating a hand over of responsibility as he had to leave Jerusalem for a time.  Clearly there had been a close relationship between John Mark’s family and the apostle Peter from the earliest days of the church and Mark probably got to hear Peter tell the same stories again and again as he recounted his journey with Jesus.  Mark may have travelled with Peter to Antioch and then stayed there with his cousin Barnabas when Peter moved on to encourage the other scattered believers.

In Acts 13:5 Mark joins Barnabas and Saul as their assistant on their first missionary journey from Antioch, but left them in Perga to return to Jerusalem where his mother lived (Acts 13:13).  That is a long way for a young man to travel by himself and it is likely that he was joining others from that city in their journey to Jerusalem.  We know that Peter was back living in Jerusalem by Acts 15 – could Mark have left Barnabas and Paul to travel back there with Peter?  In Acts 15:36-41 we note that Mark travelled with Barnabas and Paul back to Antioch after the Jerusalem Council, and Barnabas wants to take him with them as they do a return trip to see how the new believers in every city are doing, but Paul refuses to allow Mark to join them on this missionary journey because of his leaving them last time so they split up and Barnabas takes Mark to Cyprus to encourage the brethren there. Over the next few years that rift was healed and Paul came to greatly appreciate Mark and his ministry.  By the time Paul writes Colossians (about 10 years later) he is referring to Mark as his fellow worker for the kingdom of God and a comfort to him (Col. 4:10-11), and instructs the believers at Colossae to welcome Mark if he goes to them.  Then in 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul instructs Timothy: “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”  Peter records Mark being with him when he wrote 1 Peter 5:13, which was after Paul wrote Colossians, and refers to Mark as “my son”.  Mark has a long and close association with Peter, from times in his mother’s house until the latter years of Peter’s life.   He was also closely associated with Paul and his mission to the gentiles.  Everything that we know about Mark fits with the church tradition of him having written the Gospel bearing his name, and having done so from Peter’s perspective as one who walked with Jesus and witnessed what He said and did.  (25) (26)

Reference List

24. —. The Gospel of Mark. Blue Letter Bible. [Online] [Cited: 5th Sept 2019.] https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/intros/mark.cfm.
25. ZA Blog. Who Wrote the Gospels and How Do We Know for Sure? Zondervan Academic. [Online] 20 Sept 2017. [Cited: 5th Sept 2019.] https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/who-wrote-gospels.
26. International Bible Society. Introduction to NIV Study Bible 1 Peter. Biblica. [Online] [Cited: 5th Sept 2019.] https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-1-peter/.

Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 4 – The Witness of the Scriptures on Luke

THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES

What do the Scriptures tell us about the Author of Luke’s Gospel?

We will examine the Gospel attributed to Luke first because he provides us with the most information to begin our search.  The prologue offers our first hint:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4 NIV

Our next clue is found in the prologue of Acts, where we discover that the same person authored both books:

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaved, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen.     Acts 1:1-2 NIV

Then, in Acts 16 we find the author of the book joining Paul in Troas and continuing with him on his journey to Macedonia. 

 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did . not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night.  A man from Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.       Acts 16:7-10 NIV

These “we” and “us” passages continue to be interwoven through Acts 16:11-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; and 27:1-28:16.  The author stayed in Philippi of Macedonia when Paul and Silas were expelled (Acts 16:38-40) and then re-joined Paul when his group returned through Macedonia on their way to Jerusalem: “These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas. But we sailed away from Philippi…” (Acts 20:5-6). 

As they travelled the Holy Spirit kept testifying that chains and tribulations lay ahead for Paul, the Jews in Jerusalem would bind him and deliver him over to the Romans.  On his third day back in Jerusalem Paul was seized, dragged out of the temple, beaten, rescued from the mob by a Roman commander and held in their barracks.   Soon Paul was sent to Caesarea, where he remained imprisoned for two years (Acts 21:26-25:12).

Map of Paul's journey from Jerusalem to Caesarea

It was likely during these two years that the author did his research and wrote his gospel account.  After Paul had appealed to Caesar the author travelled with him to Rome (Acts 27:1-28:16) and finished his account by writing that “Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”

This also provides us with a timeframe for the writing of Luke and Acts, as clearly the Gospel account was written first and Acts was written before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, before Nero’s persecutions in the mid-60s, before the martyrdoms of James, Paul and Peter and before the Jewish wars against the Romans which began in 66 AD. (19)  This would give us a likely time-frame for the writing of Luke as somewhere in the late 50s.  Paul’s 2 year Caesarean imprisonment has been placed somewhere between 56 and 60AD. (20) (21) (22) (23) That a third of the book of Acts is focused on Paul’s imprisonments in Caesarea and Rome is not surprising for a book written by someone who had travelled to Jerusalem with Paul and stayed with him throughout this ordeal.

For our next clue as to who may have written Luke and Acts we look to the letters that Paul wrote during his two year confinement in Rome: Philippians; Colossians; Philemon; and Ephesians.  Does Paul mention anyone in these letters who may have been this author who had travelled with him from Jerusalem to Rome and stayed with him during his Roman confinement?

PHILIPPIANS (Philipi is the city in Macedonia where the Acts narrative appears to suggest that its author spent several years between Paul’s visits to this area (Acts 16:40 – Acts 20:5) – this should be a top contender for naming the author).  Philippians begins with a greeting from Paul and Timothy (Phil. 1:1), states that the Philippians know Timothy’s proven character as someone who sincerely cares for their spiritual wellbeing and expresses Paul’s plan to send Timothy to them as soon as Paul knows the results of his trial (Phil. 2:19-24).  Paul also wrote about Epaphroditus, whom the Philippians had recently sent to minister to Paul’s needs in Rome and who Paul was sending back to them with this letter (Phil. 2:25-30 & 4:18).  The only others mentioned as being in Rome were “the brethren who are with me” which included “those who are of Caesar’s household.”  It would seem from Philippians that either the author of Acts was Timothy, or he was not with Paul when this letter was penned.

COLOSSIANS (Colossae was a city in Asia Minor, about 160km from Ephesus, that had been impacted by the gospel during Paul’s more than two year ministry in Ephesus through a convert named Epaphras).   Again this letter begins with a greeting from Paul and Timothy (Col. 1:1).  Tychicus and Onesimus were with Paul and going to take this epistle to the Colossians (Col. 4:7-9).  Aristarchus is described as being a fellow prisoner, he was one of the Jewish believers from Thessalonica in Mascedonia who had accompanied Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4) and then on to Rome (Acts 27:2).  The two other Jewish believers with Paul are listed as Mark the cousin of Barnabas and Jesus who was called Justice.  The gentile believers whom Paul then mentions being with him are Epaphras (from Colossae), Luke the physician and Demas.

The epistle to PHILEMON also opens with a greeting from Paul and Timothy.  Paul writes concerning Onesimus, whom he had led to Christ while imprisoned and who was to be carrying his letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. Paul also sends greetings from Epaphras (who was to travel with Onesimus back to Colossi), Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke whom he describes as fellow labourers.  

It is suggested that EPHESIANS is the last letter that Paul sent during his first imprisonment in Rome, and it is the only one who’s initial greeting does not include Timothy with Paul.  Aristarchus is not mentioned either, even though he had been one of Paul’s travelling companions during his second visit to Ephesus which lasted for two years.  He may have been either released or executed before this time.  The author of Luke and Acts had remained in Philippi when Paul was in Ephesus and so may not have been known to the Ephesians and therefore not mentioned by Paul.  In fact the only person Paul mentions being with him in this letter is Tychicus who is to carry the epistle to them. 

So, from those listed as being with Paul in Rome are there any who could have been the author of Luke and Acts?  The first of those listed is Timothy, Paul’s closest companion, but he could not be the author because he is recorded as ministering with Paul and Silas in Berea, Athens and Corinth during the time that the author was staying in Philippi.  Timothy had also accompanied Paul to Jerusalem but had gone ahead of Paul and the author to Troas (Acts 20:4-6).  

The next person we read about having been in Rome with Paul is the trusted Tychicus, whom Paul would appoint to help guide different churches and who had accompanied Paul to Jerusalem but, like Timothy and others, had gone ahead of Paul and the author to Troas. 

Next is Onesimus, from Colossae, but he had only come to faith in Christ during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome so could not be the Acts author. 

Aristarchus is our next contender, a Jewish believer from Thessalonica who had also accompanied Paul to Jerusalem but gone ahead of Paul and the author to Troas and in Acts 27:2 the author writes: “Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica was with us”, so Artistarchus was someone separate to the author. 

Mark the cousin of Barnabas was next listed, he had started out with Barnabas and Saul on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25) but left them in Perga of Pamphylia to return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).  Mark was referred to by the author as part of “they” (Acts 13:6 & 13) and so was not the author of Acts and Luke.  

Jesus Justice was mentioned next, and all we know about him is that he was another Jewish believer who proved to be a comfort to Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome – so he is not ruled out.  

Epaphras, who took the gospel to Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis after having learned it from Paul in Ephesus and who contended powerfully for the believers in prayer, is listed next.   It appears that Epaphras travelled to Rome to support the imprisoned Paul but had not been part of the original party that took the gifts to Jerusalem and therefor was not the author. 

The last two are Demas and Luke. Both are mentioned by name in two of Paul’s letters penned during his first imprisonment in Rome: Colossians 4:14 “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings” and Philemon 1:24 …”Demas and Luke, my fellow labourers”; and in 2 Timothy 4:10-11, which scholars think Paul wrote towards the deadly end of a second imprisonment in Rome.   In 2 Timothy the two are contrasted – Demas having forsaken Paul and Luke being the only one with him.  

Was Luke likely to have written the Gospel according to Luke and Acts of the Apostles as church tradition has attested?  The earliest manuscript that has been found of the Gospel, dated 200 AD, ascribes the work to Luke; as did Irenaeus, writing in 180 AD, and the Muratorian fragment from 170 AD.  While it appears strange that Luke was not included in Paul’s greeting to the Philippians that is not sufficient reason to rule him out.  It would not contradict anything in the scriptures for Luke to be the author and his being a gentile born physician is also suggestive of one having an extensive classical education which would fit with the style of writing in these manuscripts which is that of the traditional Greek histography.  

The other support for this is the specific medical terminology the author uses in both books.   In Luke 13:11-13, Jesus heals a crippled woman and the Greek words Luke uses both to describe her condition (sugkuptousa) and the exact manner of Jesus’ healing (apolelusaianorthothe) are medical terms.  In Luke 14:1–4, Jesus heals a man with dropsy and uses a word to describe the man in this passage that’s found nowhere else in the Bible: hudropikos. While this passage is the only place this word appears in the Bible, it’s a precise medical term frequently used in other texts—namely, the works of the renowned Greek physician, Hippocrates.  The use of medically-accurate phrases and descriptions continues in Acts, such as Acts 28:8–9, where the writer uses puretois kai dusenterio sunechomenon to describe a man’s exact medical condition (“suffering from fever and dysentery”).

The Gospel according to Luke was likely written by an educated gentile who travelled with Paul to Jerusalem and “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” in seeking to “write an orderly account” of the life and teachings of Jesus.  Unlike Matthew, Luke makes few references to Old Testament quotes and explains Jewish traditions, in addition to being attentive to emphasizing that the Gospel message is addressed to all peoples, including gentiles.   While not conclusive, the evidence from within the scriptures is supportive of the church tradition that Dr Luke did write the Gospel attributed to him, along with the book of Acts.    Together they account for 27.5% of the New Testament, the largest contribution by a single author.

Luke is reported to be a native of Antioch in Syria.  Acts 11:19-26 tells us that some of those who fled Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen travelled as far as Antioch and preached the Lord Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles and a great number believed and turned to the Lord so the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to them who in turn sort out Saul to help with teaching these new believers.   It is possible that Luke was one of these early Gentile believers.   He was well educated and may have been drawn o God and started attending a synagogue, worshipping and learning about Judaism before he first heard the Gospel.  He writes as one who was painstakingly learning about all the different practices of the Jewish faith rather than one born into it and Paul refers to him as one of his fellow labourers who is not “of the circumcision” (Colossians 4:10-14).   After Peter miraculously escaped from Herod (Acts 12:1-17) and left Jerusalem he likely also spent some time teaching in Antioch, and throughout Asia Minor.  So Luke may have sat under Peter’s teaching in Antioch and heard his eye-witness accounts of what Jesus did.

We first read about Luke joining in one of Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts 16:8-10 after Paul, Silas and Timothy came to Troas in Cilicia.   The scriptures give no indication of when or why Luke travelled to Troas but indications are that there was a Christian community in this port city of more than 50,000 people long before Paul reached there, so it is possible that Luke had been part of a missionary team (maybe even with Peter) to this strategic city.  Luke was obviously known to Paul and accompanied them to Philippi where he stayed after Paul and Silas were expelled from the city and travelled on to Thessalonica.

Like us, Luke never had the opportunity to meet Jesus in the flesh, but understood what Paul was preaching sufficiently to know that he did not want to just be a disciple of Paul, he wanted to find out everything he could about Jesus whom Paul preached in order to truly be a disciple of Christ.   

Luke took every opportunity to learn from those who had been with Jesus and to read the accounts of Christ’s life that started circulating around the churches.   So, when Paul was leading a delegation back to Jerusalem with gifts for the Jewish believers, Luke leapt at the chance to meet and learn from the eyewitnesses among them, to walk the paths that Jesus had walked and see the places where he had been. 

Luke reports that when they arrived in Jerusalem “the brethren received us gladly”.  Now he could begin to seek out Jesus’ family members, and ask them all the questions burning within him.  The next day Paul took them to meet Jesus’ brother James – this was the introduction that Luke had been hoping and praying for, there was so much he wanted to learn from James and his mother about every aspect of Jesus’ life. 

Luke had read all the accounts that were circulating at that time, but he wanted to hear it for himself from those who were there, and there were questions he had which were not addressed in the accounts that he had read. 

Nine days after Paul had introduced the delegates to the church in Jerusalem he was attacked in the temple and imprisoned by the Romans for the ensuing riot.  Luke, being a gentile, was not in the temple with Paul and so is not caught up in the riot.   For the next two years of Paul’s imprisonment in the Judean town of Caesarea, Luke had opportunity to seek out and interview Jesus’ mother and brothers, researching every aspect of Jesus’ life to put together a detailed account from conception to ascension.  Because of the danger they were all in this would have been much more difficult without that introduction to the eldest brother James. 

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4 NIV

Reference List

19. Staudinger, Hugo. The Trustworthiness of the Gospels. Edinburgh : The Handsel Press, 1981.
20. Timeline of the Apostolic Era. The Hesitant Prize Fighter. [Online] 15th July 2014. [Cited: 14th Sept 2019.] https://tben.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/nt-timeline.gif.
21. Paul Imprisoned Two Years at Caesarea. Bible History . [Online] [Cited: 14th Sept 2019.] http://timeline.biblehistory.com/event/paul-imprisoned-two-years-at-caesarea.
22. Paul in Caesarea. The Bible Journey. [Online] [Cited: 14th Sept 2019.] https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney1/12-pauls-journey-to-rome82062/paul-in-caesarea/.
23. Blue Letter Bible. Timeline of the Apostle Paul. Blue Letter Bible. [Online] [Cited: 14th Sept 2019.] https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/paul/timeline.cfm.

Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 3 – The Witness of the Scriptures

THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES

Introduction

The authors of the four Gospels maintain their anonymity throughout their accounts of the life of Christ.   They write as journalists or biographers recording events rather than as active participants describing their involvement in these events.   The Gospels focus on their subject – Jesus Christ – and how people are reacting to Him, with the author fading into the background.   The Gospel writer’s demonstrated attitude mirrored that of John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 JKV)

Many scholars argue that the opening line of the Gospel of Mark probably also functioned as the original title of the text and the inspiration for establishing euaggelion (a Greek word meaning “good news”) as a new literary genre of books that record the words and deeds of Jesus Christ:

The beginning of the gospel (euaggelion) of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.         Mark 1:1 KJV

This original text-title of Mark can be compared with those of other ancient texts in which the opening lines served as titles.  Herodotus’ Histories, for example, begins with the following line which probably served as the title of the text:

This is the exposition of the history of Herodotus…

A major difference between the Gospel of Mark and Herodotus’ Histories is that the opening line of Mark does not name the text’s author, but instead attributes the gospel to Jesus Christ.   We see this same total focus on Jesus with no thought of trying to get personal recognition for their work in the openings of the Gospel that has been attributed to Matthew and that attributed to John:

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of.    Abraham.    Matthew 1:1 KJV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.        John 1:1 NIV

Despite the anonymity of the writing there is still evidence within each gospel as to who their author might be.   Over the next four blogs we will examine that evidence of scripture to see whether it supports, or contradicts, the church tradition with regard to each of the four Gospel accounts.

Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 2 – The Witness of Church Tradition

THE WITNESS OF CHURCH TRADITION

The testimony of church tradition is strong and unanimous for the three synoptic Gospel accounts – Matthew, Mark, and Luke are the only names attached to them in any of the writings we have from the early church fathers.  There is no evidence of any author in the first centuries of the church ever attributing any of these Gospels to anyone other than Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Only Gaius (just after 200 AD) gives us any different name for any of the gospels and that is only for the Gospel of John when disputing its authenticity. (6)  

However, the church fathers who alluded to, or quoted passages from, the Gospels during the first century after their composition did so without attributing an author’s name to the texts they were citing.  The focus of the primitive church was not on the identity of the authors of the Gospels but on the truth of Jesus whom they had written about.   Would we expect anything less than such from them? 

Ignatius, overseer of Antioch in Syria, (50-107 AD) wrote influential letters and in them quoted from 8 books in our NT, including the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but did not refer to any of these texts by their given title.  The Didache (50-120 AD) quotes the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew, attributing these verses to “His (Jesus’) Gospel”, again without mentioning the author.  The Epistle of Barnabas (80-120 AD) also quotes from the Gospel of Matthew as a written document but does not attach Matthew’s name to it. Polycarp, Greek overseer of Smyrna (70-155 AD) in his writings quoted from 17 books in our NT, including the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, but likewise did not refer to any of these texts by their given title.   It has thus been suggested that the four Gospels were likely each originally referred to under the title το ευαγγελιον Ιησου Χριστου (“The Gospel of Jesus Christ”), with the construction κατα (“according to”) added later to distinguish individual gospels by their designated names.

Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) was an early Christian apologist, most of whose works have been lost to the passage of time but three remain and in these he quotes from each of the four Gospels but without naming their specific authors.  Instead Justin uses the terms “memoirs of the apostles” 15 times and “gospel” 3 times.   In the single passage where he uses both terms (1 Apol. 66:3) Justin states: “The apostles in the memoirs which have come from them, which are called gospels, have transmitted that the Lord had commanded…”  

The four Gospels were clearly acknowledged as faithfully conveying the testimony of the 12 apostles appointed to bear witness to Jesus’ life from the time of John’s baptism (Acts 1:21-22).   Justin’s description of how the Gospels are used in the early second century church has them given the same standing as the writings of the OT prophets:

On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

The names of the individual four authors of these Gospels were not as important in the early days as the descriptions of them as being “memoirs of the apostles”.  The faithful witness these four Gospels carried was considered so important that they had been painstakingly copied and circulated in the 1st and 2nd century church as it kept growing and spreading around the world, and used as an essential part of the service in sharing the truth about Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. 

The earliest reference we have that appears to name the authors of any of the Gospels is from Papias, overseer of Hieropolis, in Asia Minor (60-130 AD).  Towards the end of his life Papias wrote a work in five books, Logion Kyriakon Exegesis (Explanation of the Sayings of the Lord) of which all but some excerpts found in later writings have been lost to the passage of time.   The two authors who quoted Papias were Irenaeus, overseer of Lyon (130-202 AD), and early church historian Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340 AD). 

Irenaeus recorded Papias as having written this preface to his works:

I used to inquire about what Andrew or Peter had said, or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and what Aristion and John the Elder, disciples of the Lord, were saying.  For books to read are not as useful to me as the living voice sounding out clearly up to the present day in the persons of their authors.

Since early times there has been dispute over whether ‘John the Elder’ mentioned here was the apostle John or some other John in the early church as he is cited separately from ‘John’ in the list of members of the twelve apostles.  This ‘Elder’ is frequently referenced in what has been preserved of Papias’ writings.  

Irenaeus is recorded as having been a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the apostle John, and he described Papias as “an ancient man, who was a hearer of John, and a friend of Polycarp”.  (7) (8) (9) (10)

It is in Eusebius’ (260-340 AD) writings that we have the records of what Papias wrote concerning Mark and Matthew’s texts (11):

The Elder also said this, “Mark, being the interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he remembered he wrote accurately, but not however in the order that these things were spoken or done by our Lord. For he neither heard the Lord, nor followed him, but afterwards, as I said, he was with Peter, who did not make a complete [or ordered] account of the Lord’s logia, but constructed his teachings according to chreiai [concise self-contained teachings]. So Mark did nothing wrong in writing down single matters as he remembered them, for he gave special attention to one thing, of not passing by anything he heard, and not falsifying anything in these matters.”     Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.39.15

Concerning Matthew these other things were said, “Therefore, Matthew set in order the logia (“divine oracles”) in a Hebrew dialect, and each interpreted them, as he was able.”   Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.39.15-16.

These writings appear to express what were well established church traditions by the early second century, particularly regarding Mark authoring a gospel from the teachings of the apostle Peter.  

The ‘Muratorian Fragment’, the oldest known list of New Testament books, includes the phrase: “very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while overseer Pius… was occupying the chair of the church of the city of Rome”, which would place it just after Pius led the church in Rome (142 – 157 AD).   The first part of the document is missing, hence the term ‘Fragment’, but what we have provides a lot of detail of the early church tradition for the authorship of Luke and John:

. . . at which nevertheless he was present, and so he placed [them in his narrative].   The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke.  Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, when Paul had taken with him as one zealous for the law, composed it in his own name, according to [the general] belief.  Yet he himself had not seen the Lord in the flesh; and therefore, as he was able to ascertain events, so indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John.  The fourth of the Gospels is that of John, [one] of the disciples.  To his fellow disciples and bishops, who had been urging him [to write], he said, ‘Fast with me from today to three days, and what  will be revealed to each one let us tell it to one another.’ In the same night it was revealed to Andrew, [one] of the apostles, that John should write down all things in his own name while all of them should review it. And so, though various  elements may be taught in the individual books of the Gospels, nevertheless this makes no difference to the faith of believers, since by the one sovereign Spirit all things have been declared in all [the Gospels]: concerning the nativity, concerning the passion, concerning the resurrection, concerning life with his disciples,  and concerning his twofold coming; the first in lowliness when he was despised, which has taken place,  the second glorious in royal power, which is still in the future. What marvel is it then, if John so consistently mentions these particular points also in his Epistles, saying about himself, ‘What we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and our hands have handled, these things we have written to you? For in this way he professes [himself] to be not only an eye-witness and hearer, but also a writer of all the marvelous deeds of the Lord, in their order… (12) (13)

By the late second century, 180 AD, we have Irenaeus of France, in his Against Heresies (3.1.1), articulating the church tradition for the authorship of all four Gospels:

Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundation of the Church.  After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.  Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him.  Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.

From the title of this work we can see why Irenaeus felt a need to identify the authors of the four Gospel accounts that from earliest times had been accepted as accurately conveying the eye-witness testimony of the apostles.  Many other “gospels” were now being written, often in the names of apostles or those who had been close to Jesus – eg the “gospel of Judas” written around 130-170 AD and the “gospel of Thomas” written around 140 AD – these were being used to spread heresies (untruths about who Jesus is and what He did and taught) and contained both historical and geographical errors.  Christianity, like Judaism, is a historical religion – founded upon events that had taken place and therefor very particular about keeping accurate records of those events and rejecting false accounts. 

Tertullian, a Christian lawyer and church leader in Carthage, in his work Against Marcion (4.2 & 4.5), 200 AD, affirmed this church tradition:

We lay it down as our first position, that the evangelical Testament has apostles for its authors, to whom was assigned by the Lord Himself this office of publishing the gospel… Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instil faith into us; while the apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards.  These all start with the same principles of faith, so far as relates to the one only God and creator and His Christ, how that He was born of the Virgin, and came to fulfil the law and the prophets…The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence to the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage.  I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew while that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s whose interpreter Mark was.  For even Luke’s form of the Gospel men usually ascribe to Paul.  And it may well seem that the works which disciples publish belong to their masters.”

There is however, according to several scholars, one dissident voice preserved, the early 3rd century Roman presbyter Gaius has been interpreted as having attributed both the Gospel of John and Revelation to the authorship of the gnostic Cerinthus (Epiphanius Panarion 51.3.1-2).  (14) (15) (16)  Not all accept this analysis of Gaius’ writings. (17)

In 245 AD the Christian scholar Origen again confirmed the established church tradition:

Concerning the four Gospels which alone are uncontroverted in the Church of God under heaven, I have by tradition that the Gospel according to Matthew, who was at one time a tax collector and afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, was written first and that he composed it in the Hebrew tongue and published it for the converts from Judaism.  The second written was that according to Mark, who wrote it according to the instruction of Peter, who, in his General Epistle, acknowledged him as a son, saying, “The church that is in Babylon, elect together with you, salutes you and so does Mark my son.” And third, was that according to Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, which he composed for the converts from the Gentiles.  Last of all, is that according to John.”   (18)

Reference List

6. Stewart, Don. Who Wrote the Four Gospels? Blue Letter Bible. [Online] [Cited: 31st Aug 2019.] https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_187.cfm.
7. Chapman, John. Papias. Early Christian Writings. [Online] [Cited: 31st Aug 2019.] http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/info/papias-cathen.html.
8. Got Questions Ministries. Who was Papias of Hierapolis? God Questions Ministries. [Online] [Cited: 31st Aug 2019.] https://www.gotquestions.org/Papias-of-Hierapolis.html.
9. American Bible Society. Papias of Hierapolis. Bible Resources. [Online] [Cited: 31st Aug 2019.] http://bibleresources.americanbible.org/resource/papias-of-hierapolis.
10. Wingren, Gustaf. Saint Irenaeus bishop of Lyon. Encyclopedia Britannica. [Online] [Cited: 31st Aug 2019.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Irenaeus.
11. Lovell, Graham. Papias on Mark and Matthew. New Testament – A Historian’s Perspective. [Online] 25th May 2012. [Cited: 31st Aug 2019.] http://newtestamenthistory.blogspot.com/2012/05/papias-on-mark-and-matthew.html.
12. Metzger, Bruce. The Cannon of the New Testament. Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1987.
13. Marlowe, Michael D. The Muratorian Fragment. Bible Research. [Online] 2012. [Cited: 9th Sept 2019.] http://www.bible-researcher.com/muratorian.html.
14. Manor, T. Scott. Exonerating Gaius of Rome. BRILL. [Online] 2016. [Cited: 4th Sept 2019.] https://brill.com/view/book/9789004309395/B9789004309395_005.xml?crawler=true.
15. Biblical Training Library. Gaius. Biblical Training. [Online] [Cited: 4th Sept 2019.] https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/gaius.
16. Hall, Stuart George. Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church. s.l. : Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992.
17. Hill, Charles E. Gaius of Rome and the Johanine Controversy. Oxford Scholarship. [Online] January 2005. [Cited: 4th Sept 2019.] https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/0199264589.001.0001/acprof-9780199264582-chapter-5.
18. Jones, Ron. Early Church Fathers on the Authorship of NT Gospels. Academia. [Online] [Cited: 2nd Sept 2019.] https://www.academia.edu/9269890/Early_Church_Fathers_on_the_Authorship_of_the_NT_Gospels.

Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 1 – Introduction

On the most important level the answer to this question is both simple and profound:

 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.       2 Timothy 3:16 NIV

While this verse was originally referring to the Tanakh (OT Scriptures), it is also applicable to all the NT Scriptures.  That is what the whole process of canonisation was about – determining which texts were undeniably God-breathed.   That is why the other ancient texts that claim to be a gospel according to Thomas, or Judas, or Mary or whomever, were never included in the Bible – in their earliest years they were found to have false stories included in them and so were not accepted by the early church as having been God-breathed.

On the human level it is more difficult to determine conclusively who God used to write each of the four Gospels for us, despite the names attached to their titles.   This is not a questioning of the authority or historic reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life.  In keeping with the practices of their Jewish culture, Jesus’ disciples took great care to memorise His teachings and deeds so as to pass these on faithfully to others and correct any misunderstandings.  During their lifetimes these accounts were written down, meticulously copied and circulated to the groups of believers in every city, where they were read as part of the worship services.  All the evidence supports the view that the four Gospels were based on high quality eye witness testimony with incredible accuracy of detail, and these have been reliably preserved for us.  This is in stark contrast to the other “gospels” which were written later and rejected by the early church as lacking authenticity and accuracy, and can even now be shown to lack the historical details inherent in accurate accounts of Jewish life during the time of Christ.   From a purely historical point of view we can have confidence in the accuracy of what we read about Jesus’ life and words in the four Gospels.  Regardless of who the human authors of each of these four accounts are, they provide us with verifiable eye-witness testimony.     (1) (2) (3) (4)

So, what does it matter who wrote each account of Jesus’ life?   God used each author’s individual personality and life experience in His inspiration of the scriptures.   With the Gospels, He used four different authors to give us four different perspectives.  The more we learn about each author the more we can understand their perspective and the richer picture we get of those aspects of our Lord’s life and ministry.   The scriptures are like a very detailed and multifaceted ancient treasure, the more different angles we view them from the more we see the richness of their beauty.

The original texts were written on scrolls without titles, verse/chapter numbers, or footnotes.  As we saw when looking at the development of the Tanakh (OT), the Hebrew titles that have been added to the first 5 books of the Bible (“In the beginning”, “Names”, “And he called”, “In the desert” and “Words”) are totally different to the titles for these books which were added in our Bibles (which come from the Septuagint – first Greek translation), but the inspired scriptures are the same in both.  It is not the titles that are inspired, but the text of the books.  Unlike most of the other books in the New Testament, which included the author’s name in the text of the book (most often in the prologue), none of the authors of the four Gospel accounts penned their name in what they wrote.   Each one chose to give an anonymous account of the life of Jesus.  To them the important thing was not that they had been the one to write this account of the earthly life of Jesus but that the focus be on Jesus whose life they were recounting for us. (5)

With this apparent early anonymity there has been much conjecture among Biblical scholars as to who wrote each Gospel.  The importance of this is that it affects the lens we view the Gospels through and how we understand the relationships portrayed in them. 

We have two main sources of information that we can examine in attempting to determine who authored the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life: Church Tradition and the Scriptures. 

Reference List

1. Moreland, JP. Scaling the Secular City. s.l. : Baker and Baker Academic division of Baker Publishig Group, 2007.
2. Williams, Peter J. New Evidence the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts. Be Thinking. [Online] [Cited: 2019 Sept 2019.] https://www.bethinking.org/is-the-bible-reliable/new-evidence-the-gospels-were-based-on-eyewitness-accounts.
3. Knowing God. Why You Can Believe the Bible. Every Student. [Online] [Cited: 4th Sept 2019.] https://www.everystudent.com/features/bible.html.
4. Pitre, Brant. The Case fo Jesus: The biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ. New York : Crown Publishing, 2016. 9780770435486.
5. Ehrman, Bart. Why Are the Gospels Anonymous? The Bart Ehrman Blog. [Online] [Cited: 4th Sept 2019.] https://ehrmanblog.org/why-are-the-gospels-anonymous/.

The Apostolic Reformation Begins ~ Jesus (Yeshua) as a Jewish Reformer

In Section 2 we take an in-depth look at Yeshua’s life in the context of this culture which we have seen develop in the centuries leading up to His birth.

As we have seen, there were many wonderful, and many problematic, ways in which Judaism had been developing.  Through it all the expectation of a coming Messiah and messianic age had continued growing in the general population.  Those who had been counting knew that it was getting close to Daniel’s 69th ‘seven’, during which Messiah would be revealed.  

They needed deliverance from Roman occupation, and Hellenising influences, which clashed with maintaining the purity of the Jewish people and their religious practice.  Not long before they had needed deliverance from self-rule, which had degenerated under the Hasmonaean dynasty into such bitter conflict that all sides had called for Roman intervention.   Yet still there were many who glorified in the Maccabean revolt and engaged in guerrilla warfare, seeking to re-live such a victory in their day and hoping that their courage in battle would induce Messiah to come to their rescue and supernaturally destroy the Roman army and all heathens in the way of establishing their glorious kingdom.  

Messianic hopes and expectations were many and varied.   The religious practice of much of the population was fervent and genuine.  The wall the Pharisees were building around the Torah was becoming ever higher and thicker and governed every conceivable aspect of devout Jewish life.   These were a people in need of seeing the reality of their God.

In Section 2 we take an in-depth look at Yeshua‘s life in the context of this culture which we have seen develop in the centuries leading up to His birth.

As with all Bible studies and commentaries, what is presented here is not infallible, that designation belongs to scripture alone. While every effort has been made through years of research to present as accurate an account as possible, there are many things that we do not know and many areas that even the best Bible scholars, and historians, disagree on. If you disagree with anything written in these blogs please feel free to do so, but don’t dismiss what I have written until you have first searched the scriptures afresh to see what God has to say on it – then please share with us what He reveals to you through His word. The purpose of this work is not to establish doctrine, a standard by which other works are judged, but to provide a perspective that broadens and deepens your understanding of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Messiah / the anointed one) so as to grow in your love for Him, in your discipleship of Him, and in your effectiveness in discipling others in Christ Jesus.

As language is an essential part of culture, names will often be written in their original Hebrew (along with the English translations that most of us are more familiar with).

We also have a grouping of seven blogs (in the section ‘INTERLUDE‘) on the authors of each of the four gospel accounts. Again, the purpose of studying such is to help deepen our understanding and appreciation of our wonderful Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Now to “A Child is Born“…

Second Temple Period under Roman Rule until Messiah (63 BC – 1BC)

Read Matthew 1 & Luke 1

Rome was now expanding towards the east, and in the year 64 BC Pompey entered Damascus. The Jews sent three delegations: first from Hyrcanus with gifts to try to secure Roman allegiance for his rule; then from Aristobulus with gifts to try to secure Roman allegiance for his rule; and then from the Sanhedrin, who requested Pompey ignore both brothers and appoint the Sanhedrin to run the country. All three groups apparently agreed that some type of Roman intervention would be welcomed, which emboldened Pompey in his conquest.

The fourth beast was so unlike any of the others that it is not even described as being like any animal but simply described as terrifying, frightening and very powerful with large iron teeth that “crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left.” (Daniel 7:7 NIV).   In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream the fourth kingdom is described as “legs of iron” (Daniel 2:33a). 

The fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, because iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things; and as iron that crushes all these, shall it break in pieces and crush. Daniel 2:40 WEB

Picture of the 4th beast

Another distinctive of this fourth kingdom is that none of Daniel’s visions name it.  Nebuchadnezzar is clearly named as ruler over the first kingdom (Daniel 2:37-38).  The second is named as the kings of Media and Persia in Daniel 8:20.   The third is named as Greece in Daniel 8:21-22 and Daniel 10:20.   But none of Daniel’s visions name who this fourth kingdom will be – that is left to the speculation of the reader.   And much speculation there was among Jews who eagerly searched the scriptures for the time of the coming of their Messiah.   Historically we can look back and see that the fourth kingdom to rule over Jerusalem was Rome, but when the differing Jewish factions invited the Romans to come, take over and settle their dispute in 64BC, they did not have the benefit of hindsight to see that they were inviting the rule of this brutal fourth kingdom.

In 63 BC Pompey arrived in Jerusalem and took Aristobulus captive to Rome. After two months the Romans broke through the Jerusalem citadel and massacred some 12,000 Jews who were defending the Temple.   Pompey reinstated Hyrcanus as High Priest and ruler under Roman command.  Judea became a client kingdom of Rome. Before he left, Pompey had the walls of Jerusalem levelled, making it defenceless. He also imposed harsh taxes, but left the political governance of the Sanhedrin intact.

