Unit 07 – Opposition Against Jesus Grows


Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.02.02 Galilee PLUCKING GRAIN ON THE SABBATH

07.02.02 Mt. 12:1-7; Mk. 2:25-28 (See also Lk. 6:1-5) Galilee




Mt. 1 At that time Jesus passed through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick and eat some heads of grain. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

Mk. 25 He said to them, “Have you never read what David and those who were with him did when he was in need and hungry — 26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest and ate the sacred bread — which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests — and also gave some to his companions?”

Mt. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on Sabbath days the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent?  6 But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here! 7 If you had known what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent.

Mk. 27 Then He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”


Little did the rabbis consider the activity of David and his men when they were in a precarious situation – fleeing for their lives from King Saul (1 Sam. 21). When they became extremely exhausted and hungry, they entered the holy sanctuary and ate bread, “loaves of presentation,” also called “shewbread,” that were reserved for the priests (1 Sam. 21:1-6; Isa. 58:6-7).  A dozen loaves were placed on a Sanctuary table.  At the end of the week they were stale and replaced.  The stale bread was normally consumed by the priests, but this time it was eaten by David and his men.

There are two reasons for the justification of David’s action:


  1. Their escape from Saul led to a life and death situation. The point is that the Sabbath could be broken in times of crisis.[1] They were extremely hungry and thirsty in the desert wilderness. Therefore, according to rabbinic tradition, they could eat to save human life.[2]


  1. He was permitted to eat because he had been anointed to be the new king (1 Sam. 16:13) and this implies he had the authority to enter the tabernacle.[3]


There were several issues concerning this matter relative to the response by Jesus.


  1. There was no law in the Torah that forbade a Levitical priest from eating the shewbread, but the Oral Law forbade it.


  1. If the famous King David could break the Oral Law (which did not exist in his time), then why couldn’t Jesus, who is the Promised One from the line of David? Of course, the leading Jews refused to recognize the authority of Jesus.


  1. Even the Oral Law permitted certain acts of mercy and necessity as indicated in the Mishnah and Matthew 12:7.


  1. The Jews had reversed the purpose of the Sabbath. It was created for the benefit of mankind, not mankind created for the benefit of the Sabbath (Mk. 2:27).


In addition, Jesus had two good reasons to reflect upon the story of the ancient king.


  1. The Hebrew Scriptures clearly state that David “did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kg. 15:5).


  1. The people had an expectation that the messiah would be a son of David, meaning, He would be like him.


07.02.02.Q1 Were there “non-Sabbath” Sabbath Days?

Absolutely!  There were certain weeks in the Jewish religious calendar when two Sabbath days were observed. The Sabbath, of course, was the seventh day of the week when all work activities were set aside and the people celebrated their covenant with the Lord of Israel.  However, the term “Sabbath” was also applied to any other holy day that prohibited work activities. Sometimes that was the day before the Sabbath, the sixth day of the week commonly known as “Friday.” Therefore, when John wrote of the “Preparation Day” for the Sabbath,[4]    neither he nor the other gospel writers had reference to the seventh day, but the holy “Sabbath” day of Passover.[5]

It should be noted that in Jewish history, the days of the weeks did not have names, but numbers.  The seventh day received its non-numerical name after much use of the verb that described it.  The name, Sabbath, meaning “to rest” was always been descriptive of the day.  Over time, it became a proper noun.  Therefore, when the primitive church in Acts decided to honor and worship God on the first day of the week, they simply transferred the verb from the seventh day to the first day, and this was not in any violation of biblical exegesis or Scripture. At this time the Sabbath was not simply a day to rest, as it had a much deeper meaning.  The phrase “was made” in the Septuagint was translated “to create” and was, therefore, associated with the creation narrative of Genesis. If this was the cultural understanding of the time, then certainly there might be some written evidence to support this interpretation.  About a century after Christ a certain sage, Simeon ben Menasya, said, “The Sabbath was given to you and not you to the Sabbath.” The point is not that Menasya paraphrased Jesus, but that both presented a common Jewish thought.[6]   The Sabbath was created for man and focused on the benefit for man, so that his entire focus could be on his Creator. This is far deeper than the modern interpretation of “a day of rest,” which may or may not include an hour or two in church, followed by leisure activities.  The modern application is hardly within the biblical framework.

There were two important reasons for keeping the Sabbath.


  1. As mentioned previously, observing the Sabbath was to honor God which, ironically, the religious leaders idolized in every way possible.
  2. This religious restriction, along with circumcision and kosher foods, provided the means to keep their identity distinctive in an immoral world.


These identity markers are found in various rabbinic writings, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in the works of historians such as Josephus and Philo. The Damascus Document identifies 28 different types of Sabbath prohibitions.[7]  Most leading Pharisees and Sadducees had little or no desire to honor God in true worship; rather, they desired to maintain their financial and social positions that could be accomplished only by promoting a religious group separated from neighboring cultures.  An example is as follows:


  1. By taking the wheat off the stalk they were guilty of reaping (further explanation below).


  1. By rubbing the wheat in their hands in order to separate it from the chaff they were guilty of threshing.


  1. When they blew the chaff from hands they were guilty of winnowing (separating the outer part of the grain kernel from the edible part).


As stated previously, at this time in Jewish history, not all the rabbis agreed on the Sabbath regulations.  Sabbath regulations were hotly debated between the schools of Hillel and Shammai. To say that all Jewish leaders and theologians were critical of Jesus and His disciples is incorrect. Clearly, there were those who agreed with Jesus, who threatened the ultra-legalists to the very core.


So important was the observation of the Holy Day that Josephus said that the beginning of the Sabbath was announced at the temple pinnacle with the blowing of trumpet.[8] Fire signals were also sent from the pinnacle of the temple, that when seen at distant hilltop stations,[9] were repeated until seen in the most distant locations in Galilee.  Therefore, within a short time the entire country received the message from the temple that the Sabbath had begun.


An interesting point of discussion today is whether the church is to meet for corporate worship on Saturday or Sunday.  The Mosaic Law requires believers to work six days a week, rest on the Sabbath and keep it holy.  By tradition, the Jews also met for corporate worship on the Seventh Day, but that was not a command in God’s law.  It has been suggested that, technically, Jews and Christians can gather to worship God any day of the week they choose, just as long as they gather for worship one day and work six days.



His disciples were hungry and began to pick and eat some heads of grain.” As Jesus and His disciples were walking along the road, they naturally became hungry and chewed on some kernels of wheat which were growing in a nearby field.  This was not stealing because the Mosaic Law (Deut. 23:25) permitted travelers and the poor to eat from the fields. However, they could not harvest someone else’s crop. When disciples were accused of plucking heads of grain (Gk. stachus 4719, meaning an ear of grain),[10] Jesus came to their defense and made the statement that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  Ironically, this same concept was in rabbinic literature and is debated in modern scholarship.

Some scholars believe the two quotations below are reflective of second or third century (A.D.) rabbinic beliefs. However, there were four levels of Pharisees[11] and the upper echelon were the ones who confronted Jesus. Other scholars believe that many ordinary righteous rabbis in local synagogues believed that the Sabbath was truly for the benefit of mankind, disagreed with their leadership. Within the world of Pharisees, there were numerous sects who held a wide range of theological viewpoints, as illustrated by the differences between the Schools of Hillel and Shammai. At this time, there were disagreements between various Jewish sects as to what constituted “work” on the Sabbath. There were some who would have said that what the disciples did was not work, while others clearly disagreed.[12]

“The priests in the temple violate the Sabbath.” Jesus referred to the Mosaic Law in Numbers 28:9-10, 18-19, in which the priests had to break the Sabbath laws as part of their priestly duties. Here, the Pharisees were reminded that they too broke the Sabbath laws as they functioned in the temple. The message was obvious; if they broke the Law in service to the children of Abraham and to God, why were they opposing Jesus, who was doing the same?


07.02.02.Q2 Did Mark make a mistake in 2:26 when he made a historic reference to “the days of Abiathar the high priest?”

