03.05 Jewish Sovereignty And Roman Conquest (c. 164 B.C. – A.D.70)

03.05.10 Jewish Civil War; 80 women and 800 Pharisees Crucified

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 15, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.05.10 Jewish Civil War; 80 women and 800 Pharisees Crucified

03.05.10 90 – 88 B.C. Jewish Civil War; 80 women and 800 Pharisees Crucified

Civil war broke out when the conservative religious Pharisees joined forces with Demetrius III, a descendant of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Together they fought against Alexander Jannaeus. As Jannaeus was about to crush the rebellion, some 6,000 men of Demetrius defected and about 8,000 Pharisees did likewise, leaving many others to be either captured or killed in battle. Of those whom Jannaeus considered to be traitors or potential enemies, 800 were crucified.[1] As these Pharisees died in agony, Jannaeus had their wives and children slaughtered in front of them – husbands and fathers watched in horror, helpless, and dying on a cross.  Of this barbaric account, Josephus wrote that while,

He [Jannaeus] was feasting with his concubines, in the sight of all the city, he ordered about eight hundred of them (Pharisees) to be crucified; and while they were living, he ordered the throats of their children and wives to be cut before their eyes. This was indeed by way of revenge for the injuries they had done him; which punishment yet was of an inhuman nature.

            Josephus, Antiquities 13.14.2 (380)[2]


03.05.10a (2)


In Ashkelon, Jannaeus crucified eighty women whom he suspected of being witches.[3]  He stripped them naked and, for the sake of modesty, nailed them facing the cross where they died.  The Essenes wrote of this horrific event in their Dead Sea Scroll 4QpNah 1:6-8.[4]  As the gospels reveal between these two major Jewish groups there was no great love. The common belief was that since every person who died on a tree was cursed by God, whoever they crucified would therefore, also be cursed by God. Their reasoning was based on the following words of Moses,

            For anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.

            Deuteronomy 21:23b


Just when Jannaeus thought he was at the height of his power and success, in 83 B.C., Tigranes of Armenia (modern Turkey) invaded Syria and northern Israel, captured many Jews and took them to be slaves in Armenia.[5] But Jannaeus was too weak to protect his own people.[6]  The Jews, who protested against the cruelty of their king, took advantage of the situation and a six-year civil war erupted.  Jannaeus was killed and his widow, Alexandra Salome, ruled until her death in 67 B.C.

[1]. Avi-Yonah and Kraeling, Our Living Bible. 240-41.


[2]. See also Josephus, Wars, 1.4.1, 6. Furthermore, a parallel account was also found in Dead Sea Scroll fragment 4QpNahum, but it is not as complete as the account recorded by Josephus.


[3]. The Mishnah, Sanhedrin 6.4 states that it was Simeon ben Shetah who ordered them to be crucified.


[4]. Elgvin, “The Messiah.” 36. Young, “The Cross, Jesus and the Jewish People.” 27.

[5]. Neusner and Green, eds., Dictionary of Judaism. 60.

[6]. Neusner and Green, eds., Dictionary of Judaism. 635.

03.05.11 Queen Alexandra Salome Reigns; Pharisees Control the Temple

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 15, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.05.11 Queen Alexandra Salome Reigns; Pharisees Control the Temple

03.05.11 76 – 67 B.C. Queen Alexandra Salome Reigns; Pharisees Control the Temple

After the death of Jannaeus, his widow, Alexandra Salome, became the only queen to solely rule Judah. She was radically different in that she was, without question, the kindest and most righteous monarch the Jewish people had during the Inter-Testamental Period.  In light of the fact that she had been married to a corrupt leader, it is amazing that she governed in a godly manner.  Her major problem was the corruption of government officials within her staff whom she eventually removed, as well as the Pharisees who at times failed to follow her directives.  Because of her, Judaea enjoyed a golden age of peace and prosperity. Amazingly, during a time of chaotic influences, men were honored to have her lead their nation and fight their battles.[1]

Josephus stated that, as a Pharisee, the elderly queen focused on the observance of the Mosaic Law and maintained peace throughout the land, although at times the Sadducees became the persecuted ones. Eventually she placed her son Hyrcanus II in the position of high priest and allowed the Pharisees to control the temple and reins of government. There can be little question that this dynamic change came about due to the influence of a union of non-priestly heads of wealthy families, known as the “elders.”[2] Elders were significant, as well noted in the gospels during the ministry of Jesus, as in Luke 19:47.

As to her other son, Aristobulus II, because he was bold, energetic, and quick tempered, she resigned him to private life.  Consequently, there was a great degree of bitterness and tension between them as well as between the two religious sects. Josephus writes,

Now Alexander [Jannaeus] let the kingdom to Alexandra, his wife, and depended upon it that the Jews would now very readily submit to her; because she had been very averse to such cruelty as he had treated them with, and had opposed his violation of their laws, and had thereby got the good will of the people … for she chiefly studied the ancient customs of her country and cast out those men of the government that offended against their holy laws.

And now the Pharisees joined themselves to her, to assist her in the government.  These are a certain sect of Jews that appear more religious than others, and seemed to interpret the laws more accurately.  Now, Alexandra hearkened to them to an extraordinary degree, as being herself a woman of great piety towards God. But these Pharisees artfully insinuated themselves into her favor little by little, and became themselves the real administrators of the public affairs.  They banished and reduced whom (namely the Sadducees) they pleased; they bound and loosed (men) at their pleasure; and, to say all at once, they had the enjoyment of the royal authority, while the expenses and the difficulties of it belonged to Alexandra.  She was a sagacious woman in the management of great affairs.  

Josephus, Wars 1.5.1-2 (107-111)[3]


The queen also took care of the affairs of the kingdom and got together a great body of mercenary soldiers, and increased her own army to such a degree, that she became terrible to the neighboring tyrants and took hostages from them and the country was entirely at peace.                                                                 

Josephus, Antiquities 13.16.2 (409b)


She was only the second queen of Judah, the first being Athaliah, daughter of the infamous Ahab and Jezebel, who ruled for six years (2 Chron. 22:12).[4] Their great-granddaughter, Mariamne, became the favorite wife of Herod the Great.

