The Background to the New Testament / No. 3.
The Gospel writers have very little to say about this party. In fact, there are only three references in the New Testament to the word “Herodian” (Matt. 22:16; Mark 3:6; 12:13). It is quite evident from their name that they were either attached to, or the champions of, the familie of Herod. In either case, they would be concerned with promoting the interests of Herod, and be disturbed by the suggestion that this “Jesus of Nazareth” was none other than the King of the Jews. Hence , their opposition to the Lord was largely on political grounds.
In the first reference to them in Matthew twenty-two, they are seen acting together with the Pharisees, in order that they might entangle the Lord in His talk (verse 15). After a flattering overture, calculated to ensnare the Lord by putting Him off His guard, the question is asked, “What thinkest thou? Is it awful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (verse 17).
Had the Lord been but an ordinary man, He would now have found Himself on the horns of a dilemma. Before Him stood the representatives of two parties; the Pharisees, who, being champions of the religion of Israel, did not take kindly to paying tribute to Caesar, and the Herodians, who would take the contrary view. If the Lord had said that tribute was not to be given to Caesar, then He would be in trouble with the authorities, and the Herodians stood before Him as witnesses. If on the other hand, He had maintained that tribute was to be given to Caesar, then the Pharisees could claim that this One was not the people’s Messiah, for He bad them submit to the ruling power. The answer of the Lord was a masterpiece:
- “And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Caesar’s. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (verse 20,21).
In the second reference (Mark 3:6), the Pharisees again take counsel with the Herodians, this time to consider “how they might destroy Him”. This action is particularly significant in the light of John 18:31:
- “Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.“
It would appear that at the time of the earthly ministry of Christ, the Jews were unable to exact the death penalty, except through the medium of the Roman power. Hence the Pharisees in Mark three seek the favour of the Herodian party who, having strong connections with the throne, would be in a position to bring about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
These references serve to show that the Herodians, although perhaps a small party, were powerful indeed, and their attachment to the throne of Herod made them useful allies to the Pharisees, although they were normally separated the one from the other by the beliefs which they held. It is important to note how the Devil can draw opposing factions together when it suits his purpose.
It has already been suggested that the Herodians were a branch of the Sadducees. This seems probable from comparing two passages of Scripture together.
- “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6).
- “And He charged them saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15).
The contexts appear to be identical, but in one case speak of the leaven of the Sadducees, in another, that of Herod. Was the leaven of Herod spread through that part of the Sadducean party known as the Herodians?
Another passage which may bear upon the subject is Luke 23:1-7. The scene is the trial of the Lord before Pilate, who proclaims, “I find no fault in this man” (verse 4). But this does not satisfy the chief priests and the people, and they become more insistent, saying, “He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place” (verse 5). Galilee! Was the mention of it accidental, or in the heat of the moment, or was there some cunning in drawing attention at this time to the fact that Christ was a Galilean? Note the effect upon Pilate, although he had already pronounced the Lord innocent.
- “And as soon as he knew that He belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time” (verse 7).
If Herod could be convinced that there was one who represented a challenge to his position as Tetrarch of Galilee, then the chief priests would have won the day. But Herod took this challenge lightly, and having mockingly dressed Him as a king, sent Him back again to Pilate (verse 11). This incident, however, served to draw Pilate and Herod together as friends, for they had previously been enemies, apparently over some dispute about jurisdiction.
The desire of the Herodians to strengthen the family of Herod by keeping it on good terms with Roman imperialism, was a fact made use of on more than one occasion by the Pharisees, who sought the downfall of the Lord. That the Pharisees had any dealings at all with men whom they must have considered despicable, is a measure of the hatred which they had toward the Lord.
This party is not referred to anywhere in the New Testament as such, but one of the Twelve Apostles is called Simon the Zealot (Luk. 6:15; Acts 1:13). This same Apostle is also called Simon the Canaanite in Matthew 10:4, although it is more strictly correct to refer to him as “the Cananaean”. This latter word appears to derive from the Hebrew qana, “to be hot, or zealous”. Whether Simon was so called because of his temperament, or from his association with the party of the Zealots does not appear from Scripture.
The Zealots have been identified with that party described by Josephus the historian as “the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy”, the founder of which was Judas the Galilean. This man led a revolt against Rome in A.D. 6 (Acts 5:37), and his party sought to be free from the Roman yoke, even if this freedom was to be obtained by dubious means. The Zealots seem to have been more than ready to lay down their lives for this cause. Josephus says:
- “They also do not value dying and kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man Lord” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, chap. 1.).
