Thursday, December 28, 2017

Who was the mysterious Zacharias of Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:51?

Both Matthew and Luke report of a fire-and-brimstone sermon by Jesus, in which he pronounces the Pharisees' guilt of all shed righteous blood on earth, from that of righteous Abel to that of Zacharias son of Barachias, who "they" murdered between the temple and the altar (Matthew 23:35, Luke 11:51). We know who Abel was but the fellow named Zacharias is harder to place.

The father of the prophet Zechariah was called Berechiah (Zechariah 1:1), so that seems like a good bet, but this Zechariah worked about 500 years before Jesus blamed the Pharisees for all the innocent blood shed on earth. That would mean that Jesus figured that no innocent blood had been shed for the previous five centuries, which would be quite a statement. And Zechariah was never reported murdered, as far as we know. Of course, a lot of things happened in those days that we don't know about but one would assume that Jesus wouldn't refer to an event that was so relatively obscure that not a single other report of it survives.

A Zechariah whose murder does appear in the Scriptures is a prophet in the early days of the divided kingdom, who protested the people's worship of idols and was stoned to death in the court of the temple of YHWH and by command of king Joash (2 Chronicles 24:21). The name is right and the place is right (the inner or priestly court of the temple contained the altar, so Zechariah could have been perfectly positioned between the altar and the actual sanctuary), but this story plays in the ninth century BC (that's more than eight centuries without innocent blood shed), and this Zechariah's father wasn't called Berechiah but Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:20).

Proponents of this theory argue that many people in the Old Testament have two names that are used interchangeably, but why would Jesus refer to someone we all know, and all know to be a son of Jehoiada, confusingly as a son of Berechiah, as if he were the later prophet Zechariah?

Others claim that the innocent Zacharias was in fact the father of John the Baptist, but that would require assuming that his father was called Barachias and that he was killed in the temple court, and no one else talked about that. But, really, if we would allow assumptions like that we might as well assume that righteous Zacharias himself isn't otherwise known.

Much more radical is a connection between our mystery man and a story told by the famous Roman-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (see our article on Dalmanutha), about a wealthy man named Zacharias, son of Baruch, who was murdered "in the middle of the temple" by riotous Zealots who had first organized a mock trial presided over by seventy judges, and who had swiftly acquitted Zacharias, much to the chagrin of the zealots (Jewish Wars, IV, 5, 4). The names Baruch and Berechiah are closely related (one is short for the other, and this kind of truncation is very common in the Bible; the famous Baruch-bulla that surfaced in 1975 even reads "Belonging to Berechiah, son-of-Neriah, the scribe") and there is no huge time gap between this murder and the time of Jesus. The only problem with this theory is that the murder of Zacharias by the zealots happened in the year 67 AD.

Scholars are generally not happy with this connection. "It's doubtful whether this [interpretation] can be justified," writes Spiros Zodhiates (The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary — New Testament) mildly. "That Jesus should predict the incident is absurd," roars John Macpherson (Zacharias: a study of Matthew 23:35).

In footnote IV-9 on his translation of the Jewish Wars, William Whiston makes the obvious objection that the murder of Zacharias by the zealots was decades in the future of Jesus. And he suggests that Josephus cared enough about the sanctity of the temple that he would have certainly mentioned if the zealots had murdered acquitted Zacharias in the inner court.

Here at Abarim Publications we're not so sure.

Josephus paints a clear picture of complete anarchy. It seems that there were hundreds of people gathered in the temple complex that day; spectators, seventy judges and enough zealots to dominate everybody. After the mock trial, the zealots murder Zacharias (yelling something like, "Here's our acquittal! See how that one suits you!") and pummel the seventy judges out of the temple complex with the backs of their swords, so that they could demonstrate to the citizens that they were nothing but slaves to the zealots. Josephus shows obvious indignation to the zealots' general disrespect. As Josephus notes about the Zealots a few paragraphs further up:

"These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of men, and laughed at the laws of God; and for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers. Yet did these prophets foretell many things concerning [the rewards of] virtue, and [punishments of] vice, which when these zealots violated, they occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their own country; for there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews, and their own hand should pollute the temple of God. Now while these zealots did not [quite] disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment" (Josephus — Jewish Wars IV.6.3).