[1]. Atkinson, “The Salome No One Knows.” 61-62.


[2]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 223; See also 02.01.04.


[3]. Insert mine.


[4]. Ahab is among fifty biblical names whose existence has been verified by archaeological studies in a published article by Lawrence Mykytiuk titled, “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.” Biblical Archaeology Review. March/April, 2014 (40:2), pages 42-50, 68.  This archaeological evidence confirms the historical accuracy of the biblical timeline.  For further study, see the website for Associates for Biblical Research, as well as Grisanti, “Recent Archaeological Discoveries that Lend Credence to the Historicity of the Scriptures.” 475-98.


03.05.12 Summary Influence of “Hellenistic Reform” (331 – 63 B.C.) that shaped Jewish life in the First Century

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 15, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.05.12 Summary Influence of “Hellenistic Reform” (331 – 63 B.C.) that shaped Jewish life in the First Century

03.05.12 Summary Influence of “Hellenistic Reform” (331 – 63 B.C.) that shaped Jewish life in the First Century

The Jewish population throughout the eastern Mediterranean area was so great that they permeated nearly every level of society.  While some were accepting of the Greek culture, others were strongly opposed to it. For others, changes toward Hellenism came slowly, and as long as these did not affect the Jewish faith, they did not care.  By definition, “Hellenistic reform”[1] was the expected compliance by everyone to the Greek culture, including the acceptance of Greek religious values.   And it was the subject of religious values that split the Jewish community.

The claim that the Maccabean Revolt was a revolt against Greek Hellenization is misleading and without historical evidence.[2]  The revolt was against the dictatorial monarch, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The Hellenistic influence greatly affected the Jewish society and, were it not for the Revolt, there is little question that Hellenism would have had an even greater influence.  The revolt did, however, cause people to re-evaluate their faith, which in turn resulted in a spiritual revival. But the revival also caused divisions, and after the revolt ended, three major religious parties came into existence: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. By the time of Christ, Hellenism caused an even wider theological division among the Jews.

The central core of Greek philosophy was that obtaining wisdom was the ideal goal of life. For this reason it has been suggested that philosophy is a false substitute for religion and it stems from the world of paganism which first gave rise to Plato and Aristotle.[3]

Wisdom hath been created before all things, and the understanding of prudence from everlasting.

Ben Sirach 1:4[4]


The Greek gymnasium, theater, and temples were cultural symbols of Hellenistic reform. Except for the gymnasium that was constructed in Jerusalem by Antiochus IV, these Greek icons were not introduced into the Jewish cities until Herod the Great (reigned 37 – 4 B.C.). Many aspects of Jewish life took on the appearance of the Greek culture and were later promoted by the Romans.  For example, the Jews wore garments almost identical to the Greeks in Athens, Alexandria, and the Romans wore them in Rome.  Their clothing normally consisted of a tunic, cloak, belt, shoes or sandals, and a head covering for both men and women.  The headband was the sign of masculinity and never worn by women.[5] Some Jewish men did, however, maintain the tradition of wearing fringes to keep their identity (Num. 15).  The Greek custom of reclining at a dining table was precisely what Jesus and the disciples did during the Last Supper.  Cultural norms that did not have moral or religious implications were adopted almost universally.[6]

Hellenism had a number of positive and negative influences that are recognized in the New Testament.[7] Galatians 4:4 states that in the fullness of time, Jesus came to earth.  God had already been at work for centuries in shaping and preparing it to receive His Son. Some of these influences are as follows:

  1. In Greek philosophy man is central to life whereas in Judaism God is the central figure.[8] In essence, the Greeks were philosophical while the Jews were theological. Furthermore, the God of the Jews was an invisible deity, who had no “sinful human vices,” and whom they called their Father. This was beyond the comprehension of the Greeks. Their gods and half-gods were formed into idols and had all the human vices and pleasures of humanity. The inability of each group to accept and tolerate the differences of the other resulted in tensions and conflicts in Israel. Interestingly, in Egypt the differences were tolerated and peace prevailed.


03.05.12a (2)


As previously stated, among the Greeks, the idea that a god might appear in human form was accepted in mythology.  Little wonder then, that when they heard that Jesus was God, they could accept this fact while the Jews had great difficulty with it. This belief, coupled with the expectation of a messianic figure, explains in part, as to why the Greeks laid their mythologies aside and accepted Jesus. Consequently, Christianity exploded in Gentile nations while it was slow to be accepted, and often opposed, in Jewish communities. The New Testament had to be written in Greek for these new believers.

  1. The introduction and use of koine Greek was an important development in preparing the world for the gospel.[9] The Roman Empire consisted of a dozen language groups. Had it not been for the invasion of Hellenism, there would have been dozens of language groups.
  1. There was a profound economic unification in the Mediterranean world, especially in international trade. International trade routes were well established centuries earlier in the days of King Solomon, and even more so after Alexander the Great invaded this area. Therefore, by the time Jesus was born, news traveled quickly by ancient standards. This enabled the gospel to spread quickly throughout the Roman world.


03.05.12.A. HELLENISTIC ART-FRESCO IN A JEWISH TOMB.  Evidence of Hellenistic cultural influence in Jerusalem is evident by this Jewish tomb-fresco showing a hunter, herald and lion. In traditional Judaism, the image of a person was banned, but such images became popular with Hellenism.