The Sanhedrin – comprised of 70 members from the Pharisees and Sadducees, and led by the High Priest.

Six years later, in 57 BC, Pompey appointed a governor in Syria, Gabinius, who would have ultimate control of the affairs in Judea.  Gabinius (57-55 BC) deemed it prudent to divide the Sanhedrin’s authority with two other local bodies which he established in Judaea. (1)

48 BC saw the two great Roman generals, Pompey and Caesar, battling for control of the empire. Hyrcanus had been an official ally of Pompey but after Pompey’s defeat at the Battle of Pharsalus, and subsequent assassination in Egypt where he sought refuge, the shrewd Antipater advised Hyrcanus to switch sides and declare his allegiance to Caesar. They then committed over 3,000 Jewish soldiers to an expeditionary force that invaded Egypt and helped raise the siege of Alexandria where Pompey’s remaining army was held up.   Caesar showed the Jews his gratitude for their help by revoking the harsh decrees and burdensome taxation imposed by Pompey. He also allowed the walls and fortifications of Jerusalem to be rebuilt and restored Jaffa, as well as a number of other coastal cities, to Jewish governance under Roman rule.  Caesar retained Hyrcanus in the position of High Priest and head of the Sanhedrin, which also had its political power restored over the whole area, but not for long.

In 47 BC Caesar stripped the high priesthood of its political power once again and appointed the ambitious and skilled Antipater to Procurator (Roman Governor) of Judea.  Antipater appointed his son Herodas to be Prefect over Galilee. Herod’s first act was to capture and, contrary to Jewish law which granted everyone the right to trial by the Sanhedrin, executed a Hasidim named Hezekiah who had been leading a band of rebels in attacking gentile outposts in Galilee. Some sources report that Herod executed Hezekiah’s whole gang.  As the court of the day, the Sanhedrin summoned Herod to Jerusalem to stand trial for carrying out an execution without their permission – the punishment for which was death.   The High Priest, Hyrcanus, fearful of Roman retribution should they execute the procurator’s son, managed to persuade most the Sanhedrin to absolve Herod of this crime and allow him to go free. (2)

Shemayah and Abtalion were the Zugos at this time.  They had reportedly been converts to Judaism in Alexandria and referred to themselves as “descendants of the heathen, who do the work of Aaron”, claiming that the descendants of Aaron were no longer “doing the work of Aaron”. 

Shemayah’s noted saying was: “Love work and hate to attain superiority, and see to it that your name be not known to the government.”  (Avot 1:9)

Abtalion was wont to say: “Ye wise be guarded in your words; lest you load upon yourselves the penalty of exile and be exiled to the place of evil waters; and the disciples that come after you may drink and die, and the name of Heaven be profaned.” (Avot 1:10) 

It is reported that when Herod appeared before the Sanhedrin to face trial, all lost courage except Shemayah, who predicted that if they failed to pronounce judgment on him now, he would execute them later. 

Ten years later Abtalion used his considerable influence with the people in persuading the men of Jerusalem, in the year 37 BCE, to open the gates of their city to Herod the Great. The king was not ungrateful and rewarded Abtalion.  Thus ended the pharisaic tradition, begun in response to Aristobulus in 104 BCE, of rebelling against unrighteous leaders, to be replace by a new tradition of peaceful cooperation with the ruler regardless of how unsuitable one deemed them for governing the nation. Thereby, the Pharisees became part of the establishment and secured their place on the Sanhedrin through the rest of its existence. (3) (4) (5) (6)

The Rise of the Zealots…

With the pharisaic leadership no longer willing to lead, or sanction, rebellion against unrighteous rulers, a new political group, the Zealots¸ arose from the Hasidim to take up this role in their stead.

Zealots – A Radical New Jewish Sect

The term “zealot”, in Hebrew kanai (קנאי, frequently used in plural form, קנאים – kana’im), means one who is zealous on behalf of God.

Hezekiah’s son, Judas, motivated by the Sanhedrin’s weakness in failing to convict Herod for the murder of his father and Herod’s subsequent appointment as king of Judea, went about stirring up religious fervour and expectation of another successful revolt against pagan rule as the Maccabees had done. There was strong religious feeling that it was an intolerable sacrilege for Gentiles to pollute the Holy Land and exercise lordship over the chosen people of Yahweh

Messianic hopes and expectations were high for a Davidic descendant who would lead the people to a supernatural victory over their enemies and rule the whole world from Jerusalem in accord with Daniel’s prophesy (Daniel 7). The Zealots were convinced they could help hasten this day by heroic efforts to deliver the Jews from heathen rule and purge their land from the pollution of heathen peoples. Theirs was a violent struggle. Rome would have called them “terrorists” if such a term were in vogue back then.  

Although their leaders were fearful of the impact on the Jewish nation of Roman reprisals for the Zealots’ actions, many of the Pharisees had sympathies for this group who shared their passion for the purity of the land and their zeal for ridding it of all pagans and pagan influences. Some of the Pharisees joined the Zealots out of their passion for the Law. They were particularly active in the Galilean region where the people were deeply religious and clung more closely to a traditional way of life.  (7) (8) (9)

Herod’s Brutal Rise to Power…

Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C. and Antipater was poisoned in 43 B.C. Mark Anthony now ruled Rome and appointed Antipater’s two sons Herod and Phasael as tetrarchs over Galilee and Jerusalem respectively.    Herod won favour with the Romans by brutally crushing a Galilean uprising.

There had been some attempt within the Hasmonaean dynasty to reconcile the two halves of the family by marrying Hyrcanus II’s daughter, Alexandra, to Aristobulus II’s son, Alexander.   When Herod, at that time tetrarch, entered Jerusalem in triumph in 42 B.C., Alexandra sought to bring about the marriage of their daughter Mariamne to him, hoping thus to avoid the ruin of her house.   Herod welcomed this opportunity to help legitimise his reign by marrying into the royal family and took Princess Mariamne as his second wife, having divorced and imprisoned his Edomite wife, Doris, and their son, Antipater II, in order to do so. (10) (11) (12) (13)

As Roman control of the eastern provinces waned, the Parthians invaded Syria, including Judea, in 40 B.C. Phasael was taken in an ambush and forced to commit suicide.  Antigonus II, the surviving son of Aristobulus II and last of the Hasmonaean dynasty, had allied with the Parthians and captured Hyrcanus. Antigonus now proclaimed himself High Priest and king of Judea. He exiled Hyrcanus to Babylon and maimed him (some sources say cut off his ears, others say castrated) to make him there-after ineligible for the office of High Priest.

Herod was as ambitious as his father had been and as capable of reading the political climate and positioning himself for power.  So successful was he at this, and with his massive building programs, that he became known as Herod the Great.  In 39 B.C. the Roman Senate declared Herod king of Judea and Herod promptly set out to remove Antigonus.  Aided by Roman soldiers, Herod fought his way through the Jewish army and at last laid siege to Jerusalem, which after several months fell to the Romans in 37 B.C.  For some days the Roman troops indulged in murdering and pillaging until Herod was able to restrain them.  He succeeded in capturing Antigonus, after only three years’ reign, and put him to death. 

Sanhedrin Stacked with Those Who Would do Herod’s Bidding…

Next Herod took revenge on the Sanhedrin, for attempting to call him to account ten years earlier, by murdering most of them just as Shemayah had predicted.  Only the Zugos, Shemayah and Abtalion, are reported to have survived the slaughter and retained their positions in the Sanhedrin. Herod replaced those slaughtered with members who would do his bidding.

The Jewish people, however, were not well disposed to having someone of Edomite decent who rules so brutally being called king of Judea. Messianic longings and expectations continued increasing. 

Political Games with the role of High Priest…

Herod sought to undermine the last of the Hasmonaean dynasty’s claim to power and help legitimise his role as king of Judea by returning to the traditional practice of placing one of Aaron’s descendants from the Zadokite family, Ananel (Hananiel) as High Priest.  Ananel was descended from Onias IV who had fled to Egypt after his father, the rightful High Priest, had been murdered.   Herod also brought the aged and maimed Hyrcanus II back to Jerusalem, assigning to him the first place at his table and the presidency of the state council.  (14)

Alexandra, Hyrcanus’ daughter and Herod’s mother-in-law, was most upset at this intrusion on the Hasmonean line by returning to a Zadokite high priesthood. In her mind it had been well established over generations that the only high priestly family line was her own.  Alexandra wielded considerable power through Mark Anthony’s lover Cleopatra of Egypt and in 35 B.C. had Herod forced to remove Ananel and make her 17yo son, Aristobulus, High Priest in his stead.  Even though, according to the different rabbinical traditions, the age of eligibility to this office was either 20yo or 30yo, and in the past when the son had been too young for the high priest’s office another relative had been appointed in his stead.  It seemed that with every decision Herod made he increased someone’s hatred of him. (15) (16) (17) (18)

Within a year of being made High Priest the young Aristobulus drowned in suspicious circumstances and many concluded that Herod had him killed.  Ananel was reinstated as High Priest but retained the position for only three years.  There were now no males left in the Hasmonaean line apart from Herod’s own sons to Mariamne.  The next High Priest, another Jew from the Egyptian diaspora and descendant of Onias IV, Joshua ben Fabus, held the position for 7 years.

Herod’s Work on the Temple – as a monument to himself…

Herod the Great reigned with an iron fist and engaged in massive building programs, including the cities of Sebaste and Caesarea, an amphitheatre and hippodrome in Jerusalem, to display his glory and power. Herod also built temples to the Roman emperors and to other gods in cities outside Jerusalem, including a temple to Apollo and even one to Baal. 

Of all Herod’s building operations, however, the most magnificent was the restoration and refurbishment of the Jew’s Temple in Jerusalem, which he began in the 18th year of his reign (20-19 BC) and finished in just a year and a half, although work on out-buildings, courts and external walls continued for another 80 years.  Herod’s rebuilding of the Second Temple was done so that he would “have a capitol city worthy of his dignity and grandeur.” (19) 

To comply with religious law, Herod employed 1,000 priests as masons and carpenters for the building, which was even larger and grander than Solomon’s temple had been, with a massive court of the gentiles to attract tourists from all the surrounding peoples.  Filled with gold and marble there was no building that could compare with this huge and incredible masterpiece. Many Jews prided in Herod’s accomplishment, until he placed a huge Roman eagle over the most important gate of the newly refurbished temple.  This symbol of Roman rule even over their holy place stirred deep anger in many pious Jews.

Herod placed a huge Roman eagle, symbol of Roman rule, over the most important gate of the newly refurbished temple. This grand building program was undertaken for Herod’s glory, not God’s.

The temple hierarchy under Herod lacked the beauty of the building of their domain. Composed of an aristocracy who compromised whatever they needed to in order to keep their positions of power and wealth, along with their lives, they were corrupted and devoid of the beauty of holiness.  There were, however, still many priests who humbly served in the temple out of their devotion to God. (20) (21) (22)

Two Strongly Opposed Schools of Pharisees are Founded…

The last of the Zugos were Hillel and ShammaiHillel was born in Babylon, a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin on his father’s side, and from the family of David on his mother’s side.  He was proclaimed Nasi in 32 BC.  A significant shift was to occur, from Nasi being appointed by their peers or sages, to it becoming an inherited position within Pharisaic Judaism.  Although Shammai held the position for a time after Hillel’s death, thereafter the spiritual leadership of the people would be in the hands of Hillel’s descendants. A new dynasty was to begin, that would last until 356 AD. 

Hillel has three saying recorded in Avon1:
“Be a disciple of Aaron, love peace, pursue peace, love all men too, and bring them nigh unto the Law.”
“A name made great is a name destroyed; he who increases not, decreases; and he who will not learn from his masters is not worthy to live; and he who uses his knowledge as a tiara perishes.” 
“If I do not look to myself, who will do so? But if I look only to myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”  

Shammai’s defining saying is:
Fix a time for study; promise little, and do much, receive everyone with friendly countenance.”  

Bais Hillel and Bais Shammai are called the first Tannaim, or scholars of the Mishnah (Oral Law).  It was also during their time that the term rabbi was increasingly used for the great Jewish sages and scholars. The emerging talmidim (disciples) of their teachings divided into two schools of thought, or ‘houses’, known as Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai. They are the most famous antagonistic schools of Pharisees that flourished during the Herodian reigns and contributed to the development of the Oral Law

Three hundred and sixteen controversies between these two schools are preserved in the Jewish Talmud. In all but fifty five of these the Shammaites were more restrictive and severe in their religious prohibitions than the Hillelites.  This beginning of large-scale argumentation between Pharisees (machlokes) is viewed by the Talmud as a sad diminution in Torah scholarship. There was, in their eyes, a danger that the Torah would become “two Torahs”; in other words, there was a danger of schism in which the religious practices and laws of one group of pharisaic Jews would be so drastically different from those of another group of pharisaic Jews that they could not both be governed by the same Sanhedrin.

Throughout Herod the Great’s reign, the Hillelites held sway in the Sanhedrin.  They were the party of the middle, with the aristocratic Sadducees on one side and the restrictive Shammaites on the other.  Hillel and Shammai had both trained under Shemayah and Abtalion, with Hillel faithfully keeping to his sage’s new pragmatic tradition of working peacefully with the leaders of the nation, regardless of how unrighteous they may be.  Shammai, who was younger, reverted to the earlier pharisaic tradition of supporting opposition against unrighteous and heathen rulers. 

The Shammaites would not bow to Roman rule nor countenance any social intercourse with either the Romans or those who in any way worked with them.  The Hillelites were more moderate in their political and social views.  Beit Shammai is known for criticizing the leniency of Beit Hillel, especially in regard to Gentile converts and contact with heathens. Shammai himself was renowned for driving away potential converts who then turned to Hillel, who accepted them with gentleness (b.Shabbat 31a). 

The Shammaites’ basic stance towards gentiles was fear of being polluted by them and their ways.  So, their active proselytization was only of fellow Jews (sheep stealing).  They put the bar very high for any gentiles who sought to convert to Judaism, so as to deter as many as possible, or at the very least ensure that they had been totally purged from anything ‘un-Jewish’ before coming close to earning acceptance into the community. 

The Hillelites’ basic stance towards gentiles was love, which expressed itself in active proselytization and making conversion as easy as possible while not compromising on their own standards. Thus, the Hillelites continued to grow in number and influence during this time with their middle path being broad and encompassing of most. (23) (24) (3) (25) (26)

It was a time of religious fervour and bitter battle for the soul of the nation. Increasing political and judicial power through dominating the Sanhedrin was seen as an important way to steer the nation in the religious direction that each ‘house’ believed it should go. It was into this atmosphere that Yeshua (Jesus) was to be born, and His ministry gave God’s answer to these power struggles.

Wealth and Power do not provide Happiness, Peace or Security…

Herod responded to any Jewish unrest by increasing taxes, banning any kind of public assembly, and quickly executing or imprisoning, in one of his many fortresses, any critic of his reign. He appears to have been deeply affected by his father’s assassination, and that of other leaders at the time, to the extent that he became very suspicious, even paranoid, of almost everyone.  Herod had his uncle and brother-in-law, Joseph, executed on suspicion of adultery with his wife.   In 30 B.C. Herod charged the aged and maimed Hyrcanus with participating in a conspiracy and had him executed so that there would be no male Hasmoneans left for the new emperor Augustus to make ruler of the Jews in his stead.  The following year a trusted courtier, Sohemus, and his much loved wife, Mariamne, were both executed by Herod.  The next year he had his mother-in-law executed.  Then he put to death his sister Salome’s husband and all the sons of Baba.  It was dangerous to be in any way related to Herod or close to the throne. (27) (28) (29)

Herod fell in love again, to another Mariamne, this one the daughter of priest Simeon ben Boethus.  As it was unseemly for a king to marry such a commoner, Herod removed Joshua ben Fabus from the high priesthood and replaced him in 23 B.C. with Simeon ben Boethus so that his marriage to Simeon’s daughter might not be regarded as a mesalliance (to someone of significantly lower social position). (30)

Through the years, many were charged with seeking Herod’s death, soldiers and sages alike, and executed.  Such suspicions returned again to Herod’s own household and in 6 B.C. his two sons to Mariamne I, the last remnants of the Hasmonaean dynasty, were also executed.  A year later his oldest son, Antipater, was executed on charges of plotting his father’s death, his third wife, Mariamne II, was sent away and her father removed from his position as High Priest.  Matthias ben Theophilos was promoted to High Priest in his place, but only for a year before Herod suspected him and had him replaced by Joazar ben Boethus. (31) (32)

God’s Plans Fulfilled Through a Godly Priest…

Although the high priesthood had been corrupted into a political office to suit Herod’s whims, and much of the temple aristocracy were focused on temporal power, position and comforts, there was still great piety among many of the priests and people who came to worship in the temple.  Luke’s gospel begins not with a critique of the corruption but with an affirmation of the piety of Torah obedience within the priesthood:

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain cohen (priest) named Zechariah, of the priestly division of Abijah. He had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisheva (Elizabeth).   They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.  But they had no child, because Elisheva was barren, and they both were well advanced in years.      
Now it happened, while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  The whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.   An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.                   (Luke 1:5-11)

Zachariah burning incense on the alter of incense in the holy place within the temple, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him.

Verse 19 identifies this angel as Gabriel, the same angel who appeared twice to Daniel (Daniel 8 & 9).  Daniel chapter 9 begins with Daniel responding to Jeremiah’s prophesy of Jerusalem being left a desolation for 70 years with repentance prayer and fasting for the restoration of Jerusalem and coming of Messiah.  God responds by sending Gabriel to give Daniel revelation concerning 70 sevens from the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, with 69 of those sevens to pass until Messiah would be revealed, and be ‘cut off’. 

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.  Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’    Daniel 9:24-25a NIV

The decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes in the seventh year of his reign – 458 BC, so it was coming close to the prophesied time of Messiah (69 sevens – 483 years) to ‘finish the transgression, put an end to sin, atone for wickedness and bring in everlasting righteousness’ (Daniel 9:24) when Gabriel was sent with another message, this time to the faithful priest Zechariah.  It was in response to the piety and prayers of priest and people that this angel was sent with a message declaring that now was the time of the fulfilment of those prayers.

