The history of Israel is so rich in meaning that it is the key to understanding the origin of the world (Gen 2-3).
God, whom we can call with the great Hebrew tradition “Elohim,” or “Adonai,” took Adam and put him in the garden. Elohim took Israel from the house of slavery and put it in the land of Canaan.
Elohim made a covenant with Adam and Eve by the tree of life. Elohim made a covenant and gave his Torah to Israel upon the slopes of Mount Sinai. “And the whole people agreed, “Whatever Adonai (YHWH) has said, we will do it.”” (Exodus 19:8)
We have not been created without a purpose. Being and continuance in being is given to us for a positive, high purpose: a Covenant with the Most High, the Creator! The God of heaven makes man a counterpart whom he raises to himself. It is a gift, it is a grace, and it is completely out of the question to capture this equality of strength, since we are to receive it. And if the story of Genesis also tells of a prohibition, it is because the Covenant presupposes reciprocity.
The tree of life is the symbol of the Torah, the book of the Covenant of the Most High (Si 24:23), given through Moses.
The Tree of Life is the place of the Covenant. You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree of magical knowledge, of the so-called sacred prostitutions and of the sacrifices of children which are presumed to get a hold of the source that created you.
It is undoubtedly difficult when you are a Jew to talk about Mary with Catholics. The Talmud says, for example, that Christ is a bastard (Kallah 51 A), the offspring of a Jewish prostitute and a Roman soldier (Sanhedrin 106 A) and that he is plunged into hell in boiling excrement (Gittin 57 A).
As soon as the Jews find the Old Testament without the filter of the Talmud, everything becomes clear. For the prophets, virginity represents fidelity to the Covenant.
And this spiritual virginity was to be perfectly and bodily fulfilled one day, and it was the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Myriam.
At the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee, while the wine runs out, Myriam invites us to obey the Lord: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). And Jesus changes the water (of the Torah) into wine (the wine of the Torah explained by the Messiah). This was the first sign that Jesus did.
Thus, we can renew the Covenant contract with the Most High in the presence of Mary, “in Mary.” In a poetic way, she is the tree of life, the place of the renewed Covenant.
Francoise Breynaert is a secular oblate of the Fraternity of Our Lady of the Desert (Belgium). A doctor of theology, she has published foundational works (biblical, Christological) and also Marian and spiritual works. She has also done theological research on the salvation of non-Christians and the Good News for the deceased, and on the Coming of Christ, which the West often confounds, unhappily, with the end of the world, and finally on the exegesis of orality in connection with the Christians of the East. Her works are recognized (imprimatur, episcopal prefaces) in France and abroad. Her research has interested Islamologists who, in turn, have made her part of their studies.
The featured image shows the “Madonna and Child with Saints,” by Girolamo dai Libri, ca. 1520.
It was in the West, especially in the 18th century, and then again in the 20th century, that the commonplace notion of “Essene monks” took form. This notion is still current and is the basis of the question: is Christianity post-Essenism? Siegfried Wagner traced the origin of these debates which agitated French and German speaking countries, following the publication of books by Carme Daniel a Virgine Maria in the 1680s.
For almost a century this commonplace gave rise to heated discussions in Italy and Spain, for reasons that may escape the gaze of too lay an historian. Indeed, in the wake of the reform of the Order of Carmel (female and male) in Spain, some Carmelite Fathers wanted to demonstrate at all costs the continuity that existed between the prophet Elijah slaughtering the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and the first Western Christian monks who settled there in the 12th century (and who soon formed the Carmelite Order). There is nothing to indicate that the caves of the mount had ever been inhabited by monks before them; and two millennia separate Elijah from the sons of the great Teresian reform. But no one bothered with such details. The missing link indeed had been found – the “Essene monks.”
As early as 1596, the historian Baronius, who was very close to the Roman Curia, had protested against these claims known as the Elianic succession; and then the Bollandists (Jesuits) took charge. But the Carmelites succeeded in getting the Inquisitor of Spain on their side. And soon a first decree was issued in 1639, approving four proposals which affirmed that under the Old Law, there existed a true “monachate and religious order.” A second decree confirmed the first in 1673.
When these decrees became known in Northern Europe and encountered the philosophy of the Enlightenment, the debate soon took a different turn. Indeed, the question now became – is monasticism of Christian origin? Which then turned into the question – does Christianity really have an origin of its own? In this way, the path was paved for Voltaire who took up the idea of the “brotherhood of the Essenes,” with the aim of showing Christianity’s lack of originality. Jesus, he explained, had been an Essene! After the succession of revolutions, the controversy soon resumed in France in academia, down the Voltairian line, which Ernest Renan (1823-1892) popularized with the famous formula – “Christianity is a successful Essenism.” Despite the discovery of many manuscripts during the 19th and especially the 20th century (in particular those of Qumrân), the debate has curiously hardly evolved up to our day; or up till very recently – when we began to radically question the very concept of “Essene monks.”
But cracks are appearing today among the learned but narrow defenders of the idea of “Essene monks.” Jean-Baptiste Humbert thus summarized the conclusions of a multidisciplinary conference, organized in November 2002, which brought together specialists from various (not to say divergent) fields, in these words: “De Vaux’s thesis – a self-sufficient Essene complex that allegedly managed the caves and established its own cemetery – is under attack from several sides at once. The conference had the merit of underlining the coexistence of two tendencies: the ‘Old one,’ attached to the vulgate of de Vaux, or to other theories… and the ‘New ones,’ which want to move forward…”
The discoveries of Qumran could have been the occasion for a revival of the exegesis of the texts of Pliny, Philo and Josephus. That did not happen. In fact, the debate was closed before it even began. As early as 1950, when the texts of Qumran were just beginning to be deciphered, André Dupont-Sommer proclaimed the “Essene” identity of the Qumranian site. This was widely covered by the press.
However, not only was the debate closed, it was written in advance. It is indeed surprising to see the idea of the existence of a convent of “Essene monks” near the Dead Sea put forward twenty years earlier by another Frenchman, the novelist Maurice Magre. In one of his novels, a character, initiated into an esoteric secret society, says: “During my trip to the East, I went to the shore of the Dead Sea to contemplate the place where the Essenes had once lived, those wise and perfect men, in the midst of whom Jesus was instructed… Actually, not very far from the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, there is a monastery, a monastery without a chapel and whose threshold is not dominated by any cross…”
Earlier in the novel, another equally esoteric character is presented: “He had, he said, sought in Palestine and in Syria the traces of the ancient Essenes. He had therefore stayed in various monasteries, in particular in that of Baruth, built on the remains of an old maritime fortress of the Templars. There, he had rummaged in a library buried in dust and neglected by ignorant monks. He had discovered forgotten manuscripts, and learned of lost secrets.”
Then, Jean Hubaux comments: “It should not be assumed that, as early as 1929, Magre had predicted the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but it should be noted that as early as 1929, maktub, it was written that on the day when ancient manuscripts would be found in the vicinity of the Dead Sea, these documents could only be Essene.”
We should also add that the ruins, described as a monastery and located on the shore of the Dead Sea, were more or less long declared as “Essene,” for the site of Qumrân was known in France, in fact, since the middle of the 19th century. The “Essene” narrative was already written in advance.
As a result of thousands of articles, or scholarly books, praised by the press, what should have remained a working hypothesis turned well-nigh into dogma, going so far as to “reconstruct” a life-like “Essene scriptorium” (in the current archaeological museum of Palestine), even though “reconstruction” is hardly the proper term for a work of the imagination, which is itself based entirely on what we know about the rooms of medieval monastic copyists. By a ripple effect, this Palestinian museum’s scriptorium has served as a reference for many authors and illustrators of the supposed life of the monks of the “monastery” of Qumrân. Who could possibly doubt the existence of copyists in the face of such a wealth of colorful details?
Thus, curiously, the modern commonplace of the “Essene monks” is the result of a motley alliance between Carmelites imbued with their own importance, the Spanish Inquisition, the Freemason Voltaire, King Frederick II, and finally a scholar who obtained a chair at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. Now, given that the supposed explanation of the cave manuscripts existed years – or rather centuries – before their discovery, whoever hastened to proclaim said explanation without verification might not deserve the kudos. One former student of the manuscripts, Ernest-Marie Laperrousaz, himself a former excavator of Qumrân, alongside Father de Vaux, summed up the situation as follows: “Dupont-Sommer, a former priest, was tempted to downplay the value of Christianity by making it a pale imitation of the Essene movement.”
Such a view was facilitated by the context of traditional Western moralism, which had tended to make Jesus more of a timeless model than a son of Jewish history and nation. However, Laperrousaz explains, it was necessary to come back to this primary evidence: “Faced with the similarities between these texts and the New Testament, we just forgot that Jesus was a Jew and that the commonalities between the Gospel and Qumran were not in themselves surprising.”
This commonsense conclusion is even more enlightening when one perceives to what extent the tree constituted by the idea of an “Essene sect” was able to hide the forest of Jewish associative realities in antiquity, which obviously did not exist, and thus had disappeared neither in 68 AD, nor in any other year.
Hereunder, follows the final outline of the dossier of the “Essene monks.” Their “invention” is a phenomenon that must be followed step-by-step from the 3rd century to the present day.
It is totally impossible, from an archaeological point of view, that a religious community ever inhabited the site of the ruins of Qumran, and the manuscripts found around there have thus been misattributed.
The mistake did not come only from the undue connection made between the ruins and the manuscripts – a connection all the more arbitrary since manuscripts had been found in ten other caves, and that the placing in the cave of the manuscript jars had to be subsequent to the abandonment of the premises. What also played a role was the desire to give a historical substrate to the old legend of the Essenes, which dates back to antiquity but had already been used a lot in the 18th century in the Voltairian argument against the originality of Christianity.