  1. Greek logic and thinking, which is foundational in the Western thought processes, is significantly different from how the ancient Jewish people processed information. They thought pictorially. For example, two phrases to describe God in the Old Testament are “tower of strength,” or a “cleft of a rock.”  Such descriptions are replaced in the New Testament with words such as “protection,” that have a greater feeling of personal and intimate relationship.[10]
  1. The Greeks with their philosophical logic and reasoning are generally credited with introducing to the world the question “why?” along with critical thinking. However, Jewish parents had taught their children to ask “Why?” since the first Passover. The question was established as part of the Passover Seder long before it was popular among the Greeks, but the Greeks popularized it throughout the Gentile world.
  1. Those Greeks who achieved success in life occupied their leisure time with philosophical thoughts, debates, and the like. However, that was a small portion of the population. The earliest form of Christianity was outside the sphere of Greek philosophy, and appealed to those whom philosophy did not reach, which may explain the explosive growth of Christianity among the Gentiles. Philosophers, in the meantime, had very degrading opinions of Christians in terms of philosophy, theology, and socially.

It was common for rabbis, theologians, and philosophers to have debates. In the year A.D. 248, Origen wrote a rebuttal entitled, Against (or Contra) Celsus. In it, Origen quoted this sarcastic attitude by Celsus concerning those who came to faith in Jesus:

Let no educated man enter, no wise man, no prudent man, for such things we deem evil; but whoever is ignorant, whoever is unintelligent, whoever is uneducated, whoever is simple, let him come and be welcomed.                        

Origen, Against Celsus 3.44[11]


The significance of this lies in the fact that Hellenism, with its focus on philosophy or rhetoric, alienated many people who then, became attracted to Christianity.

  1. The Greco-Roman culture “set up” as it were, the Gentile people to hear the gospel. They were not only expecting a messiah, but they were also tired of their many gods who had the same human vices as they had. Therefore, some scholars believe that it was Greek philosophy that prepared the Gentile people to receive the concept of Jesus – God in human flesh.[12] The gospel message not only had its own unique merits, but it rode in on the reaction wave against polytheism. This gives added insight to the unique words of Galatians 4:4, that in the “fullness” of time, Jesus came.
  1. One of the earliest contributions of Hellenism was the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek – the Septuagint.[13] By the time Jesus began His ministry, scholars and teachers in the entire ancient world understood Greek and could read a Greek Old Testament to confirm the His words.

Finally, Hellenism also had its negative effects. The cultural and religious threats that challenged young Jews were,

  1. The loss of Jewish interpretation of the Hebraic details of the Old Testament, the gospels, and possibly the book of Hebrews.[14] In essence, the understanding of Jewish literature as written by Jews in a Jewish context was lost. It gave way to the Greek method of interpretation – often one of allegorical interpretation.[15] That is, the application of a symbolic or spiritual meaning(s) rather than the literal meaning. This would eventually have a huge negative effect on Christian interpretation of Scripture, especially as promoted by Augustine.
  1. Assimilation into the pagan culture. The youth were always confronted by the pleasures of the Greeks. To them, Judaism was an obstacle that prevented them from finding fulfillment in the so-called “true” pleasures of life. The encroaching influence of Hellenism upon Jewish youth was profound. For example, those Jewish boys who desired to participate in the nude Greek games were embarrassed that they had been circumcised. Everyone obviously recognized their Jewishness. To be accepted by their peers, they underwent a surgical procedure known as epispasm, in which the marks of circumcision were removed. This afforded the opportunity to participate in various Greek athletic events without being identified as Jews.[16]  The author of Maccabees called this the “abandonment of the holy covenant,” because God said (Gen. 17:14) that an uncircumcised individual was to be cut off from the Jewish people because he was declared to have broken the covenant. Modern scholarship has often overlooked the negative influences of Hellenism had upon Judaism and the cultural environment of Jesus.
  1. Due to the tremendous influences of pagan influences, the Jews produced a number of writings that were largely apocalyptic, and often combined with various forms of legalism. These works made frequent references to the great disasters that would fall upon humanity, but that the Jews would be saved by a messiah. Most apocalyptic books were produced starting from the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes until the second century A.D.[17]
  1. The worldviews and lifestyles of the Maccabean/Hasmonean rulers, whose descendants became known as the Sadducees, for the most part were as pagan as any Greek or Roman, if not worse. One can debate if their lives reflected the influence of Hellenism or a horribly depraved sin nature (if there is a difference). Nonetheless, most certainly had no interest in faithfully serving their God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As previously stated, the Maccabean Revolt began as a rebellion against the paganism of the Greek tyrants. The Essenes and orthodox Pharisees desired to rid their land of Greek influences, but their efforts were minimized by Jewish Hellenists as well as the number of foreigners in the land.[18] It is important to recognize that there were degrees and varieties of reactions against Hellenism, just as there were among those who embraced it. In the meantime, the Sadducees embraced Hellenism as much as they could without causing a popular revolt to have them removed. The Pharisees became entrenched in their Jewish ideologies while the Essenes distanced themselves from both the Sadducees and Pharisees.  In fact, all of the Jewish factions became polarized in their doctrines and practices.


03.05.12.B. AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE HOME OF A SADDUCEE. An artist’s rendering of the home of a wealthy priest in Jerusalem. The Sadducees, who are descendants of the Hasmoneans (Maccabees), including Caiaphas and his family, enjoyed a luxurious life equal to kings and emperors. Their lifestyle was beyond the imagination of the common peasants.


03.05.12b (2)


[1]. See also “Hellenism” in Appendix 26.


[2]. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian. 308.

[3]. Metzger, ed,. The Apocrypha of the Old Testament. 129; See Appendix 26.

[4]. http://www.ebible.org/kjv/Sirach.htm Retrieved March 19, 2012

[5]. Pilch, The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. 17.


[6]. Keller, The Bible as History. 356.

[7]. See also 02.04.01-11; 1 Cor. 1.


[8]. See also 02.04.02.


[9]. See 02.03.08 “Language.”


[10]. See 02.03.08 “Language.”


[11]. Cited by Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages. 124-25.

[12]. Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages. 240-41.


[13]. See 02.02.25.

[14]. As is explained elsewhere, the books of Matthew and Hebrews are believed to have been originally written in Hebrew.


[15]. Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages. 59, 66-69, 127-28; See also “Allegory” in Appendix 26.