H.A. Meyer, the German theologian, refers to them as, “a class of men who, like Phinehas (Num. 25:9), were fanatical defenders of the theocracy; and who, while taking vengeance on those who wronged it, were themselves frequently guilty of great excesses”. It says much for them however, that although they suffered a crushing defeat in A.D. 6, yet the spirit of the party alive for many years.
The possible connection of Simon the Apostle with this party is a point of interest in this regard, that the Lord is “no respecter of persons”. Amongst His followers He numbered one Matthew, a tax collector, a friend of the alien, and unpatriotic to Israel. On the other hand, Simon, as a Zealot, would be a tax hater, anti-Rome, and a fanatical patriot, quite the opposite of his fellow disciple, Mattheus, and yet made one in Christ.
Had the Lord not trod His earthly path with extreme care, He might well have been identified with the nationalistic party called the Zealots. If it could have been proved that He had declared Himself on the side of, or even encouraged this party, He would have quickly perished like Judas of Galilee. A wrong answer to the question, “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Matt. 22:17), might well have identified Him with the Zealots, and hence caused His downfall. Despite His clear answer on this occasion, the subsequent charge brought against Him at His trial, and voiced by the multitude was:
- “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a king” (Luke 23:2).
The Lord might well have commanded a great following from this party had His words not been so carefully chosen. The people were looking for a national deliverer, the Messiah, who would free them from the Roman yoke and restore again the Theocracy in Israel. This desire may be felt from such a passage as John 6:15:
- “When Jesus therefore perceived that hey would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone.”
The Lord’s awareness of what was in man saved Him on this occasion from being identified as another Judas. He knew that is was His right to sit on the Throne of David, but was also aware that there is “a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Eccles. 3:1).
It is interesting to compare the Zealots of old with the modern Zionist movement. The aims and objects of the latter are, it is true, stated in more refined terms, but the basic desire remains the same. The Zealots of old sought their ends from inside the Land (by force it is true), whereas the Zionist movement has prosecuted its cause from outside the Land. The manifesto declared by the London Zionist League in the year 1905 has the following words:
- “The fundamental postulate of Zionism is that it is both inevitable and desirable that Jews should continue to maintain their separate identity. In races as in individuals there is an instinct of self preservation. Zionism seeks to justify this instinct which is ever active in the Jewish people by insisting that, if the Jew must survive, there must be something to be gained by his surviving. He must have a mission . . . The Zionist sees clearly that it is nothing less than a mockery to speak of the Jews as capable of fulfilling any mission whatever in their present state. For a Jewish mission one must have a Jewish people, united by a common Jewish consciousness and common Jewish ideals, not a collection of atoms maintaining a meaningless pretence at separateness when everything in their minds and lives which has any value depends wholly on their non-Jewish surroundings. One wants, in a word, a Jewish nation; and a Jewish nation is only possible in a land with the claims and historic associations of Palestine. The winning of Palestine is therefore essential as a means to the great end of enabling the Jews to play worthy of them in the world’s history.”
Since the above words were penned great things have taken place in the land of Israel. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed in part of the former British Mandate Territory of Palestine. They are now a Middle Eastern power to be reckoned with. But has not this movement and success been of the flesh? And in this respect, is not modern Zionism like the zealous nationalism of old, seeking to bring about the purposes of God apart from His intervention? It would seem so.
But let none fail to see that these are signs of the times. The child of the flesh must come before the child of the promise; Ishmael precedes Isaac, Esau come before Jacob.
The Lord during His earthly ministry would not ally Himself with, nor encourage the cause of the party of the Zealots. There was a fulness of time coming when He Himself would take over the reigns of government. That time is again drawing near.
BRIAN E. SHERRING
The Background to the New Testament / no. 4.
From the very earliest times provision had been made for “thy stranger within thy gates” (Exod. 20:10). The Imperial Dictionary says:
- “The peculiar vocation of Israel, as the chosen nation set apart to the Lord by the covenant seal of circumcision, established a clear line of demarcation between the Israelites and surrounding nations; but it did not prevent the presence or preclude the toleration of strangers among them. The various occasions with brought them into peaceful or hostile contact with their neighbours belonging to other races necessarily led to the more or less temporary sojourn, wether voluntary or compulsory, of foreigners in Israel; and accordingly we find their existence recognized and their position defined by various precepts, positive and negative, from the time of the exodus and the establisment of a distinctive Jewish polity.”
The word “proselyte” is not to be found in the Authorized Version of the Old Testament, but the Greek proselutos occurs frequently in the Septuagint. The equivalent Hebrew word is ger, generally rendered “stranger” in the Authorized Version. The first occurrence of this Hebrew word is Genesis 15:13:
- “And he said unto Abram, know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.”