The problem of chronology is evenly easily solved. The reference to Abel and Zacharias was not made by Jesus but by the narrator of the story (whoever that was, Matthew, Luke or the Q-author, or even a later editor). It's an insert, a gloss, comparable to the "let the reader understand" inserts of Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14, and aimed at the audience of the gospels who certainly knew very well about the murder of Zacharias and when it had happened, namely very recently.

Saying that Matthew and Luke referred to a fifth or ninth century martyr is like supposing that when a late 20th century author speaks of "the Kennedy assassination," he is talking about poor lord David Kennedy who was killed at Flodden in 1513. If the evangelists hadn't meant the obvious Zacharias, they would have had to add "Zacharias, not the famous one!"

Poor David Kennedy, who met his untimely demise at the Battle of Flodden in 1513

The murder of Zacharias marked the end of an era. It was an early symptom of the imminent destruction of the temple and the collapse of Jerusalem, and that collapse marked the end of Jewish reality, in effect the end of the world. The murders of Abel and Zacharias encompassed the whole of history, exactly the stretch of time that Jesus speaks about, but the Abel and Zacharias remark was never intended to be placed in the mouth of Jesus; it's a comment obviously made by the story teller. Red-letter Bibles should stop printing red after the word "earth" and pick it up again after the word "altar".

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The verb ρεω (reo) means to flow - hence panta rhei

Heraclitus according to Michaelangelo

The Greek verb ρεω (reo) means to flow; hence the famous dictum panta rhei, or everything flows, made famous by Heraclitus of Ephesus.

This philosopher of the Persian Empire, who lived during the century of post-exilic restoration of Jerusalem, also pioneered the idea of Logos, which proposes that the universe is governed by a single unchangeable unified natural law (Colossians 2:16-17) rather than whimsically warring deities.

Our verb is used for anything that flows: water but also words, which helps to explain the stream of living water that would flow from people's within (John 7:38; which is where our verb's only New Testament occurrence happens).

The verb ερεω (ereo) means to verbally convey. It's clearly related to the verb ρεω (reo), meaning to flow, and is often spelled the same (without the leading ε).

Speaking to the Greeks was what snow is to Eskimos, and our verb ερεω (ereo) appears to emphasize the associative flowing out of words, rather than the actual message (that's described by the verb λεγω, lego), or the act of emitting information (επω, epo), or simply to babble (λαλεω, laleo).

Heraclitus' famous dictum doesn't only mean "everything flows" but also "everything speaks," which brings to mind Jesus' assertion that man should live on not only bread but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Wanna read the Christmas story in Greek?

Always wanted to read the Christmas story in the original Greek but you don't read Greek?

Then use our free online Interlinear New Testament. Follow the links to view the corresponding Dictionary articles and an analysis of the Greek grammar.

Go to Abarim Publications' free online Interlinear Luke 2 ...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

There are two towns named Bethlehem mentioned in the Bible

There are two towns named Bethlehem mentioned in the Bible; the famous one in Judah, the other one in Zebulun (Joshua 19:15). Bethlehem-Judah is first mentioned as the place formerly known as Ephrath (Genesis 35:16), where Rachel gives birth to Benjamin and dies (Genesis 35:19).

Bethlehem's rise to stardom is set in motion by Elimelech the Bethlehemite (בית הלחמי, note that this frequently occurring ethnonym is spelled with a maqqep, or hyphen, only in 1 Samuel 16:1, but always comes with the particle of motion ה, he) who finds himself and his family driven out of Israel and to Moab by a famine (Ruth 1:1-2). His wife's name is Naomi, his sons are Mahlon and Chilion, and his Moabite daughters in law are Ruth and Orpah. When after ten years all the men are dead, Orpah goes home and Naomi goes back to Bethlehem and takes Ruth with her. In Bethlehem Ruth meets and marries Boaz. Their son is Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David who would be the king who united the tribes of Israel. It is for this reason that Micah writes his Messianic prophecy referred to in Matthew 2:6:

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah. From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity (Micah 5:2)".

