Samaritan Passover

The Samaritan Passover has just been celebrated (April 28, 2010). In so doing, they mainly follow the instructions of Exodus 12 and Deuteronomy 16 in sacrificing lambs, albeit with a few local traditions as well. This is performed on Mount Gerizim together with the eating of the lambs in the same night. Any left overs are burned before daybreak.

Aren Maeir, a professor at Bar Ilan University was invited to the latest event and blogs about it--including photos--on his blog. It is worth a read as it captures some of the atmosphere that must have pervaded the temple in Jerusalem during prior to C.E. 80.

Interestingly, the Passover is kept at the beginning of the 14th according to the Hebrew Calendar, but in this case on the second month. Whether this was an intercalary year for the Samaritans is not given. I've tried to find information previously on the Samaritan calendar but have not found anything of substance on-line.


Tags: Temple, Passover, Samaritians, Aren Maeir, sacrifices, passover lambs

Chanukkah and the Maccabees Again

New archaeological discovery sheds new light on events leading to the rededication of the Temple

Over the past few years in the Judean hills, parts of a stele (an inscribed tablet) have been recovered containing an edict from Seleucus IV, the elder brother of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes). The stele addresses the payment of taxes by Judea and has given fresh insight into the Maccabean revolt which resulted in the festival of Chanukkah to celebrate the victory over Antiochus and the cleansing of the temple. The edict was carved in stone to be viewed and read by the populace.

Details of the stele and how it was discovered are outlined in the Jerusalem Post of December 11, 2009. The stele which was first reassembled in February this year, helps authenticate the account of the Maccabees recorded in 2 Maccabees.

H/T to

Tags: Archaeology, Temple, Antiochus IV, Chanukkah, Maccabees

The Origins of Chanukkah

The Gospel of John is important to understanding the event
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Details: The Origins of Chanukkah

Tonight, the Jewish world welcomes not only the Sabbath, but the start of the celebration of Chanukkah, an eight-day festival to celebrate the purging and restoration of the temple after the desecration of Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century BCE. 

Many legends surround the festival, leading some to question the whole detail of the event. Clearly the eight days of the celebration mirror the original dedication of the temple under Solomon as recorded in 1 Kings 8.  But the timing is different. That dedication took place during the autumnal seventh month at the Festival of Tabernacles, also known as Sukkot. Chanukkah takes place in the winter during the ninth month. 

This point is made in the Gospel. John records Jesus and the disciples being in the temple during the Feast of Dedication and mentioning that it was winter (John 10:22).  John is not confusing the two festivals, because in preceding chapters he records Jesus’s presence in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles in detail (John 7:1ff). So John establishes and links the re-dedication of the temple to this event.

John is very careful about the festivals in his Gospel account, providing a portrayal of Jesus as an observant Jew of His day, keeping the festivals outlined within Scripture, as well as those national events that had been added subsequently such as Chanukkah.

With the loss of the temple in 70 CE, the festival of Chanukkah changed focus so that the focus is now upon the individuals who acted, rather than the result of rededicating of the temple to enable the true worship of the God of Israel.

That provides a salutary lesson for us today. How easy is it for humanity to focus upon the wrong aspect of life!


Tags: Jesus Christ, Temple, Festivals, Chanukkah, Gospel of John

The New Testament Environment

Book examines the religious sentiments in Judaea in the first century

"Common Judaism" was a term coined by E.P. Sanders to describe the religious sensibilities among people who lived during the period known as the Second Temple. This period coincided with the life of Jesus Christ, who, like the majority of the populace, did not follow the strictures of the major religious groups such as Sadducees, Pharisees or Essenes. Obviously some of the population had no religious interest at all, but the majority were considered to follow a form of "common" Judaism. 

book published late last year examines the concept of a common Judaism in greater detail, building on the work of Sanders, who, in fact, contributed an essay to the book.