Thus, for fifty years, ideological postulates were able to silence archaeological research which was going in the opposite direction, where the buildings of Qumrân, before being abandoned, formed a place of production of expensive ointments, taken from the balsam trees which, at the time, grew thick in the region and became the basis of the feminine perfumes and oils used in the Temple. Those who lived at Qumrân were rich people (which is proven by the decorative elements found on the site). But it was necessary, to accredit the legend, to say that, on the contrary, these were poor “monks,” busy copying books in a “scriptorium” – all straight out of the imagination of Western academics (but then the press had a lot to do with it, too).
One of the oldest proponents of this Essene fiction, André Paul, changed course in 2007. The expression, “bursting with dogma” is his. But the dogma was starting to crack. However, it has still not yet been understood enough that the Essene fiction in and of itself has been harmful; and it also prevents us from seeing a major reality of history, in the way that a tree can hide the forest.
The Tree That Hid The Messianist Forest – And Its Continuation In Islam
The problem has been the content or, so to speak, the dominant ideology of the unbiblical manuscripts found in the caves. In their themes and expressions, they are related to various apocalyptic and sectarian texts that have been known since antiquity, or which had been discovered for a century or two before. Now, could some of these texts, which call for taking power over the world, be pre-Christian, especially when we see links with the New Testament, for example in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs? “Essene” dogma certainly said so. As a result, this dogma prevented the entering into the subtleties of this Messianist ideology, and above all, it made this ideology disappear during the first “Jewish War,” during the destruction of the site of Qumran.
However, the messianists who wrote these writings had nothing to do with Qumran or even with the cave region. They lived everywhere, with or without strict rules. They stemmed above all from a religious state of mind inspired by biblical and then Christic revelation, and which today we would call “revolutionary.” And, of course, they had not disappeared in 70 AD. On the contrary, it is from this year, marked by the ever-shocking destruction of the Temple, that their politico-religious “ideology” would be structured, spread and influence groups far from sources originally located in the Holy Land, among very diverse peoples and cultures. This is where the link to Islam comes in.
This link is not only one of “politico-religious” ideological resemblance, by way of a certain number of avatars, as can be said of Arianism. This is a much more direct continuity, because of the action of the descendants of these early messianists – the Judeo-Nazarenes. At the time of the politico-religious project around Muhammad, those who saw themselves as saviors of the world, elected by God, were not yet the Arabs but those Judeo-Nazarenes who, recently, had undertaken to rally some of their Arab neighbors to their crazy project of conquering the world. This proto-Islam, although hidden under a formidable legendary apparatus, still forms the mainspring of Islam today.
In a way, the “Essene” fiction has helped to make the historical origins of Islam more incomprehensible than ever. One can quickly fabricate an untruth. But it takes a lot of time and effort to get out of it afterwards. A barrier to the accessibility of these origins is disappearing. Other obstacles have emerged or strengthened in the meantime. The work continues.
Theologian and Islamologist, Father Edouard-Marie Gallez is the author of Le messie et son prophète (The Messiah and His Prophet), published in Paris in 2005 (and awaiting an English translation), which is an 1100 -page study that reconnects the origins of Islam to factual history by showing that the Koran and Islamic legends developed gradually over time. This study paved the way of current research into early Islam. For more information, see http://rootsofislamtruehistory.com and http://thegreatsecretofislam.com. Father Edouard-Marie also participates in research groups on early Christianity and its influence.
Le Nouvel Observateur echoed the Revue de Qumran (winter 2006) in announcing the discovery of latrines at the site of Qumrân, latrines which lent credence to the Essene thesis. Supposedly, the sect of the Essenes had fixed rigorous rules concerning the places of toilet, with the recommended burial of excrement with a shovel, and that only to the northwest of the dwellings, about five hundred meters away. As discoverer Joe Zias explained, “the Bedouin of the desert have no such custom. So, we finally have proof of the Essene occupation of the site.”
American and then French websites were quick to pass on this “news” by way of the two researchers, Joe Zias, an Israeli from the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, and the other American, James Tabor.
The article by Cécile Dumas which appeared in Nouvel Obs (“Qumran: les esséniens trahis par leurs latrines” [“Qumran: the Essenes Betrayed by their Latrines”]) nevertheless cautiously mentioned that the Essene “hypothesis:” “…was questioned in 2005 by two Israeli researchers, Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg. After nine years of excavation at Qumran, Magen and Peleg had asserted that there had never been an Essene monastery on the site of the old fortress, but only a pottery factory.”
A Quick Review Of The Essene Question
As early as October 2004, the journal Sciences et Avenir announced that the ten excavation campaigns carried out by Magen and Peleg were “…the most important since the time of Roland de Vaux:”“The discovery of coins, pottery and especially jewelry invalidates the thesis, according to which this site housed the famous sect of the Essenes, who lived in poverty for spiritual reasons and who would have been the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”
These challenges, in fact, were not new. For years the archaeological material had spoken, although it was partially still under investigation because of its abundance. In 1992, the colloquium organized by the New York Academy of Sciences (and published in 1994) should have put an end to the assumptions that absolutely want to establish a link between the site and the texts found nearby (or, rather, not nearby, but often several kilometers away). The reliable data, in fact, proceeded in a different direction entirely:
The “Essenes of Qumran” hypothesis assumes that the inhabitants of the site were “monks” and that they wrote the texts found in eleven caves near and far. They therefore had to devote time to writing. It was thus imagined that they had a room devoted solely to this single activity. For the rest, they lived very poorly, one on top of the other (for lack of space), until they disappeared in the year 68 AD, during the first “Jewish War.”
However, in 1992, archaeologist Pauline Donceel-Voûtedemonstrated that what we took to be the remains of writing tables were nothing other than pieces of fixed dining tables or benches (also fixed and arranged along the walls); and when correctly put back together, the remains corresponded perfectly to the usual version of a dining room in the East and in other parts of the Roman Empire, particularly being on the floor, where one could enjoy the freshness of the evening.
The arguments for the Essenes, advanced by archaeologists, are based on the presence of two inkwells and on the assumption that these items were totally devoted to the copying of manuscripts. Thus, the room was called the scriptorium, as per the monks of the Middle Ages (that is to say, a thousand years later).
In fact, the only two inkwells found there (locus 30) did not even belong to the level of the remains of the first floor, where the Essene scriptorium is believed to have existed, but rather were found on the ground floor. It should be added that this supposition is really unnecessary: serious historians of antiquity know that, unlike Rome, where there were copying companies, copyists in the East were itinerant scribes who worked on the tablets they themselves carried. There is not the slightest reason to imagine a brotherhood of copyists, just because we have found a lot of manuscripts. In short, the scriptorium of the Essene monks is not history.
In fact, the site was always an economic one, linked to the harvest of balsam, a wild shrub that only grew in this region (not at all a desert at the time) and whose scented essence was of enormous value. This essence was stabilized using extracts from bitumen which was available just East of the Dead Sea. Several geographers and historians of antiquity speak of it. We also know that Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, a great consumer of perfumes, obtained possession of this region from Antony (she would hardly enjoy it, however, given the victory of Julius Caesar).
Among the archaeological materials found on the site of Qumrân are also pottery and glass. Remnants of production from both indicate on-site manufacturing, particularly costly glass, even though this manufacturing was not year-round but only during the stay of specialized, itinerant craftsmen. Such a cost was justified given the production of vials intended to contain the various perfumes – which were used less for cosmetics than for worship and burials.
Such economic profitability is enough to explain the probable presence of soldiers, on-site, or in the surroundings – for such wealth was subject to robbery. The pottery produced on the spot was mainly for the use of the inhabitants (the rich). “Cave 4,” located under the promontory, may have served as a warehouse, well protected from hot weather; this would explain the (probable) presence of shelves.
A complex set of open-air pipes brought water from heavy rains, or from the mountains, into the cisterns. But it only rained in certain months of the year; hence the large number of these tanks. Slightly dug into the ground rather than underground (which would have required a lot of work), they had to be covered to limit evaporation. Steps made it possible to descend to draw water, as the level fell. These accumulated amounts of water were nevertheless sufficient for pottery to be made at certain times of the year. There is no evidence to suggest that a single one of these cisterns ever served as a mikveh, that is, a place for Judaic ritual ablutions.
Numerous lamps (which by nature are quite characteristic of an era and allow it to be dated to within 25 years) have been found among the archaeological material. The date of these lamps extends into the 2nd century AD, which is not surprising, for as long as the balsam shrubs existed, such places were economically viable, except during 68 to 70 AD, because of the “Jewish War.” Activities then resumed until 135 AD (the Second “Jewish War”), or perhaps even beyond. The idea that the site was abandoned in 68 (by the “Essene monks”) is also not history.
The cemetery adjacent must have been inaugurated after the site was abandoned (that is to say, not before 135 AD at the earliest), because its proximity to the buildings would have made their inhabitants impure. Much of our knowledge of graves dates back to the few excavations carried out in the 1950s (by de Vaux), not that there haven’t been any since – but these new excavations were carried out in an illegal context, and their results cannot therefore be officially published. The old idea that the majority of the people buried there are men remains open to question until it is confirmed by the facts (which in themselves can be explained in many ways). Very similar burial sites have been unearthed in the surrounding areas. The “cemetery of Qumran” therefore does not offer the specificity that has been invented for it, by making it the cemetery of “Essene monks.”