…the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah, because your request has been heard, and your wife, Elisheva (Elizabeth), will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Yochanan (John).  You will have joy and gladness; and many will rejoice at his birth.   For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord, their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to prepare a people prepared for the Lord.”   (Luke 1:13-17)

Then to a Young Woman in a Neglected Rural Community…

Six months later this same angel, Gabriel, made a much more private appearance to a young woman in the Galilee region.  No one was waiting outside to witness the effect of her heavenly encounter.  To Zechariah had been the promise of a son to turn the people to the Lord their God in preparing them for ADONAI.  To this young woman was the promise of the One for whom the people were being prepared, the Messiah that Gabriel had all those years before told Daniel about.

Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man whose name was Yosef (Joseph), of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Miriam (Mary).  Having come in, the angel said to her,

“Rejoice, you highly favoured one! ADONAI is with you. Blessed are you among women!”   

But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered what kind of salutation this might be. The angel said to her,

“Don’t be afraid, Miriam, for you have found favour with God.   Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and will call his name ‘Yeshua.’  He will be great, and will be called the Son of Ha’Elyon (the Most High). ADONAI, God will give Him the throne of His father, David, and he will reign over the house of Ya’akov (Jacob) forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom.”  

Miriam said to the angel, “How can this be, seeing I am a virgin?”

The angel answered her,
“The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will come on you, and the power of Ha’Elyon (the Most High) will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God.”  Luke 1:26- 35

Fulfilling what the Angel Gabriel had Told Daniel…

Rome ruled over Jerusalem for longer than any of the three kingdoms preceding it.  During this Roman rule Daniel 9’s sixty-nine ‘sevens’ (483 years) since the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem would come to completion:

“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.”  Daniel 9:25-26 NIV

Looking ahead from Daniel’s perspective in verse 26a, we see that “the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.” The Hebrew word translated “put to death” is the common word used in the Mosaic Law and implies that the Messiah would not only be killed, but he would die a penal death by execution. The Hebrew expression translated “and will have nothing” has two meanings. It may mean “nothingness,” emphasizing Messiah‘s state at death. It can also be translated “but not for himself,” and the meaning would then be that he died for others rather than for himself, a substitutionary death. The latter meaning would be much more consistent with what the Prophets had to say about the reason for Messiah‘s death (e.g. Isaiah 53:1-12). The first three purposes of the 70 sevens – to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for wickedness – have to be accomplished by an atonement. The Law of Moses decreed that atonement is made by blood (Leviticus 17:11).  Thus, Messiah‘s death “not for himself” but for others would be the means by which Israel’s transgression, sins and iniquity would be atoned for. The point of this phrase is that between the end of the second subdivision (the 69th seven) and before the start of the 70th seven, Messiah would be killed and would die a penal, substitutionary death. (33)

But all that was yet to come.  For now, the angel’s message focused on miraculous births, not death:

 “You have a relative, Elisheva, who is an old woman; and everyone says she is barren. But she has conceived a son and is six months pregnant! For with God, nothing is impossible.” 

Miryam said, “I am the servant of Adonai; may it happen to me as you have said.”

Then the angel left her. Luke 1:36-38 CJB

Mary Visits Elizabeth…

Miryam (Mary) was eager to see the one person who might understand what had just taken place, Elisheva (Elizabeth), so she could share her joy and wonder.   Such required a long journey through difficult country, not the sort of journey that a young woman would normally take alone.  But these were not normal circumstances and Miryam did not know how to explain it so she just raced off.   Elisheva was the one person whom the angel had named, so to Elisheva she would go, immediately.   Miryam was a teenager.

Without delay, Miryam set out and hurried to the town in the hill country of Y’hudah (Judea) where Z’kharyah lived, entered his house and greeted Elisheva.  When Elisheva heard Miryam’s greeting, the baby in her womb stirred. Elisheva was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and spoke up in a loud voice,

“How blessed are you among women! And how blessed is the child in your womb!  But who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy! Indeed you are blessed, because you have trusted that the promise Adonai has made to you will be fulfilled.” Luke 1:39-45 CJB

Already a tiny baby was growing in Miryam’s womb.   What had appeared an impulsive decision to undertake such a journey on her own was amply rewarded the moment that Myriam arrived at this distant relative’s home.   Confirmation of everything the angel had spoken to her.   Confirmation that her obedience would indeed see the fulfilment of God’s promise.   Miryam magnified the Lord:

My soul magnifies Adonai; and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, who has taken notice of his servant-girl in her humble position. For — imagine it! — from now on, all generations will call me blessed! The Mighty One has done great things for me! Indeed, His name is holy; and in every generation he has mercy on those who fear him. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm, routed the secretly proud, brought down rulers from their thrones, raised up the humble, filled the hungry with good things, but sent the rich away empty. He has taken the part of his servant Isra’el, mindful of the mercy which he promised to our fathers, to Avraham and his seed forever.” Luke 1:46b-55 CJB

Meanwhile in Herod’s Palace…

Herod’s fourth wife was a Samaritan, Malthace, and his fifth wife was Cleopatra of Jerusalem. He also had another five wives who were not considered as significant. Herod’s sister was continually stirring up intrigues within his household and playing on his paranoia, inciting suspicions against both wives and children. 

As Herod grew older, his physical and mental health deteriorated.  He developed arteriosclerosis and suffered much pain.   Herod’s physical weakness seemed to feed his increasing paranoia.  Around 4 BC, As news spread that he had an incurable disease, two rabbis, Judas ben Sepphoraeus, and Matthias ben Margalus, stirred up their talmidim to tear down the Roman eagle from the Temple gate that had been such an offence to the Jews, having to walk under this symbol of an empire of pagan emperor worship to enter the holy precincts of the temple.

Roman eagle torn down from the Temple gate

Herod seized the offenders and passed sentences of death upon them and had the chief leaders publicly burned alive.  (29) (34)

Strengthened in fellowship…

Miryam stayed with Elisheva for about three months and then returned home. Luke 1:56 CJB

Three months of spiritual mentoring.  Three months of inspiration and encouragement.  Three months of close friendship and deep bonding.  Both women were experiencing a miraculous pregnancy, one in her old age and the other in her youth.  Somehow their babies were connected, Yochanan had leapt in the womb when Miryam arrived with Yeshua in her womb – this connected them.  Elisheva had been filled with the Holy Spirit at that moment and prophesied over Miryam and her unborn baby – this had connected them.  Miryam had likewise been filled and magnified the Lord, declaring His goodness to the lowly and to Israel – this had connected them.    Miryam had needed this time of affirmation to strengthen her for what lay ahead.  

How could she explain to her fiancée Yosef that she was pregnant?   How could she face all the village gossips in Nazareth, who never would believe her that she had not been with a man?  Elisheva had a husband who was the father of her baby, and a community who would rejoice with them over the miracle of his birth. All that Miryam had was the Word of God.

Yochanan (John) is born…

The time arrived for Elisheva to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard how good Adonai had been to her, and they rejoiced with her.

On the eighth day, they came to do the child’s b’rit-milah (covenant of circumcision). They were about to name him Z’kharyah, after his father, when his mother spoke up and said, “No, he is to be called Yochanan.” 

They said to her, “None of your relatives has that name,” and they made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. 

He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is Yochanan.” 

At that moment, his power of speech returned, and his first words were a b’rakhah  (blessing /thanksgiving) to God.  All their neighbours were awestruck; and throughout the hill country of Y’hudah (Judea), people talked about all these things. Everyone who heard of them said to himself, “What is this child going to be?” For clearly the hand of Adonai was with him.

His father Z’kharyah was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and spoke this prophecy: “Praised be Adonai, the God of Isra’el, because he has visited and made a ransom to liberate his people by raising up for us a mighty Deliverer who is a descendant of his servant David. It is just as he has spoken through the mouth of the prophets from the very beginning – that we should be delivered from our enemies and from the power of all who hate us. This has happened so that he might show the mercy promised to our fathers – that he would remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore before Avraham avinu (our father Abraham) to grant us that we, freed from our enemies, would serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. You, child, will be called a prophet of Ha‘Elyon; you will go before the Lord to prepare his way by spreading the knowledge among his people that deliverance comes by having sins forgiven through our God’s most tender mercy, which causes the Sunrise to visit us from Heaven, to shine on those in darkness, living in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the paths of peace.”   Luke 1:57-79 CJB

Standing Alone in the Midst of a Trial…

Miryam arrived back home in Nazareth, three months pregnant.   She was not showing yet but may have been experiencing morning sickness and other symptoms.   She had not been with her fiancée, Yosef, and soon people would start to notice that she was carrying a baby.   It had sounded so wonderful when the angel had first spoken to her, and when her relative Elisheva had greeted her with prophesy confirming the angel’s every word, but now earthly realities came crashing down.   This put Yosef in a very difficult position.  Miryam had not wanted to do that, she had not wanted to make things difficult for him.   This put her life at risk, for she knew what the religious zealots wanted to do to any woman found to have been unfaithful, and what further evidence did they need than for her to be with child.   There was nothing that Miryam could do to “fix” the situation, she would not abort God’s son.  All that she could do now was trust God to step in so that His word would be fulfilled in her life.

Judaism Dictated Every Aspect of Daily Life…

Judaism during Herod the Great’s reign was diverse and all encompassing.  There was no separation of “church” and “state”, no division between the sacred and the secular.  Their religion was their politics, and their law, and their education, and their community, and their culture.  It dictated every aspect of daily life: what they did when they woke up in the morning, what they could and could not eat, what they could and could not wear, how and when they groomed themselves, how they conducted business, how and when they had to attain ritual purity, and how they treated others.  Even the most trivial and mundane acts, such as eating and getting dressed, were thus turned into acts of religious significance where one was deemed to have either obeyed or disobeyed God’s law. 

Diversity existed only in the variety of different interpretations of what that law properly demanded.   Each of the different Jewish sects; Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Hasidim and Zealots, had their own interpretations of God’s law and intolerance of other perspectives.  Priests and rabbis disagreed on much.   Even within the Pharisees, each of their different schools (the two most famous of which were that of Hillel and Shammai) were developing very different sets of laws that “God had laid down in the beginning”.   One can imagine what the response would be if God Himself stepped down from heaven, walked among them, and started telling them what He really wanted.

Reference List

1. Morrison, W. D. The Sanhedrin, or Supreme National Council. Heritage History. [Online] [Cited: 6th Sept. 2016.] http://www.heritage-history.com/?c=read&author=morrison&book=romanjew&story=sanhedrin.
2. Joseph Jacobs, Isaac Broydé. Herod I (surnamed the Great). Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7598-herod-i.
3. Tractate Avot: Chapter 1. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: 6th Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Talmud/avot1.html.
4. Sh’maya (Mishnah). Revolvy. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept. 2016.] http://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Sh%27maya%20(Mishnah)&item_type=topic.
5. Glatzer, Nahum. Essays in Jewish Thought. s.l. : University of Alabama Press, 2009.
6. A.M., William Whiston. Josephus – The Complete Works. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998.
7. Kohler, Kaufmann. Zealots (Hebrew, Kanna’im). Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 7th Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/15185-zealots.
8. Morrison, W.D. Jews Under Roman Rule. New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1895.
9. Price, Jonathan. Zealots and Sicarii. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] 2008. [Cited: 7th Sept. 2016.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0021_0_21428.html.
10. Mindel, Nissan. Mariamne. Chabad. [Online] Kehot Publications. [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/112064/jewish/Mariamne.htm.
11. Mariamne. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0013_0_13291.html.
12. Mariamne. Flavius Josephus. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.josephus.org/Mariamme.htm.
13. Herod the Great: A Life of Intrigue, Architecture, and Cruelty. Church of the Great God. [Online] http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/ARTB/k/1387/Herod-Great.htm.
14. The Return of the Priests of the House of Zadok. Bible Searchers. [Online] [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] http://www.biblesearchers.com/yahshua/davidian/dynasty3.shtml#ReturnZadok.
15. Herod the King 37-25 B.C. Bible History.com. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.bible-history.com/herod_the_great/HERODHerod_the_King_3725_BC.htm.
16. High Priests List. Bible Study .org. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.biblestudy.org/maps/high-priest-list.html.
17. High Priest Corruption. Jewish Roots. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://jewishroots.net/library/miscellaneous/high_priest_corruption.html.
18. Herod the Great Biography. Encyclopedia of World Biography. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.notablebiographies.com/He-Ho/Herod-the-Great.html.
19. Cohen, Shaye. Roman Domination: The Jewish Revolt and the Destruction of the Second Temple. [book auth.] Hershel Shanks. Ancient Israel. s.l. : Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999, p. 270.
20. Spiro, Rabbi Ken. History Crash Course #31: Herod the Great. aish.com. [Online] [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] http://www.aish.com/jl/h/cc/48942446.html.
21. Herod the Great. Livius. [Online] 24th April 2016. [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] http://www.livius.org/articles/person/herod-the-great/.
22. Herod the Great. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/953556/jewish/Herod-the-Great.htm.
23. Eisen, Yosef. Hillel and Shammai. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept. 2016.] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2832622/jewish/Hillel-and-Shammai.htm.
24. Jacobs, Rabbi Louis. Hillel – The preeminent rbbi of first century Palestine. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept. 2016.] http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hillel/#.
25. Rich, Tracey R. Sages and Scholars. Judaism 101. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewfaq.org/sages.htm.
26. Bugg, Rabbi Mikha’el (Michael). The Eighteen Measures, Part 4: The Gentile Factor. Return of Benjamine. [Online] [Cited: 9th Sept. 2016.] https://returnofbenjamin.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/the-eighteen-measures-part-4-the-gentile-factor/.
27. Perowne, Stewart Henry. Herod King of Judaea. Encyclopaedia Britanica. [Online] 28th June 2016. [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Herod-king-of-Judaea.
28. Astor, Berel Wein adapted by Yaakov. Herod. Jewish History. [Online] [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishhistory.org/herod/.
29. Perowne, Stewart Henry. Herod King of Judea. Encyclopaedia Britannica. [Online] 28th June 2016. [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Herod-king-of-Judaea.
30. Roth, Lea. Simeon Ben Boethus. Encyclopedia. [Online] [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-2587518559/simeon-ben-boethus.html.
31. Rocca, Samuel. Herod’s Judea: A Mediterranean State in the Classic World. s.l. : Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015.
32. Isidore Singer, Samuel Krauss. Matthias Ben Theophilus. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10488-matthias-ben-theophilus.
33. Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Messianic Time Table According to Daniel the Prophet. Jews for Jesus. [Online] [Cited: 20th Oct. 2016.] http://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/v05-n01/timetable.
34. King of the Jews. Bible Histoy. [Online] [Cited: 7th Sept. 2016.] http://www.bible-history.com/herod_the_great/HERODKing_of_the_Jews.htm.

* Biblical References from: Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern.

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

* Why did the Jewish leaders ask Rome to come and rule over them?
* Have leaders in your church, or community, or nation ever given up the freedom of self-rule to try to gain power or wealth?
* In what ways was Rome different to the other empires featured in Daniel’s visions?
* It is often quoted: “Sin will take you farther than you ever expected to go; it will keep you longer than you ever intended to stay, and it will cost you more than you ever expected to pay.” Rome’s takeover cost the Jewish people more than they thought it would. What were some of the consequences they suffered?
* Why was Herod not judged for carrying out an execution of Jews without affording them the opportunity to be tried before the Sanhedrin?
* What were the consequences of their failure to follow the processes of justice?
* Who were the Zealots and what motivated them?
* There was so much pride, greed and power-hungry corruption in the government and religious establishment, but there were still some priests who were humble, godly men. Who was one of these and what can we learn form his example?
* What would it have been like for Mary to be pregnant with God’s baby and what can we learn from her faithfulness?


The Maccabean Revolt & Hasmonean Period (166 – 40 BC)

I & II Maccabees
These are not divinely inspired scripture, but do give us an account of God’s dealing with His people during this time.
Mattathias ben Johanan, the priest who refused to sacrifice to the Greek gods and slew those who demanded the Jews do such, along with the Jew who was complying.

This was a time of hard-one victory over a despised enemy, only to be followed by such bitter internal division that the Jews eventually gave away their freedom in trying to defeat one another.

Revolt against evil rulers…

In 166 B.C., within a year of offering a pig on the Temple alter, Antiochus IV sent a contingent to force local villagers to sacrifice pigs to Zeus.  Still, many in Israel chose to die rather than to break the holy covenant.  When Antiochus’ men came to the small town of Modein, about 12 miles northwest of Jerusalem, and a young man stepped forward to perform the required sacrifice to Zeus the priest Mattathias stabbed him to death, then turned on the Greek commander and killed him as well. Mattathias quickly grabbed his five sons and headed to the hills to hide, as did many of the townspeople, fearing reprisals.  Thus a rebellion was started by the priest Mattathias and his five sons (including Judas Maccabee).

Over the next few months more people from the countryside, including many of the Hasidim, joined them in the hills of Judea and they began a campaign of guerrilla warfare. Casualties were heavy against the much larger and better equipped Greek army. Mattathias and two of his five sons had been killed before the first substantial victory was won.

Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”
He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”  Daniel 8:13-14 NIV

Despite heavy losses, Mattathias’s third son, Judas (called Maccabeus), managed to recapture Jerusalem. On Kislev 25, 165 BC, three years to the day after the first abominable sacrifice had been offered, the temple was cleansed, new altar was rededicated and the daily sacrifices to Yahweh once again offered in the Jerusalem temple. From the time Antiochus IV had plundered the temple in 170 BC until Judas Maccabeus recaptured Jerusalem and led the people in shattering the statue of Zeus and cleansing the temple on 25th Kislev 164 BC was six years and 110 days (2,300 evenings and mornings without their proper sacrifices).   (1)

Temple cleansed and miracle lights…

They shattered the statue of Zeus and cleansed the Temple but could only find one small flask of uncontaminated oil with the seal of the High Priest for lighting the Menorah (seven-branched golden lampstand) and re-dedicating the temple to Yahweh.  This was only enough to last one day and it would take eight days to produce a new batch of pure oil.  Miraculously it burned for the full eight days so the festival established to commemorate this victory, Hanakkah / Chanuka (Feast of Lights), lasts for eight nights (2) (3).