In this passage, Jesus focused on the actions of David and his men when they were extremely hungry. They entered the tabernacle (the temple had not yet been built) and ate the consecrated bread.  Since there was no uniform calendar, this action was linked to the time when Abiathar was the high priest. But there is the problem: When examining who was high priest a thousand years previous to Jesus, records show that it was Ahimelech, the father of Abiathar  (1 Sam. 21:1-6; 22:20), not Abiathar. Did the gospel writer make a mistake?  To discover a possible answer, this study goes back three thousand years to uncover two possible explanations for this difficulty.


  1. The most popular explanation is that Jesus referred to those events of David that occurred during the lifetime of Abiathar. As a young child he would have been groomed and prepared for the position in the temple. Everyone knew, before the child realized it himself, that he would be the next high priest. Respect for the high office preceded and followed the actual service.  This same degree of respect is given to Annas, who is identified as the high priest during the trial of Jesus, when in fact, he was officially retired and his son-in-law Caiaphas held the position. (The same degree of respect is given to American past presidents, congressmen and others who held high positions of honor. They retain their titles into retirement.) Annas carried the honored title the remainder of his life and, when necessary, functioned in the office. He had received his position by a Roman appointment whereas Abiathar inherited his high calling. Therefore, when Jesus called Abiathar the high priest before he actually was in office, Jesus was speaking in accordance with the custom of the time. When this verse is understood in this cultural context, the assumed biblical error dissipates.


  1. Another explanation is that in the time of Jesus, the ancient high priest Abiathar was better known to the audience of Jesus than was his father. This follows the pattern of the gospel writers who sometimes quoted from two Old Testament prophets, but recorded only the name of the senior prophet (see author’s comments on Mk.1:2 and Mt. 27:9-10).


These two solutions answer this challenge and both could be correct. The truth is we may never know the precise answer.  But that certainly does not diminish the power or the effect of the Word of God or the life of Jesus.  When reaching into history three thousand years, it should not be surprising that a minute detail may on occasion become cloudy.  In fact, it is a ceaseless end of miracles that so much historical information is still available.  No other religion, philosophy, or historical document can make that claim.


“The Sabbath was made for man.”  This statement was quite familiar to the rabbis, who, presumably, were concerned about potential danger to human life.  In such cases they said,


The Sabbath is handed over to you;

Not, you are handed over to the Sabbath.


Mechilt on Exodus 31.13[13]


It is most interesting that the word of Jesus pertaining to the Sabbath (Gk. Sbbaton 4521) being made for man was also the understanding of a Rabbi Simeon ben Menasya.  In his commentary on Ex. 31:14, he said the following:


The Sabbath is delivered to you;

You are not delivered on the Sabbath.[14]


Rabbi Simeon ben Menasya on Exodus 31:14

[1]. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 164-66.

[2]. Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 132a.

[3]. Gilbrant, “Luke.” 169.

[4]. The Day of Preparation was the day prior to special holy days such as Passover; a day when work would end and the people prepared themselves for the special event or a special Sabbath (Mt. 27:62; Mk. 15:42; Lk. 23:54; Jn. 19:14, 31, 42). It was rooted in Num. 11:18; Jos. 7:13.

[5]. Saldarini, Jesus and the Passover. 56.

[6]. Young, “Jesus” Yavo Digest 1:3, 3.

[7]. Dead Sea Scroll, Damascus Document 6QD 10:15-16.

[8]. Josephus, Wars 4.9.12.

[9]. Scholars believe that the ancient city of Ai, which was probably later known as Ephraim, was one of those cities.  It is believed Ai and other similar cities were originally established as warning cities from which a signal was sent to warn Jerusalem of an approaching enemy.

[10]. Vine, “Corn, Cornfield.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:129 and “Ear,” 2:190. The KJV  at times translates “grain” as “corn” even though corn was not known to the English people until the pilgrims came to New England where the native Americans told them of it.  It was unknown in ancient Israel.

[11]. See 02.01.14.Q1.

[12]. Cited by Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 10, Session 2. See also the video above by Dr. Malcolm Lowe. Insights into the Sabbath Regulations 07.02.01.V.

[13]. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 514.

[14]. Quoted by Kaiser, Davids, Bruce, and Brauch. Hard Sayings of the Bible. 413.

07.02.03 Healing On The Sabbath

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.02.03 Healing On The Sabbath

07.02.03 Lk. 6:6-7; Mt. 12:10b-12; Mk. 3:3-6




Lk 6 On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching. A man was there whose right hand was paralyzed. 7 The scribes and Pharisees were watching Him closely, to see if He would heal on the Sabbath, so that they could find a charge against Him.

Mt 10b And in order to accuse Him they asked Him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”  11 But He said to them, “What man among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? 12 A man is worth far more than a sheep, so it is lawful to do what is good on the Sabbath.”

Mk 3 He told the man with the paralyzed hand, “Stand before us.” 4 Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger and sorrow at the hardness of their hearts, He told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 Immediately the Pharisees went out and started plotting with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.


Jesus was quite empathetic toward the sick and demonically possessed. For Him it was better to bring healing and freedom than to be unmercifully legalistic and permit one to stay in misery.  He demonstrated that the Kingdom of God is superior to the religious Sabbath observances and temple worship.

The irony is that no one appeared to realize that the miracle they witnessed was a near duplication of the miracle that occurred nearly a thousand years earlier to King Jeroboam.[1]  He built a pagan altar in Bethel to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles and declared himself to be the acting priest.  When a “man of God” cried out against the altar, Jeroboam stretched out his right hand to stop him.  However, the king’s hand became shriveled up “so that he could not pull it back” (1 Kg. 13:1-7). At the same time the altar split apart and the ashes poured out. As Josephus said, the king understood that the prophet had divine foreknowledge. Evidently Jeroboam repented because he asked the “man of God” to intercede to God for him that his right hand might be healed. It was.[2]

Another example of a Sabbath “violation” that was conveniently overlooked was the Israelite seven-day march around Jericho.  Obviously one of those seven days had to have been a Sabbath day, and the processional march far exceeded Sabbath day walking restrictions of the first century.



“Whose right hand was paralyzed.”  The ancient physician made a precise observation, and wrote with a Greek participle that indicates that the paralyzed hand was the result of an accident or disease, not congenital.[3]  The result of the miracle reveals the profound social implications it caused. To the ancients the right hand was the hand of blessing and authority and is believed to be the origin of the modern handshake.  This belief was derived from the same attributes assigned to the right hand of God.  Conversely, the left hand was the hand of cursing and personal hygiene.  Because of this, Jews were right-handed and food was eaten from a common bowl with the right hand, whether at home or at social gatherings.  The man with the paralyzed right hand was, therefore, not welcomed at social functions since he had to serve himself with his left hand.  To make matters worse, it was thought that his disability was a curse of God. The idea that an accident or illness could be the natural result of a fallen world never occurred to them. Hence, he was prevented from worshiping God in the temple.  He lived with constant condemnation and was a social outcast.  When Jesus healed him, He also gave him freedom from condemnation, freedom to be with others at social functions, freedom to become self-sufficient and no longer a beggar, and freedom to worship God anywhere he wanted.

At this time Jesus was demonstrating His Messiahship through teachings and healings.  Hence, He healed selected individuals who had no faith in Him as the Healer. The faith element would become significant later.  Those in attendance were forced to consider His Messianic claims in light of their Scriptures.  Hence, there was always a debate among observers wherever He traveled.

One of the interesting legends that might be true (legends are highly limited in this study), is the report that claims the injured man was a stone mason.[4]  The account is as follows:[5]


I was a stone mason,[6]  seeking my living with my hands.  I pray you, Jesus, to give me back my living with my hands.

Gospel of the Hebrews[7]


But little more than that is unknown.  His injury was probably from working on a Herodian construction site, such as the temple.


“The scribes and Pharisees were watching Himso that they could find a charge against Him.” This phrase obviously suggests that the man with the paralyzed or shriveled hand was placed in the audience so the critics could accuse Jesus of violating the Oral Law (response below). The Pharisees were usually synonymous with the teachers of the Law,[8] which is why it is at times difficult to distinguish them from the scribes.[9] All the Pharisees who were members of the Sanhedrin were scribes (cf. Mt. 23:7-8).[10] Nonetheless, they were desperately searching for a charge against Jesus and, in response, notice what Jesus did not do.