Sometime after 135 AD, this cemetery was used again (probably at several times). We can assume that the ruins offered an ideal place to camp for the many visitors who followed one after the other. This would explain the presence in these places of very late coins (which date up to the 6th century AD).
It is important to keep in mind all this demonstrated archaeological data, before coming to grips with the interpretative hypotheses which so want to associate the site with the manuscripts of the caves, the cemetery and certain passages (more than doubtful) of the historian of the Jewish War, namely, Flavius Josephus.
The Zias-Tabor Article
In addition to the various claims in their article, one notices that the burying of excrement is not the characteristic of a small Jewish sect. In the Bible, we read in the book of Deuteronomy: “You shall also have a place allocated outside the camp, so that you may go out there to relieve yourself, 13 and you shall have a [h]spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn and cover up your excrement… so He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you” (Deut. 23:13-14).
This prescription is therefore of general application to all the sons of Israel, with modifications (which have not been lacking). It is this prescription which evokes Book II of the Jewish War, where we read moreover that the “Essenes” do not go to the toilet on the Sabbath day. According to James Tabor, this requirement would correspond to the situation in Qumran, where the latrines are located further than the number of steps allowed on such a day. This is nothing more than the need to attribute the Messianist current, which produced the Dead Sea texts, to rabbinical rules which have nothing whatsoever to do with this Messianist current. But things get worse.
The entire passage concerning the “Essenes” exists in the Philosophoumena, and the comparison of the two texts clearly shows the mutilations that the passage underwent in transmission. In the Greek version of Josephus, everything, in fact, indicates that this constitutes an interpolation, carried out in the 3rd century, on the basis of the record of the Philosophoumena, by a pagan author linked to imperial power, who is very mocking and quite anti-Semitic. This passage, moreover, is absent from the manuscripts of the Latin Hegesippus, as well as those of the Hebrew Josippon. In fact, the very name “Essenes” is unknown there. Regarding this “name,” it is important to remember that it is that of Greek priests – those at the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, which denotes a certain sort of humor; or, at worst, a sarcastic touch. And just after the mention of what the “Essenes” do not do on Shabbat, we read that on other days they do it “wrapped in their cloak so as not to offend the sight of God.” If that is not mockery, what is it? Such derision arises throughout the reading of the passage.
The non-critical use of Josephus and the connection with the situation of latrines outside the biblical context is just not admissible. But that is not all.
Details Presented As “Evidence”
In the Dead Sea Scroll, called the Temple Scroll, we read this: “You will make a certain place for them outside the city. This is where they will go, outside northwest of town. You will make aids there, frames with pits in the middle into which the excrement will descend, and it will not be visible to anyone being away from the city of three-mile cubits [± 500 m]” (11QT 46,13)..
Let us suppose that there are indeed correspondences with the latrines discovered by Zias – but are they “proofs,” or simply a series of partial and fortuitous connections? On site, there is no trace of a deep pit or aedicule. The situation in the Northwest is not significant either – for latrines certainly could not have been eastwards, out in the emptiness. As for the approximate distance, it does not correspond to what this other manuscript indicates: “There will be a space of about two thousand cubits [± 350 m] between their camp and the location, and nothing shameful and ugly will be visible around their entire camp” (1QM 7,7 ; parall. 4Q491 frag 1 3,7).
Now, as we have seen, Deuteronomy itself prescribes a distance. There is therefore nothing in particular there. In addition, equally probable traces of other latrines have been discovered within the site of Qumran itself. What then remains in favor of the argument?
A comparison – yet one more – is still made with the deceased in the cemetery, who are supposedly overwhelmingly young men and buried there before 68 AD(!). Joe Zias wonders why they were young (which remains to be seen) – and he assumes that is because they got sick. And why were these “Essenes of Qumran” (according to the Essene hypothesis) sick? Because of the latrines and the obligation of ritual baths and purifications! Because everyone walked on contaminated soil, while complying with the laws of nature; and the water in the basins could not be replenished before the rainy season. So, after about nine months), the water was quickly polluted. The “Essenes” therefore got sick.
Of course, when the water is polluted, it can surely be noticed with the naked eye, sooner or later. However, for more than a hundred years, the supposed inhabitants of the place continued to poison themselves in this way without questioning anything, because, explains Tabor, their poor state of health “…must have been such as to nourish Essene religious enthusiasm. They must have seen their infirmities as a punishment from God, or as a lack of purity, and therefore they tried even more to purify themselves [with baths].”
Were the “Essenes of Qumran” so stupid? To this web of hypotheses, let us add this one – that the “Essene monks” actually preferred to recruit simple-minded people. The proof? Well, is there not the link – yet one more – to the activity of copying (sometimes several copies), which is attributed to them? They copied because very few of them were able to create an original work. Moreover, if certain manuscripts present work of different hands, that is because, being sick and tiring quickly, the copyists were replaced. These explanations constitute obvious “proofs.” Who would dare doubt?
Enough. Time to put an end to this fantasy. “Essene monks” are the fabrication of hypotheses that are groundless (and often improbable). They are a construction which, alas, became the tree that hid the forest for too long, the forest of a vast Messianist current that existed and did not disappear in the year 68 AD. Quite the contrary. A question arises here: why such relentlessness in trying to demonstrate the idea of “Essene monks?”
Too often there is a gray area between the realm of scientific research and that of beliefs. Since Voltaire decreed that Jesus had gone to be trained among the “Essenes” (as he imagined them from the doctored texts of Josephus), the sect of the same name has become a belief dear in some circles. Is it a coincidence that, among 20th century scholars, those who spread this idea the most were former priests? Of course, no one takes Voltaire’s assertions seriously. However, the “Essenes” remain attractive. The idea of the existence of an important Jewish current of which the New Testament would not speak and which, for its part, ignores everything about the beginnings of Christianity. And, thus, does not all this cast doubt on the veracity of the Christian witness?
Nevertheless, the heyday of the “Essene” fiction is numbered. Sooner or later, archaeology will prevail over exegesis, where presuppositions have always played a major role.
Theologian and Islamologist, Father Edouard-Marie Gallez is the author of Le messie et son prophète (The Messiah and His Prophet), published in Paris in 2005 (and awaiting an English translation), which is an 1100 -page study that reconnects the origins of Islam to factual history by showing that the Koran and Islamic legends developed gradually over time. This study paved the way of current research into early Islam. For more information, see http://rootsofislamtruehistory.com and http://thegreatsecretofislam.com. Father Edouard-Marie also participates in research groups on early Christianity and its influence.
The featured image shows the supposed “Scriptorium (Locus 30)” at the Qumran site.
How did Jews vote in the 2020 presidential election? It is still too early to determine this, fully accurately, but early evidence indicates that we supported Biden to the tune of about 72% and Trump the remaining 28%. To add insult to injury, of the 34 members of Congress who are Jewish, fully 32 of them are Democrats.
What more did poor Donald Trump have to do to earn an overwhelming majority of the Jewish vote? He moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something promised on numerous occasions by his predecessors. Several members of his family converted to Judaism; did he break with them, sit shiva? Of course not. Compare his relationship with Bibi with that of Barack Obama; night and day: no comparison.
He pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal. An executive order of his targeted anti-Semitism – primarily in the form of Israel boycotts – on college campuses. At the annual White House Hanukkah Party, Trump ordered the US Department of Education to effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality in addition to a religion. As a result, those universities which fail to take steps to quell discrimination against Jewish students may have their funding cut off. He withdrew the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which has unfairly been on the Israeli case for years, ignoring numerous serious human rights violations elsewhere.
In the summer of 2019, Trump even outdid Israel. That country was in the process of making an exception to their rule barring entry of all BDS supporters for Congressmen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Trump intervened, and they were disinvited. What else did he do that Jews ought to appreciate?
He initiated the Trump Plan, Peace to Prosperity
He stopped financial support for the UNWRA
He supported Israel sovereignty over the Golan
He kicked the Palestinian Authority out of Washington and defunded them
Most recently, the only president we presently have waved his magic wand and helped make peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. Normalized relationships are now being implemented. And, too, it looks as if this will be repeated with Oman and several others. Trump is a mensch. OK, OK, he doesn’t bake bagels or manufacture gefilte fish. C’mon, give this man a break!
How many more mitzvot does Trump need to perform in order to get Jews to appreciate him? In fact, it would be difficult to mention a more philo-Semitic president than the Donald. Has any other US president come within a million miles of these deeds, with the possible exception of Harry Truman who recognized Israel? To ask this is to answer it.
And, yet, according to that old aphorism, “Jews have the wealth of Presbyterians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” Most recently, more than six hundred Jewish groups went on record in support of Black Lives Matter, not the idea, which all men of good will can support, but the Marxist “peaceful” marchers.
What did things look like for the People of the Book on the other side of the aisle? Oy vey. Bernie (“Bibi is a racist”) Sanders did not win the Democratic nomination for president, but his negative viewpoints on Israel have left an indelible impression upon the foreign policy platform of that party. OK, you say, platform schplatsform; no one has to abide by it, no one ever does. But, still, it indicates where the hearts and minds of the Democrats are located. It is indicative of the types of advisors who will be surrounding the very possible President Biden, come 2021.
Then there is the high-flying very powerful “Squad” (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar). These young women are the leading indicators of the Democratic Party. Their views indicate where this organization is likely headed for the next few years.
Sayeth Omar: “Israel has hypnotized the world.” She called upon Allah to “awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She supports BDS and has likened Israel to Nazi Germany. She has castigated Congressmen who support Israel, but not any other nation, “for allegiance to a foreign country.” And she maintains that favoring Israel is “all about the Benjamins” (gelt, for the unwary). She apologized for the latter, but not the former.