Perhaps he should have left it a surprise because some 700 years later king Herod, fearing rivalry from an infant, has all the children of Bethlehem (Βηθλεεμ, Bethleem) and environs murdered. Matthew reveals how far those environs stretch by referring to what Jeremiah wrote, 100 years after Micah, "Thus says YHWH, 'a voice is heard in Ramah, [...] Rachel is weeping for her children...'" (Matthew 2:18, Jeremiah 31:15).

Rachel's tomb is somewhere on the border of Benjamin (1 Samuel 10:2) and Ramah is a Benjamin town north of Jerusalem.

In 1 Chronicles 2:51 it reads that Salma was the father of Bethlehem, and it seems that this Bethlehem is a person. However, this Bethlehem is mentioned along groups of people and towns, and it is much more likely that Salma was a mayor (the אב, ab) of the town of Bethlehem-Judah. Something similar happens with Tekoa in 1 Chronicles 2:24. In 2 Chronicles 11:6 we see both these towns as "built" by Rehoboam. That means either that these existing towns were fortified, or Rehoboam erected new forts with old, nostalgic names. (Compare with 2 Chronicles 8:2, where Solomon 'builds' cities that were given to him by Huram).

The name Bethlehem is written without the maqqep in Genesis and Judges and on, but sporadically in Samuel, Chronicles and the Prophets it occurs spelled with a maqqep (בית־לחם). It occurs a mere 8 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.

For the "true meaning of Christmas," read our article on the name Nazareth and the paragraph on the Titulus Crucis in our article on the name Mary. Here at Abarim Publications we're pretty sure that although the Word became embodied in Bethlehem, the gospel that told of this originated with the Jews of the Diaspora in Persian Babylon.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

There are not one but five Jesuses mentioned in the New Testament

There are no fewer than five separate individuals named Jesus in the Bible, which is not such a wonder since Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua.

The most famous Jesus, of course, is Jesus the Nazarene, also known as Jesus Christ or the Messiah; the semi-biological son of Mary, son-by-law of Joseph and monogenes Son of God. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, lived as an infant in Egypt, and in Nazareth until He was thirty years old. In the early days of His ministry he moved to Capernaum, and at the end of it He was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, tried by Pontius Pilate and executed at Golgotha. Three days later He resurrected and forty days after that He ascended to heaven.

The famous Jesus is one of five men named Jesus mentioned in the New Testament

Other men named Jesus in the New Testament are:

  • An ancestor of Jesus in the Lucan genealogy (Luke 3:29), and only according to some translations. In Greek this name is spelled Ιωση (Jose), which only the King James and Young translations properly transliterate. The Darby translation speaks of Joses. The New International Version and New American Standard translations have Joshua. And the American Standard Version has Jesus.
  • Joshua (Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8).
  • A fellow worker of Paul named Jesus Justus (Colossians 4:11).
  • A Jewish magician who Paul and Barnabas meet on Cyprus, named Bar-Jesus (a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic for Son Of Joshua).
The name Jesus was obviously quite common in New Testament times. The Roman-Jewish historian Josephus mentions at least twenty different people named Jesus in his works, one of these being Jesus son of Damneus, who became high priest when the previous high priest was deposed for executing James the Just, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth (Ant.20.9). Another Jesus Josephus wrote about was Jesus son of Ananias, who in 62 AD began walking about Jerusalem, loudly foretelling its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD .

All together, the name Jesus occurs 972 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Is Astrology Always Wrong? What about Christmas?

Stars were created to be signs (Genesis 1:14), but as with every message (including Scriptures) a flawed exegesis gives flawed conclusions.

The wise men from the east who were the first to find Jesus in Bethlehem were astronomers who had followed an astral sign. Without their astronomy, there would have been no Christmas ...