  1. He did not ask the man for his name


  1. He did not touch the man


  1. He did not question him


  1. He did not preach at him


  1. He did not ask him to exercise the paralyzed arm after it was healed.


Jesus merely told him to stretch out his arm, and that request did not violate any written or oral command. This was frustrating because they realized that He knew the Scriptures better than they did, even to the verb tenses. Note the following:


  1. Jesus believed every word of the Old Testament.
  2. Jesus believed the Old Testament communities and the accounts of various individuals who lived and functioned as portrayed in Scripture. Examples are:
  3. Noah and the flood (Mt. 24:37-39; Lk. 17:26-27)
  4. Abraham (Jn. 8:56-58)
  5. Isaac and Jacob (Mt. 8:11; Lk. 13:28)
  6. Sodom and Gomorrah (Mt. 10:15; 11:23-24; Lk. 10:12)


“To save life.”  Acts of necessity, mercy, and worship never violated the Sabbath.  Jesus again demonstrated the hypocrisy of the Pharisees by pointing out that the Pharisaic tradition placed a higher value on a sheep in a pit than a man with a shriveled hand.  They would help an injured sheep, but not one of their fellow Jews.  Here Jesus alluded to the rabbinical expression that the Pharisees themselves ignored, but one that was well known and a part of the Oral Law:


Therefore but a single man was created in the world, to teach that if any man has caused a single soul to perish Scripture imputes it to him as though he had caused the whole world to perish; and that if any man saves a life of a single soul Scripture imputes it to him as though he had saved a whole world. 


Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5


There was also a rule against placing a dislocated foot or hand in cold water to give comfort to the injured person. But another law within the category of Sabbath restrictions[11] is as if to say, “If you are healed, what can you do about it?”


If a man’s hand or foot is dislocated he may not pour cold water over it, but he may wash it after his usual fashion, and if he be healed, he is healed.

Mishnah, Shabbath 22.6[12]

“Looking around at them with anger.”  Seldom was Jesus became angry. Note carefully, however, that He was angry with their selfish, stubborn attitude and because they were failing to meet the needs of the people. He was angry at “the hardness of their hearts.” The hardening of the heart begins with one’s own desires, until the day comes when the Lord gives one what he wants – a life without God. The Greek word is porosis, a hardness of the heart that cared little for human life.[13]


  1. They defined religion as a legalistic list of rules and regulations.


  1. They had lost all sense of human empathy and compassion for those who were suffering


These cold, cold attitudes even kept the religious leaders from recognizing their own sins, as they had hardened their hearts past the proverbial point of no return.


“How they might destroy Him.” Jesus frequently presented a counter-point argument to the accusations and challenges presented by the religious elite. His counter-point was always stronger, fuller, and a clearer declaration of the truth. These public discussions brought immense humiliation to them, but the common people loved Jesus, because, finally, someone was bold enough to speak out against their corrupt leaders.  However, since the religious leaders repeatedly lost their theological arguments, they planned on numerous occasions to kill Him.

Finally, this miracle took place early in the ministry of Jesus when He performed miracles without the need of faith of those who were sick.  The primary reason is that at this point in time, the miracles were validating His person and message. Jesus did not come to be a Healer of human bodies, but to be a Healer of souls. Miracles, with Jesus, were only a means to a higher end, credentials to enforce the reception of spiritual truth.  Once the general public began to understand Him, He healed only those who had faith in Him as the Healer.


[1]. Jeroboam and Joash (2 Kg. 13:1-2; 2 Chron. 24:20-22) are 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.


[2]. Josephus, Antiquities 8.8.5.


[3]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:174.


[4]. See Appendix 22 and http://home.comcast.net/~jovial/learn/bible/GospelHebrews.htm. Retrieved August 1, 2013.


[5]. The reader is reminded that quotations from non-biblical sources are not to be understood as being of equal authority with the biblical narratives. See 01.02.04.


[6]. One ancient legend is the story of the man with the withered right hand went on to build a palace for Emperor Nero that had a secret room for Christians. Little wonder then, that Jesus and the Apostle Paul both cautioned believers to be aware of false teachers. Two modern writers who promote a variety of creative stories are: 1) Ron Charles, who has gathered scores of fanciful legends and myths, mostly written between the sixth and sixteenth centuries, that pertain to the life of Christ in his book titled, The Search: A Historian’s Search for Historical Jesus. (Self-Published, 2007), and 2) Nicholas Notovich, whose book,  The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. Virchand R. Gandhi, Trans. Dover Pub.) is a so-called historical account of when Jesus went to Asia to study between the ages 13 and 29.


[7].  Barclay, “Matthew.” 2:30-31; See also  http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/gospelhebrews.html Retrieved August 1, 2013.


[8]. Mt. 3:7; 15:1; Mk. 2: 16, 24; Lk. 11:38.


[9]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 59.


[10]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 236. Being a scribe was a family occupation, handed down from one generation to another. For a list of families of scribes, see I Chronicles 2:55, and for a “company of scribes,” see 1 Maccabees 7:12.


[11]. See 02.04.06 “Sabbath Day Observances.”

[12]. For additional Sabbath regulations, see Jubilees 50:6-13 at 02.04.06. In fact, during the Maccabean Revolt, since the Jews refused to fight on the Sabbath, the Greeks slaughtered more than a thousand men, women, and children. Thereafter they decided to defend themselves so as not to be removed from the face of the earth (1 Macc. 2:31-38).


[13]. Barclay, A New Testament Wordbook. 102.

07.03 Jesus, The Master Teacher

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.03 Jesus, The Master Teacher

Unit 07

Opposition Against Jesus Grows


Chapter 03

Jesus, The Master Teacher



07.03.00.A. CORNERSTONE. Illustration by James Tissot. 1891

 07.03.00.A. CORNERSTONE. Illustration by James Tissot. 1891. While Jesus was extremely popular among the common people, the religious aristocrats constantly confronted Him, as they perceived Him as a potential threat. Little did they realize He was the prophesied “Cornerstone” whom they rejected.

07.03.01 Introduction

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07.03.01 Introduction

Jesus was always admired for His insightful wisdom and teaching techniques. As was typical of so many rabbis, He responded to a question with another question, but other times He structured a response that perplexed those who questioned Him. That has left some modern scholars to ask the question:


07.03.01.Q1 Did Jesus’ teaching method, the dialectic argument, originate with Socrates?

Jesus used a method of reasoning, analysis, and leading questions, known as the dialectic argument,[1] to bring forth an idea in the minds of His disciples.[2]  Rabbis prided themselves on asking profound questions that would create hours of debate. Each opponent (or rabbi), selected, paraphrased, distorted, and re-combined the points which seemed to him to be the weakest of his opponent. Jesus was fully engaged in this type of dialogue and, therefore, is often seen answering a question with another question. The goal was not to respond with a simple answer, but rather to encourage self-examination and self-criticism. This teaching method had become a highly valued skill among the Jews and Greeks.[3] However, did this method come from a foreign source or is there an historical record in Jewish literature?

Modern scholarship has credited Socrates (c. 470-399 B.C.) with developing this method of questions and answers; and sometimes a question is the response to a challenging question.  The purpose of Socrates’ questions was to expose error and uncover truth through logic.[4]  Centuries before the time of Jesus, the Greeks called this “the Socratic art.”  Critics have proposed that Jesus borrowed His teaching techniques from the famed Greek philosopher.  The Socratic art did flourish and was well established in Judaism by the first century, but was the famed Greek philosopher the originator of this highly acclaimed teaching technique?

From the pages of the Old Testament, there are several encounters between prophets and those to whom God desired to give a message. Undoubtedly, the most famous is the discussion between Nathan and King David regarding the king’s affair with Bathsheba and the death of her husband.  The account in 2 Samuel is as follows:


1 So the Lord sent Nathan to David. When he arrived, he said to him:

There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up, living with him and his children. It shared his meager food and drank from his cup; it slept in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.

5 David was infuriated with the man and said to Nathan: “As the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb.”

7 Nathan replied to David, “You are the man!

2 Samuel 12:1-7a


In this narrative, the dialectic argument was used to lead the king into self-discovery of his own sin.  This would make one wonder if Socrates had not heard of this technique from a Hebrew source.  Without question, the earliest example of dialectic argument is found in the book of Job, as this book is said to be the oldest in the Old Testament.  After the many adversities Job faced, God spoke to him with rhetorical questions that resemble dialectic argument.