Priest lighting the Menorah in the Temple
Priest lighting the Menorah in the Temple

Judas Maccabeus ruled as leader of the army after his father’s death in 167 BCE. When Judas died of the Battle of Elasa (161/160 BCE), the youngest brother, Jonathan, was chosen as the new leader.  He attacked enemy armies and Jewish Hellenists alike. Through military victories and strategic alliances Jonathan achieved peace and was appointment as High Priest by the new ruler of the Seleucid Empire, Alexander Balas.  The High Priesthood was no longer primarily a religious office focused on the temple and determined by descent through the line of Levi, Aaron and Zadok (Lev. 21:1, 1 Chr. 29:22, 2 Chr. 31:10) but had degenerated into a political office appointed by a foreign power to rule the Jewish people. Thus there was no thought to send to Egypt to request someone from the high priest’s line return to Jerusalem and take up their rightful place again. Indeed, much of the purpose of the writing of I & II Maccabees was to justify the Maccabees’ holding these positions due to their bravery in battle to restoring Temple worship. 

On Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) of 153 BC, Jonathan put on the High Priest’s garments and officiated in the temple for the first time. Ten years later Jonathan was tricked and captured by Diodotus Trypho.  After the capture of Jonathan, his brother Simon became leader of the people.  He paid the ransom asked for his brother but Trypho killed Jonathan instead.  Simon had ongoing battles with Trypho until he sided with Demetrius II and received freedom from taxation and recognition of Judah’s political independence in return (142 BC).

The Hasmonean Period (142 – 40 BC)…

The period from 142 BC (the date of independence) to 40 BC (the beginning of the reign of ‘Herod the Great’ under the Romans) is called the Hasmonean period, because the ruling family – the family of the priest Mattathias and his sons Judas, Jonathan, and Simon – was the house of Hasmon.   Under the Hasmoneans the Sanhedrin continued to hold an important place in Jewish life, but the autocratic tendencies developed by some of these princes led to a curtailment of its authority at times. (4)

Simon declared himself both High Priest and king (even though he was neither from the line of Zadok nor that of David, he was from the priestly Aaronic line).

Zugos – fathers of pharisaic Judaism… 

Zugos (pairs) of sages
The period of the Zugos (Pairs), five pairs of renown pharisaic sages who shared the leadership of the developing pharisaic movement. 

Another shift had taken place in the development of the Pharisees.  With the death of Antigonus the authority over the Torah school that he represented was transmitted to two of his disciples, Yose ben Yoezer and Yose ben Yochanan. With them began the period of the Zugos [Pairs], five pairs of renown pharisaic sages who shared the leadership of the developing pharisaic movement.  Designated Nassi (prince/president); and Av Beis Din (chief/vice president of the court), they were responsible for transmitting the Oral Law and heading the judgments on such.  Each of these pharisaic sages established Torah schools in their own generation to teach their disciples their wisdom and interpretation of the Torah and Oral Law. It was from their disciples that the next Zugos would be chosen on their passing. During times of pharisaic political ascendancy they also held the two top positions in the Sanhedrin.  

With the purge of Hellenists from Jerusalem, many leading Pharisees took advantage of the opportunity to gain political power and influence as members of the Sanhedrin.  They operated as a balance to Simon’s spiritual and political power and there was respect shown between the two.  The people were now freely worshipping God and had been unburdened of foreign taxes and so started to prosper. (5) (6) (7)

Each of the pharisaic sages, during this period, had a saying that epitomised their wisdom and teaching.  These are recorded and discussed in the first chapter of Pirkei Avot, and give us further insight into the development of Jewish thought and prioritisation in their religious practice.

Pirkei Avot (sometimes just referred to as Avot) is among the most well known of all writings in Rabbinic Judaism. Pirkei (sayings) Avot (fathers) is one of the sixty-three tractates found in the Mishnah, the code of Jewish law compiled in the early third century C.E. from the Oral Law that was being developed throughout the time of occupation. Pirkei Avot is considered supremely important to Judaism because it justifies the authority of the rabbis, something the Bible does not do.  The statements attributed to the rabbis in Pirkei Avot express the basic concerns and central ideas that occupied the rabbis.

Yose b. Yoezer’s saying was: “Let your house be a meeting place for the wise; sit in the dust of their feet; and drink in their words for thirst” (Avot 1:4).

Yose b. Yochanan’s saying was: “Let your house be so wide open that the poor may enter it as were they intimates there; and do not hold too much discourse with women” (Avot 1:5).  The sage’s discussion on this one counselled even against engaging in much conversation with one’s wife.

Yose b. Yoezer was killed in 140 BC and Yehoshua ben Perachya became Nassi.

Yehoshua’s admonition was: “Provide yourself with a teacher, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge all people favourably.” (Avot 1:6)

Yehoshua’s pair was Nithai the Arbelite, who was accustomed to say: “Keep aloof from a wicked neighbour, associate not with a sinner, and never consider yourself exempt from God’s chastisement.” (Avot 1:7)

Many Romans turn to Judaism…

The Jewish diaspora had spread far and wide, taking their religion with them and influencing people everywhere they went to leave their pagan ways and worship the one true God as He desires to be worshipped.  As Rome gained territory many were now under Roman rule.  In 139 BC the Romans ruled that Jews could worship freely in all Roman territories.  That same year, however, all Jews were expelled from the city of Rome because the government became fearful of the Jewish influence as many Romans began believing and practising the Jewish teachings.

Politics and power mired in strife, division and murder…

Simon reigned for seven years until he and his two oldest sons were slain at a banquet by his son-in-law Ptolemeus, the governor of Jericho, in 135 BCE. (8)

Jonathan Hyrcanus, the only son of Simon not slain at the banquet, immediately rushed to Jerusalem and installed himself in his father’s place as both High Priest and King.  Then he rallied the Sanhedrin and the people to his side, rescued his mother who had been held to ransom and forced Ptolemeus to flee.  His tenure then faced a year-long Syrian siege that forced him agree to tear down Jerusalem’s fortifications and renew tribute to the Greek emperor in 133 BCE. Within a few years, however, he took advantage of political turmoil in Syria following the death of Antiochus VII (129 BCE) to rebuild his forces, reclaim independence and extend Judean control over Palestine and Jordan. He also took the seaport of Jaffe and Jews became partners with the Phoenicians in shipping and trade all the way to North Africa, Italy and Rome. Jonathan strengthened the Torah education system, observed it closely himself, put great expense into improving the temple edifice and insisted on higher standards for the temple service.  Under his reign the nation reached new heights of prosperity and greatness. 

Some of Jonathan’s efforts, however, had unintended consequences.  To ensure ongoing peace and stability, he forcibly brought all his new territories under the Torah. On the southern front he forced Judah’s neighbours in Idumea (the Edomites) to convert to Judaism. From these converted Edomites, Herod the Great later emerged. 

On the northern front he destroyed the rival temple at Shechem in Samaria. 

Like many of the wealthy aristocrats, Jonathan developed an appreciation for Greek culture and learning, seeing this as perfectly compatible with his Jewish faith and essential for engaging on the world stage.  This put him at odds with the Pharisaic religious leaders who forbade attendance at Greek theatres or gymnasiums or engaging with Greek learning or other forms of Greek culture as they laboured to put a fence around the Torah to keep the Jewish population from being polluted by this most insidious outside influence.

The Hasidim (“pious ones”) had been warning about the dangers of Hellenism since this foreign culture first presented itself to the Jews, and knew that their hatred of these strange ways had been proven justified by all that led up to the Maccabean Revolt and the bloody battles that followed.  To them there was no difference between reading Greek literature and polluting the temple by offering a pig as sacrifice to Zeus on its alter; all of it was detestable and led down that same slippery slope to destruction.  It was from the Hasidim that the Pharisees had developed.  Jonathan now found himself rejected by the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin, who challenged his right to be High Priest. 

He responded by dismissing all the Pharisees from the Sanhedrin and forming an exclusively Sadducean Sanhedrin. By removing from power all those with whom he disagreed, Jonathan removed the checks and balances which had been part of the strength of his early reign. The Pharisees and Sadducees were devolving into fiercely opposing political powers who saw no value in the other.   Jonathan died in 104 B.C. (9) (10) (11) (12)  (13)

Religious disputes…

Vehement differences of opinion were evident between different Torah scholars and priests during this time.   One of the big issues of debate was Hellenism which was on the rise once again.   Many of the scholars shared the views of the Hasidim that every aspect of Greek culture was an abomination to God and the Jews needed to keep themselves totally separate from it.  Others, particularly among those who had the wealth and connections to benefit from the changes, were more open minded and argued for integrating those aspects that would bring such godly blessings as increased knowledge, reasoning, sophistication and wealth. 

Another area of increasingly bitter dispute was the Oral Law.  Proponents claimed that it provided the necessary fence around the Torah, safeguarding their law, customs and traditions from the pollutions of Greek culture and other heathen ways, and so had to be fully obeyed, yet were divided among themselves as to what the correct laws were.   Detractors argued that it had no legitimacy and they were only bound to obedience to the written Torah.  

While all agreed on the spiritual authority of the Torah, there were differing interpretations of what it meant to obey Torah.  The spiritual authority of the rest of the scriptures in the Tanakh was also hotly disputed with some exalting the other scriptures to the same level of inspired authority as the Torah, and others refusing to accept the divine inspiration of the Nev’im (Prophets) and/or the K’tuvim (Writings). 

There were also arguments over the correct way of performing many of the temple duties, correct timing and method for celebrating each feast, and regulations for marriage and divorce.  Almost anything that could have a doctrine or practice formed around it, had bitterly opposing doctrines and differing practices formed around it.  Judaism had become polarised around extremes.  The three most significant parties to come out of this time and continue until after the destruction of the second temple were the Pharisees and Essenes who came from the Hasidim tradition and the Sadducees whose roots were generally in the priesthood and who were open to the benefits of Hellenization. 

Jewish Sects of the Hasmonean Period

Pharisees means “separated ones”.  Originally this sanctification referred to their separation from Hellenism in all its forms, but by the beginning of the first Century had broadened to being separated from the “people of the land”, who were seen as incapable of being pious because they were unrefined and unskilled in the Pharisees’ interpretations of Torah and Oral Law.  Pharisees were not, however, separated from the power structures of the land, but rather saw their role as leading and defining those power structures in order to corral the uneducated masses into their view of what it meant to be the sanctified nation of God’s people.  Judea could not be a holy nation unless their leaders were holy, so the Pharisees became entwined in the political process in order to occupy the positions of power necessary to enforce obedience to Torah on the leaders of their nation as well as the masses.  Pharisees were strong proponents of the Oral Law, although they had many disputes within their ranks about what its’ true rendering and interpretation was.  Some of them were priests but many were not and gained their position through the strength of their Torah study under one of the respected sages (latter called rabbis).  Pharisees had a strong role in the Sanhedrin through most of its existence after the Maccabean revolt and saw their input as essential to keeping the nation in God’s blessings and averting further judgments like the Babylonian captivity.  In the end it was the Pharisees who proved to be the most enduring force within Judaism, apart from the followers of Yeshua, after the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and they shaped what became the rabbinical Judaism of today.  Thus, most of Jewish history is written from their perspective. (14) (15) (16)           

Essenes were very strict in their religious practice and shunned both the priesthood and the political class for their corruption.   Thus they had no involvement in the Sanhedrin or any of the power structures of their day.  They largely withdrew from the rest of society to live in their own closely knit communities where they shared all things. Some would have nothing to do with the currencies of the time because of the images on the coins. They believed in the immortality of the soul and in angels, but generally not in the PhariseesOral Law.   Some of their communities isolated themselves and developed unique doctrines and practices.  Much of what we know about the Essenes comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls which had been kept by one of their communities and detailed some of their communal life and beliefs.   

Sadducees came mostly from the priestly aristocracy and upper classes.  They were open to Hellenism and closed to the Oral Law.  They generally did not accept the doctrine of the resurrection or the immortality of the soul.  Some attribute this to their interpretation of the Jewish sage Antigonus of Soko’s maxim “Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of wages, but be rather like those who serve without thought of receiving wages.”  Others attributed it to more Hellenistic influences, and others to their rejection of the divine inspiration of the Nev’im (Prophets) and K’tuvim (Writings) in the Tanakh (Old Testament).  Sadducees generally centred their interests in political life, of which they were the chief rulers before the destruction of the Second Temple, where their power had resided.  Instead of sharing the Pharisees’ messianic hopes they took the people’s destiny onto their own hands, fighting or negotiating with the heathen nations as they thought best, while seeking their own temporal welfare and worldly success.  Most of the High Priests were Sadducees and they also had a strong role in the Sanhedrin through most of its existence (16) (15) (17).

Hasidim means “pious ones”.  This movement began in response to Antiochus IV’s defilement of the temple and forced Hellenization of the Jewish people.  It continued developing as a reforming and revival movement within Judaism throughout the Hasmonean period.  Both Pharisees and Essenes could trace their roots to the rural Hasidim, but both took very different paths.  Unlike the Essenes, the Hasidim did not withdraw from society but remained vitally involved in the broader community.  Unlike the Pharisees, the Hasidim were not part of the political power structures nor did they have a seat on the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, nor consider study the highest virtue.   All references to Hasidim in the Second Temple period relate to Galilee and several renowned Hasid sages came from this area.  Theirs was a practical spirituality that focused on intimate and privileged relationship with God as their heavenly Father and regarded obeying “Torah” as more important than just studying it.  In many instances the Hasidim had halachic (Jewish law) traditions that were not in keeping with the accepted Halakha decreed by the Sanhedrin, and in some cases even opposed to it.  They also had some customs and modes of behaviour which differed from that of the dominant Pharisaic sages.   They believed in God doing miracles in response to the faith of those who were intimate with Him.  Most of the ancient passages pertaining to Hasidim refer to their causing rain to fall, healing the sick or exorcising demons.  Even in the case of rain there is a difference between the Hasidim and the Pharisaic sages.  The sage prayed for rain as part of a public prayer ritual – sometimes his prayers were answered and sometimes not.  The Hasid prayed privately and as a son beseeching his Father and their prayers were always answered.  Unlike the Pharisees, the Hasidim saw virtue in poverty and in giving away all one’s possessions “the Holy One, blessed is He, examined every good quality and found none better for Israel than poverty.”   A midrash (ancient rabbinic commentary) states: “A person becomes a Hasid to suffer all things.  He is given an angel who treats him in the manner of the Hasidim…and says, “You save the afflicted (/poor) but Your eyes are on the haughty (/rich) to humble them.” 2 Samuel 22:28.”  Characteristics of a Hasid were described as: “he is humble… a fearer of sin, judges a man according to his deeds, and says, ‘I have no need of anything found in this world.”  They generally did manual labour and menial jobs to support the most basic needs for themselves and their family. (18) (19)

Interactions between religious and political leaders…

Jonathan had directed that after his death his oldest son Aristobulus would become High Priest and his wife become leader of the nation.  Although women leaders were not a part of Jewish culture or tradition, they were well accepted in several of the surrounding Hellenised nations so the idea was gaining credence among the Jews involved in international trade and relations.  All welcomed the separation of powers between High Priest and civic leader, that is, all except AristobulusAristobulus was not convinced that his power should in any way be limited and so seized the crown with the support of his brother Antigonus, had his step-mother put in prison where she starved to death and placed his other three half-brothers in prison.  The Pharisees were infuriated and began working on stirring up a massive rebellion, but Aristobulus died in pain and with internal bleeding from an unknown disease before any attempt to depose him could come to fruition.  As his health faded during the single year that he reigned, much of the governing was done by his wife, Queen Alexandra Salome, and brother Antigonus.  Just days before Aristobulus died Salome used trickery to have Antigonus killed by his guards.

When Aristobulus died in 103 BC Queen Salome released the half-brothers from prison and, in line with Jewish law as she was childless, married the oldest of them, Alexander Jannaeus, to whom the throne and High Priesthood went. Initially Aristobulus’ enemies were Alexander’s friends so he removed the Sadducee members from the Sanhedrin and reorganised it to be composed exclusively of Pharisees. This also met with his new wife’s approval, as she was sister to the leader of the Pharisees, Simin ben Shetah. (15)

Alexander had only one aim in life; to continue the great Maccabean tradition of conquest and increase the extent of his kingdom to its natural boundaries – the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern desert.  Unfortunately, he lacked the military prowess of his ancestors and his early campaigns were quite disastrous.  Were it not for the large and wealthy Jewish diaspora in Egypt putting political pressure on Cleopatra to send her army to his rescue, Alexander would have likely lost his crown and Judea its independence.  While Alexander was away at war, he allowed his queen a major role in the nation’s internal affairs and she was instrumental in encouraging the introduction of synagogue schools in many towns to teach young children the Torah.

The Pharisee Zugos (pairs) during this time were Simeon ben Shetach (Queen Salom’s brother) and Judah ben Tabbai

Simeon’s noted saying was: “Interrogate the witness very closely, and be careful with thy words, lest they be put by them on the track of falsehood”. 

That of Judah was: “Make thyself not as those that predispose the judges, and while the litigants stand before thee let them be in thine eyes as guilty; and when dismissed from before thee let them be in thine eyes as righteous, because that they have received the verdict upon them.” (20)

Conflicts between Pharisees and Sadducees

The Pharisees had become rather disillusioned with this line of leaders who claimed to be both king and High Priest, and their pragmatism could see no good purpose in picking fights with other nations only to lose the battles, have the kingdom’s freedom threatened and tens of thousands killed in the fighting.  Even though the Sanhedrin was now totally comprised of Pharisees with their Nassi (prince/leader), Simeon ben Shetach, being a brother of Queen Salome and frequent guest at the palace, Alexander would not listen to their pleas to abandon this policy of conquest and conform to their view of Judaism.  The more the Pharisees felt that their influence over the king was waning, the more critical they became of him and his right to the offices of High Priest and king.  So the more Alexander sought the support of their political rivals, the Sadducees, who included many of the aristocratic leaders of the priesthood over which he presided as High Priest.