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Look! And count the stars if you can! Genesis 15:5

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Sermon on the Mount in Greek with Dictionary and grammar help

Read the amazing Sermon on the Mount in the original Greek!

Don't read Greek? Then use the links to view the corresponding Dictionary articles and an analysis of the Greek grammar.

Go to our free online Interlinear Greek New Testament ...

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Stoics in the New Testament

 Zeno of Citium - a cheerful chap

The Stoics are mentioned once in the Bible, namely in Acts 17:18, where they and their Epicurean counterparts engage Paul's discussion on Jesus Christ and the resurrection. They were followers of the philosopher Zeno of Citium (336 - 264 BC), and Citium was a city-kingdom on the southern coast of Cyprus, which was either Phoenician or still so much influenced by them that Zeno's Cynic mentor Crates called his pupil "little Phoenician" (Diogenes Laertius, vii.3).

Although the Stoics and Epicureans were proverbially Greek, these competing schools of thought showed remarkable similarities between the proverbial Jewish schools of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Neither the Epicureans nor the Sadducees believed in angels or spirits and such, but both the Pharisees and Stoics did (Acts 23:8) and since Paul came from the Pharisee tradition (Acts 23:6, Philippians 3:5), he probably got along wonderfully with the Stoics.

Paul was from Tarsus, which was also the home of a major center of Stoicism, and since Paul's writing is riddled with respectful references to Greek and Roman writings (see our article on Homer) and Stoicism was the major school of Greek thought in Paul's days, it's beyond reasonable doubt that he was intimately acquainted with Stoicism. In fact, even though Paul's writings were later physically bundled with Jewish ones to form the Bible, it's impossible to tell whether Paul's theology was a continuation of Judaic or Stoic thought.

Paul drew freely from any source that might explain the gospel, and that, to some extent, is the gospel. Or as Paul himself said: "I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Greek verb κλαω (klao) means to break

The verb κλαω (klao) means to break, but in the sense of arresting some natural progression and directing its energy into a bursting delta of fragments, streams, branches, et cetera.

Metaphorically our verb may mean to weaken, such as emotions or one's voice — precisely as our evenly curious English synonyms: a breaking voice, a breaking heart. Our verb is also identical to an Attic variant of the verb κλαιω (klaio), meaning to wail or lament.

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The verb κλαω (klao) means to break, like into a bursting delta 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Biblical names that come from the word Shalom - meaning Peace

These graceful Biblical names all derive from the familiar noun שלום (shalom), meaning peace:


Everybody knows the familiar noun שלום (shalom), meaning peace, but the general meaning of its root-verb שלם (shalem) is that of wholeness, completeness or "unbrokenness" (and see for the opposite the verb רעע, ra'a). Our verb is used to characterize the uncut stones of the altar (Deuteronomy 27:6) and the temple (1 Kings 6:7). It tells of a "full" or perhaps "righteous" wage (Ruth 2:12), and the entirety of a population (Amos 1:6). It also tells of "full" and just weights, which are God's delight (Deuteronomy 25:15 and Proverbs 11:1), and of "whole" hearts devoted to the Lord (1 Kings 8:61). This verb may even denote the completeness of sin (Genesis 15:16), and in some rare cases it may denote friendship (Jeremiah 20:10, Psalm 41:10).

In the Hebrew language it's quite simple to indicate not only a condition (like shalem), but also the means to get there (to "shalem-ize"). The usage of this shalem-ize form in Scriptures is quite revealing. Wholeness is achieved or restored most often by some kind of restitutory payment or covenant: God pays a man according to his work (Job 34:11), but the wicked borrows and does not pay back (Psalm 37:21). The owner of an accidentally killed ox is paid restitution (Exodus 21:36); oil is sold to pay off a debt (2 Kings 4:7); and the Gibeonites swindle Joshua into making a covenant with them (Joshua 10:1). Likewise, shalem is used when vows are to be paid to the Most High, or when days of mourning are to be completed (Isaiah 60:20), and ties in directly to the Messiah and his salvific work (Joel 2:25).