Where were you when I established the earth?

Tell Me, if you have understanding.

5 Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know!

            Who stretched a measuring line across it

6 What supports its foundations?

            Or who laid its cornerstone

7 While the morning stars sang together

            And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Job 38:4-7


The nature of the dialogue would have profound effects upon the one who initiated the question.  Below are some examples used by Jesus.


Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

Luke 6:9    


As is frequently noted in the Bible, the scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees had spent considerable time observing Jesus and accused Him of performing miracles on the Sabbath.  In their minds, the issue was not that it was good to heal on the holy day, but to do anything except to save a life was considered a gross sin.  This issue of doing good on the Sabbath surfaced again later and is recorded in Luke 14.


5And to them, He said, “Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”  6 To this they could find no answer.

Luke 14:5-6[5]    


When the authority of Jesus was questioned, He again responded in dialectic fashion.  This placed His accusers in the position of self-entrapment.  The narrative is found in Matthew.


23  When He entered the temple complex, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to Him as He was teaching and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You this authority?”

24 Jesus answered them, “I will also ask you one question, and if you answer it for Me, then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Where did John’s baptism come from? From heaven or from men?”

They began to argue among themselves, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we’re afraid of the crowd, because everyone thought John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

Matthew 21:23-27


Did the accusers know how to respond?  Perhaps they did but were afraid to express their ideas because the error of their thinking would be exposed. They had been led into self-examination and, therefore, became trapped by their illogical legalism. It should be noted that moderate Pharisees were followers of the School of Hillel. The strict Pharisees and most of those who most frequently challenged Jesus were followers of the School of Shammai.[6] The students and rabbis of these two influential theological schools not only confronted Jesus, but they also confronted each other in numerous public debates and dialogues.  In the example below, Jesus initiated the question to the Pharisees concerning the identity of the ancestry of the Son, the Christ.


41 While the Pharisees were together, Jesus questioned them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?”

“David’s,” they told Him.

43 He asked them, “How is it then, that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him ‘Lord’:

44 The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I put Your enemies under Your feet’?

45 “If David calls Him ‘Lord,’ how then can the Messiah be his Son?” 46 No one was able to answer Him at all, and from that day no one dared to question Him anymore.

Matthew 22:41-46 (quoting Psalm 110:1; cf. Heb. 1)


If His accusers were truly interested in learning more of Him, the conversation would have   continued.  They would have been honest enough to recognize their own shortcomings.  Since they had only their self-rewarding interests, Jesus did not respond with an answer. He knew His words would not be accepted (Lk. 22:67).  Today’s ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel follow the same restrictive legalism, as did the top echelon of first century Pharisees.



Socrates may have developed the dialectic argument or he may have borrowed it from the Jews. That issue is not as important as the fact that this style of debate has a history in the Jewish culture centuries long before the famed philosopher.



07.03.01.A. A SIGN OF MODERN OBSERVANCE OF ANCIENT PURITY. A modern warning sign posted by the ultra-orthodox Jews in their Jerusalem neighborhood reflects similar legalistic concerns, much as the Pharisees did in the time of Christ. This sign in Jerusalem warns pedestrians to wear modest clothing. Photograph by the author.

[1]. See Appendix 26.


[2]. Horne, Jesus: The Master Teacher. 47.

[3]. Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages. 9.


[4]. Reed and Prevost, A History of Christian Education. 29-30; Butts, The Education of the West. 88.

[5]. Some versions, such as the King James Version, state “If one of you has an ass (donkey) or an ox that falls into a well…”


[6]. New International Version Study Bible footnote on Leviticus 24:20.

07.03.02 Bay of The Parables

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.03.02 Bay of The Parables

07.03.02 Mk. 3:7-12; Mt. 12:15-21 Bay of Parables near Capernaum




Mk. 7 Jesus departed with His disciples to the sea, and a large crowd followed from Galilee, Judea, 8 Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon. The large crowd came to Him because they heard about everything He was doing.


9 Then He told His disciples to have a small boat ready for Him, so the crowd would not crush Him. 10 Since He had healed many, all who had diseases were pressing toward Him to touch Him. 11 Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, those possessed fell down before Him and cried out, “You are the Son of God!” 12 And He would strongly warn them not to make Him known.


Mt. 15 When Jesus became aware of this, He withdrew from there. Huge crowds followed Him, and He healed them all. 16 He warned them not to make Him known, 17 so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:


18 Here is My Servant whom I have chosen,
My beloved in whom My soul delights;
I will put My Spirit on Him,
and He will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not argue or shout,
and no one will hear His voice in the streets.
20 He will not break a bruised reed,
and He will not put out a smoldering wick,
until He has led justice to victory.
21 The nations will put their hope in His name (Isa. 42:1-4).



07.03.02.A. THE BAY OF THE PARABLES. The place where Jesus taught from a boat is believed to be immediately west of Capernaum.  From a boat anchored in the middle of this bay, which is in the shape of natural semi-circular amphitheater, Jesus could teach to thousands who would have been seated along the grassy shore. Visitors today are astounded at the natural acoustics of the area and realize thousands could have heard His message. Photograph by the author.


Multitudes came from foreign countries to hear this gentle Preacher and watch Him perform miracles, a fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1-4. He spoke with gentleness, kindness, and compassion. There is little wonder then so many placed their faith in Him.


“You are the Son of God!”  This is a most interesting statement because the demons recognized the identity of Jesus before the people did. Even within the Hebrew Bible there are a number of descriptions of the term, but with a lower case “s.”


  1. The angels are called the sons of God (Gen. 6:2) and in the oldest book of the Bible, the sons of God presented themselves before the Lord (Job 1:6). It appears to have been a common title for angels.


  1. The nation of Israel is referred to as a son of God (Hosea 11:1; Ex. 4:22).


  1. The king of the Jewish nation is a son of God (2 Sam. 7:14)


  1. Any good man is a son of God – a comment written in the Inter-Testamental Period (Ben Sirach 4:10)


Anyone who made this statement of Jesus said so because Jesus was seen as a good man. He was not seen as God Incarnate as believers do today.


Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 07, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.03.03 JESUS APPOINTS 12 DISCIPLES

07.03.03 Lk. 6:12-16 (See also Mk. 3:13-19) Hills near the Sea



12 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. 13 When daylight came, He summoned His disciples, and He chose 12 of them — He also named them apostles:

14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; 15 Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; 16  Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.


Again Jesus went to a quiet place to pray all night, and again Scripture is silent on the details of His prayer. Certainly it included issues related to His disciples and year and a half ministry in Galilee.[1] Only He could have brought together such a diverse group of men and transformed them into a powerful group of evangelists.

As previously stated, it was common for people to have more than one name: one Greek and another Hebrew, but also first and last names in Hebrew. A brief review of these individuals is in order here, although it can become a bit confusing. Possibly the most extreme examples of personalities, temperaments and motivational passions were Matthew and Simon the Zealot.  Matthew was of priestly stock but had degenerated to being a tax agent for the Romans. Simon belonged to a radical fringe group of Pharisees known as the Zealots who would have liked to have seen all Romans dead. The Zealots were known to have caused a number of rebellions and scores of them were eventually crucified.[2] None of the Twelve could have a more vivid contrast between their former position in life and where Jesus placed them than Simon and Matthew.  The crucifixion of Jesus must have had special meaning since so many other Zealots Simon had known were also crucified.



Little is known of Bartholomew and Nathanael, yet in later years they became effective apostles and were martyred for their faith and ministry.[3]  Bartholomew means son of Tholmai or Ptolemy, but no one’s first name was ever son of … which means that Bartholomew is a second name. It is highly probable that Nathanael was the first name and Bartholomew was his second name.[4] 

It is believed that Thaddaeus is the same as Judas, son of James. If so, the four lists are harmonized. Matthew and Nathanael are both Jewish names and both mean the gift of God. Just as there are several Marys in the biblical narrative, several Judes and Jacobs in the Bible, two or more disciples could have had similar names.[5]  The Greek name Philip means fond of horses which may why a church legend says that he was once a chariot driver.[6] He is not related to the Philip of Acts 6:5 and 8:5-40.  Thomas is a Hebrew name meaning twin, but there is no biblical record of his twin brother or sister.[7]  He is referred to also by his Greek name of Didymus in John 11:16.