[16]. Niswonger, New Testament History. 24.


[17]. Guignebert, The Jewish World in the Time of Jesus. 133-35.

[18]. Josephus, at times makes a passing comment on foreigners living in the land, such as their presence in Galilee. See Wars 3.3.2 (41).

03.05.13 Civil War between Aristobulus II and John Hyrcanus II; Roman Invasion

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 15, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.05.13 Civil War between Aristobulus II and John Hyrcanus II; Roman Invasion

03.05.13 67 – 63 B.C. Civil War between Aristobulus II and John Hyrcanus II; Roman Invasion

While the reign of Alexandra Salome was one of great political wisdom and religious obedience, she failed to train her sons in her ways.  Upon her death, she confirmed the position of high priest to John Hyrcanus II and placed Aristobulus II in the position of king. The two brothers would probably have functioned well together, and the Jewish kingdom would have enjoyed peace and prosperity if a descendant of Esau by the name of Antipater had never come. But he did.

Antipater, the father of Herod the Great, saw a golden opportunity to cause chaos and thereby, attain for himself power and wealth. Antipater was the son of a powerful governor of Idumea (of what is southern Israel today) who had amassed great power and wealth after the Maccabean Revolt. During the time of prosperity and peace, the governor and his son taxed caravans that passed through their territory, especially along the famed spice route that was between the Dead Sea and the modern Israeli city of Eilat. Antipater instructed his son Herod how to manipulate the political affairs of both the Romans and Parthians.[1] Unfortunately, he taught him very well.

Concerning the Hasmonean brothers, Antipater circulated rumors about Aristobulus and Hyrcanus causing strife within the royal family. Soon Aristobulus revolted against his older brother and announced that he was both high priest and king of Judah.  Civil war broke but neither felt strong enough to win a victory. So Aristobulus, with the support of the Sanhedrin, went east and attempted to secure military strength from the expanding Parthian Empire,[2]  while Hyrcanus went west and secured the same from the Romans.[3] Soon Israel would become the frontier land between two competing world empires, the Romans and Parthians.  Josephus recorded the events:

And when Alexander had been both king and high priest twenty-seven years, he departed this life and permitted his wife Alexandra to appoint him that should be high priest; so she gave the high priesthood to Hyrcanus, but retained the kingdom herself nine years and then departed this life.  The life duration [and no longer] did her son Hyrcanus enjoy the high priesthood; for after her death his brother Aristobulus fought against him, and beat him, and deprived him of this principality and he did himself both reign and perform the office of high priest to God.  But when he had reigned three years and as many months, Pompey came upon him, and not only took the city of Jerusalem by force, but put him and his children in bonds and sent them to Rome.  He also restored the high priesthood to Hyrcanus and made him governor of the nation, but forbade him to wear a diadem.

Josephus, Antiquities 20.10.1 (242-244)[4]


The significance of Israel being at the frontier between two rival empires cannot be overstated. While the Jewish people were subjects of Rome, they were also on the eastern frontier facing the Parthians. This strategic location was the cause of considerable political tension and anxiety.

In the meantime, the Jews were inundated with Hellenism not only by the Greeks, but also by their leaders.  For example, their high priest John Hycranus II minted coins with a double cornucopia (horn of plenty), a symbol taken from Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, the cornucopia was said to involve the birth and nurturance of the infant god Zeus. According to the myth, Zeus was protected by a goat that functioned as a nurturing goddess, but accidently broke off one of her horns while feeding the infant milk.  Hence, the horn has become known today as the “horn of plenty.”



03.05.13.A. COIN OF JOHN HYCRANUS II. This coin of John Hyrcanus II, the high priest (63-40 BC) has the name Jehohanan on one side (left) and a double cornucopia (right) taken from Greek mythology on the reverse side.  


As was mentioned previously, after the Maccabean Revolt, international trade increased significantly.  Products arrived from foreign ports by ships and caravans.  The Greek merchants who did business in the capitol city of Jerusalem appreciated Hycranus (priest 76-67 B.C.) so much, that Josephus said that they set up a bronze statue of him in the temple of Demus in Athens.[5] Obviously Hellenism was a powerful influence in the Jewish nation. The only way the religious leaders could combat the cultural tidal wave and preserve their faith, was to expand hundreds of legalistic regulations. Unfortunately, these regulations of Oral Laws resulted in the death of biblical Judaism and the creation of rabbinic Judaism. Decades later when Jesus came, he confronted those legalistic attitudes and regulations.


03.05.13a (2)


If Hollywood wanted to produce a movie with action, drama, scandalous sex, loyalty, treason, assassinations, and war, they would have no further to look than at the Inter-Testamental Period between the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes and the death of Herod the Great. Plots and events change so frequently that at times the historical timeline is difficult to follow. Were it not for a few historians like Josephus, this part of history would have been lost. For Jesus to come and preach His Sermon on the Mount and various messages on peace and a kingdom of God was a feat that astonished both the listeners and the Romans. But His birth was still six decades into the future.

[1]. Geikie, The Life and Words. 1:548.


[2]. See also Gafni, “The Jewish Community in Babylonia.” 58-68.

[3]. Golub, In the Days. 191-92; Grabbe, Judaism From Cyrus to Hadrian. 306-11; Neusner and Green, eds., Dictonary of Judaism. 58-59; Mantey, “New Testament Backgrounds.” 5-6.

[4]. Insert by Whiston, ed.


[5]. Josephus, Antiquities 14.8.5 (153); Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 35.