As mentioned earlier, the Pharisees and Sadducees were opposing political parties in Judah who disagreed on almost everything, including on how each of the festivals should be performed and how each of the functions of the priests and High Priest was to be carried out.   Although most of the aristocracy of the priesthood were Sadducees, they would generally bow to performing their functions as the Pharisees prescribed out of fear of the political backlash if they performed them strictly as was written in the Torah, with nothing added.  One of the Pharisaic innovations was adding an elaborate Water Libation Ceremony (Nissuch Ha-Mayim) following the daily sacrifices during Sukoot (the Feast of Tabernacles).  They taught this as fulfilling Isa. 12:3: “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation“.  This became a very jovial time and one of the most popular parts of the celebration of this festival.  With much joy, music, singing, dancing and sometimes even acrobatics and rabbis juggling flaming touches, water was drawn from the pool of Siloam and the High Priest poured that water out on the alter, which to Jewish people of the Second Temple era was symbolic of the Spirit of God being poured out during the days of the Messiah and so stirred the expectation and hopes of the people, particularly when they were feeling oppressed.  Such expectations and hopes were not shared by the Sadducees and especially not by the man who saw himself as the only leader the Jews needed, the High Priest Alexander.

Religious conflict becomes bloody civil war…

In around 98 BCE Alexander, while officiating as the High Priest at the Temple in Jerusalem during Sukkot, poured the water onto his own feet instead of onto the alter.  The Pharisees and their followers were enraged, saw this as blasphemous, ‘stoned him’ with the citrons (large, thick skinned citrus fruit) they were carrying in accordance with another of the customs of the festival, while shouting derogatory cries about his unfitness for the priesthood.  Alexander summoned his troops to attack those who attacked him and about 6,000 Jews were slain in the temple courts that day.

Not all of Alexander’s attempts at conquest were fruitless, he did win some battles and take some new land, but his attack against Obedias, the king of the Arabs, was poorly executed, the Jews suffered heavy losses and Alexander returned defeated to find the people in Jerusalem, incited by the Pharisees, armed and arrayed against their High Priest and king. What followed was a six year long bloody civil war that cost the lives of 50,000 Jews. 

The Pharisees went so far as to request the Syrian king Demetrius III join them in fighting against their monarch and High Priest in exchange for reigning over them. However, after defeating their brothers in a few battles, many deserted Demetrius’ army and helped Alexander defeat him and retain the kingdom’s independence.  According to Pharisaic tradition Alexander took the advice of a Sadducee to punish their treason by crucifying 800 captured Pharisees after executing their wives and children before their eyes while he and feasting courtiers enjoyed the bloody spectacle.  Animosity and distrust between the two parties, Pharisees and Sadducees had reached its zenith and 8,000 Pharisees fled to seek asylum in neighbouring lands. 

Hatred driven underground…

Alexander suffered terribly with ill health for the last three years of his life and died of his ailments from an unknown disease while at the siege of the fortified town of Ragaba in 76 BCE. His wife Salome was with him at his death and reported that he repented of his treatment of the Pharisees on his death bed. (21)  (22) (23) (24) (25) (26)

After her husband’s death, Queen Salome reigned over Judah and her eldest son, Hyrcanus II, was appointed High Priest.  Salome called the Pharisees to return to Jerusalem and brought them into her government, gradually pushing the Sadducees out of every important office and position.   She appointed her brother, Shimon ben Shetah, leader of the Pharisees, and Yehudah ben Tabbai as joint heads over the new Sanhedrin (Great Bet Din), now comprised exclusively of PhariseesSalome allowed the Pharisees’ Oral Law to be adopted as the law of the royal court.  Education was also placed in the hands of Pharisaic teachers and the care of the many thousands of widows and orphans left from Alexander’s wars placed in the hands of Pharisaic leaders. Salome’s was generally a peaceful reign, without the civil war of her husband’s rule and only one brief foreign battle.  The trade routes were re-opened and the nation began to prosper again. 

The strong ideological differences and hatreds between Jews did not lessen during Salome’s reign, however, they were just driven underground and nowhere was this more obvious than in her own family. Salome’s two sons are reported to have hated one another with the eldest, Hyrcanus II, firmly siding with the Pharisees and the younger, Aristobulus II, continuing his father’s alliance with the Sadducees.   The Pharisees started exacting retribution against the Sadducees with the execution of one of their leaders.  Fearing mass exterminations, the Sadducees petitioned the queen for protection against the now ruling party.  Salome responded by removing the Sadducees, many of whom had been leaders of the temple priesthood, from Jerusalem and assigning them to several fortified towns for their residence.

Civil war between brothers…

After a nine year reign Salome died in 67 BCE and bequeathed the throne to her eldest son, Hyrcanus II, who had been High Priest since the beginning of her reign.  (27) (15) (28) (29) (30) (31) (32)

Hyrcanus II had scarcely reigned three months when his brother, Aristobulus II, rallied an army from the Sadducean party to rise in rebellion.  Near Jericho the brothers met in battle.  As Aristobulus gained the upper hand, Hyrcanus fled back to Jerusalem to take refuge in the citadel, but the capture of the temple by Aristobulus eventually compelled Hyrcanus to seek a peace agreement.  According to the terms of the peace Hyrcanus was to renounce both the throne and the office of High Priest but would continue to enjoy the revenues of the latter office (some sources say he retained the high priesthood).

The agreement lasted about six weeks.  Aristrobulus was more capable as a military leader but Hyrcanus was endowed with skill in negotiating and forging alliances to accomplish his goals. Hyrcanus sought counsel from the talented and ambitious administrator, Antipater, satrap of Idumaea (a neighbouring province conquered and forcibly converted by Hyrcanus II’s grandfather, Jonathan Hyrcanus I).  Antipater offered to support him in waging war on Aristobulus and the Sadducees to regain his crown.  Their joint army of Pharisees and Idumeans routed the forces of Aristobulus and forced the remnants to retreat to the Temple area fortress. The rest of Jerusalem and the entire country now came under the domain of Hyrcanus and the Pharisees, with the High Priesthood and temple all that was left for Aristobulus

The lengths that people will go to in trying to exercise power over others…

Despite their animosity toward each other, both sides firmly believed in the necessity of the temple sacrifices, so the two made an agreement to ensure that the twice-daily sacrifice was offered. Every day the army on the outside would send up the necessary sheep to be slaughtered. The priests inside the Temple continued their daily service and worship after the manner of the Sadducees.  The siege lasted months and showed no sign of ending. One day Hyrcanus sent up a pig instead of a sheep for the temple sacrifice.  The Hasmoneans had initiated their rebellion after the Greeks desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig on the alter, and now their descendants were killing each other and sending up a pig for the temple sacrifice!  This caused many devout Jews to turn from supporting Hyrcanus and the focus of the conflict shifted from Pharisee against Sadducee to power-hungry brother against power-hungry brother. (33) (34) (35) (36) (37) (38) (39) (40) (2)

Reference List

1. Dankenbring, William F. The Mystery of Hanukkah – The ABOMINATION of DESOLATION Revealed! Triumph. [Online] [Cited: 31st Oct. 2016.] http://triumphpro.com/abomination-desolation-hanukkah.htm.
2. Palmer, Micheal W. History & Literature of the Bible The Hellenistic Age. Greek Language. [Online] 19th October 2002. [Cited: 27th Aug. 2016.] http://greek-language.com/bible/palmer/11hellenisticage.pdf.
3. Astor, Berel Wein adapted by Yaakov. The Miracle of Chanuka. Jewish History.org. [Online] [Cited: 27th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-miracle-of-chanukah/ .
4. Morrison, W. D. The Sanhedrin, or Supreme National Council. Heritage History. [Online] [Cited: 6th Sept. 2016.] http://www.heritage-history.com/?c=read&author=morrison&book=romanjew&story=sanhedrin.
5. Richard Gottheil, Samuel Krauss. Simon Maccabeus. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13746-simon-maccabeus.
6. Simon Maccabeus. Biblical Training. [Online] [Cited: 28th Aug 2016.] https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/simon-maccabeus.
7. The Hasmoneans. Jewish History.org. [Online] [Cited: 24th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-hasmoneans/ .
8. Prsons, John J. Torah sheba’al Peh – the Oral Torah and Jewish Tradition. Hebrew4Christians. [Online] [Cited: 3rd Sept 2016.] http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Oral_Torah/oral_torah.html.
9. Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. John Hyrcanus I. Encyclopaedia Britannica. [Online] [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Hyrcanus-I.
10. John Hyrcanus. Wikipedia. [Online] [Cited: 28th Aug 2016.] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hyrcanus.
11. Johanan [John] Hyrcanus. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Hyrcanus.html.
12. Keyser, John D. Hebrew and Aramaic – Languages of First Century Israel. Hope of Israel. [Online] [Cited: 25th Aug 2016.] http://www.hope-of-israel.org/h&a.html.
13. Astor, Berel Wein adapted by Yaakov. The Hasmoneans. Jewish History. [Online] [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-hasmoneans/.
14. Ross, Allen. 2. The Pharisees. Bible.org. [Online] 10th April 2006. [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.] https://bible.org/seriespage/2-pharisees.
15. Wilhelm Bacher, Jacob Zallel Lauterbach. Sanhedrin. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13178-sanhedrin.
16. Kohler, Kaufmann. Sadducees. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12989-sadducees.
17. Ross, Allen. 3. The Sadducees. Bible.org. [Online] 12th April 2006. [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.] https://bible.org/seriespage/3-sadducees.
18. Safrai, Shmuel. Jesus and the Hasidim. Jerusalem Prspective. [Online] 01 Jan 1994. [Cited: 18th Aug 2019.] https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/2685/.
19. Jesus and the Hasidim. Safrai, Shmuel. Jerusalem : David Bivin Jerusalem Perspective, 1994, Vols. 42, 43 & 44.
20. Tractate Avot: Chapter 1. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: 6th Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Talmud/avot1.html.
21. Water Libation Ceremony. Jewish Roots. [Online] [Cited: 29th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishroots.net/library/holiday-articles/water_libation_ceremony.html.
22. Ginzberg, Louis. Alexander Jannaeus. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 29th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1144-alexander-jannaeus-jonathan.
23. Alexander Jannaeus. Wikipedia. [Online] [Cited: 29th Aug. 2016.] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Jannaeus.
24. Eisenstein, Judah David. Water Drawing, Feast of. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] [Cited: 29th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14794-water-drawing-feast-of.
25. Kathleen Mary Kenyon, Glenn Richard Bugh, Rashid Ismail Khalidi, Nabih Amin Faris, Ian J. Bickerton, Peter Marshall Fraser. Palestine. Encyclopedia Britannica. [Online] 27th April 2016. [Cited: 29th Aug. 2016.] https://www.britannica.com/place/Palestine#ref478855.
26. Judaica, Encyclopaedia. YANNAI (Jannaeus), ALEXANDER. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] 2008. [Cited: 29th Aug. 2016.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0021_0_21193.html.
27. New World Encyclopedia. Salome Alexandra. New World Encyclopedia. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Salome_Alexandra.
28. Taitz, Emily. Salome Alexandra – the first Hasmonean Queen of Judea. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/salome-alexandra/#.
29. Mindel, Nissan. Queen Salome Alexandra. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/112049/jewish/Queen-Salome-Alexandra.htm.
30. Weiner, James. The Forgotten Ancient Queen: Salome Alexandra of Judea. Ancient History et Cetera. [Online] 22nd Jan. 2013. [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://etc.ancient.eu/2013/01/22/the-forgotten-ancient-queen-salome-alexandra-of-judea/.
31. Silver, Carly. The Peace of Zion. Archaeology Archive. [Online] 2010. [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://archive.archaeology.org/online/features/iron_ladies/salome_alexandra.html.
32. Salome Alexandra, Queen of Judaea. Geni. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] https://www.geni.com/people/Salome-Alexandra-Queen-of-Judaea/6000000005789572102.
33. Hyrcanus II. Jordan Expert. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept 2016.] http://www.jordanexpert.com/html/hyrcanus_ii.htm.
34. John Hyrcanus II. Bibleview. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://bibleview.org/en/bible/400years/hyrcanus-ii/.
35. Hyrcanus II. Project Infrafting. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.project-ingrafting.com/Jesus_of_Nazareth_files/Bios_and_Events/3/Hyrcanus_II.pdf.
36. Astor, Berel Wein adapted by Yaakov. The End of the Hasmoneans, The Rise of Rome. Jewish History.org. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishhistory.org/end-of-hasmoneans-rise-of-rome-4/.
37. Hyrcanus II. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/hyrcanus2.html.
38. Richard Gottheil, Isaac Broydé. Hyrcanus II. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7973-hyrcanus-ii.
39. —. Hyrcanus II. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7973-hyrcanus-ii.
40. Britannica, Editors of Encyclopedia. John Hyrcanus II King of Judea. Encyclopaedia Britanica. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Hyrcanus-II.

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

* The priest Mattathias and his sons fought and killed to regain their religious freedom. What are your thoughts on this?
* They eventually won the battle but lost a lot of lives in the process. Was it worth it?
* Has your community ever faced such battles?
* How do you lead your community through times of conflict?
* What effect did pride have on the leaders and the nation?
* Do you think Judaism was developing in healthy or unhealthy ways? If you were trying to reform Judaism during this time what issues would you tackle?
* Who were the Pharisees?
* Who were the Sadducees?
* Who were the Essenes?
* Who were the Hasidim?
* Did the arguments over faith and practice between the Pharisees and Sadducees strengthen or weaken Judaism?
* Was God honoured by the ways the different groups fought over who had the right doctrines and the right way of worshipping Him?
* When we disagree with a fellow believer over doctrine, how can we be constructive instead of destructive in our disagreement?
* Who wins when we fight with one another?

Greek Conquest and Hellenization (332 – 166 BC)

Read Daniel 10-12
Greece – the belly and thighs of bronze, the leopard with four heads and four wings, the goat with the powerful horn that demolished the ram but was replaced by four horns.

By 400BC all the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) had been written.   The years between then and the coming of Messiah are often referred to as the “Silent Years” because there were no recognised Jewish prophets during this time and nothing written was considered worthy of being designated as scripture.  Yet, the scriptures are not silent about these years and, as we shall see, God was certainly not inactive during these years as He brought about what had been prophesied by Daniel, and prepared His people for the coming of their Messiah

332 BC saw a new challenge to Jewish society and religious thought as Greece rose to prominence in the region with the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great, and subsequent Hellenization of all their neighbouring peoples. 

Almost 200 years before, in the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia (535 BC), Daniel had received his last recorded vision (Daniel 10-12).  In this vision Daniel was told that a mighty king would arise in Greece and conquer all. 

Alexander the Great arose from Greece (Macedonia) and conquered Eurasia all the way to India, uniting all the peoples culturally and politically. This Hellenization was a major challenge for Judaism.

 Then, when this Geek conqueror was strong his kingdom would be broken and divided into four:

but not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others besides these.” (Daniel 11:2-4 WEB).

The third beast was like a leopard with four bird wings on its back and four heads (Daniel 7:6). 

History now tells us that the Greek ruler, Alexander the Great, defeated the Persians and created one of the largest empires of the ancient world by the age of thirty, but died at just 32yo in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, after which his brother and son were murdered and his empire was divided between his four generals: Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. (1) These four are referred to as the “Diadochi”, from the Greek, Diadokhoi, meaning “successors”.

Map of the land ruled over by each of Alexander the Great's successors

The two that would impact Israel in the years to come were Ptolemy (the king of the south) and Seleucus (the king of the north), as they kept jostling for power over that region and shifting the border between them.

God’s prophetic preparations…

Daniel’s visions gave a detailed account of what was to happen in the occupying kingdoms ruling over the Jewish people, and as we study Israel’s history through these years, we find the fulfilment of Daniel’s writings and gain a greater understanding of why there was such fervent expectation that God would send Messiah during the time of Herod’s reign in Jerusalem. 

In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream the third kingdom was a middle and thighs of bronze (Daniel 2:32c).  The vision in Daniel 8 describes a male goat coming from the west with a conspicuous horn between his eyes who struck the ram, shattered his two horns, hurled him to the ground and trampled on him.  This goat magnified himself exceedingly, but as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken and in its place there came up four horns towards the four winds of heaven (Daniel 8:5-8).  In Daniel 8:21 -22 this goat is identified as Greece and the large horn between its eyes as the first king, then the four horns that arose to replace it are four kingdoms which will arise from Greece but not with the power of its first king.  Daniel 9 gave a timeframe of 69 sevens of years from the decree to re-build Jerusalem until Messiah was to come, and be cut off.  Daniel’s final recorded vision, Daniel 10-12, described what was to happen under the rule of the third empire to reign over the Jewish people – Greece; and more particular, as Jerusalem keeps changing hands between the rulers of Ptolemy to the south and the rulers of Seleucus to the north, until a final one abolishes the daily sacrifices to God in the temple and sets up “the abomination that causes desolation“.

A godly High Priest…

Shimon Ha Tzaddik was High Priest (Kohen Gadol) at the time of Alexander the Great’s conquest, and the most renown of the High Priests of the second temple era. He is identified in Pirkei Avot (1:2) as “among the last of the Great Assembly.” That fabled institution, the “Men of the Great Assembly”, “Anshei Knesset HaGedolah,” is said to have been founded by Ezra and provided leadership for the Jewish People between the Biblical Period (the years during which the Hebrew Bible was written), and the Talmudic Period of Jewish history. Jews describe the Talmudic Period as the years (from around 330 BCE – 505CE) during which Torah-sages edited and collated the evolving teachings of the Mishna (Oral Torah) and the Talmud (commentary). It was into this period that Yeshua would be born.

Tradition has it that when Alexander the Great came to the gates of Jerusalem intent on destruction, Shimon Ha Tzaddik came out to him clothed in “Bigdei Lavan,” the white garments that he wore on Yom Kippur when he entered the Holy of Holies, and the Emperor descended from his chariot and bowed down to him.