According to Mark (3:17) Jesus called John and James, the two sons of Zebedee, boanerges. The term is often said to mean sons of rage or sons of thunder.[8]  However, some scholars believe the name does not mean sons of thunder, but that definition was attached because later when the Samaritan village rejected them. John and James were quick to call for the town’s destruction (Lk. 9:54).[9] In addition, later these two disciples asked Jesus to appoint them to high position in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mk. 10:35-36).  Clearly, they were not among the quiet and timid ones, but loud, zealous, with possible need of private instruction, and being associated with Matthew and Simon, the group was certainly a diverse one.[10] Therefore, “sons of thunder” might have been related to a quick temper. It is amazing that Peter isn’t grouped with them.

All of the disciples were from the Galilee area, with the exception of Judas, the son of James, who was probably from Kerioch in Judea, a town about twenty miles south of Jerusalem. His name is not according to the customary formula: [first name] son of [his father]. Rather, it is Y’hudah from K’riot, Judas from the town of Kerioch (or Keriot), shortened to Judas Iscariot.[11] Of course, to add interest to this study of names, there is another Judas – Thaddaeus or Labbaeus (Mt. 10:3) is the Judas of John 14:22, (not Judas Iscariot).  His name means beloved child and he has been at times referred to as the “good Judas.”[12] Since Judas Maccabaeus was a national hero of the Maccabean Revolt, the name Judas was extremely popular.


07.03.03.Q1 Do the gospels agree on the names of the disciples?

Yes and no. Critics have long argued that the gospel writers did not agree on the names of the disciples.[13]  But the reason is that the order of the twelve names was not important to the authors, only their listing. In fact, their list is similar to listings found on other Jewish writings.[14]


Mt. 10:2 ff.                 Mk. 3:16 ff.                 Lk. 6:14 ff.                  Acts 1:13 ff.


Simon Peter                 Simon Peter                 Simon Peter                 Simon Peter

Andrew                       James, son of               Andrew                       James


James, son of               John                             James                           John


John                             Andrew                       John                             Andrew



Philip                           Philip                           Philip                           Philip

Bartholomew              Bartholomew              Bartholomew              Thomas

Thomas                        Matthew                      Matthew                      Bartholomew

Matthew                      Thomas                        Thomas                        Matthew



James, son of               James, son of               James, son of               James, son of

Alphaeus                     Alphaeus                     Alphaeus                      Alphaeus

Thaddaeus                   Thaddaeus                   Simon the Zealot         Simon the Zealot

Simon the Zealot         Simon the Zealot         Judas, son of               Judas, son of

James                           James

Judas Iscariot             Judas Iscariot             Judas Iscariot             – – – – –



It appears that Jesus had His disciples divided into three subsets of four men each. Simon Peter, Philip, and James were the leaders of these three groups. In the book of Matthew, the tax collector is known by his own name: Matthew, but in Mark and Luke he is known by his Hebrew name, Levi. Also, the English name James is from the biblical Greek is Iakabos, meaning Jacob. In fact, all persons named “James” in the New Testament are actually “Jacob.”[15]


07.03.03.Q2 Was Judas Iscariot a Jew or an Idumean?

Scholars have often pondered this question.  Their reasoning is based upon the fact that the name “Iscariot” is rooted in the village name Kerioth or Kireot,[16] which was located near Arad in the Negev Desert. This village was occupied predominantly by Idumeans – descendants of Esau. However, if in fact, he was from Kireot, that does not mean that he was an Idumean. Many communities had both Jewish and non-Jewish residents. In fact, most of the disciples were from communities occupied by both Jews and Gentiles. But, for Jesus to have selected a non-Jew to be one of His disciples would have gone against all biblical and cultural protocols. Judas was definitely a Jew!

[1]. Bookman, When God Wore Sandals. CD Trac 7.


[2]. See 02.01.22 and Appendix 25.


[3]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:178.


[4]. Barclay, “John.” 1:90, 93-95; Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 20. See John 21:2; Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:246-47; Farrar, The Life of Christ. 134-36.

[5]. Farrar, The Life of Christ. 134-36.


[6]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:178.


[7]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:178.


[8]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:178.


[9]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 19-20.


[10]. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/boanerges. Retrieve October 9, 2012; Green, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament; Berry, Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament.


[11]. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 38.


[12]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:178.


[13]. For more information on this style of education and early discipleship and mentorship, see “Education” in 02.03.04.


[14]. Mishnah, Aboth 2:8-14; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a.


[15].  Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 279.


[16]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:58.



Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 07, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.03.04 GREAT CROWD GATHERS

07.03.04 Lk. 6:17-19




17After coming down with them, He stood on a level place with a large crowd of His disciples and a great number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those tormented by unclean spirits were made well. 19 The whole crowd was trying to touch Him, because power was coming out from Him and healing them all.


Jesus, like everyone else, walked a fast gait wherever He desired to go and, at times, it was over great distances.  The switchbacks on steep hillsides and the detours around cliffs and wadis (dry seasonal streambeds) added significant distance to the grueling hike.  The direct distance from Jerusalem to Galilee is in excess of eighty miles, mostly through the central mountain region.  It is difficult to read the biblical narratives and understand this element of His life.  In essence, His ministry required great physical stamina.  The Roman roads were an improvement over earlier trails, but, nonetheless, long walks were always a demanding task, especially in the summer heat.


For example, in John 2:1-12 Jesus performed his first miracle at Cana in Galilee.  In the following section (vv. 13-25), he was in Jerusalem where he drove out the moneychangers.  Then John and Jesus were baptizing new believers in the Judean countryside. That was followed by a return to Galilee (4:1-3).  Shortly thereafter, he met the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-26), but later returned to Galilee (vv. 43-45).  It is not clear when he left, but it can be seen that, with the exception of Luke, it was not the intent of the gospel writers to give a detailed chronological and biographical account of the life of Jesus, but to write His message. Nonetheless, He traveled many miles on foot.


Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 07, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.03.05 THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

07.03.05 Mt. 5:1-12 (See also Lk. 6:20-23) Spring A.D. 28 Capernaum




 1 When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He began to teach them, saying:


3 The poor in spirit are blessed,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
4 Those who mourn are blessed,
for they will be comforted.
5 The gentle are blessed,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed,
for they will be filled.
7 The merciful are blessed,
for they will be shown mercy
8 The pure in heart are blessed,
for they will see God.
9 The peacemakers are blessed,
for they will be called sons of God.
10 Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11 “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


The Sermon on the Mount, a/k/a “The Beatitudes,” is undoubtedly the most famous sermon of Jesus. It provides a highly valued picture of the Kingdom of God while earthly values are greatly diminished; it is a collection of paradox and contradiction.[1] There are no woes or curses, but clear separation between those who are blessed and those who are not. With this sermon, He affirmed many teachings found not only in the Old Testament, but also those taught by many righteous rabbis of His time.[2] In fact, the ten blessings are reflective of the Ten Commandments which were confirmed by Him as well.[3]  He accomplished three points.


  1. He challenged the Pharisees and Sadducees on their restrictive laws.


  1. He supported righteousness of the Mosaic Law perspective, but also


  1. Went beyond the goals of the Law of Moses to clarify the principles of God.


Just as the Ten Commandments are first focused on man’s relationship to God, then man’s relationship with other people, so likewise, is the Sermon on the Mount.  Notice the following structure:


In relationship to God, Jesus said:[4]


  1. “Blessed are…the poor in the spirit…” Jesus said this means to have the correct understanding of oneself before God


  1. “Blessed are…they that mourn…” Jesus said it means to develop sensitivity to sin and what God thinks about it.


  1. “Blessed are…the meek…” This means to have a peaceful confidence in God and recognize His authority


  1. “Blessed are…they that hunger and thirst after righteousness…” Jesus desires that people desire Him passionately.