03.05.14 Honi, the Jewish Miracle Worker killed

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 15, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.05.14 Honi, the Jewish Miracle Worker killed

03.05.14 63 B.C. Honi, the Jewish Miracle Worker killed

During the civil war a popular miracle worker by the name of Onias ha-M’agel, a/k/a “Honi, the Circle-Drawer,” was stoned to death.[1]  He was believed to have the divine power to cause the clouds to rain.  During one severe drought, he drew a circle in the dust, sat in that circle and prayed until it rained. It did, and for this, he became a legendary folk hero to the point that religious leaders in the temple could not agree as to what to do with him.  The writers of the Mishnah wrote these reflective thoughts about him:


Once they said to Onias [a/k/a Honi] the Circle-maker, “Pray that rain may fall.” He answered, “Go out and bring in the Passover ovens that they may not be softened.”[2] 


He prayed but the rain did not fall.  What did he do? He drew a circle and stood within it and said before God, “O Lord of the world, your children have turned their faces to me, for I am like a son of the house before you.  I swear by your great name that I will not stir hence until you have pity on your children.”  Rain began to fall drop by drop. He said, “Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill cisterns, pits, and caverns. “It began to rain with violence.  He said, Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of goodwill, blessings, and graciousness.”  Then it rained in moderation [and continued] until the Israelites went up from Jerusalem to the Temple Mount because of the rain.


Mishnah, Taanit 3:8 [3]


But the aristocratic Sadducees and leading Pharisees were outraged at Honi, because in their thinking, it was unimaginable that God would work through a common individual rather than through one of them since they were the experts on the law. Therefore, it is easy to understand why they would not accept Jesus – a Nazarite who also had no formal theological training.  Yet while they criticized Honi, they were at a loss as to what to do,


Simeon B. Shetah sent to him [Onias/Honi, saying], “Had you not been Onias, I would have pronounced a ban against you!  But what shall I do to you? You importunest God and he performs your will; and of you the Scripture says, ‘Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her that bare you rejoice.’ ”


Mishnah, Taanit 3:8[4]


The religious leaders could not excommunicate him because he became a folk hero.  The problems they had with Honi would pale in light of the coming Jesus of Nazareth, who would minister only a century later.  There is no mention of a possible excommunication of Jesus; it is not mentioned once in the Bible although some scholars have suggested that it may have occurred in one or more local synagogues.[5] Yet if the synagogue leaders felt it was necessary to discipline, excommunication would have been the method of choice.  However, this act would have been disastrous for the leadership since both Honi and Jesus had become extremely popular with the people.  The question is of course, how does one remove an individual from the synagogue who is loved by hordes of people and has thousands of them listening to his teachings?  Hence, they eventually entertained the unthinkable: to kill him quickly and as secretly as possible.[6]


Josephus also recorded the account of Honi, leaving modern scholarship with evidence that righteous men did in fact perform miracles in the Inter-Testamental Period.  Honi was never considered to be a prophet, only a godly man who performed miracles, and as many other godly men, paid the ultimate price.  Note the words of Josephus:


Now there was one, whose name was Onias (or Honi), a righteous man he was, and beloved of God to put an end to the intense heat, and whose prayers God had heard and had sent them rain. This man hid himself because he saw that this sedition would last awhile.  However, they brought him to the Jewish camp and desired, that as by his prayers he had once put an end to the drought so he in like manner make imprecations on Astrobulus and those of his faction.  And when, upon his refusal, and the excuse that he made, he was still by the multitude compelled to speak, he stood up in the midst of them and said, “O God, the king of the whole world!  Since those that stand now with me are your people, and those that are besieged are also your priests, I entreat you that thou wilt neither harken to the prayers of those against these nor to bring to effect what these pray against.”  Where upon such wicked Jews as stood before him, as soon as he made this prayer, stoned him to death.


Josephus, Antiquities 14.2.1 (22-24)[7]


Clearly, Honi left a dynamic impression that was later remembered by Josephus and recorded in the Mishnah. Critics tend to lay aside any significance of Honi because of legendary stories that arose, such as his 70-year sleep.  But these historical accounts do state that the Sadducees were very willing to kill a godly man who threatened their aristocratic position.  This is precisely what they would do later to Jesus.


03.05.13d (2)


[1]. Josephus, Antiquies 14.2.1 (see below); Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 121.


[2]. Ovens were made of clay and, if outside, would soften and collapse by the rain.

[3]. See also commentary on Honi as depicted in the Babylonian Talmud Ta’anit 23a in Safrai,“Jesus and His Disciples: The Beginnings of Their Organization” 105. Parenthesis clarification mine.


[4]. Proverbs 23:25. Clarification mine.

[5]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 308.    

[6]. Neusner and Green, eds., Dictonary of Judaism. 300.

[7]. Insert mine.


03.05.15 Romans Order Attempts To Kill Infant Boys Because Of Prophecy Of A New-Born King

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 15, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.05.15 Romans Order Attempts To Kill Infant Boys Because Of Prophecy Of A New-Born King

03.05.15 63 B.C. Romans Order Attempts To Kill Infant Boys Because Of Prophecy Of A New-Born King

The expectation of a “super” king or messiah was not limited to the Jewish people.[1] Nearly all the people groups in the ancient Middle East were expecting an incredible personality who would bring peace and prosperity. The Romans and Parthians were both expecting the birth of a world ruler, and less than three decades later the Roman poet Virgil would write of it in one of his literary works.[2]

Another Roman historian, Suetonius, in his Life of Augustus, quoted Julius Marathus from his Life of the Emperor, saying there would be a world ruler coming soon. This is considered a reliable source since Marathus was a personal confidant of Augustus Caesar and, therefore, the account has a high degree of merit. Apparently, shortly before Marathus’ birth, there was a prophecy in Rome that a king would soon be born who would rule over the Roman people; a “king of the Romans.”[3]  To obviate this danger to the Republic, in the year 63 B.C. the Roman Senate ordered all boy babies to be killed who were born in that year because some people claimed to have had prophetic dreams and seen astrological signs.  In Roman society, unwanted infants were normally abandoned or exposed to the weather to die. However, several senators, whose wives were pregnant, took political action to prevent the ratification of the statute because each of them hoped that the prophecy might be in reference to their own child.[4] Ironically, in the same year, a child was born on September 23, who later became the first emperor of the Romans – Emperor Augustus.[5]  

03.05.15 (2)


[1]. A lower case “m” is used for the word “messiah” because upper case “M” denotes deity, and no one expected God to come to earth in the form of a person.