When Alexander’s generals protested,
Such a great king as yourself bows to that Jew?

Alexander replied,
This face appeared to me before every battle which I won…”

Several miracles are attributed to the piety of Shimon Ha Tzaddik, and his most famous saying is: Upon three things the world is based: upon Torah, upon avodah (service; prayer), and upon acts of kindness. (Pirkei Avot 1:2)

Shimon Ha Tzaddik was followed as High Priest in 320 BC by his son Onias I (Honio ben Jaddua). There was no longer the accountability between prophet, high priest and king that had been the hallmark of early Jewish society. Under their foreign rulers the High Priests now exercised sole authority over the people, and this level of power corrupted many.

From Alexander to his generals…

Daniel’s third and fifth visions go into some detail about the impact of this Greek empire after Alexander’s passing.  It may have seemed strange at the time for God to give details concerning the conflicts between northern and southern heathen kingdoms.   Now we can look back and see that Israel ended up near the border of the territory of the Seleucids (who ruled Syria “the king of the North”) and the Ptolemies (who ruled Egypt “the king of the South”), and so was greatly impacted by the conflicts between them.  During the first 20 years Jerusalem changed hands between the Ptolemies and Seleucids five times.  This instability reduced Hellenism’s impact.

Daniel 11:5-35 outlines this conflict which lasted about two centuries.  If we read these verses without any detailed knowledge of what took place during those centuries, it is a bit confusing. However, they so closely correlate to what was to come, and has now been, that some liberal scholars have concluded that the last chapters of Daniel must not have been written until after the Maccabean revolt of 166 BC.  

Where the Greek Bible (Septuagint) came from…

Also the king of the South shall become strong, as well as one of his princes; and he shall gain power over him and have dominion. His dominion shall be a great dominion.    Daniel 11:5 NKJV

By 301 B.C. Ptolemy (the king of the South) had grown strong and established a firm hold on the land of Israel.  The process of Hellenization (the imposition of Greek language, reasoning, philosophy and culture) now accelerated while the people of Israel still enjoyed relative peace and freedom to practice their religion.  Ptolemy’s dominion was great as he had a passion for learning and books and so commissioned the first translation of the Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures) into Greek (the Septuagint).

The spread of Hellenism…

Hellenism spread through several avenues.  Military units were stationed throughout Judea and the soldiers who married native women were given homes and fields – incentivising a breakdown of ethnic purity.  Many Greek cities were established and run under the Greek democratic model. The Greek language was imposed as the official language for government and the main language for commerce.  Greek schools, temples, stadiums and theatres were established to foster the values of Greek culture.  This influx of sophisticated culture attracted many of the Jews who began to give their children Greek names and local styles of art and architecture began to imitate Greek models. 

One of the most famous aspects of that culture is Greek philosophy.  As Jews became exposed to this, they reframed it as having begun with King Solomon whose wisdom attracted leaders and thinkers from many regions, including Athens.  From this Jewish viewpoint, philosophy was just an adjunct of Torah that was given away to the wise men of Athens who visited Solomon.  The Greeks were said to have absorbed Solomon’s methodology and spirit of inquiry, taken it back with them and developed it in their own ways. (4)

Outside Judea, Greek became the lingua franca of the Jewish communities. A Hellenistic Judaism developed which had its metropolis in Alexandria, Egypt. This became the wealthiest, most powerful, influential and sophisticated Jewish community.  It is also reported to have been the largest Jewish community at that time.    They had built a synagogue that is described as having seated up to 10,000 people, and many other synagogues throughout Alexandria and Egypt.  At the court and in the army of the Ptolemies, the Jews rose to prominent positions, just as they had done in the Persian Empire. (5) (6)

Early Anti-Semitism…

Despite such prominence, or perhaps because of it, the Jews attracted ridicule and rebuke in Egypt. Jews and Egyptians did not share a common understanding of their common history.  Both saw themselves as superior to the other and had their own historical records to prove it.  Thus began a history war that dominated the interactions between Jewish and Hellenistic intellectual interactions throughout the Graeco-Roman period.  The earliest records of written attacks on the Jewish people and history are from the Egyptian historian Manetho during this time. He described the Jews as inferior, lacking in intelligence, not possessing proper character or cherished virtues, barbaric and seditious. The criticism and overt persecution of the Jews of Egypt reached its crescendo in the Hellenistic and early Roman periods, largely due to cultural elitism, xenophobia, and the metanarrative and practise of hegemony which came from the ideology of imperialism. (7) (8) (9)

The beginnings of the pharisaic movement…

Onias I (Honio ben Jaddua), was followed as High Priest in 280 BC by his son Simon I.   When Simion I (Shimon) died his brother Eleazar became High Priest (260-245 BC) while his most ardent disciple, Antigonus, founded a Torah school to pass on Shimon’s wisdom and further develop the wall around the Torah to protect the people from becoming defiled by the increasing Greek influence. The pharisaic movement had begun and some even referred to Antigonus as “Nassi“, a prince of the people in Torah study and teaching.   While the High Priest retained sole governance of the temple worship and political leadership of the people, this growing movement of Torah scholars and scribes saw it as their role to determine the doctrines Jews were to espouse and the laws they were to live under in order to retain their ethnic, cultural and religious purity.  (2) (3) 

Jews wrestled with Hellenising influences…

Ptolemy commissioned the first translation of the Tanakh into Greek (around 250 BC), the Septuagint, so named because 72 Jewish scholars were involved in translating the text (10) (11).  It is the order of the books in the Septuagint that is reflected in modern Christian Bibles, while the Tanakh sequence was finalised in the land of Israel after the time of Ezra.  The Egyptian Jews held an annual celebration of the translation of the Septuagint and it was used exclusively in many of their synagogues as Greek had become their mother tongue. They also saw it as an opportunity to open the Torah up to the wider world so it could have a positive influence on Greek society. Around the Septuagint a Jewish-Greek literature was created which soon became extensive.  

The Pharisees in Judea were horrified at the thought of others having access to their holy book. They saw no good in having the sacred words of scripture being translated into such a profane language as Greek.  To them this was not the spread of Judaism but the pollution of Judaism with the evils of Hellenization. (12)  

Despite their religious and social isolation, it was impossible that the Jewish communities dispersed to the west of Israel, and thus immersed in Greek culture and modes of thought, should remain unaffected by such.  The earnest Jew living in these lands could not shut his mind against Greek thought.  That restless, searching, subtle Greek intellect would penetrate everywhere, it was in the forum, in the market, in the counting house, in the street; in all that he saw, and in all to whom he spoke. Alfred Edersheim described the dilemma facing the observant Jew in the Greek world:

It was refined; it was elegant; it was profound; it was supremely attractive. He might resist, but he could not push it aside. Even in resisting, he had already yielded to it. For, once he opened the door to the questions which it brought, if it were only to expel, or repel them, he must give up that principle of simple authority on which traditionalism as a system rested. Hellenic criticism could not so be silenced, nor its searching light be extinguished by the breath of a rabbi. If he attempted this, the truth would not only be worsted before its enemies, but suffer detriment in his own eyes. He must meet argument with argument, and that not only for those who were without, but in order to be himself quite sure of what he believed. He must be able to hold it, not only in controversy with others, where pride might bid him stand fast, but in that much more serious contest within, where a man meets the old adversary alone in the secret arena of his own mind, and has to sustain that terrible hand-to-hand fight, in which he is uncheered by outward help. But why should he shrink from the contest, when he was sure that his was Divine truth, and that therefore victory must be on his side? … so the Hellenist would seek to conciliate the truths of Divine revelation with those others which, he thought, he recognized in Hellenism. … there was the intellectual view of the Scriptures – their philosophical understanding, the application to them of the results of Grecian thought and criticism. It was this which was peculiarly Hellenistic. … Strip these stories of their nationalism; idealise the individual of the persons introduced, and you came upon abstract ideas and realities, true to all time and to all nations. But this deep symbolism was Pythagorean; this pre-existence of ideas which were the types of all outward actuality, was Platonism! (8)   (emphasis mine)

This engagement of the Jewish dispersion with Greek thought conversely engaged the Greek world with Jewish thought.  Thus, the Greek world, despite popular hatred and the contempt of the upper classes, could not wholly withdraw itself from Jewish influences.  Indeed, there were many converts to Judaism among the Gentiles. 

Daniel 11 fulfilled in conflict between northern and southern Greek kingdoms…

And at the end of some years they shall join forces, for the daughter of the king of the South shall go to the king of the North to make an agreement; but she shall not retain the power of her authority, and neither he nor his authority shall stand; but she shall be given up, with those who brought her, and with him who begot her, and with him who strengthened her in those times.  Daniel 11:6 (NKJV)

Around 252 BCE, king of the South, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, sent his daughter Berenice to king of the North, Antiochus II Theos. His plan was to stop the war that was raging (the Second Syrian War) and unite the two kingdoms through their marriage.  In order to secure the peace and regain most of the Syrian possessions his father had lost to the king of the south, Antiochus II put away his wife, Laodice and her children, and married Berenice.  When Berenice gave birth to a son, Antiochus III, he was named as successor to the throne.    However, after Ptolemy II died in 246 BCE, Antiochus II repudiated his 6-year marriage to Berenice and returned to his first wife, Laodice.  Doubting his faithfulness, Laodice quickly murdered Antiochus II with poison and convinced her 19yo son, Seleucus II, to kill both Berenice and her young son.

But from a branch of her roots one shall arise in his place, who shall come with an army, enter the fortress of the king of the North, and deal with them and prevail.     Daniel 11:7 NKJV

Ptolemy III Euergetes, the eldest son of Ptolemy II and brother of Berenice, invaded the Seleucid kingdom in retaliation for the murder of his sister and nephew. His armies defeated the forces of new king of the North, Seleucus II and killed Laodice.

And he shall also carry their gods captive to Egypt, with their princes and their precious articles of silver and gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the North.     Daniel 11:8 NKJV

During the Third Syrian War, the king of the South, Ptolemy III, is credited with recovering many of the sacred statues that the Persian forces of Cambyses had carried off during their conquest of Egypt some three hundred years earlier. Because of this, he was known as Euergetes (“Benefactor”). Ptolemy III acquired much gold and silver during his victorious campaign. In fact, from Seleucia alone he received 1,500 talents of silver annually as tribute (about 10% of his annual income). Ptolemy III outlived Seleucus II by four or five years.

Connection between Jewish and Samaritan High Priests…

Back in Jerusalem Eleasar’s uncle, Manasseh, succeeded him as High Priest in 245 BC, but he had married a foreign woman and was given the choice to either leave the priesthood or divorce his wife – tradition has it that he left the priesthood in 240 BC to become high priest in the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim.  Onias II (son of Simion I), who had been too young for the office when his father died, now ascended to be High Priest.  According to the 1st Century Jewish historian Josephus, Onias II was a covetous man of limited intelligence, thus giving further impetus to the growing conviction among the Pharisees that they alone were qualified to lead the nation spiritually.

Continued Greek conflicts and intrigue…

Also, the king of the North [lit. “he”] shall come to the kingdom of the king of the South, but shall return to his own land.  Daniel 11:9 NKJV

In 240 BCE, the king of the North, Seleucus II, attempted to invade Egypt (the king of the South) in response to the humiliation he had suffered at the hands of Ptolemy III. However, he had to return in defeat after his fleet perished in a storm.

However his sons shall stir up strife, and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one shall certainly come and overwhelm and pass through; then he shall return to his fortress and stir up strife.     Daniel 11:10 NKJV

The sons of Seleucus II were Seleucus III, Ceraunos (“Thunder”) and Antiochus III (the Great). Seleucus III, the eldest son of Seleucus II, began a war against the Egyptian provinces in Asia Minor. However, he was unsuccessful and was assassinated by members of his army in Asia Minor in 223 BCE. Seleucus II’s younger son, Antiochus III, took the throne at the age of 18 after his brother’s death. In 219-218 BCE, Antiochus III victoriously went through Judea, coming almost to the borders of Egypt.

On Onias’ death in 218 BCE his son Simon II succeeded him as High Priest and was greatly respected by all as he steered the nation through the turbulent times of the shift in Greek power to the Seleucians.  (12) (11)

And the king of the South shall be moved with rage, and go out and fight with him, with the king of the North, who shall muster a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into the hand of his enemy.   Daniel 11:11 NKJV

Antiochus III met Ptolemy IV at the Battle of Raphia (also known as the Battle of Gaza) in 217 BCE. Antiochus III, the king of the North, had 62,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and 103 war elephants. But the forces of Ptolemy IV, king of the South, were victorious in the battle and Antiochus III was forced to withdraw into Lebanon.

When he has taken away the multitude, his heart will be lifted up; and he will cast down tens of thousands, but he will not prevail. For the king of the North will return and muster a multitude greater than the former, and shall certainly come at the end of some years with a great army and much equipment.    Daniel 11:12-13 NKJV

After the death of Ptolemy IV in 204 BCE, Antiochus III rallied his forces once again to attack the kingdom of the South. In the Fifth Syrian War (202-195 BCE), Antiochus III swept down into Judea and retook the territory that he had occupied some eighteen years previously.

Now in those times many shall rise up against the king of the South. Also, violent men of your people shall exalt themselves in fulfilment of the vision, but they shall fall.    Daniel 11:14 NKJV

Antiochus III negotiated an alliance with King Philip V of Macedonia to divide up Egypt’s Asian possessions and in 199 BC inflicted a crushing defeat on the Ptolemaic forces near the headwaters of the Jordan River.  According to Josephus, the Jews went over to Antiochus and readily assisted him when he besieged the garrison which was in the citadel of Jerusalem.

Then the king of the North shall come and throw up siege works and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the South shall not stand, or even his best troops, for there shall be no strength to stand. But he who comes against him shall do according to his own will, and no one shall stand against him. He shall stand in the Glorious Land with destruction in his power.     Daniel 11:15-16 NKJV

Following his defeat at Paneas, Scopas fled to the fortified port city of Sidon. But after Antiochus III besieged it, Scopas surrendered in 199 BCE in exchange for safe passage out of the city back to Egypt. He and his troops were allowed to leave the city naked after giving up their weapons.  With his final victory over Scopas at Sidon, Antiochus the Great took the Holy Land away from the Egyptians for good. Judea and Jerusalem had passed from the king of the South to the king of the North.

Formation of the Sanhedrin

In 198 B.C. the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus of Syria (Antiochus the Great / Antiochus III) won control of Judea.  As in other states under Greek rule, he created a Senate (or Council) in Jerusalem to govern the nation.   (Greek: συνέδριον, gerusia “sitting together”, hence “assembly” or “council”, always signifies an aristocratic body; Hebrew:: סנהדרין‎‎, sanhedrin).   In Greek and Roman literature the senates of Sparta, Carthage, and even Rome were also called Sanhedrin.  This aristocratic council of priests and elders was presided over by the hereditary leader of the nation, in this case the High Priest. Since the reins of government were held by the High Priest during this time, Simon II, he also bore the title “Nassi” (prince).  This became the official title for the president of the Jewish Sanhedrin, which was composed of seventy members, plus the president.  The number seventy drew links back to Moses’ seventy elders (Exodus 18:13-26; 24:1; Numbers 11:11-17, 24-30) and so brought a sense of Jewish respectability to this otherwise Hellenistic institution. (13) (14)

Under the Seleucians there arose among the Jewish population in Judea a group called the Misyavim, meaning Hellenists, who adopted Greek culture as a way of life to such a degree that they were considered by the Pharisees to have given up their Jewish culture and identity.   With increasing division between the different schools in Judaism over what constituted Mosaic Law, whether it included the ‘Oral Law’ or not, how it was to be interpreted and what of Hellenism was to be embraced or rejected, the composition and decisions of the new gerusia (which was to become the Sanhedrin) were no small matter when it came to the development of Judaism.  As the initial gerusia were comprised of the aristocracy of Jerusalem, most of whom had been far more eager to embrace Hellenism than the general populace, the direction they tried to lead the nation was not always the one people wanted to follow.  This provided strong impetus for the Pharisees to continue all the more vigorously building their wall around the Torah throughout all the towns of Judea and seek the political power of being admitted to the Sanhedrin.

Rome enters the picture…

He shall also set his face to enter with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him; thus shall he do. And he shall give him the daughter of women to destroy it; but she shall not stand with him, or be for him. Daniel 11:17 NKJV

Young Ptolemy V had entered into a treaty with Antiochus III after his military defeat in the Fifth Syrian War. Through this treaty, Antiochus III tried to strengthen his position and expand his empire even further. Ptolemy V surrendered his Asian holdings to the king of the North and accepted Antiochus III’s daughter, Cleopatra I, as a bride. They were married in 194 BCE. Through this marriage, Antiochus III sought to gain a foothold in Egypt itself but his plan backfired. Cleopatra I was a true wife to Ptolemy V, standing by him instead of seeking to benefit her father. Cleopatra I was beloved by the Egyptian people for her loyalty to her husband.

After this he shall turn his face to the coastlands, and shall take many. But a ruler shall bring the reproach against them to an end; and with the reproach removed, he shall turn back on him.   Daniel 11:18 NKJV

In 192 BCE, the ambitious Antiochus III crossed into Greece to aid the Aetolians. Then went to war against Rome. He sailed across the Aegean Sea and took some strongholds in Asia Minor but in so doing alienated his former ally, Macedonian king Philip V. The Roman army entered Asia Minor and defeated the larger forces of Antiochus III at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BCE.   In the peace treaty of Apamea in 188 BCE, Roman general Publius Scipio set a high cost on Antiochus III for peace. He demanded twenty hostages (including his son, Antiochus IV), a reduction of naval ships to twelve, and payment to Rome for the cost of the war totalling 15,000 talents over the next twelve years. The all-consuming ambition of Antiochus III had finally brought defeat to the kingdom of the North.

Then he shall turn his face toward the fortress of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found.  Daniel 11:19 NKJV

As a consequence of the Roman victory over Antiochus III, the outlying provinces of the Seleucid empire again reasserted their independence. Antiochus III, in dire need of funds with which to pay Rome for the cost of the war, attempting to plunder a pagan temple in Babylon and was murdered in 187 BC.