In relationship to man, Jesus said:


  1. “Blessed are…the merciful….” Jesus desires His followers to be kind to others, especially when they have been wronged, and to respond to their needs.


  1. “Blessed are…the pure in heart….” Jesus meant that all should have the highest level of integrity and have only a proper motivation.


  1. “Blessed are…the peacemakers….” To be a peacemaker is to convey the peace of God upon men, even if it means conflict, which He later promised it would. To be a peacemaker includes developing unity among the believers.


  1. “Blessed are…they that have been persecuted for righteousness sake ….” Jesus promised that those who would hold His standard would be rejected, just as He was, and they would be persecuted. But they will be justly rewarded.


  1. “Blessed are you when men shall reproach you, and persecute you…for My sake.” Jesus said that those who accept His Messiahship may be rejected by family and friends.


In essence, the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to encourage the people to seek the higher righteousness of the Kingdom of God – the principles of God.  Jesus essentially challenged His audience with the question, “What kind of life is worth living?” The Sermon comprises the basic elements of what would become Christianity, or as Jesus said, the Kingdom of God.  The summary statement for the Sermon is found in Luke 6:32-36 encouraging men to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.  However, man cannot possibly be perfect, but he can have a “holy attitude” of becoming perfect and that is what God expects.  In essence, one is to love Jesus so much that the thought of sin is repugnant. The Sermon gives characteristics of what Jesus wants His followers to become. Yet near the end, He offers the promise of persecution that would help spread the gospel. Amazingly, the modern student may be surprised to know that some rabbis were teaching this as well, but their teachings are lost in the pool of many other rabbinic opinions of the day.[5]



In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus described the blessed life that results from faith and a lifestyle built upon His teachings, which actually have Hebraic roots.  He gave the elements of a righteous man (Mt. 5:3-16) followed by His condemnation of the Pharisaic interpretation of the Law (Mt. 5:17-48).  Then He denounced how the Old Testament was being implemented (Mt. 6:1 – 7:6) and how the aristocrats had violated it themselves in their vain attempts to observe it. Jesus taught the holiness of God to those who desired to enter His kingdom (Mt. 7:7-29) and promised blessings to those who obeyed these divine instructions, which was in sharp contrast to the condemnation of the Pharisaic self-righteousness. In essence, believers should not regard the statements of Jesus in Matthew 5:28, 32, 34, 36, and 44 as setting aside the Law, but as reflecting His authority by giving proper interpretation of the Law.

According to the book of Hebrews, the laws pertaining to the sacrifices and feasts in the book of Leviticus[6]  are a “type and shadow” of what was to be the ministry of Jesus.  In other words, the Sermon fulfills the objectives of the Torah.  The Law given by Moses pertained only to an act, whereas the Law given by Jesus pertains to the motivation of a person’s heart that is behind the act.   Jesus did not come to end the Law, but to fulfill it. Believers are no longer under the Law of Moses but under a new law, the Law of Messiah because Jesus was the fulfillment/goal/purpose of the Law of Moses.[7]  In fact, it might more correctly be said that Jesus did not come to end the law, but to reveal it. But on an important side note, the Church has adopted a Roman view of law, that it means restriction and, is therefore, bad, while the Hebrew Bible views law as instruction and freedom, and is therefore, good.[8] Jesus must be understood as the messianic interpreter of the intent of God’s Word. This is not only seen here, but throughout His entire life.  For that reason, a good understanding of the Hebrew Bible is necessary before attempting to comprehend an in-depth study of the New Testament.

For example, there are six antithetical statements in Matthew 5:21-47.  Each one begins with, “You have heard it said…” and this is followed by a Torah text.  Every time Jesus gave the requirements of the Mosaic Law, it was followed by the intent of God.  This astounded His audience. Matthew teaches that, rather than having mankind be directed by external laws of the Old Covenant, God desires to live within mankind to direct man to live godly according to the New Covenant. That is the definition of the “Kingdom of God.”[9]



Imagine what people must have thought when He told them “blessed were those who mourned … those who are meek … the merciful … and the peacemakers.”  He began to reshape their preconceived ideas of how God felt about them and what God wanted for them. There was not a single person unaffected by the economic slavery of the Romans or ethnic tensions.[10]  People came expecting to hear how they could have peace and freedom in the land.  Instead, they heard how they could have peace and freedom with God. Consequently, there was a great debate of who He was and whether He could be the long-awaited messiah.

Social, political, and religious tensions were also at an explosive point. Those who say the life and times of Jesus cannot be compared to the challenges of modern life today fail to understand the times in which He lived. Often, it was worse.  In the midst of this human misery and suffering, Jesus came to give compassion, mercy, salvation, and a bright future of hope.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He simply clarified many teachings of the Hebrew Bible that gave them hope and purpose.

“The poor in spirit.”  This phrase means one realizes his spiritual condition is impoverished and, therefore, he must depend on the grace and mercy of God.[11] The Greek term ptochoi is defined as the most destitute in poverty.[12] It is the direct opposite of pride. The Essenes understood that the term the poor in Isaiah 29:19 was not a reference to the economically deprived, but to those who were spiritually impoverished. Their ideas were expressed in Hymns of the Poor, found in Dead Sea Scroll fragments 4Q434 and 4Q436. The term poor in grace, with the same meaning is found in fragment 1QH 5.22 in which the Essenes described themselves.[13] Most certainly the Sermon of the Mount captured their attention.[14] Those who are destitute in spirit, who are spiritually broken before Almighty God, will realize and appreciate their need for Him.

“Blessed.”  The term in Hebrew is baruk and in Greek is makarious.[15] The word means to praise God with a sense of happiness and joy upon man.[16] More specifically, it refers to a quality of spirituality that is already present.[17]


07.03.05.Q1 What are the differences between Old and New Testament blessings?

There are two other terms that need to be clarified since both Testaments use the term “blessed.”


  1. The term “beatitudes” is commonly ascribed to this passage and is derived from the Latin word “beatus,” meaning “blessed.”[18] In Hebrew the word is baruk (Gk. makarios 3107),[19] but the Latin and English terms not as specific as the Greek and Hebrew words.


  1. Another term to be considered is the Hebrew word beraka (Gk. eulogeo 2127) that also means blessed.[20] This term is used in the Old Testament, but not in the Sermon on the Mount. It is the ideal word to use when asking God to bless the sick or someone who has experienced a misfortune. It is used in prayer when the worshipper blesses God or the object of his prayer.[21]  However, the word makarious affirms the quality of spirituality that is already present.[22]  The difference is that in the Old Testament the goodness within a person brought forth God’s blessings and in the New Testament the divine blessings are present for the believer.[23]



Just as God had given the Law to Moses on a mountain, now Jesus explained the principles of the Kingdom of God, on a mountain. After discussing the concepts of Moses with His new Kingdom,[24] He gave the characteristics of a new life in the kingdom, including its devotion, duties, and dangers.

“Kingdom of heaven.”  This was His main theme, which was equal to the Kingdom of God in every detail (cf. Mt. 5:3 with Lk. 6:20). Matthew’s gospel was written to a Jewish audience, who gave such high respect to God’s name that he did not mention it in conversation or write it.  This is still true in many orthodox Jewish communities today. Other gospel writers use the phrase “Kingdom of God” to mean the same thing when speaking to a Gentile audience.

The Greek word for “kingdom” more specifically, means dominion, as opposed to a large expanse or territory of land. Today dominion and kingdom can be synonyms, but the distinctions were not as close in the first century. The word dominion should have alerted everyone that Jesus was not interested in being a military-messiah.[25]

“Those who mourn are blessed.” The phrase signifies grief that is too deep for concealment and is often associated with terms that express audible weeping.[26]  It is a reference to the sorrow and mourning of past sins (Isa. 61:1-3).  Jesus said they are blessed because they will be comforted.[27] Matthew’s phrase is an abbreviation, meaning “poor and crippled in spirit.”  These people are spiritually “down and out,” to use a modern term.[28]  It has been said that success and prosperity does not make one wise, but failure and suffering brings forth wisdom as well as an appreciation for life.  That may be why King Solomon wrote:


Grief is better than laughter,

for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad.


