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Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

Matthew 11:2-3 reported that, while in prison, John the Baptist heard about what his Jesus was doing, and wanted to know more. What Matthew didn’t report was the conditions John endured in prison.

Historians tell us that John the Baptist was imprisoned in the castle fortress of Machaerus, located just east of the Dead Sea in Judea. King Herod Antipas (also known as Herod the tetrarch) had committed sins of marital corruption and John the Baptist preached publicly against the king’s immorality. Antipas exacted vengeance, locking John up indefinitely in the dungeon of his fortress.

Although we don’t know exactly what John’s prison cell in Machaerus was like, we can make a reasonable guess about this kind of “Roman hospitality” based on the Tullianum prison in the center of the city of Rome (where Simon Peter would later be jailed). The only prison in Rome proper, Tullianum was “a conical, windowless chamber of rough-hewn tufa, the only entrance to which is a hole in the floor of the room above.” According to historians, “Prisoners were flung through this hole into the prison, and on occasion left there to starve and rot.” A Numidian king named Jugurtha was imprisoned here in 104 BC, and his first comment was that it was unbearably cold.

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In Machaerus, it’s likely that John’s prison cell was comparable to Tullianum—and the Baptist suffered more than a year imprisoned there, until he was unceremoniously decapitated in his cell simply to please the whims of Antipas’ cruel wife, Herodias (Matthew 14:1-12).

 

Works Cited:

[GSM, 101-102; ZB1, 71; ARF, 78]

 

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Matthew 10:1-42; Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Bible Difficulties)

posted by Mike Nappa

 

Matthew 10:23 quotes Jesus as saying to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” This appears to be a reference to the second coming of Jesus—and it clearly didn’t happen. So…how do we make sense of that? Theologians offer several theories:

  • Jesus was promising to appear to his disciples after he raised himself from the dead. This interpretation assumes “Jesus was promising that the disciples would witness the eschatological coming of the Son of Man…at his resurrection.”
  • Jesus was promising to return to his disciples as the living presence of his invisible Holy Spirit, a promise which was fulfilled dynamically at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13).
  • Jesus was indicating a “continuing mission” to Israel over the ages, and was offering “comfort to the mission-disciples about their ultimate salvation unto the end…the mission to Israel will not conclude before the Son of Man returns. There will be a continuing mission to Israel alongside the mission to the Gentiles.”
  • Jesus was referencing his future second coming, millennia away, but “he was not saying that the Twelve would personally see this. Rather, he means to instill a sense of urgency in the mission to Israel by stating that it will not be complete by the time of his return.”

 

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Works Cited:

[HAC, 78-79]

 

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Matthew 10:1-42; Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

“They will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues…”

Don’t gloss over Jesus’ promise of flogging that’s recorded in Matthew 10:17—you can be sure his disciples didn’t. Here’s what happened when one of Jesus’ disciples was flogged in a synagogue:

  • Any person—man or woman—deemed guilty of entering the temple while unclean would be subject to the punishment of flogging. After Acts 10:9-16 happened (when God lifted the ban on eating certain meats), synagogue officials would have deemed most Christians guilty of being unclean.
  • After the synagogue officials had passed judgment, Jesus’ disciple was stripped to the waist and made to lie down, or crouch low to the ground. His or her hands were tied to a pillar for the duration of the flogging.
  • Four people were required to conduct the flogging. A hazzan (“administrator”) did the actual whipping. A second person counted the number of blows. A third person gave the commands. And a fourth person read aloud Deuteronomy 28:58-59 while the beating took place.
  • The hazzan would use a sturdy leather whip for the flogging. This was usually a whip made of four plaited thongs attached to a handle.
  • The standard number of lashes was 40, though most often one of Jesus’ disciples was whipped 39 times (known as 40 less one). This was done just in case the hazzan and/or the counter lost count sometime during the bloody delivery of punishment.
  • One-third of the lashes (about 13) were delivered to the disciple’s chest, and the remainder (about 26) were delivered to the back.
  • If Jesus’ disciple appeared near death as a result flogging, the hazzan was supposed to stop. In spite of that, “there are records of people dying” from a synagogue flogging.

 

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Works Cited:

[ZB1, 69]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

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Matthew 10:1-42; Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Cross-Reference Comparisons)

posted by Mike Nappa

So…were there really 13 apostles of Jesus?

The New Testament gives four separate listings of Jesus’ inner-circle disciples, a group of men known as “the Twelve.” The list in Matthew 10:2-4 claims to be a complete summary of “the names of the twelve apostles.” That list includes:

  • Simon (who is called Peter)
  • Andrew
  • James son of Zebedee
  • John
  • Philip
  • Bartholomew
  • Thomas
  • Matthew the tax collector
  • James son of Alphaeus
  • Thaddaeus (sometimes written as Lebbaeus)
  • Simon the Zealot
  • Judas Iscariot (the betrayer)

Mark’s list (in Mark 3:16-19) is identical to Matthew’s except that the order of the names is changed. But a question arises in the lists found in Luke 6:14-16 and Acts 1:13. In these lists, 11 of the 12 are the same as those in Matthew (though Judas Iscariot is left off the list in Acts). The name of Thaddeus, though, is not included by Luke in either his gospel of the book of Acts (which Luke also wrote). Additionally, another name—“Judas son of James”—is added to the list of apostles in both of Luke’s books.

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So what gives? Where there really 13 apostles? Most Bible historians think the answer is no.

The literary and historical evidence suggest that, just as Simon was also called Peter, Judas son of James was also called Thaddeus—a nickname that he preferred exclusively after Christ’s death and resurrection. As such, most theologians believe Biblical mentions of “Judas son of James” and “Thaddeus” actually refer to the same person. Dr. Michael Wilkins comments, “After the name Judas became stigmatized because of the traitorous Judas Iscariot, Judas the son of James changed his name to Thaddeus. In that case, Matthew and Mark provided the safer and alternative name, while Luke stuck with the controversial name.”

 

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Works Cited:

[HAC, 75-76]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Previous Posts

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Historical Backgrounds)
Matthew 11:2-3 reported that, while in prison, John the Baptist heard about what his Jesus was doing, and wanted to know more. What Matthew didn’t report was the conditions John endured in prison. Historians tell us that John the Baptist ...

posted 12:00:42pm Apr. 20, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 10:1-42; Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Bible Difficulties)
  Matthew 10:23 quotes Jesus as saying to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” This appears to be a reference to the second coming of Jesus—and ...

posted 12:00:07pm Apr. 17, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 10:1-42; Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Historical Backgrounds)
“They will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues…” Don’t gloss over Jesus’ promise of flogging that’s recorded in Matthew 10:17—you can be sure his disciples didn’t. Here’s what happened when ...

posted 12:00:06pm Apr. 15, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 10:1-42; Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (Cross-Reference Comparisons)
So…were there really 13 apostles of Jesus? The New Testament gives four separate listings of Jesus’ inner-circle disciples, a group of men known as “the Twelve.” The list in Matthew 10:2-4 claims to be a complete summary of “the ...

posted 12:00:05pm Apr. 13, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 9:35-38; The Workers Are Few (Word Study)
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posted 12:00:19pm Apr. 10, 2015 | read full post »

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