In the view of Tlaib: “We cannot be honest brokers for peace if we refuse to use the words ‘illegal occupation by Israel…’” Also: “I spoke today as the proud granddaughter of a strong, loving Palestinian woman in opposition to #HRes326. We must take bolder actions to ensure human rights are upheld in Israel and that Palestinians and Black Israelis are treated with the equality every human being deserves.” The clear fact is that Arabs in Israel are treated far better than in any other country in the Middle East, as indicated by “voting with the feet.” Arabs are not emigrating from Israel; they are trying to immigrate into that country.
Here is Pressley’s reaction to Bibi Netanyahu’s plan to annex Judea and Samaria: “Let me be clear, unilateral annexation is a threat to democracy and would create apartheid like conditions and entrench human rights violations against the Palestinian people…”
And AOC’s view of this matter? “Should the Israeli government continue down this path, we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way.” In case some of you were busy davening, OK, Rip van Winkling it, these four congressmen are members of the Democratic Party’s “progressive” wing, and bitter enemies of President Trump. We’re going to vote for the Presidential candidate who supports them? Maazel Tov.
OK, we Yidden account for only some 2% of the electorate. Our vote, therefore, doesn’t count for too much, some might say. But we are more involved in politics than many, have larger megaphones than some, and are usually more than willing to put our money where our mouths are. We thus had a disproportionate effect on the 2020 election compared to our raw numbers. It is imperative, then, that we rethink our typical 90%-10% support of the Democratic Party. A shonda.
Every other demographic cohort casts ballots in the direction of their perceived interests. Why should we be any different? If we value a good U.S. relationship with the only civilized country in the Middle East, the only nation that treats gays, women and minorities decently, we should have rethought our knee-jerk aversion to Mr. Trump, and wish him another four years. We should have also gotten off our tuchases and worked for this eventuality.
I have no problem, none whatsoever, with the usual roughly 90-10 split in the Jewish vote between the two major parties. I just wish it were in the other direction. What are we, to bite the hand offered us in friendship over and over and over again? Meshugenahs? Moishe Pippicks? Schlemeeles? Schmendrecks? Schlemaazls? Luft-menschen? It was beshert that Trump be reelected. Don’t be a nudnick. Don’t be a putz. Yes, his schtick is a bit off-putting to some; but it shouldn’t be to most of us, who are also from the Big Apple. It goes with the territory.
I hate to be repetitive, but, oy vey.
On the other hand, thank God for Orthodox Jewry, may their numbers increase. At least those people have Yiddishe cups and more than just a bissle of ethics; maybe from the study of the Talmud? Most recently, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky encouraged his haredi followers to vote for Donald Trump. Why? In one word: gratitude.
All this, of course, is now in the past. But there will be elections, again, in two, four, six years from now, God willing. It is time, it is past time, for us Jews to seriously question, and then reject our aversion to the Republican Party. Are they perfect? Fully aligned with the Talmud. Of course not. But, compared to the alternative, it is an easy call in their behalf.
Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute.
The image shows a socialist Yiddish poster from 1917, which reads, “Vote for the United Jewish Socialist Workers Party.” [Thanks to Rafi Farber for the translation].
And they took Jesus and led Him away, and carrying the cross by Himself, He went out to the place called Place of a Skull (which is called in Hebrew ‘Golgotha’), where they crucified Him, and with Him two others: on this side and on that side, but in the middle Jesus (John 19:16b-18).
Nowadays, it is common to assume that the Golgotha of the Gospels was a sort of hill located a good distance from the hustle-and-bustle of Jerusalem (hence the common appellation: ‘Mount Calvary’). Many artists and filmmakers have followed suit: sometimes to the extent of showing it as a very high and steep ridge, as Mel Gibson does in his famous film The Passion of the Christ. There are even hymns entitled, “There is a Green Hill Far Away,” or “On Golgotha’s Hill Christ the Son was Crucified.“
Close reading of the Gospel accounts themselves however do not say anything about the location, whether it was a hill – or for that matter, that the ‘Skull Place’ was an elevated area at all; they all just say something to the effect that it was a “place (Greek, topos) called ‘Skull’.” This may be one of the cases where popular conception can color our reading of the Scriptures.
First of all, there is no explicit mention of Golgotha as a raised place until the 4th century, when it is spoken of as a monticulus (‘little hill’) by the anonymous pilgrim of Burdigala (Bordeaux).
The expression does not occur again until once in the 6th century, after which we do not come across it until Bernard the Pilgrim visited Palestine in the 9th century and spoke of a Mons Calvariae. From thence the expression was adopted by Western writers and became popular.
The early Greek Christian writers, with the exception of St. Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329 – 389/390) and St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 313 – 386), also never speak of it as being connected with a hill or a height, and it must be remembered that both lived a bit after the traditional area, where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands, was officially discovered by Constantine.
Early Christians seem to have tended also to think that Golgotha was the name of the whole area which contains the spot where Jesus was crucified rather than that specific outcrop of rock, which is more properly known as the Rock of Calvary. Even when it was determined as the actual location of the Crucifixion, it still did not become ‘the’ Golgotha until about the 6th century AD. Before that, it was merely known as “the rock of the Cross.” The basilica itself was understood to be “on Golgotha,” which was understood to be a far wider area.
Christian iconography itself may have also played a part in making this idea widespread. Some trace it to the iconographic depiction of Jesus’ cross as standing on a little mound (in later artworks, a skull – usually identified as Adam’s – may be seen beneath it): see the icon on the left for such an example. Artists then have almost invariably depicted the crucifixion as occurring on a high hill or on an elevated ground, probably to carry out the idea that it could be seen from afar as well (cf. Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49). Thus, the idea of a ‘Mount Calvary’ solidified in our minds.
The identification of Golgotha as a hill may also probably come from the fact that the traditional area (on the right of the present entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) was an isolated knoll presently about 5-6 meters high, located on the tilled saddle of part of the slope of a hill, possibly known once as Mount Gareb, but this would not have looked in any way like a hill: rather, it would have looked like an elongated crater.
The entire area had once been a quarry for building stones during the Iron Age (ca. 10th-7th centuries BC), and was characterized by irregular rock cuttings, scarps and caves. The slope had been substantially cut away by the quarrying, and good-quality stone eventually ran out, leading to its abandonment.
Archeologists believe that the area was then filled with arable soil, presumably to turn the ugly quarry remains into a beautiful garden fit for growing crops. The city-gate near it known as the ‘Gennath‘ (Garden) Gate may have gained its name from the fact that this region was quite intensely farmed, despite the irregular features of the topography, with caves and rocky scarps and protrusions, interposed with areas of cultivation.
Tombs and cultivated areas could lie side by side, since according to Jewish law the uncleanness of tombs need not affect cultivation, and gardens and tombs were often located close by. Indeed some 1st century AD tombs were found only 49 feet away from the edicule (Latin aedicula “little house”) containing the supposed tomb of Christ.
This hump may have been especially cut back in either the 2nd century, for the pagan temple that was built on the site, or the 4th century, for the Martyrium complex of the Constantinian basilica, or simply a remnant of the area’s days as a quarry – scholars are still in disagreement. But whenever it reached its present form as a kind of rock finger, a number of scholars think that would have been quite difficult, if not impossible, for three people to have been crucified on the summit of this 9 to 13-meter outcrop (measuring 3.5 x 1.7 meters) due to lack of adequate space for three crosses, not to mention that its slopes are too steep to allow easy access.
Thus, while this rock may have been a monument or signpost marking the general location of Golgotha, it was not the actual spot where the crosses would have stood.
The Roman rhetorician Quintilian (ca. AD 35-100) once stated that: “Whenever we crucify the guilty, the most crowded roads are chosen, where most people can see and be moved by this fear. For penalties relate not so much to retribution as to their exemplary effect.”
This was of course demonstrated to great effect in the aftermath of the Third Servile War (73-71 BC), when 6,000 surviving slaves who joined Spartacus’ rebellion were crucified along the roadside of the Appian Way from Rome to Capua (approx. 200 kilometers).
Since one of the purposes of crucifixion was to publicly humiliate the victim, making him a living billboard to deter any possible crime and rebellion, crucifying someone in public places where a lot of people can see him is natural.
The Gospels themselves write that it was “those passing by” who taunted Jesus (Matthew 27:39), and that people saw the placard above His head “because the place was near to the city where Jesus was crucified.” (John 19:20) These statements would have made not much sense if the Lord was crucified far away on a high hill a good distance off the roads and the city!
Hence, one writer (Joan Taylor), while accepting the authenticity of the traditional location of the tomb, propose that Jesus, and the two criminals, were probably crucified somewhere closer to the roadside and to the Gennath Gate than the traditional spot, which could have been the backdrop of the event, rather than its location. She proposes that this spot was eventually buried and obscured when a street was built on the site.
Thus, it would seem that the reason why Constantine built his basilica in a more northward location is because it was more convenient – underneath the pagan temple, according to local Christian tradition, also lies the possible site of Jesus’ tomb; also, it was a prime building spot and would have saved the trouble of having to demolish the road.
Joan Taylor writes: “After all, with the miraculous discovery of the True Cross in the region of the temple temenos, there was convincing proof that everyone should look northwards to the site of the crucifixion anyway. For his localization, an attesting miracle was clearly necessary and thereafter those that pointed southwards could no longer be given credence.”
The image shows, “Christ Carrying the Cross,” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1564.
The book of Tobit is one of those books Catholics would call the Deuterocanonicals and non-Catholics would label the Apocrypha.