Ecclesiastes 7:3


“The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy.”  The English term mercy is translated from the Greek phrase eleemon, meaning sympathetic. However, the unique feature of mercy is that this attitude is not merciful unless accompanied by action when it is within one’s ability to aid someone else who is in need of mercy. God responds to His believers in the same manner they respond to others. A negative example is the Pharaoh of Egypt.  After he hardened his heart against God, God did likewise to him (Ex. 8).

“The pure in heart.” This phrase refers to the motives of the heart; not only single-minded toward God, but also passionate to have the desires that God desires. Throughout history people have struggled with their sinful desires and tried to maintain self-control to obey the biblical commands. This does not refer to a sinless life, but rather, to a heart after God; seeking His forgiveness when needed.[29]  That is, purity (Gk. katharos ) defined within the realm of physical, religious, and ethical purity; a term that has both figurative and literal requirements of behavior.[30]  Those who have that desire to be obedient are said to be “pure in heart.” This concept was radically different from what the attending Gentiles believed. They thought that being as immoral as their pagan gods was a blessing.[31]

“The peacemakers are blessed.” This was a powerful statement since Galilee was a short distance from the villages of Gischala and Gamla, two strongholds of anti-Roman sentiment and Jewish nationalism. Everyone listening knew Jesus made a reference to the history of social-political struggles that had plagued them for more than a century, as well as to the Zealots – the guerilla fighters who encouraged Jews not to pay taxes to Rome.[32] From the time the Romans conquered Jerusalem in 63 B.C. to when they destroyed the city and its temple in A.D. 70, there were 13 revolts and many minor skirmishes. Jesus came and ministered in the middle of this chaotic period.[33]

However, the words of Jesus went beyond a type of nationalistic peace; He spoke of peace within the heart when the world seems to be falling apart.  The Hebrew word shalom, means peace in English, but is far more than the absence of war.  Shalom holds a broader concept which includes one’s well-being, wholeness, health, and spiritual life as portrayed numerous times in the Bible.[34] No doubt, Jesus reflected upon the oral tradition of Aaron, who not only loved peace, but also pursued peace.  Hence, He was truly a peacemaker.  The peacemaker is one who is willing to pay a price to attain peace, either for himself or for someone else.  This may be why God gave Aaron the benediction blessing of Numbers 6:23-26 and, hence, he was known as one who deeply desired peace as defined above. Aaron was a priest and, as such, functioned as a representative of the people before God to obtain forgiveness of their sins and bring peace and wholeness into their lives, although Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker. Peace was considered to be a gift of God for the study of the Torah.[35]

The entire discussion of blessed are the merciful…peacemakers is a reflection upon the sixth commandment as it pertains to murder.  Jesus was not talking about capital cases, military action, or the differences between premeditated murder and involuntary murder.[36]  Neither did He discuss punishment as a deterrent.  Rather, He taught the principles of daily righteous living.  He was concerned with removing the motivation of violence, which would otherwise lead to military action, murder, etc.  Just as the Pharisees had established a “fence around the Torah” with their Oral Law, so Jesus established a “fence around the Ten Commandments” with His Sermon.[37]  This concept of a fence can also be seen in His instruction concerning adultery, to which He essentially said, “Don’t even think about it.” (cf.  Mt. 5:8; Ps. 37:18). There is no need for prisons and capital punishment for those who live in forgiveness and are merciful peacemakers.[38]



Finally, on an interesting side note, could the Sermon of the Mount have influenced the residents of the small Zealot town of Gischala and a young man named Saul who lived there?  Twice Jerome, a Latin priest (347-420), mentioned that Paul’s parents once lived in that northern Galilean town.  Therefore, Saul as a young child must certainly have had personal experience with military tension and conflict, which, no doubt, shaped his attitude toward the Romans and his fellow Jews. That ancient village is believed to be the town of Jish today.[39]


Paul, formerly Saul, an apostle outside the Twelve, came from the tribe of Benjamin and the Judean town of Gischala.  He was captured by the Romans and came with his parents to Tarsus in Cilicia.

Jerome, De Viris Illustribus (PL 23,646) 76


It is reported that the parents of the Apostle Paul came from the Judean region of Gischala.  When the whole province was destroyed by the Romans and the Jews were dispersed over the world, they were taken off to Tarsus, while the young Paul followed his parents in their fate.

Jerome, Commentary on Philemon (PL 23,645-6)


According to Josephus, the village of Gischala was a hotbed of Zealot activity, which is why the Romans destroyed it at the beginning of the Second Revolt in A.D. 66.[40]  If Jerome’s account is true, then some rather interesting events must have occurred that would enable the father of Saul (later known as Paul) to receive Roman citizenship. Nonetheless, Josephus made no mention of the apostle, only that the Romans destroyed the village.  But could the young Saul have heard the sermons of the Kingdom of God before his own calling? Most certainly he did.


07.03.05.Q2 How does one explain the apparent Sermon on the Mount disagreement between Matthew 5:1 and Luke 6:20?

When describing the location of this teaching, Matthew said Jesus, “went up on a mountainside and

sat down” (5:1), while Luke said that He simply “stood on a level place” (6:17).  To solve this apparent problem one needs only to travel to the site and see the lay of the land with its rolling hills. There are level areas on the side of the large hill that Matthew referred to as a mountainside.  Jesus no doubt moved among the people for all to hear as He taught and healed them.  A visit to the Galilee area will reveal that there are occasional level areas on the sides of hills.  Furthermore, a visit there will impress the visitor as to how well sound travels.  He was easily heard where the curved hillsides create a natural amphitheater.



07.03.05.B. THE POPULAR SITE OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.   On a small mountain top along the Sea of Galilee, one can easily imagine Jesus teaching His disciples and others who desired to listen.  Photograph by the author.


While the above site is the most popular site for where Jesus taught the beatitudes, it certainly is not the actual location. This mountain top location was selected as a tourism center in 1937 and funded by the famous Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini.  Ironically, the location of the actual site near Capernaum (above) was preserved by a Spanish Pilgrim in the year 384 and, is considered to be the authentic location (see below) by many scholars.

As to the two passages, Matthew’s sermon (Ch. 5-7), has some unique differences from, and similarities to, the sermon recorded by Luke (6:20-49).  From Augustine until the Reformation, the church had always considered these to be two separate events and sermons.  Since the Reformation, these narratives have been considered by some scholars to be the opinions of two gospel writers who wrote of a single event – a sermon given only once.[41]  However, now there is a growing interest to return to the Augustinian opinion. The Lucan narrative has sufficient differences that it should be called the Sermon on the Plain.  What all agree upon is that these two narratives are only a small portion of His many teachings.  The key point is that throughout His ministry Jesus preached the same theme repeatedly and the difference between the two sermons is simply that it was most likely presented to two different audiences. It would only be natural for a variation of wording, even if the theme remained the same.  Jesus was an itinerant preacher, who traveled throughout the three Jewish provinces of Judea, Perea, and Galilee, as well as in Samaria and the Gentile areas. No one knows how many times He preached His simple message of the Kingdom of Heaven/God. Since this subject was a focus of His ministry, He obviously preached it many times.  Whether the two sermons are of the same event is hardly the point.  It is the message that is significant. All recorded teachings, miracles, and other events of Jesus barely add up to one hundred days of His life, so He probably preached this subject numerous times.  This writer follows the Augustinian teaching, treating the two narratives as two separate events.



07.03.05.C. THE ACTUAL SITE OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.  The Spanish Pilgrim Egeria identified the cave and the top of this hill in A.D. 384 as the place where Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount.  The site is adjacent to the international highway, the Via Maris, and can easily accommodate hundreds of people. The slope and atmosphere provide ideal conditions for one’s voice to be heard easily at a great distance.  The cave, that can accommodate up to a dozen people, is where tradition says Jesus stayed with His disciples.  Photograph by the author.