This appears to be a useful work for reevaluating the social environment of Judea and Galilee during the period when Jesus and the apostles taught in the first century C.E., making disciples of "the way." These were the First Followers.


Tags: Judaism, Temple, Devout people, First Century, First Followers, Judaea, Synagogues

Archaeology and Jerusalem

Can archaeology help bring peace in that city?

Speak of archaeology and most in the western world think of Israel, with Jerusalem at its center.  That’s the result of cultural attachments through the religion(s) we have inherited.

A fascinating study of archaeology in this area is presented by Raphael Greenberg in the latest Jewish Quarterly and is worth a read.  Greenberg examines the history and motivation of the pursuit of archaeology and concludes by asking whether archaeology could contribute to peace in Jerusalem?  To this end he makes some suggestions.

Greenberg has been involved in archaeology in Jerusalem since the 1970's.  He has worked for the Israel Antiquities Authority and is a Senior Lecturer at Tel Aviv University.

My suggestion – the whole article is worth a read.

H/T to Claude Mariottini

Tags: Archaeology, Temple, Jersualem, Jewish Quarterly, Raphael Greenberg

Paul in Context

Paula Fredriksen locates the point of decontextualising Paul

"But when he is talking about the gentile sanctification, he is not speaking as it can sound in English – oh it’s nice . . . they’ve been made holy. It means something special. It means something ritual.  It means that they are fit to come into proximity with the zone of holiness that is represented first of all by the temple. When Paul uses temple language – as he does continuously to his gentile audiences -- he says you are a temple; you are God’s temple -- God’s spirit dwells in you.  

"Way back in the 20th century when I was at university, we were told that meant that Paul didn’t like this temple in Jerusalem and that this was a substitute temple and that the community was a new temple. If you train yourself to remember that if Paul is writing before the year 70, he doesn’t know that there’s going to be no temple.  What he is doing is in fact bringing these nations under the umbrella so that they are turning to the God of Israel just like people like Isaiah, Hosea and Micah had said they would before God’s last ‘put out the light’ is spoken.

"What happens after the temple is destroyed is that this vocabulary remains in Paul’s letters but the typography that interprets the vocabulary begins to switch from temple and ritual space to the idea of the Greco-Roman universe.  And it’s that transposition, the way that Paul’s letters and the way that the early Christian message will be translated in the period after the destruction of the temple and where sin will be imagined with different nuances and with different points of exit and entry that I will get to tomorrow night." 1:04:26

Paula Fredriksen, "Sin: The Early History of the Idea: Lecture 1: God, Blood, and theTemple" October 9, 2007 -- Spencer Trask Lecture, cosponsored by Princeton University Press.

Tags: jerusalem, Temple, Paul, Paula Fredriksen, early Christians, Spencer Trask Lectures, typography,

Dead Sea Scrolls in San Diego

Documents that existed at the time of Jesus and the disciples will be on display in Southern California.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947 at Qumran and now belonging to Israel, are coming to San DiegoCalifornia. Beginning June 29, 2007, the San Diego Natural History Museumwill be hosting the longest and largest exhibition of the scrolls. The six-month-long exhibition, which undergoes a change at the mid point, is being produced in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation 

The display will highlight some 27 different scrolls, 10 of which have never been displayed previously. These include remaining parts of scrolls of Deuteronomy, Isaiah and a Commentary of Job. A number of faculty who teach at San Diego area universities and have been closely associated with the Scrolls will spearhead a lecture series that will run in conjunction with the exhibition.  

At the same time, the University of California at Los Angeles is launching a virtual Qumrantour which will be available to visitors to the exhibition. Designed initially as a teaching tool, the virtual tour has been enhanced to recreate the location where the scrolls were found.

Unfortunately, the tour doesn’t allow visitors to search for more artifacts in the caves. However some of the original equipment used in the excavations and recovery of the scrolls will be on display.

Tags: jerusalem, Dead Sea Scrolls, Temple, First Century, Qumran, San Diego

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