Basically, it’s about a pious old man from the tribe of Nephthali named Tobit exiled along with the other Israelites in Nineveh who goes blind after bird droppings fell on his eyes (!). One day Tobit decides to collect money he had once deposited to an acquaintance named Gabael in the land of Media and sends his son Tobias (aka Tobiah) to do so.
Along the way, Tobias is accompanied by a guy who passes himself off as a kinsman of his named Azariah, and a dog who doesn’t do anything in the story except to be mentioned briefly at the very beginning and the very end of the journey. Arriving in Media, Tobias gets the money from Gabael, and marries the latter’s daughter Sarah, who was tormented by a demon named Asmodeus, who had killed every man she married.
Tobias succeeds in driving Asmodeus out by burning, under Azariah’s advice, the liver and heart of a rabid fish he had encountered during the journey. Tobias, Sarah, and Azariah return to Nineveh, where Tobit was cured of his blindness by the gall of the same fish. ‘Azariah’ eventually reveals himself to be the angel Raphael, sent by God to cure Tobit and Sarah of the afflictions they had, and goes back to heaven.
Years pass, and Tobit finally dies, but not before warning his son to leave Nineveh before God destroys it according to prophecy. After burying his father, Tobias and his family then go away and settle at Media, where the tale ends.
That’s the main gist of the story. But here’s the thing. Those of you who like to read from different translations of the Bible might have already noticed this, but if you compare the book of Tobit as it is in three different translations – the Douai-Rheims, the Revised Standard Version, and the New American Bible – you’d notice that the text of each is radically different from one another.
I encountered some people from time to time who tried to follow the daily readings, only to find that the version they found in their Bible is totally unlike what’s read out in church.
much more evident if you read from the Douai-Rheims. The book begins like
this in the NAB version: “This book tells the story of Tobit, son of Tobiel,
son of Hananiel, son of Aduel, son of Gabael, son of Raphael, son of Raguel, of
the family of Asiel and the tribe of Naphtali. During the days of Shalmaneser,
king of the Assyrians, he was taken captive from Thisbe, which is south of
Kedesh Naphtali in upper Galilee, above and to the west of Asher, north of
version is pretty close, if shorter (for instance, it omits “son of
Raphael, son of Raguel” and simply mentions Thisbe as being “to the south
of Kedesh Naphtali in Galilee above Asher.”)
you pick up the DR, this is what you’ll find: “Tobias of the tribe and city
of Nephtali, (which is in the upper parts of Galilee above Naasson, beyond the
way that leadeth to the west, having on the right hand the city of Sephet,)
when he was made captive in the days of Salmanasar king of the Assyrians, even
in his captivity, forsook not the way of truth, but every day gave all he could
get to his brethren his fellow captives, that were of his kindred. And when he
was younger than any of the tribe of Nephtali, yet did he no childish thing in
Totally different, isn’t it? What’s going on here? The answer’s simple: all three translations use three different source texts.
The first thing to understand is that there’s no single, standard version of the book of Tobit. Instead what you really have is different versions of the same work circulating in different languages like Greek or Latin or Hebrew or Aramaic or even Ethiopian.
There are at least two or three versions of Tobit in Greek. The shorter one, found in virtually most surviving Greek manuscripts, is called Greek I (G1). The longer (containing 1,700 more words than G1) version found only almost fully in the 4th-century Codex Sinaiticus, and partially in a couple other manuscripts, is Greek II (G2). Sinaiticus uniquely preserves most of G2 – albeit riddled with scribal errors – except for two lacunae (4:7-19b and 13:7-10b).
Fortunately, an 11th century manuscript (Mount Athos, MS 319, aka Vatopedi 913) gives the G2 text from 3:6 to 6:16 (while giving the G1 text for the rest of the book), thereby filling one of the two lacunae.
The third version, Greek III (G3) is fundamentally related to G2, but is not dependent on the version contained in Sinaiticus. G3 exists only partially (covering only 6:9-13:8) in three cursive manuscripts, which all reproduce G1 for the rest of the book.
As for Latin, there are two main versions of the book. To be more precise, one of the two is more like a family of different versions.
The various versions of Tobit made before St. Jerome translated biblical books into Latin are mainly related to G2, to the point that it can be used to understand and correct its text via comparison, although from time to time they do exhibit some differences from the text in Sinaiticus (more on these later). These so-called Vetus Latina (VL) versions are not all of one type, though.
As of now, there is still no critical edition of the VL version (or rather, versions).
The next best thing is an 18th century text assembled by French Benedictine monk Pierre Sabatier in the Bibliorum sacrorum latinae versiones antiquae, seu Vetus Italica (pp. 706-743), mainly based on two 9th century Latin manuscripts: Q (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat. 93, aka MS Regius 3564) and P (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat. 11505, aka MS Sangermanensis 4) along with readings from G (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat. 11503, aka Sangermanensis 15 or Sangermanensis 1), which contains the text up to 13:2, and W (Rome, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, Regin. lat. 7, aka Codex Reginensis), which contains the text only as far as 6:12, the rest being a copy of the Vulgate version (see below).
Since then, two other manuscripts have been found and studied, which illustrate the lack of ‘one type’ of the text: the 10th century R (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds lat. 6, aka the Ripoll Bible), and the 9th-century X (Madrid, Biblioteca Univers. Cent. 31, aka Codex Complutensis I).
Both of these have been published by the Italian scholar Francesco Vattioni in the 1970s, who also published the readings of the Tobit text found in a work attributed to St. Augustine known as the Speculum de sacra scriptura (Mirror of Holy Scripture).
The text of Complutensis I is very paraphrastic, representing a much expanded form of the text found in Sabatier. Besides these, other important sources for the VL Tobit are quotations from early Church Fathers.
The text translated by Jerome and included in the Latin Vulgate, meanwhile, is interesting in itself, because it is a free translation of a translation.
This is how he explains the translation process in his preface to the book:“I have persisted as I have been able, and because the language of the Chaldeans is close to Hebrew speech, finding a speaker very skilled in both languages, I took to the work of one day, and whatever he expressed to me in Hebrew words, this, with a summoned scribe, I have set forth in Latin words.”
Apparently, Jerome did not know ‘Chaldean’ (Aramaic) – although he does note that the language is similar to Hebrew (answer being that both are Semitic languages), which he is thought to have known – that he needed someone to translate the Aramaic version of Tobit he had acquired. The translation work was apparently very quick – according to Jerome’s words it only took him, his scribe, and his Aramaic-speaking translator “the work of one day.”
The Vulgate version (which is apparently of the same general family as Greek I, though not similar to it) was once the dominant version of the book in the West before more use was made of Greek manuscripts in biblical translations starting from the Renaissance onwards.
We don’t know for sure whether the Aramaic text used by Jerome is descended from a Semitic forebear or was based on the Greek. The Vulgate text’s relation to the Greek versions and even to the VL recensions is really problematic, since it exhibits some considerable differences from them (although some scholars suspect that Jerome was apparently at the same time dependent on the VL versions).
These differences might stem in part from the version Jerome and his bilingual acquaintance were translating from, but perhaps also in part due to Jerome’s possibly rather free translation method (he admitted that his translation of Judith, which was like Tobit also from an Aramaic version, was magis sensum e sensus quam ex verbo verbum “more sense for sense than word for word;” it could very well be the same case here).
The general impression one could get from Vulgate Tobit is that it is more moralistic and didactic compared to the more straightforward other versions – I’d even say quite preachy. Compare Raphael-as-Azariah’s advice to Tobias on their way to Media in the Vulgate to, say, the G2 version (NAB):
Then the angel Raphael said to him: Hear me, and I will shew thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail. For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power. But thou when thou shalt take her, go into the chamber, and for three days keep thyself continent from her, and give thyself to nothing else but to prayers with her. And on that night lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and the devil shall be driven away. But the second night thou shalt be admitted into the society of the holy Patriarchs.
And the third night thou shalt obtain a blessing that sound children may be born of you. And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children.” (Douai-Rheims, Tobit 6:16-22)
Raphael said to him: “Do you not remember your father’s commands? He ordered you to marry a woman from your own ancestral family. Now listen to me, brother; do not worry about that demon. Take Sarah. I know that tonight she will be given to you as your wife! When you go into the bridal chamber, take some of the fish’s liver and the heart, and place them on the embers intended for incense, and an odor will be given off. As soon as the demon smells the odor, it will flee and never again show itself near her. Then when you are about to have intercourse with her, both of you must first get up to pray. Beg the Lord of heaven that mercy and protection be granted you. Do not be afraid, for she was set apart for you before the world existed. You will save her, and she will go with you. And I assume that you will have children by her, and they will be like brothers for you. So do not worry.” (NAB-RE, Tobit 6:16-18)
For a long time, only G1 and the Vulgate text were the only ones readily available to translators: Sinaiticus was only found in the early 19th century and Oxyrhynchus (where a 6th century fragment containing the G2 version of Tobit 2:2-5, 8 was found – one of the three manuscripts containing G2) wasn’t excavated until 1896.
And even after Sinaiticus was discovered to have a different text of the book, scholars at the time still considered the its text to be secondary to G1’s. Reason being the adage (well-known in textual criticism) of lectio brevior lectio potior, “shorter reading is the better reading.”
That, and the fact that G1 enjoys more attestation than G2, which was – back then – only represented in a single manuscript. They assumed that G1 was the original version, while G2 was an expansion of it.
Aside from G1, Sinaiticus, and the Vulgate, people before the mid-20th century were aware of a number of other versions of the book in Hebrew (and one in Aramaic), although all of these were late, medieval texts that are deritative of the Greek or the Vulgate versions.