[2]. Virgil, Eclogues, Eclogue IV: The Golden Age see 03.05.24.


[3]. Lindsay, The Origins of Astrology. 6.


[4]. Farrar, The Life of Christ. 21.


[5]. http://www.askelm.com/star/star001.htm Retrieved September 29, 2012. See also Appendix 1.


03.05.16 Rome Conquers Judah; Hyrcanus II Installed as Ruler of Israel

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 15, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.05.16 Rome Conquers Judah; Hyrcanus II Installed as Ruler of Israel

03.05.16 63 B.C. Rome Conquers Judah; Hyrcanus II Installed as Ruler of Israel

The civil war between Aristobulus II and John Hyrcanus II did not go unnoticed by the Romans, who were also watching the growing Parthian threat far to the east. They did not want the Parthians to take advantage of the political chaos among the Jews and establish access to the Mediterranean Sea.  So when John Hycranus went to the Romans to gather troops to fight his brother, they were absolutely delighted.  However, he did not anticipate that the civil conflict would cost the Jewish state its sovereignty. But the request was a dream come true for the Romans and soon Israel became the puppet state on the frontier land facing the Parthian Empire.

The Roman General Gnaeus Pompeius Mangus (106-48 B.C.), a/k/a Pompeii or Pompeii (Pompey) the Great, was a successful statesman and military general.  He captured Damascus from King Pontus and traveled south to capture all of Judah in only three months – the time it took to walk from one end of the country to the other and back. With mechanical engines, namely stone-throwing catapults, and battering rams shipped in from Tyre, the Romans battered Jerusalem until victory was secured.[1] The Roman historian Dio Cassius said that he captured Jerusalem on a Sabbath because the Jews refused to fight on the Day of Atonement, as they considered that to be “work.”[2]  Consequently, Pompey’s army entered Jerusalem in a battle that cost the Jews 12,000 lives of men, women, and children.  It was the one day of the year Jews thought God would forgive them of their sins, and instead they became servants to a pagan master.

When Pompey marched into Jerusalem, he insisted on entering the Holy of Holies with his officers. According to Josephus, he then took a large number of Jews as slaves and sold them throughout the empire and he acquired the support of the Hasmonean family.  Thus, Jewish sovereignty was finally betrayed.[3] But God’s curse was upon him when he landed in Egypt in 48 B.C.  There he was stabbed in the back by an Egyptian centurion as he disembarked from a ship.  He was stripped of his clothing, beheaded, and his naked body was left on the sandy shore. In this context, the word “naked” means that his body laid on the ground fully exposed – traditional undergarments removed. Rather than having his body buried, it was burned on the beach.  No greater dishonor could possibly have been given to anyone.  Many have said it was Divine punishment for his previous entry into the Holy of Holies.

In the previous century, the Hasmoneans had expanded Jewish domain to nearly the size of King David’s Empire. Many Jews believed that once their land area would become as large as the former Davidic Empire, then the expected son of David, would come and reign over his “father’s” kingdom. Therefore, anticipation of the coming of this political messiah was at fever pitch. However, Pompey doused water on that dream when he divided the Hasmonean Empire, and Israel was once again a tiny state that consisted of Galilee, Judea, and Perea (Jewish area east of the Jordan River).[4] This division was to reduce the possibility of a future uprising. Whereas the Assyrians and Babylonians relocated large populations to prevent subservient people from gaining their independence, the Romans divided their regions to achieve the same purpose. But, as they would discover, the Jewish people were difficult to control.

[1]. Josephus, Antiquities 14.4.2.

[2]. Dio Cassius, Roman History 37.15.2-17.3.


[3]. Josephus, Antiquities 14.6.1.


[4]. Golub, In the Days. 196-98.


03.05.17 Roman Period

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 15, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.05.17 Roman Period

03.05.17 63 B.C. – A.D. 312 Roman Period

From this point on the Romans controlled Israel for more than four centuries with the exception of a brief Parthian conquest of Jerusalem in 40-39 B.C. During most of this time, the Roman prefects who ruled the provinces of Galilee, Perea, and Judah were loosely supervised by governors in Damascus, Syria. It was Roman policy to give captured people religious freedom and limited self-regulation so as to prevent uprisings and war.  This policy was effective throughout the empire, with the three Jewish provinces being the only constant exception in that there was always tension of a possible revolt.

The Jews interpreted the fourth empire described in Daniel 2 and 7 as the Roman occupation of their land. It was their understanding that the Messiah would come in the days of the last empire.  They looked upon the prophetic words of Daniel and Ezekiel and realized that Jerusalem was rebuilt, many Jews had returned from captivity and Antiochus had desecrated the temple with an idol and the sacrifice of a pig. Therefore, it was obvious to them that the Messiah was about to come.  Furthermore, they looked upon the “sevens” of Daniel’s prophecies as meaning “perfection” rather than a literal interpretation, so the ideal time for the Messiah to come had arrived.[1]   Never were they so wrong, and never were they so right.  They were correct in reference to his first coming, but the prophecies that supported their interpretation are in reference to His second coming. They failed to distinguish between the two prophecies.