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The Hebrew word for peace - shalom - comes from a verb that means to be whole an unbroken

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The name Jesus - Concordance

Guess how many times the name Jesus occurs in the New Testament. It's 972!

Check out our free online concordance of New Testament Greek. It lists all words that occur more than 3 times, and offers links to their respective dictionary pages and analyses of the grammar.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Of kings and bosses

The noun βασιλευς (basileus; hence the English word basilica) means king, but note that until the rise of the republics (around the time of the second temple), every town of a few hundred people or more was its own kingdom.

Our word is of unclear origin but it was possibly imported from an Anatolian language — the Lydian word for king was battos. It might also have been formed from, or with the assistance of, the noun στοα (stoa), meaning pillar, perhaps because kings lived in palaces with pillars, but more so because in the era of the republic, our word βασιλευς (basileus) applied not only to whatever monarchs remained but rather to any chiefs, lords, masters and otherwise venerable persons or men of greatness or distinction: the "pillars" of society.

Note that our familiar English word "boss" has no clear etymology, other than that it probably came from the Dutch equivalent baas. The Dutch in turn, as everybody knows, have always been great at appropriating and truncating words from other languages, and may very well have drawn their noun baas from the Greek noun βασιλευς (basileus).

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Friday, December 1, 2017

How to build an outdoor latrine - Bible style

Smack in the middle of a chapter pertaining to the glorious sanctification of the Assembly of God -- Deuteronomy 23 --we find tips on how to build an outdoor latrine. When we take a closer look these 'tips' appear to be highly similar to a passage in Paul's letter to the Romans, in which he sums up no less than the mystery of the death and resurrection of people in Christ.

The Book of Deuteronomy deals with the formal and ceremonial qualities of the covenant of the Creator and His creation. According to the many contemporary and subsequent prophesies this covenant must in due time result in the fullness of
man; a completely stable economy and utter freedom of the individual in social, economical and intellectual sense. This unified human mentality, though founded on individual freedom, will be governed by an elite group of just rulers, or rather an assembly of servants.

Our target verses are situated in a legal discourse stretching from chapter 4 to chapter 27, covering the Ten Commandments, ceremonial law, civil law and social law.

Deuteronomy 23 is part of excursions in social law, covering anonymous murder, family law (marriage, rebellious children, property, separation), acceptance into the above-mentioned assembly, laws for harmony in the nation, and tax law. Deuteronomy 23 is a chapter that deals with preparation for an elite administration of just rulers. Jesus Christ is considered the first actual one and arch-father of that administration and, by His incarnation into His people, also the factual unity of its members. He made it clear that these future rulers are to 'die to themselves'; to lay down their personal life for the service of the collective, as utter servants.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Abaddon is destruction personified

Abaddon is destruction personified, and it's curious (not to mention evident of a lopsided theological tradition) that Abaddon never received the popular recognition that generally befalls Armageddon and Sheol.

John the Revelator depicts Abaddon (Αβαδδων) as the angel of the abyss, who is king over the swarm of hellish locust that appear under the fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:11), and dubs his name in Greek Apollyon.

In the Old Testament, Abaddon appears alongside Sheol in Proverbs 15:11 and 27:20 (spelled אבדה, Abaddah) and Job 26:6, and alongside Mawet (Death — commemorated in names like Hazarmaveth) in Job 28:22, and along qeber (the grave) in Psalm 88:11. In Job 31:12 fire occurs as a route to Abaddon.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Fresh out: Our Interlinear New Testament

It's taken a while (and we're still not wholly done yet) but here it is: Abarim Publications' brand-new Interlinear New Testament (English/Greek).

Every Greek word is linked to its respective Dictionary page, where you will also find your word's grammatical definitions (what case it has, and such) and a link to your word's Concordance page(s):

Click here to go to the Interlinear New Testament

Let us know if our work is helpful to you, and if it is: please like and share.

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