The Münster text (HM),
first published in 1516 in Constantinople, then reprinted in Basel by Sebastian Münster in 1542. Said to be a 5th
century version, this text is generally based on G2. This version was
reproduced in the London Polyglot.
The Fagius text (HF),
said to date from the 12th century and first published in 1519 (reprinted
by Paul Fagius in 1542). This version is
also found in the 1657 London Polyglot. This text is usually judged
to be a paraphrastic translation or a free recasting of a Greek text like
G1 made by a medieval Jew from Western Europe. This version is noted for
its introduction of OT phraseology into the text. The Haydock Commentary
often alludes to this version along with the other ones named here.
Gaster’s text (HG),
another translation derived from from a 15th century Midrash on the
Pentateuch that condenses and greatly abbreviates the narrative found in
the medieval Aramaic text, with which it otherwise largely agrees. The
narrative in 1:1-3:6 is again in the third person; much of the dialogue
and the prayers are eliminated. The text lays a huge emphasis on tithing,
a reason why it was introduced into the pentateuchal midrash.
Cairo Genizah T-S A 45.25,
45.26 and 45.29 (Cambridge University Library): Fragmentary
texts dating from the 13th-14th century. The earliest of these,
45.26 is of the same recension as the 1516 Constantinople text,
while the latter two agree with Fagius’ version.
In the 19th century, Adolf Neubauer also discovered a 15th-century Aramaic text of Tobit in the Bodleian library at Oxford (Hebrew MS 2339).
The text, written in late Aramaic, seems to have been derived from G1. Some peculiar quirks of this version include: (1) agreement with the Vulgate in telling the story of Tobit in the third person in chapters 1-3; (2) omission of the dog, which is mentioned in most other versions; (3) abbreviation of chapter 12, omission of chapter 13 and most of 14 (the remaining part of which is highly condensed); and (4) a short epilogue in Hebrew.
At that time, Neubauer expressed his opinion that this text “Chaldee text in a more complete form was the original from which the translation of the Vulgate was made,” an opinion which was eventually critiqued as being unsubstantiated.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1950s, however, would change long-held assumptions. But that’s for next time.
Patrick lives in Japan. He supports the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of Bl. Pope John XXIII.
The photo shows, “Tobias Saying Good-Bye to his Father [Tobit],” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, painted in 1860.
The boys were happy their parents were considering moving from just outside
Jerusalem into the country.
The raids by the Romans on the Jews in Jerusalem were escalating, with some
people predicting a complete devastation of Jerusalem if the new Roman emperor
had his way. People were very scared and helpless against the powerful Roman
Interestingly, the new Jesus people, Christians, were not bothered as much
by the Romans, but unfortunately some Jewish followers were angry at the
Christians for believing in this man Jesus and forgetting their Jewish beliefs.
Some Jews were hunting, persecuting, torturing and killing the Christians.
Jesus had taught his new followers this was going to happen: You suffer
because of me if you follow me.
One of Jesus apostles wrote this: You will be hated by all because of
My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
So they were mentally prepared to suffer for their beliefs, but like any
human being they preferred to live happy safe lives so it made sense to try and
avoid trouble as much as possible.
Ruth and Nahum did not know it yet, but they were in for another surprise!
Hannah, who liked to joke and tease Ezekiel, told him she wanted to furnish
the spare bedroom. He asked why, were they going to have company?? She replied,
yes in about five months. He said how do you know that far in advance who is
coming, and how many?? She said as far as I know only one, but you never know?
He was just on the verge of getting upset with her when she went over, put her
arms around him and said we are having a baby!
Ezekiel was overcome with emotions and had to sit down. Hannah said to him
you better be stronger than this when our baby arrives, you will have lots of
work to do!!!
The boys had been looking for a place for their parents to move to, but so
far had no success.
Back at home Ruth and Nahum had put a small sign on their front lawn HOUSE
FOR SALE. They didn’t expect to get many responses considering the Jewish
people were living under constant fear of raids by the Romans.
After two months of absolutely no action they decided they would board the
home up and move away.
Nahum visited The Banker next day and got his approval to put the Banker on
the For Sale sign as contact. He would expect a fee, of course. Nahum agreed.
The couple then started packing and getting rid of years of accumulation.
They donated many items to local charities and some friends who could use some
of their household items.
Meanwhile, back at The Medical Centre just as she closed the clinic, Hannah
was surprised to see her father, Jonah, jump down from his horse, she was
afraid something was wrong. No, on the contrary, I would like to chat with you
for few minutes, can I follow you home and you can make me tea? of course his
daughter said anytime for you Daddy.
Once settled, Jonah started to tell his daughter why he was there. He said,
Hannah as you know your mother and I are now alone in our home, you, your
sister and brother have all moved out and we have three bedrooms collecting
dust. Hannah wondered where this was going? He said your mother mentioned the
other day that Ruth and Nahum want to move closer to their two boys and the
businesses and she wondered if they might be interested in staying with us
until they sell their home and find another one? Hannah, oh Daddy, I am so
pleasantly surprised at your offer. We never would have thought to ask you, but
it makes to much sense.
They discussed the idea a bit more, Jonah explained that they would make an
opening between two of the bedrooms, providing a dining area and a separate
sitting room. The third room would be the bedroom.
The one problem would be the kitchen, Ruth would have to share it with
Abigail. Jonah went on to explain that Ruth and Abigail had been friends for
years, and while they were both similar in personalities, both very confident
and independent, they were also loving and caring. They thought these last two
attributes would allow the two ladies to work together in the kitchen. The
couples could decide to eat together or separately and probably a bit of both.
Hannah was so excited and hugged her dad, big time. She said I can’t wait
for Zeke to get home to tell him.
Her dad returned the hug and with a kiss said good bye and mounted his
When Ezekiel arrived home a short while later, Hannah, who was in a very
good mood, met him at the door and greeted him more warmly than usual! Ezekiel
was well aware of his wife’s expressive nature and said, ok, what is going on
here now??? Hannah, in her teasing manner said, oh Zeke why would you ask that?
He replied because you have that devilish twinkle in your eyes!
She then told him of her father’s visit and offer. Ezekiel said, I can see
now why you are so happy, now I am too. Would you mind delaying dinner for a
few minutes, I just have to go and tell Ezzie, I won’t be long.
He returned and told Hannah they were going to go visit her parents’
tomorrow and then if everything looked good, they would ride to his parents and
tell them the good news.
It was a happy night for both Ezzie and Zeke and their ladies!
The photo shows, “The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70,” by David Roberts, painted in 1850.
As mentioned, giving the victim a proper burial following death on the cross during the Roman period was rare and in most cases simply not permitted in order to continue the humiliation – it was common for Romans to deny burial to criminals, as in the cases of Brutus and his supporters (Suetonius, Augustus 13.1-2) and Sejanus and company (Tacitus, Annals 6.29). The corpse was in many cases either simply thrown away on the garbage dump of the city, ‘buried’ in a common grave, or left on the cross as food for wild beasts and birds of prey.
Petronius, in the Satyricon (111), writes an amusing – to the Romans at least – story about a soldier who was tasked to guard the body of some crucified criminals from theft.
The soldier manages to lose one of the corpses, however, when he diverts his attention from the crosses in order to pursue an amorous interlude with a widow mourning for the loss of her husband (who was buried near the execution site):
“…Thus it came about that the relatives of one of the malefactors, observing this relaxation of vigilance, removed his body from the cross during the night and gave it proper burial. But what of the unfortunate soldier, whose self-indulgence had thus been taken advantage of, when next morning he saw one of the crosses under his charge without its body! Dreading instant punishment, he acquaints his mistress with what had occurred, assuring her he would not await the judge’s sentence, but with his own sword exact the penalty of his negligence. He must die therefore; would she give him sepulture, and join the friend to the husband in that fatal spot?
But the lady was no less tender-hearted than virtuous. ‘The Gods forbid,’ she cried, ‘I should at one and the same time look on the corpses of two men, both most dear to me. I had rather hang a dead man on the cross than kill a living.’ So said, so done; she orders her husband’s body to be taken from its coffin and fixed upon the vacant cross. The soldier availed himself of the ready-witted lady’s expedient, and next day all men marveled how in the world a dead man had found his own way to the cross.“
Beyond the baudiness and light-heartedness of the anecdote lies the seriousness with which Romans could take the matter of guarding victims: the soldier guards the crosses for three nights, and fears for his life when the theft is discovered.
The prevention of burial also serves to show a graphic display of the power of the Roman Empire: by not allowing the victims even a decent burial, it is declared that the loss of these victims is not a loss to society, but far from it, they actually served to strengthen and empower Rome, ridding the Empire of its enemies and maintaining the status quo and preserving law and order.
Because of these details, some, like John Dominic Crossan, suggest controversially that it was improbable that Jesus was given a proper burial, as the Gospels relate; instead, he might have been thrown in the waste dump in Jerusalem. Indeed, there were times in which Roman officials in Judea behaved like their counterparts in other areas of the Empire.
When Publius Quinctilius Varus, then Legate of Syria, moved into Judea in 4 BC to quell a messianic revolt after the death of Rome’s client king Herod the Great, he reportedly crucified 2000 Jewish rebels in and around Jerusalem (Josephus, Antiquities 17.295).
Later, the procurator of Judea, Gessius Florus is said to have ordered indiscriminate crucifixions, including those who were actually Roman citizens (Josephus, Jewish War 2.306-7). And, finally, in 70 AD, the general Titus ordered hundreds of Jewish captives to be crucified around the walls of Jerusalem in the hopes that this would drive the Jews to surrender (Jewish War 5.450). Josephus does not state explicitly that the bodies were left hanging, but that would be entirely consistent with the general purpose of these crucifixions.