However, the Romans were generally kinder to them than was their own Alexander Jannaeus. Pompey installed the Hasmonean king Hyrcanus II as a puppet king who was under the control and domination of the regional governor in Damascus. This is a significant point, as the leadership of Judah was in question during the time of the census prior to the birth of Jesus. Pompey had only two demands of the Jews:

  1. Pay taxes to Caesar, and
  1. Place a statue of Caesar as god in the temple.

Little did they realize what kind of people their Jewish subjects were. When they made a huge outcry against the demand of a statue in the temple, Pompey rescinded it, but it cost them an additional taxation rate. To insure a stabilized government, he installed Hyrcanus, the second ruler by that name, as high priest-ruler of Samaria and the three Jewish provinces.  He also appointed Antipater to be the vizier or senior officer for Hyrcanus.  Antipater had a son, Herod the Great, who would eventually become a central figure at the birth of Jesus.  The Romans who endorsed Greek culture expanded it further than Alexander the Great ever dreamed possible.[2]

Pompey secured a military frontier zone with the strong Roman Tenth Legion in Damascus. He also made Hyrcanus II high priest in the temple. Equally significant was that Pompey liberated the Samaritans from the Jewish – Hasmonean rulership.  He then marched east and liberated the Greek cities from Jewish rule, and placed them into a league known as the Decapolis.[3] They were then under the same jurisdiction of the governor of Damascus. This improved trade and commerce.[4]

Since the Parthians had conquered a massive territory from the Euphrates to the Indus Rivers, the Romans feared that if they acquired access to the Mediterranean Sea, then Rome and the Empire would be severely threatened. Therefore, the Romans built more roads throughout Israel than in any other part of the empire for the sole purpose of moving troops quickly in the event of a major military conflict on the eastern front.[5] Throughout the life of Christ, there was a constant threat between these two superpowers.

The Roman Empire belted the Mediterranean Sea and extended into Europe.  Israel was a land bridge between the three continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe.  To the east was the Arabian Desert and to the west was the Mediterranean Sea.[6]  For the Romans, the nearby strategic cities were Alexandria in Egypt for grain, Antioch in Syria for international commerce, and Athens in Greece for cultural values.  The empire eventually included twelve language groups and became so huge that Rome could hardly administer it.

Finally, historians generally have given the title of Pax Romana, meaning the peace of Rome and quiet in the provinces,[7]  to the period of 27 B.C. to about A.D. 180.[8]  The Roman peace was possible only because of the mighty Roman sword, and yet, in the three Jewish provinces that made up Judaea/Israel (Judea, Perea, and Galilee) there were some 13 serious revolts between 63 B.C. and A.D. 70,[9] and many more riots.[10] Pax Romana was not present and that constantly infuriated the Romans. Aside from that issue, the imperial government introduced safer highways – free from bandits, established a stable coinage, and removed trade barriers. Soon manufacturing and international trade blossomed.[11]

In the meantime, a nationalistic Jewish guerrilla movement known as the “Zealots” was getting established in the northern Galilee area to fight the Romans. These young freedom fighters expected the same Divine results as their forefathers enjoyed fighting the Syrian-Greeks.  Little wonder then that the Romans were constantly worried about a “messiah” who would attempt an uprising.


[1]. See Appendix 15 concerning Daniel’s prophecy.


[2]. Blaiklock, “Herod.” 7:815.

[3]. Neusner and Green, eds., Dictonary of Judaism. 646; Barclay, “Mark.” 125-26.

[4]. Pellett, “Decapolis.” 1:810-12.


[5]. Crossan and Reed, Excavating Jesus. 87-88.

[6]. For a study of historical maps of this region, see Nebenzahl, Kenneth. Maps of the Holy Land. New York: Abbeville Press. 1986.


[7]. Lee, The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus. 72-73; Mellowes and Cran, Executive Producers. From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians. (DVD). Part 1; See “Pax Romana” in Appendix 26.

[8].  Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 423.


[9]. The so-called “First Revolt” of A.D. 66 – 73 resulted in the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, was not the first revolt per se, but the first significant revolt that eventually resulted in the destruction of national Israel and the separation of Judaism and Christianity. The Second Revolt that further separated Christianity from Judaism was in A.D. 132-35.


[10]. See Appendix 25 for a listing of false prophets who had messianic expectations and for a partial listing of revolts and social disturbances from 63 B.C. to A.D. 70.


[11]. Packer and Tenney, eds., Illustrated Manners and Customs. 181.

03.05.18 Parthians Attack and Kill the Roman General Crassus

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 15, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.05.18 Parthians Attack and Kill the Roman General Crassus

03.05.18 53 B.C. Parthians Attack and Kill the Roman General Crassus

Even though Jerusalem was under Roman domination, Roman General Crassus invaded the Holy City and sacked it – his men stealing whatever they wanted.  From there he traveled north-eastward to Parthia with the intent to expand the Roman Empire. However, at Carrhae (modern Harran, Turkey) the Parthians killed him along with 30,000 troops.[1]  With the use of cataphracts,[2] the Parthians defeated with superior Roman forces and what was left of them went home defeated and deeply humiliated.  It was the beginning of three centuries of conflicts between the two empires, and Israel was on the frontier of both of them. In retaliation, the Parthians later invaded Jerusalem, a city they held until Antipater, the father of Herod the Great, drove them out.[3]

The Roman armies were killing machines that relied on heavy infantry and were skilled in siege warfare. The Parthians, however, had two types of cavalry: the heavy-armed and armored cataphracts and the light brigades of archers who were skilled horsemen, but they had not yet developed techniques of siege warfare. Nearly all Parthian soldiers, who rode on horseback, were also highly skilled in archery, a military skill that had not been developed by the Romans.[4]  Hence, the two empires were closely matched in military strength, but each always feared the other would attack first.

The Parthian Empire did not have a lasting direct influence upon the Jews or the biblical lands, which may be why it was not mentioned in Daniel’s prophecies.  As noted below, the Parthians controlled Jerusalem for a brief period and were interested in obtaining access to the Mediterranean Sea, but it was never attained.  While the capitols of the two empires were thousands of miles apart from each other, they had grown to the point of meeting each other just east of the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


03.05.18.Q1 What happened to those who violated the second Jewish temple (see also 16.01.06.Q1)?

There were three powerful men who violated the second Jewish temple and consequently experienced death in a manner that was a clear testimony to observers who said that Divine judgment had fallen upon them.[5]

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

He persecuted the Jews in an attempt to either convert them to Hellenism or exterminate them. He also placed an idol to Zeus in the temple and sacrificed a pig to this pagan deity. Antiochus died a miserable and shameful death in Persia (2 Macc. 9).