Simon II’s son, Onias III, succeeded him as High Priest and head of the Sanhedrin in 185 BC.  Onias III is described as a pious man, of the religious persuasions of the Pharisees, who argued strongly against the policies of the Hellenizers in the Sanhedrin.

His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendour. In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle.   Daniel 11:20 NIV

Antiochus III’s eldest son, Seleucus IV, took over after his father’s death. Due to the heavy debt burden imposed by Rome, he was forced to seek an ambitious taxation policy on his shrunken empire. This included heavy taxation on the people of Israel and even extracting money from the temple in Jerusalem.

The Roman senate decided to trade hostages; therefore, they ordered Seleucus IV to send his son Demetrius, the heir to the throne, to Rome. In return, the Romans released Seleucus IV’s younger brother, Antiochus IV. When released, Antiochus IV went to Athens.  In 175 BCE, after Demetrius had been sent away to Rome, Seleucus IV was poisoned by his minister Heliodorus. Some historians think that Heliodorus desired the throne for himself, while others believe that Antiochus IV was behind the murder. Seleucus’ young son, (another Antiochus – age 5) was put on the throne in his place. However, Heliodorus was the actual power behind the throne.

And in his place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honour of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.  Daniel 11:21 NKJV

With Seleucus IV dead, the rightful heir to the throne was the young Demetrius. However, he was no longer available, having been sent to Rome as a hostage. At the time of the murder, Antiochus IV was in Athens.  When he heard of his brother’s death, he quickly sailed to Pergamum. Once there, he sought the help of Eumenes II, the king of Pergamum. By flattering Eumenes II and his brother Attalus, he received their support and backing.  Antiochus IV arrived in Seleucia with a powerful ally and thwarted Heliodorus’ designs on the throne. It was still 175 BC when Antiochus IV took power to become co-regent and protector of Seleucus IV’s 5yo son.

With the force of a flood they shall be swept away from before him and be broken, and also the prince of the covenant.  Daniel 11:22 NKJV

Corruption overruns the Jewish priesthood…

Because of his ability to charm people and ally himself with them, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (“god manifest“) was able to overcome all threats to his throne. He had little regard for the religion of the Jewish people and took advantage of the corruption in the priesthood at that time, upsetting the line of succession of the High Priests. As local governance, with all the accompanying power, prestige and accumulation of wealth, was the domain of the priests, with the High Priest ruling over all, this position was highly sought by those with personal ambition. The prince of the covenant here is a reference to the Jewish high priest Onias III, whom Antiochus IV replaced with his brother Jason for a bribe that same year.  Jason and the Sanhedrin promoted Greek culture in Jerusalem by introducing many Greek customs and building a gymnasium. 

Just three years later Jason’s emissary to Antiochus, Menelaus, made use of his position also to bribe the king and was thus appointed to High Priest in 172 BC even though he was not of the priestly line.  Menelaus proceeded ruthlessly to oppress his people and plunder the treasures of the Temple. Menelaus and his brother Lysimachus took the golden vessels of the Temple and sold them to raise the money they needed to pay the royal tribute and keep their positions of power.  When Onias III, the lawful High Priest, protested this act, they had him murdered.   

Jewish society in the cities, while generally still adhering staunchly to monotheism, was becoming increasingly Hellenised in language, sports, entertainments and clothes.  With such rapid change came ever stronger divisions in Jewish society between the Hellenists and traditionalists.

Jewish temple and worship in Egypt…

Onias III’s son, Onias IV, fled to Egypt and built a Jewish Temple at Leontopolis where he presided as High Priest.  Onias IV justified building a temple outside Jerusalem on the basis of Isaiah’s prophesy:

In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. And it will be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Saviour and a Mighty One, and He will deliver them. Then the Lord will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day, and will make sacrifice and offering; yes, they will make a vow to the Lord and perform it. Isaiah 19:19-21

The Leontopolis temple served the large Jewish population in Egypt who sacrificed regularly there, even while continuing to fulfil their duty towards the temple in Jerusalem.  All the Jewish sacrifices and feasts were performed at this temple under the continuing Zadok line of the High Priesthood.  This persisted until the Romans destroyed this temple, three years after destroying the Jerusalem temple.  (15) (16) (17) (18)

Deceitful dealings…

And after the league is made with him he shall act deceitfully, for he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people.  Daniel 11:23 NKJV

In Egypt, the 14-year old Ptolemy VI Philometer had become king. He was the nephew of Antiochus IV; his mother (Cleopatra I) being Antiochus IV’s sister. Antiochus IV sought an alliance with Ptolemy VI, seeking to take advantage of what he perceived as weakness in the Ptolemaic kingdom and gain Egypt for himself. He moved through Syria and Judea into Egypt with a small army, so as to not arouse suspicion to his true motive, and seized Egypt. His cover story was that he was coming to act as the “protector” of his nephew, Ptolemy VI.

He shall enter peaceably, even into the richest places of the province; and he shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his forefathers: he shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil, and riches; and he shall devise his plans against the strongholds, but only for a time.   Daniel 11:24 NKJV

Antiochus IV pursued a novel plan for gaining the Egyptian-controlled provinces. He moved into the parts of the kingdom that were the richest. Then he did something that no other Seleucid king had ever done, spread around some of the spoils from his war campaigns to secure the loyalty of the people.  It is even reported that he would go into the streets and throw money to the citizens there. However, this was only the beginning of Antiochus IV’s plan. Using his cunning, he visited Egyptian strongholds to find out their power.

He shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the South with a great army. And the king of the South shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand, for they shall devise plans against him.  Yes, those who eat of the portion of his delicacies shall destroy him; his army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain.  Daniel 11:25-26 NKJV

In 170 BCE Antiochus IV decided to take Egypt by force in what came to be known as the Sixth Syrian War. The Egyptians had a large army arrayed against him at Pelusium, which is near the Nile Delta. Ptolemy VI’s army, although large, was not able to withstand Antiochus IV who had corrupted several of the Egyptian ministers and officers.

In the midst of man’s evil, God is still sovereign…

Both these kings’ hearts shall be bent on evil, and they shall speak lies at the same table; but it shall not prosper, for the end will still be at the appointed time.  Daniel 11:27 NKJV

With that phrase “for the end will still be at the appointed timeDaniel gives us the sense that despite all of man’s intrigues and plans, God is still sovereign and has a divine timetable for the events of history.  After he took control of Pelusium and Memphis, Antiochus IV set his sights on Alexandria. Due to the intrigues of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (“god manifest“) mentioned in verse 26, the Alexandrians had renounced their allegiance to Ptolemy VI, and had made his younger brother, Ptolemy VII Euergetes, king in his place. While at Memphis, Antiochus IV and Ptolemy VI had frequent conferences. Antiochus IV professed his great friendship to his nephew and concern for his interests, but his true plan was to weaken Egypt by setting the brothers against one another.  Conversely, Ptolemy VI professed gratitude to his uncle for the interest he took in his affairs. He laid the blame of the war upon his minister Eulaeus, one the guardians appointed to watch over him after his father’s death. All the while, Ptolemy VI sought to smooth over things with his brother Ptolemy VII so they could join forces against their deceitful uncle, Antiochus IV.

In 170 BCE, the younger Antiochus was murdered while Antiochus IV was conveniently absent, paving the way for him to take sole possession of the throne.

While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so he shall do damage and return to his own land. Daniel 11:28 NKJV

While Antiochus IV was engaged in Egypt, a false rumour arose in Judea that he had been killed. This prompted deposed high priest Jason to raise an army of 1,000 men and attack Jerusalem. His army captured the city and forced Antiochus IV’s appointed high priest Menelaus to take refuge in the Akra fortress in Jerusalem.

When news of the fighting in Jerusalem reached Antiochus IV Epiphanes (“god manifest“) , he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt against him.  In 170 BC Antiochus IV left Egypt and on his way home marched against Jerusalem. His army massacred the inhabitants, 80,000 Jewish men, women and children in three days. A similar number were captured and sold into slavery.  He also entered the Temple and took the holy vessels, including the golden altar, the menorah (seven-branched golden lampstand), the table for the showbread, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple, then returned to Antioch.  Menelaus was restored to the high priesthood and retained that position until 161 BC. (12)

Many of the wealthier Jews in the cities of Judea were drawn to the apparent sophistication, great learning and philosophical thought of Hellenism. Some even embraced this as superior to their own traditions.  Conflict was growing within the Jewish community between those who embraced Hellenization and those who despised it.  The official leaders of the people, High Priest and most of the Sanhedrin, were among those who promoted Hellenism at this time. That left Jews trying to hold onto their traditional way of life feeling increasingly dispossessed in their own nation, stirring calls to depose their leaders.  

At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter.  Daniel 11:29 NKJV

In 168 BCE Antiochus IV once again sought to go to war against Egypt. However, this time he would not have the same success as he achieved previously.

For ships from Cyprus [Kittim] shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. Daniel 11:30 NKJV

The “ships from Kittim” here refer to the ships which brought the Roman legions to Egypt in fulfilment of their new defence pact with the Ptolemy brothers who were now aligned.  In 167 BC Antiochus IV and his army marched toward Alexandria and were met by three Roman senators led by Gaius Popillius. There, Roman ambassador Popillius delivered to Antiochus IV the Senate’s demand that he withdraw from Egypt. When the king requested time for consultation, Popillius drew a circle around Antiochus IV with a stick he was carrying and told him not to leave the circle until he gave his response. Astonished and humiliated by this display of Roman arrogance, Antiochus had no choice but to bow to their demands.

Truth was thrown to the ground…

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (“god manifest“) retreated back to Syria in a rage and disturbed by reports of growing conflict among the Jews decided to salve his wounded pride by exerting his will over Jerusalem.

And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.  Daniel 11:31 NKJV

Here we’re brought back to Daniel 8 where he sees a little horn come out of one of the four divisions of the Greek empire that exalted himself and took away the daily sacrifices (Vs 9-14 & 21-26).  

Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land… It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.  … In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes.  Daniel 8:9, 11-12, 23-25a NIV

Antiochus IV’s army descended on Jerusalem, slaughtered multitudes, desecrated the Temple and stopped the daily sacrifices. On the 15th Kislev, in December 167 BC, the Syrians built a pagan altar over the altar of burnt offering in the Temple and placed an image of Zeus upon it – the ‘abomination of desecration’.  Ten days later, on the 25th Kislev, swine’s flesh was offered on the altar to Zeus. 

Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”
He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”       Daniel 8:13-14 NIV

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (“god manifest“) was an anti-Christ (anti-Messiah/ anti-the anointed one) determined to exterminate the Jewish religion.  He outlawed any possession, reading of or obedience to Torah and resorted to every conceivable torture to force the Jews to renounce their religion, their laws and their God, seeking to replace Judaism with a universal religion of Greek polytheism.   Only those in the city who had forsaken the Torah and allied themselves with him and his Greek polytheistic religion survived this attack.    

With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.     Daniel 11:32-35 NIV

According to II Maccabees 6:2, Antiochus IV ordered the Temple to be renamed for Zeus Olympios.  Worst of all, he managed to convince many of the Jews that they were being modern, sophisticated and open minded in rejecting Judaism and joining him in the persecution of their ‘backward brothers’ who were ‘stuck in the past’.  “Many also of the Israelites consented to his [Antiochus’] religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the Sabbath” (I Macc.1:20-53).  Others, particularly peasants in the countryside, were horrified and a group called Hasidim (the “pious ones”) emerged in resistance to these changes. Rabbinical sources describe him as “the wicked.” (19) (20) (21) (22) (5) (6) (10).

Antiochus IV is considered to be a ‘type’ of the antichrist to come.  One who considered himself above God and attempted to abolish all worship of God and obedience to His Torah.  Surely, many thought, such a time as this is when Messiah would come to destroy the kingdoms of this world and establish God’s eternal kingdom on earth.  Gabriel had told Daniel “the vision concerns the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17).  As Daniel’s other visions had made it clear that the Greek empire was not the “time of the end”, this riddle suggested that history repeats itself, that the Greek ruler Antiochus IV was just a picture of the one who was to come in the end time and rage against the Lord’s anointed.  But still the time was not yet.  The fourth beast had not yet arisen, the iron legs kingdom had not yet arisen over Israel, and still they must wait for the appointed time of Messiah’s coming and reign.   (23) (24) (25) (26) (27)

Reference List

1. Kaiser, Walter C. The Book of Daniel. Torah Class. [Online] [Cited: 23rd Oct. 2016.] http://www.torahclass.com/archived-articles/1402-the-book-of-daniel-lesson-10-chapters-10-11-12.
2. Sanhedrin. Biblical Training. [Online] [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/sanhedrin.
3. Wilhelm Bacher, Jacob Zallel Lauterbach. SANHEDRIN. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 3rd Sept 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13178-sanhedrin.
4. The Coming of the Greeks. Jewish History. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept 2016.] http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-coming-of-the-greeks/.
5. Schiffman, Lawrence H. Palestine in the Hellenistic Age. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: 27th Aug. 2016.] http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/palestine-in-the-hellenistic-age/#.
6. Palmer, Micheal W. History & Literature of the Bible The Hellenistic Age. Greek Language. [Online] 19th October 2002. [Cited: 27th Aug. 2016.] http://greek-language.com/bible/palmer/11hellenisticage.pdf.
7. Thayer, Bill. The Fragments of Manetho. Manetho. [Online] [Cited: 2nd Oct. 2016.] http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Manetho/History_of_Egypt/2*.html.
8. Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Grand Rapids, Ml: : Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1886.
9. Armin Lange, K.F.Diethard Römheld, Matthias Weigold. Judaism and Crisis: Crisis as a Catalyst in Jewish Cultural History. Oakville : Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011.
10. Astor, Berel Wein adapted by Yaakov. The Hell in Hellenism. Jewish History.com. [Online] [Cited: 27th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-hell-in-hellenism/ .
11. A.M., William Whiston. Josephus – The Complete Works. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998.
12. God’s Secret. 2nd Temple History and More – Persian and Hellenistic Periods (538-142 BCE). [Online] 19th Sept. 2008. [Cited: 19th Sept. 2016.] https://godssecret.wordpress.com/2008/09/19/what-do-you-want-know-who-you-stand-before/.
13. Gerousia. The Sanhedrin – History and Function. St John Lutheran. [Online] 2008. [Cited: 6th Sept. 2016.] http://www.stjohnlutheran-elyria.org/images/11-25-The%20Sanhedrin%20-%20History%20and%20Function.pdf.
14. Morrison, W. D. The Sanhedrin, or Supreme National Council. Heritage History. [Online] [Cited: 6th Sept. 2016.] http://www.heritage-history.com/?c=read&author=morrison&book=romanjew&story=sanhedrin.
15. Lists of High Priests of Israel. Wikipedia. [Online] [Cited: 4th Sept. 2016.] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_High_Priests_of_Israel#Herodian-Roman_period.
16. The Return of the Priests of the House of Zadok. Bible Searchers. [Online] [Cited: 3rd Sept. 2016.] http://www.biblesearchers.com/yahshua/davidian/dynasty3.shtml#ReturnZadok.
17. Richard Gottheil, Samuel Krauss. Leontopolis (Greek = Lion City). Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 4th Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9772-leontopolis.
18. Kantrowitz, Jonathan. Jewish Temples of Onias & Elephantine in Egypt. Archaelology News Report. [Online] 6th Sept. 2008. [Cited: 4th Sept. 2016.] http://archaeologynewsreport.blogspot.com.au/2008/09/jewish-temples-of-onias-elephantine-in.html.
19. Antiochus IV Epiphanes. New World Encyclopedia. [Online] 5th April 2016. [Cited: 31st Oct. 2016.] http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Antiochus_IV_Epiphanes#Antiochus_and_the_Jews.
20. Antiochus IV Epiphanes Bust. Bible History. [Online] [Cited: 31st Oct. 2016.] http://www.bible-history.com/archaeology/greece/2-antiochus-iv-bust-bb.html.
21. Bright, John. The History of Israel. Kentucky : Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.
22. Tenney, Merrill C. The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 4: Revised Full-Color Edition. s.l. : Zondervan.
23. Kaiser, Walter C. The Book of Daniel Lesson 10:Daniel Chs. 10,11,12. Torah Class. [Online] [Cited: 25th Oct. 2016.] http://www.torahclass.com/archived-articles/1402-the-book-of-daniel-lesson-10-chapters-10-11-12.
24. Gordon, I. Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 11 A Tale of Three Madmen. Jesus Plus Nothing. [Online] [Cited: 25th Oct. 2016.] http://www.jesusplusnothing.com/studies/online/Daniel11.htm#_ftn1.
25. Franklin, Pat. Daniel 11 as History. Christian + Revolution. [Online] [Cited: 25th Oct. 2016.] http://www.christian-revolution.net/studyRender.php?studyID=29.
26. Walvoord, John F. 11. World History From Darius To The Time Of The End. Bible.org. [Online] [Cited: 25th Oct. 2016.] https://bible.org/seriespage/11-world-history-darius-time-end.
27. Huie, Bryan T. DANIEL 11 – PROPHECY FULFILLED! Here a Little, There a Little. [Online] 2nd January 2012. [Cited: 16th Oct. 2016.] http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm?page_name=Daniel11.

In the comments section below share your thoughts on some of the following questions…

* Sometimes God speaks and sometimes God acts. What actions was God doing between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New?
* What has God been doing in your community?
* What are some differences between western (Greek) ways of thinking and eastern ways of thinking like the Jews were working hard to hold on to?
* What ways of thinking and educating are dominant in your culture?
* Some of the actions that were considered virtues in Greek thought were considered abominations to God. Are there things that your culture calls good that God calls evil?
* In many ways the Jewish people were being moulded by the Greek culture surrounding them, but they were also impacting that culture and seeing people converted to Judaism. In what ways is your church being moulded by the surrounding culture and in what ways is it changing the surrounding culture?
* Why are the wealthy often the most compromised with the ways of the world around us?
* How could the people know that it was not yet time for Messiah when Antiochus IV set up the abomination in the Temple?