Even so, one needs to consider the situation of the Province of Judea within the time of Jesus: at that time the situation was (in one sense) peaceful enough that events in and around Jerusalem were not always under control of the Prefect of Judea. While there is a small contingent of soldiers stationed in the Antonia Fortress, the day-to-day government of the city is largely left to Jewish hands, specifically the high priest and the council, who were accountable to the Prefect (in this period, Pontius Pilate).
The Prefect in turn was accountable to the Legate of Syria, and it was the interest of all to keep the status quo undisrupted. It would then be a mistake to assume that episodes like those of Varus, Florus, and Titus are typical of the situation surrounding Jesus’ burial.
However, taking victims of crucifixion down from their crosses and burying them was not unheard of. Philo (Flaccus, 10.83-84) tells us that:
“I actually know of instances of people who had been crucified and who, on the moment that such a holiday was at hand, were taken down from the cross and given back to their relatives in order to give them a burial and the customary rites of the last honors. For it was (thought to be) proper that even the dead should enjoy something good on the emperor’s birthday and at the same time that the sanctity of the festival should be preserved. Flaccus, however, did not order to take down people who had died on the cross but to crucify living ones, people for whom the occasion offered amnesty, to be sure only a short-lived not a permanent one, but at least a short postponement of punishment if not entire forgiveness.”
Josephus (Jewish War 4.5.2) relates that Jews took down the bodies of those who were crucified during the Great Revolt, as is the command in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (“When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse“).
In Jewish thought, giving a proper interment for someone — even the dead of their enemies — was considered to be ritual piety (2 Sam. 21:12-14):
“…But the rage of the Idumeans was not satiated by these slaughters; but they now betook themselves to the city, and plundered every house, and slew every one they met; and for the other multitude, they esteemed it needless to go on with killing them, but they sought for the high priests, and the generality went with the greatest zeal against them; and as soon as they caught them they slew them, and then standing upon their dead bodies, in way of jest, upbraided Ananus with his kindness to the people, and Jesus (ben Ananias) with his speech made to them from the wall:
Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun. I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her wall, and the ruin of her affairs, whereon they saw their high priest, and the procurer of their preservation, slain in the midst of their city…”
In a few cases, concessions can be made if relatives or friends of the victim asked for the corpse to give it a decent burial. The discovery of the bones of a victim who died of crucifixion discovered in 1968, within an ossuary inside a tomb may suggest that giving proper burial to crucifixion victims (as in the case of Jesus), while being rather rare, was not unknown.
Despite being mentioned in many literary sources for the Roman period, few exact details as to how the condemned were affixed to the cross have come down to us. But we do have one unique archeological witness to this gruesome practice.
In 1968, building contractors working in Giv’at haMivtar (Ras el-Masaref), just north of Jerusalem near Mount Scopus and immediately west of the road to Nablus accidentally uncovered a Jewish tomb dated to the 1st century AD. The date of the tombs, revealed by the pottery in situ, ranged from the late 2nd century B.C. until 70 A.D.
These family tombs with branching chambers, which had been hewn out of soft limestone, belong to the Jewish cemetery of Jesus’ time that extends from Mount Scopus in the east to the tombs in the neighborhood of Sanhedriya (named after the Jewish Sanhedrin; it is not certain, however, whether the tombs, which are occupied by seventy people of high status, were the burial places of Sanhedrin officials), in the north west.
A team of archeologists, led by Vassilios Tzaferis, found within the caves the bones of thirty-five individuals, with nine of them apparently having a violent death. Three children, ranging in ages from eight months to eight years, died from starvation. A child of almost four expired after much suffering from an arrow wound that penetrated the left of his skull (the occipital bone). A young man of about seventeen years burned to death cruelly bound upon a rack, as inferred by the grey and white alternate lines on his left fibula.
A slightly older female also died from conflagration. An old women of nearly sixty probably collapsed from the crushing blow of a weapon like a mace; her atlas, axis vertebrae and occipital bone were shattered. A woman in her early thirties died in childbirth, she still retained a fetus in her pelvis.
The late Professor Nicu Haas, an anthropologist at the Anatomy School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Hadassah Medical School, examined one of the bones, which were placed inside a stone ossuary (right) placed inside one of the tombs which bears the Hebrew inscription ‘’Yehohanan the son of Hagaqol’.
The bones were those of a man in his twenties, crucified probably between 7 A.D., the time of the census revolt, and 66 A.D., the beginning of the war against Rome. The evidence for this was based on the right heel bone, pierced by an iron nail 11.5 centimetres in length.
The nail penetrated the lateral surface of the bone emerging on the middle of the surface in which the tip of the nail had become bent. The bending of the tip upon itself suggests that after the nail penetrated the tree or the upright it may have struck a knot in the wood thereby making it difficult to remove from the heel when Yehohanan was taken down from the cross.
The point of the nail had olive wood fragments on it indicating that Yehohanan was crucified on a cross made of olive wood or on an olive tree, which would suggest that the condemned was crucified at eye level since olive trees were not very tall. Additionally, a piece of acacia wood was located between the bones and the head of the nail, presumably to keep the condemned from freeing his foot by sliding it over the nail. Yehohanan’s legs were found broken, perhaps as a means of hastening his death (Crucifragium; cf. John 19:31-32).
Haas asserted that Yehohanan experienced three traumatic episodes: the cleft palate on the right side and the associated asymmetries of his face likely resulted from the deterioration of his mother’s diet during the first few weeks of pregnancy; the disproportion of his cerebral cranium (pladiocephaly) were caused by difficulties during birth. All the marks of violence on the skeleton resulted directly or indirectly from crucifixion.
He also postulated that the legs had been pressed together, bent, and twisted to that the calves were parallel to the patibulum, with the feet being secured to the cross by one iron nail driven simultaneously through both heels (tuber calcanei), and also deduced from a scratch on the inner surface of the right radius bone of the forearm, close to the wrist, that a nail had been driven into the forearm at that position.
However, a subsequent reexamination by Joseph “Joe” Zias, former Curator of Archaeology and Anthropology for the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Eliezer Sekeles in 1985 found that many of the conclusions upon which his attempted reconstruction were made were flawed. The nail which Haas reported to be 17-18 centimeters in length was but 11.5 centimeters, making it anatomically impossible to affix two feet with one nail.
Furthermore, despite the original belief that evidence for nailing was found on the radius, a subsequent reexamination of the evidence showed that there was no evidence for traumatic injury to the forearms; various opinions have since then been proposed as to whether the feet were both nailed together to the front of the cross or one on the left side, one on the right side, and whether Yehohanan’s hands was actually nailed to the cross or merely tied (Zias’ reconstruction of Yehohanan’s posture, at right).
While the archeological and physiological record are mostly silent on crucifixion, there are possibilities which may account for this: one is that most victims may have been tied to the cross, which would explain the lack of any direct traumatic evidence on the human skeleton when tied to the cross. The other is that the nails were usually either reused or taken as medical amulets, as stated in Part 1.
Patrick lives in Japan. He supports the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of Bl. Pope John XXIII.
The photo shows, “Compassion,” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, painted in 1897.
In the famous account of the meeting of Christ with the Sadducees (Luke
20: 27–40), the question is brought up of the resurrection of bodies (in other
words, their “recovery” after death). More importantly, the
representatives of the “party” that was once the majority in the
Sanhedrin, the Sadducees, seek to ask the “Master,” the “Rabbi,”
the “Doctor” this fundamental question to which they think they have
the correct answer. They hope to bewilder the man they are addressing, and care
little for the title they use for him. But their hopes are dashed by the answer
they receive: after the Resurrection, men will be like angels.
Our God is the God of the living; there is thus a life after life. But
the conception of the afterlife among Jews, as embodied by the Pharisees and
mocked by the Sadducees, is indeed so simplistic that it can only lend itself
On the whole, this controversy illustrates the refusal of history by the
Sadducees, who themselves are an enigma. They were members of the priestly
class, who were in conflict with the Pharisees, and who refused the very idea
of resurrection. That’s about all we know about them – aside from the
reference that their name makes to Zadok, high priest under David. They were also
supporters of the Romans, during the time of Christ, who lost control of the
Sanhedrin to their opponents, the Pharisees.
In comparison to the Pharisees, the Sadducees held a very “modern” and
simple doctrine – after death, there is nothing. The soul disappears, there is
no other world, there is no destiny. Man has the free choice between good and
evil in this life. After death, it is all over. Their doctrine denied all “post
mortem” reality. In this they opposed the Pharisees who believed in the
immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the “good” – the “bad,” on the
other hand, fell prey to eternal punishment.
The “theology” of the Sadducees was the work of a group of priests, who
founded the sect, and who were vocal on the theological as well as the
political level. They recognized value only in the Torah, thus dooming the rest
of the Bible to nothingness. And, although a minority, their “lobby,” during
the time of Christ, dominated the priestly caste. Thus, for them, history did
not exist, Providence did not exist, only the chaos of human choices reigned.
Man had before him neither a future, nor hope of resurrection. It can be said,
without caricature, that the Sadducee is the prototype of today’s “average
atheist,” – and he was a priest! For him, the Messiah was the hero of a myth.
Let us return to the controversy with Christ on the subject of the
resurrection of the body, taking into account that for the Sadducees the world
as it is, is nonsense. And, indeed, their position is quite singular,
since all the peoples of the earth, of all times, believed, until the
eighteenth century in Europe, at least, in a transcendence, including at least
one god, or a pantheon, and an afterlife. The memory of a primitive religion is
common to all of humanity. But the Sadducees, for their part, had managed to
eliminate the history of Israel – and they were practically in power!