For three years (381-384), the Spanish Pilgrim Egeria and her entourage traveled throughout the Holy Land visiting various sites.[42] According to the Pilgrim, in 384 she came to the place where Jesus taught and said it was only a couple hundred feet from the popular Via Maris. This gave locals and travelers easy access to hear Him preach.  The hill is truly a “mount” and is located between Capernaum and Magdala at the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, hardly a hundred yards from the highway.  This setting makes perfect sense, as Jesus would not have exhausted people by making them climb a distant and higher mountain to hear Him preach at today’s popular Mussolini site. Egeria left this valuable record of her visit to the Capernaum area:


In Capernaum, a church was made out of the house of the prince of the Apostles, the walls of which are standing to this day just as they were.  That is where the Lord healed the Paralytic (cf. Mk. 2:2-12)….  The synagogue is also there in which the Lord healed the possessed man (cf. Mk. 1:23-26)….  The visitor climbs up to it by several steps; this synagogue is built out of square blocks of masonry.  Not far from there, the stone steps can be seen on which the Lord stood (cf. Jn. 21:4)…. Above the lake there is also a field of grass with much hay and several palms.  By it are the seven springs,[43] each of which supplies a huge quantity of water.  In the field the Lord fed the people with five loaves of Bread (cf. Mk. 6:31-44)…. The stone on which the Lord placed the bread has been made into an altar.  Visitors take small pieces of rock from this stone for their welfare and it brings benefit to everyone…. Along the walls of the church runs a public highway where the apostle Matthew sat to collect taxes (cf. Mk. 2:13-14)…. On the hill which rises nearby is a grotto, upon which the Lord ascended when he taught the Beatitudes (cf. Mt. 5:1).


Pilgrim Egeria[44]


Israel has no shortage of so-called traditional sites.  A third location for the site of the Sermon on the Mount is the top of a mountain known as the Horns of Hattin, an extinct volcano that is near the ancient road between Nazareth and Tiberius.[45]  This, and many other so-called traditional holy sites were created by the Crusaders so European pilgrims could travel from one site to another with relative ease in a small geographical area. The irony is that just as some traditional sites were chosen for the ease of visiting pilgrims a thousand years ago, so was the current site of the Mount of the Beatitudes in the 1930s. Of all the places Jesus could have chosen to preach this famous sermon, He chose a hilltop.  Perhaps the hilltop is a “reflection” of when Moses gave the laws of God to his people. Notice the comparison in poetic style:


Moses defined how people were to live while

Jesus declared the heart of God.

The Oral Law was thought to produce the ideal disciple of Abraham.

But Jesus gave instruction that would produce the ideal disciple of God.


The Sermon adapts and extends scriptural concepts into the issues of everyday life and was not intended to be a form of doctrine.  While the Oral Law of the leading Pharisees was extremely legalistic and restrictive, Jesus gave freedom and liberty. The Sermon on the Mount illustrated how the Kingdom of God will change individuals and the world.[46] His sermon was then followed and ratified by a series of mighty signs and wonders.

Highways have always been important in the Middle East, especially in this narrow section of land that was transversed by armies and merchant caravans for thousands of years.[47] During the Inter-Testamental period, many traveled from foreign countries to bathe in the hot springs in the Jordan River Valley, hoping to get healed from a variety of diseases. In the days of Jesus, they came to get healed but also heard His sermon about a coming Kingdom of God. The Romans built excellent roads and offered incredible freedom of movement – more than ever before.  This enabled people to listen to Jesus and helped the gospel reach distant areas of the Empire.[48]   



07.03.05.Z MAP OF MAJOR ROADS IN 1ST CENTURY ISRAEL. Most major roads between the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa led toward the Sea of Galilee where caravans were resupplied with fresh food and water before continuing their travels. It was in the Capernaum area where Jesus taught and performed miracles, so news of His ministry spread quickly through the known world. Courtesy of International Mapping and Dan Przywara.

[1]. Metzger, Goldstein, and Ferguson. Great Events of Bible Times. 146.


[2]. For further study see, Georg Strecker. The Sermon on the Mount: An Exegetical Commentary. Trans O.C. Dean, Jr. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988); Brad H. Young. The Jewish Background to the Lord’s Prayer. (Tulsa, OK: Gospel Research Foundation. 1984); and Gerald L. Stevens. “Understanding the Sermon on the Mount: Its Rabbinic and New Testament Context.” The Theological Educator. 46 (Fall, 1992) 83-96.


[3]. See Appendix 4.


[4]. See the use of the Blessed (Gk. makarios) in Appendix 26.  See also Vine, “Bless, Blessed, Blessedness, Blessing.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:69.

[5]. See video 02.02.16.V by Messianic Rabbi  John Fischer who discusses this subject briefly from a first century Jewish perspective.


[6]. See Appendix 4.


[7]. Rom. 7:5-6, 10:4; Heb. 7:11-19, 8:13; Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:11-3:6; Gal. 3:17-19.


[8]. See video 08.01.06.V by Messianic Rabbi John Fischer who discusses the term “light and heavy” elements of the Mosaic instruction from a first century Jewish perspective. He also adds a comment about the definition of “Torah” as it means “guidance” or “instruction.”


[9]. For a study of Jewish covenants from a messianic Jewish perspective, see Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology.


[10]. Sanders. “Jesus in Historical Context.” 430.


[11]. See “Natural Expressions by Jesus without Quotations” in Appendix 12.


[12]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 101.


[13]. Charlesworth, Jesus within Judaism. 68-70.


[14]. Bailey, Jesus throught Middle Eastern Eyes. 138; Eisenmann, Robert H. and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered. Rockport, Mass., Element. 1992. 237.


[15]. Becker, “Blessing, Blessed, Happy.” 1:206; Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 100.


[16]. Weasel, “Blessed.” 1:201.

[17]. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 66-68;  Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:35-36.


[18]. Freeman, The New Manners and Customs of the Bible. 407.


[19]. Vine, “Blessed.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:70.


[20]. Vine, “Blessed.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:69.


[21]. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 67.


[22]. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 66-67; Vine, “Blessed.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:70.


[23]. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion. 538.

[24]. His new Kingdom (Mt 5:1-16); the Law of Moses (Mt 5:17-18).


[25]. To exchange a noun for another or related noun is not uncommon in the Hebrew the Law. It makes little difference whether the writer wrote in Greek or Hebrew, because his thinking process was still Hebraic. See also Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. 580.


[26]. See Mk. 16:10; James 4:9; Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:36-37; Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 218.


[27]. Jesus gave a number of “natural expressions,” that is, expressions that convey the larger message of the Old Testament gospel. Examples are found in Appendix 12.


[28]. Bivin and Blizzard, Understanding the Difficult Words. 81-82.

[29]. See also Jer. 17:9; Ps. 24:3-4; 32:1-5; 119:104; 139:23-24.

[30]. Link and Schattenmann. “Pure, Clean.” 3:102-03.


[31]. Jesus often had traveling Gentiles in His audience, especially at the Sermon at the Mount location, since that was given only a short distance off the Via Maris.


[32]. See “Zealots” 02.01.22.


[33]. 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.


[34]. A few passages are Prov. 17:1; 20:3; 26:17; Gal. 5:20-21, and 2 Cor. 3:3.


[35]. Isa. 54:13; Mishnah, Aboth 1:12.


[36]. Mishnah, Makkoth 1:9-2:8.


[37]. See video 02.02.16.V by Messianic Rabbi  John Fischer who discusses the term “fence around the Torah” from a first century Jewish perspective.


[38]. Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds. 73.

[39]. Pixner, With Jesus through Galilee. 77.

[40]. Josephus, Wars 4.3.8-14.

[41]. Carson, “Matthew.” 8:125.

[42]. She was a nun from Galicia, in northwest Spain. Shanks, “After Hadrian’s Banishment: Jews in Christian Jerusalem.” 32.


[43]. The Seven Springs today is known as Tabgha, which is a corruption of Heptapegon which means “seven springs.” It is located one and a half miles west of Capernaum.  Josephus called the largest of these “the well of Capernaum” (Wars 3.10.8).


[44]. The letter is in the possession of the Benedictine Library of Monte Cassino.  The contents of original parts that were lost have been preserved by copies. Pixner, With Jesus through Galilee. 36.

[45]. Gilbrant, “Luke.” 179.

[46]. Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds. 64-65.

[47]. See comments by Dr. Bill Heinrich and Professor Gordon Franz in 05.05.03.V “The Strategic and Economic Significance of Capernaum.”


[48]. Mellowes and Cran, Producers. From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians. (DVD).  Part 2.

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