After he conquered the Jewish lands in 63 B.C., he entered the Holy of Holies, but later he was murdered in the shores of Egypt. His naked body was left on the beach to feed wild birds and animals.


In 53 B.C., he plundered the temple treasury, but a short time later he and his Roman army perished in the hot thirsty desert sands fighting the Parthians.


[1].  Jayne, “Magi.” 4:31-34;  Some historical sources place the battle at 55 B.C..    


[2]. The use of Cataphracts was a new technology that won the battle for the Parthians. See “Cataphracts” in Appendix 26.


[3].  Jayne, “Magi.” 4:34.    


[4]. McKay, “Parthians.” 3:1156.


[5]. See also 16.01.06.Q1 “What happened to those who opposed Jesus?”


03.05.19 Rabbi Nehumias Accurately Predicted the Messiah’s Coming

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 15, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.05.19 Rabbi Nehumias Accurately Predicted the Messiah’s Coming

03.05.19 50 B.C. Rabbi Nehumias Accurately Predicted the Messiah’s Coming

Rabbi Nehumias studied the book of Daniel and prophetic weeks, and amazingly, concluded that the Messiah would come within fifty years.[1]  While his words were not honored by the Jews, they were, however, recorded by the historian Grotius.[2] The predictive date of Rabbi Nehumias may have been a coincidence, but his expectations were certainly in agreement with many other orthodox rabbis for reasons well established by former prophets.

The Jewish rabbis studied the prophecies intently, looking for a sign for a coming messiah. The prophet Micah (750-686 B.C.) gave the prophecy (5:3) that Israel would be abandoned by God until the “latter days,” a phrase which he described as the labor related to childbirth. Isaiah had said that the Jewish nation would be born in a single day (66:8) and another prophet, Ezekiel (38:8), at the beginning of the fifth century (B.C.), spoke of a Jewish return to their promised land. There was a messianic expectation[3]  throughout all the cultures of the ancient Middle East wherever the Jews had lived.  That leads us to an interesting question –


03.05.19.Q1 What messianic prophecies were the rabbis studying at this time and why were they expecting the Messiah? 

There were many Jewish sects, just as today there are many Christian denominations. And just as various denominations have many viewpoints of the return of Jesus, in the first century various Jewish sects had many viewpoints on the coming of their messiah. Following are several examples of expectations held by many Jewish people.

  1. They read Genesis 49:10 and Numbers 24:17 and believed that God promised a unique ruler to govern His people who would come soon. This was underscored by the fact that Herod the Great’s domain was nearly the same size of King David’s.
  1. They had faith that God would fulfil His Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:12-17, Ps. 89, esp. 30-33). The Davidic Covenant meant that their expected “son of David” would destroy the Roman occupiers and re-establish Israel as an international superpower.
  1. They had faith that the many “branch” prophecies would be fulfilled.[4]
  1. They expected the messianic psalms to be fulfilled (esp. Ps. 2)
  1. The prophecies of Daniel 2 and 4 outlined the succession of four world empires. They had experience the challenges of the third empire and knew that the messiah would they were in the 4th empire. Furthermore, they believed that Daniel 9:24-27 established a time table for the coming Messiah.


The pattern of reasoning that made so many Jews believed in the nearness of the Messiah is as follows:

  1. They believed in the literal interpretation of the prophetic words of their Hebrew Bible.
  1. They looked at their history and their social-political environment. The northern ten tribes were relocated with the Assyrians in 722/21 B.C., followed by Judah and Benjamin and the Babylonians about 135 years later. In the sixth century B.C., when the Jews were permitted to return, only a small portion chose to do so. There was however, after the Maccabean Revolt (160s B.C.) a free and politically independent nation, which led to a greater return of Jews.  In fact, Galilee had been unpopulated by the Assyrians (Isa. 9:1; 8th Cent. B.C.), but regained a large Jewish population in the second century B.C.  Hence, when Jesus ministered in Galilee it was primarily to the descendants of the Babylonian Jews.  So to the rabbis it looked like all the prophecies had been fulfilled, although the prophecy of a nation being born in a single day (Isa. 66:8) was problematic because it obviously was not fulfilled.  Therefore, the rabbis then assumed it to be a figure of speech.[5]
  1. They connected the biblical prophecies with current events and concluded that their messiah was about to come.
  1. Their expectations were heightened by the fact that many other people groups were also expecting a messiah.[6]


The difficulty the Jews had was attempting to reconcile the messiah as a king and as a suffering servant. This continued to plague them until Jesus was resurrected, and even then many refused to believe.

[1]. See Appendix 15 concerning Daniel’s prophecy.


[2]. Ankerberg and Waldan, 39; LaHaye, 196.

[3]. See 12.03.01.Q1 “What ‘Messianic problems’ did the Jewish leaders have with Jesus?” and 12.03.01.A “Chart of Key Points of the Messianic Problems.” See also 02.03.09 “Messianic Expectations”; 05.04.02.Q1 “What were the Jewish expectations of the Messiah?” and Appendix 25: “False Prophets, Rebels, Significant Events, and Rebellions that Impacted the First Century Jewish World.”


[4]. 2 Sam. 23:1-7; Isa. 11:1-10; Jer. 23:5, 6; Zech. 3:8; 6:9-15.  See also Mt. 2:23.

[5]. In A.D. 135, the Jews were dispersed again and remained scattered throughout the world until the late 19th century when they began to return to their promised land.  The return has not ceased to this day and the nation of Israel was born on May 14, 1948 — in a single day.  From the time of the Assyrians until this date, the Jews had independence for merely a century (c. 164 – 63 B.C.).  Furthermore, during twenty-seven centuries the land was occupied by some fourteen different people /governments.  The prophecies led the Jews to look for the messiah at His first coming, while in fact, these point to His second coming (return).           


[6]. The term “messiah” is lower case because no one was expecting a messiah as God, but a divine figure “like a man” (Dan. 8:15-17) who would bring peace upon the earth.


  • Chapters