Nevertheless, the Hebrews believed in the resurrection, since Moses at least
(just like the Egyptians, by the way). Did not God promise to restore the
And the answer Jesus gave took them for a loop – first, that the dead are
indeed resurrection, and two, that the resurrected will be like angels. His
opponents, who knew the concept of “angel” but did not believe it, could not
imagine such a metamorphosis. And the answer also highlights the idle nature of
We should note that the angel-analogy relates only to the condition of men
and women resurrected, who then will have no carnal relationship because they
will not feel the need. And the Talmud does tell us that in the Otherworld, you
do not drink, you do not eat, all are equal and in harmony. The body of the
resurrected undergoes a metamorphosis.
But why should angels not have carnal relations? Simply
because they are not susceptible to death and thus do not survive by procreation.
(We might suppose that angels also multiple, but that is a different discussion).
Here it seems that Christ
establishes a causal relationship between carnal reproduction and the necessity
of death. In Heaven, one does not die, one does not die any further. The carnal
relation is really a continuation of the original decay. Adam and Eve, after
the fall, lost their garment of Light, and, being naked, they were then covered
with skins of animals and subject to death. But in the hereafter, people, as
began with their first parents, find a body of Light. They participate in the
mystery of the resurrection. And the Resurrection of Christ is the principle of
all resurrection: by resurrecting, he resurrects in the entirety of his being,
body and soul.
Thus, the pool of the Sadducees
is paved over! Risen humanity will participate in the rightful filial dignity
of the risen Christ, in which filiation and rebirth from the dead together proclaim
Him Son of God.
We also notice the Sadducees’
petty notion of sexuality, expressed in a manner that regulates the lot of
widows. For the Sadducees, marriage is nothing but a carnal union, we may say a
bestial one, since it denies all transcendence accessible to mankind. Marriage,
in this case, only a system of filiation; and it is a fact, recognized and
regulated by the Law, that the only husband of the woman is the first deceased
brother. And yet, clinging to the Law, it seems that the Sadducees have not
understood, in their pettiness and narrow mindedness, the full significance of
marriage, nor have they grasped the grandeur of human destiny.
Christ makes Filiation holy by his Divinity, by opening us to the omnipotence of God, and thus reminding us of the promise of history, which includes our very own resurrection.
Father Frédéric Guigain was born in Paris, and obtained a DEA in philosophy at the Sorbonne (Paris IV). He was ordained a priest in the Maronite diocese of Jbeil-Byblos (Lebanon) in 2001, and assumed various tasks of pastoral care in Nigeria (Port-Harcourt), Italy (Rome-Albano) and Lebanon (Diocese of Jbeil). He was a parish priest in Amsheet, in charge of the chancery of the bishopric, and chaplain of the diocesan committee for youth ministry. He is currently vicar of the parish of Saint-Cloud in the diocese of Nanterre.
The original version of this article is in French. This English translation is by N. Dass.
The photo shows Christ teaching, from a French breviary, dated to ca. 1511.
NIt has been almost three years since the tragic
death of Isaac. Ruth and Nahum are still struggling with his death. It has
affected them deeply to the point of depression. Ezra and Ezekiel have tried to
console and help their parents but nothing they have done has made them feel
any less remorseful.
Another contributing factor to their stress and
poor health are the daily reports of mass murders of Christians in nearby towns
and cities. Both the Jews, who resent the new Christian believers and the
Romans who are angry that the Christians continue to state their belief in
Jesus and his preachings ahead of the Roman Leaders.
Now a new fear is gripping the city of Jerusalem!
There are rumors of a Roman attack on the city in the next few years. The
attack will be against the Jews, but the new Christians are worried they may be
part of the attack too. Many have already fled to other countries.
Nahum and his boys have discussed the possibility
of an attack either by Jews or Romans. Considering their relationship with many
Jewish customers and the recent non-threatening actions of the Roman soldiers
they have agreed to continue living their lives as they have been for seventy
Nahum and family are feeling safe, but many of
their friends and customers have been slaughtered by Jewish rebels as they try
to eliminate the followers of Jesus.
The Jews are also shocked and angry thousands of
Jews are converting to this new Christianity every day. Even in time of
persecution, Jesus word is bringing in new followers.
It is fifty years since Nahum took over his
fathers carpentry and leather shop. The boys believe a celebration should be
held in honour of this accomplishment.
The boys have been secretly planning an event
that they hope will help bring some closure to the death of Isaac and the
hundreds of his followers. They also hope it will bring some happiness back
into the lives of their parents.
It is a large event they are planning, a huge amount of work and planning and even
some fear of the Roman soldiers and the
Jewish rebels. After all, Nahum
was one of the mob who joined together and shouted CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!
and some of those people have remained faithful to the Jewish faith but are
still customers today.
After three months of talking, checking,
enquiring (secretly) and praying about their plan, they have decided to tell
their wives on Saturday night of the plan.
Following dinner, Ezra asked the two ladies to
join them in the sitting room where the boys presented their plan. The ladies
were awe struck and for some time did not reply. After a while, Hannah looked
at Elizabeth and said do you think the ladies from the Guild would be willing
to help with the food. There were about fifty women in the Guild, she replied, I am sure they would.
With that Hannah said, ok, lets do it! They all
agreed they should keep it a secret from Ruth and Nahum, but should discuss it
with the larger family before undertaking such a big event. They made a plan
for each of them to reach out to various family members and get their approval.
They are to meet again in two weeks.
Two weeks later the two couples met and exchanged
the results of their respective visits. The visits all went well, and many of
the visits resulted in offers to assist. Joshua said he had four large barrels
of fine wine he would bring! That was an important aspect that they all smiled
The most important and dangerous part of the plan
was the fact the event would be open for both the new Jesus people; Christians,
and the Jewish community. They would also have to get the approval from
Claudius and the Roman soldiers. Was this too dangerous a mix? Only time would
The Christian community around this part of
Jerusalem was not being persecuted by either the Jews or the Romans, however,
only a few miles away there were horror stories of mass killings, tortures and
persecution of the Christians. Would this Event be noticed by these factions
who could easily slaughter hundreds of unarmed, innocent people.
Ezra and Ezekiel decided on a plan that would
give them some assurance of a safe and danger free event. They would consult
with various people to get their
reaction to the idea.
When the boys reconvened the next week, they were
pleased with the responses they got from their contacts. Ezra has spoken with some of his Jewish
friends and leaders while Ezekiel visited Claudius.
They were assured from both fronts that there was
no danger if they agreed to two rules.
That there be no religious activities, and no political involvement or participation.
Both boys agreed this could be attained, although they were very disappointed
they could not talk about their new friend Jesus, but realized the danger that
could come to them if they aggravated the Romans or the Jews. They decided to ask God for forgeiveness and
forged ahead with their plans
Now it was time to get to work, and there was a
lot of work for everyone. They decided they would have a meeting during one
afternoon when they knew Nahum would be at home. Also, there would be no suspicions
about a secret meeting held during the day.
On Thursday, fourteen people arrived at the shop.
Ezekiel took the lead and presented the plans. He was supported by Ezra,
Elizabeth and Hannah.
The Event would be a celebration of fifty years
of Nahum The Carpenter. There would be an open invitiation to anyone and
everyone. There would be food, wine, childrens games, music, horse and wagon
valet service, and Ruth and Nahum would be comfortably seated where all the
guests could stop by and say hello.
This brief synopsis begged many questions! Who
would do the cooking? Abraham had volunteered to cook a large steer on an open
pit; Elizabeth and Hannah had spoken to two local Ladies Guilds and over forty
ladies would look after the remaining food. Market Man had offered to bring
large baskets of fresh fruit, and of course Joshua was bringing the wine.
Who was looking after the children: Hannah and
Sara had reached out to three teacher friends and they agreed to assist along
with several teen agers from the local schools. What about the horses and wagons. Here, Ezra was so
proud of his “horse friends”, many had volunteered to meet the wagons
and after unloading the passengers would drive the wagons to near by fields
where there would be shade, water and hay for the animals. There were enough
volunteers that they could take turns and still enjoy some of the festivities
the music? This proved to be another proud moment for the two boys. First of
all Ezekiel had played in a band with some of his friends. They enjoyed sacred
music as well as some of the present day modern music. They would play in an
area where people could listen, dance and sing as they chose. Then, the big
suprise came from Sara and Hannah. They had met a young girl, Demetra, while at medical school in Athens. As well
as training in the medical field she was also an aspiring entertainer. She
followed the music of Sappho and her brother accompained her on the Lyre. Both Hannah and Sara had attended several of
her concerts while training in Athens. Although her music was primarily Greek,
her beautiful voice and amazing poetry of Sappho made for wonderful musical
When contacted by Sara she
agreed to come if she and her brother could be given some travel expense
money and a place to stay. Hannah
explained that the Medical Centre had saved enough to assist with travel
expenses and Elizabeth had offered the new home that had been Miriamme and
Yohanan’s apartment as a place to stay.
The participants were all nodding their approval
as the couple explained their plans. Two final questions were asked: how many
people did they expect, and who was
going to pay for all this? Again, the boys explained they had done some
research and came up a number of 300 guests! since much of the labour was being
donated, most of the costs would be assisting in paying for the food.
had prepared a budget for the purchase of the foods and to reimburse the ladies for the purchase of
vegetables etc. This would not be an issue.
On Monday Ezra and Ezekiel retraced their steps of a few weeks ago and revisited the leaders to advise them the Event was a go. Now it is time to get to work.
The photo shows, “The Widow’s Mite” by James Tissot, painted ca. 1886 to 1894.