This experience of the People of Israel is referred to by the Lord when He commands:
- “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exod. 22:21).
These strangers within the commonwealth of Israel were, together with the Israelites themselves, forbidden to eat unleavened bread during Passover (Exod. 12:19), to work on the Sabbath (Exod. 20:10), to eat blood (Lev. 17:10), to practice idolatry (Lev. 20:2), to blaspheme the name of the Lord (Lev. 24:16), etc. Their lives were therefore very closely bound up with the People of Israel.
There were however, strangers and strangers, even as there were degrees of proselytes. Accordingly, when the ordinance of the Passover was appointed, it was stated, “This is the ordinance of the Passover; there shall no stranger eat thereof” (Exod. 12:43). Yet in verse forty-eight of the same chapter is written, “When a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it”. It should be observed that the Hebrew words resident in these two verses are different; verse forty-three referring literally to “a son of strangeness”, ben-nekar and verse forty-eight to “a sojourner”, ger. The usage of the latter word in this respect seems to indicate the willingness of the stranger to be identified with the People of Israel, to make their home his home. Such a desire is reminiscent of Ruth the Moabitess, who said to Naomi:
- “For whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Not all strangers however, would hold such strong feelings toward Judaism as this, and it must be understood that when the word “proselyte” is used in this article, it is used of all who were attracted in various degrees of intensity towards Judaism. Later, a twofold division of proselytes became apparent; those who by circumcision had obtained access to the privileges of Temple worship, and those who only professed a respect for the Mosaic religion, and attended as hearers in the synagogues (see The Life and Epistles of St. Paul by Conybeare and Howson). The proselytes referred to in Acts (2:10; 6:5; 13:43) were probably the former of these two classes, since other terms seem to be used by Luke to describe the latter (e.g. “devout”).
That Gentiles became proselytes during both Old and New Testament days is probably attributable to their recognition of the superiority of the religion of Israel. When, through the dispersion, Jewish communities sprang up in all parts of the then known world, Gentiles, unsatisfied with the heathenism around them, attached themselves to these communities.
Those described during Acts as “fearing God” (10:2), “worshipping God” (16:14), “devout” (13:50, 17:4), were probably some of these. Many of them appear to have been women. Dean Farrar, writing of New Testament days, says:
- “Greek proselytes were at this period common in every considerable city of the empire” (The Life and Work of St. Paul).
Although many Gentiles joined themselves to Judaism of their own volition, it must be remembered that the Pharisees had a certain zeal for proselytism:
- “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt. 23:15).
Believing that the end justified the means, the Pharisees had few scruples in the means they employed to make a proselyte. Consequently, although confirming in some degree to Judaism, many proselytes still held heathen ideas, and so were hypocritical and reprobate. Hence the Lord’s words, “twofold more the child of hell”. The name “proselyte” thus came into disrepute, and Rabbinical writers had the strongest contempt for them. They called them “the leprosy of Israel”, and said “that they are not to be trusted to the twenty-fourth generation”. But those who appear in the Acts of the Apostles were evidently not of this character, for many of them embraced the faith and showed that their works were not evil (John 3:20,21). Josephus, writing of the Jews in Syrian Antioch, says:
- “They also made proselytes of a great many of the Greeks perpetually, and thereby, after a sort, brought them to be a portion of their own body” (The Wars of the Jews, Book VII, chapter 3).
This quotation is particularly interesting when it be remembered what a large place Antioch had in the exercise of the Christian ministry.
Proselytes were present on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10), and it is reasonable to suppose that they were also present in every synagogue into which the Apostles went. As the Acts period were on, it is probable that they furnished a majority of the new converts.
The references already made to the many women proselytes of the time is interesting in the light of certain passages in the Acts.
- “But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts” (13:50).
It is known that the Pharisees exercised a great influence over women. By their pious professions they were able to “devour widows’ houses” (Matt. 23:14), and exert pressure on female proselytes to stir up their husbands against the Apostles. 2 Timothy 3:6 may also have some bearing upon this practice:
- “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts.”
When seen against such a background, the words of the Apostle Paul concerning women take on a new light.
The zeal of the Pharisees to proselytize was still present in those of the party which believed. When the Gentiles were added to the church, “certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed” (Acts 15:5) misunderstood the position. They viewed the coming in of the Gentiles as a making of proselytes, and this caused trouble, especially in Antioch and the South Galatian churches. Such misunderstanding called forth the council of Acts 15 and the Galatian epistle. The demand of these Pharisaic believers with respect to the Gentile converts, “that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses” (Acts 15:5) was negated by the Apostles, and no greater burden than four necessary things imposed upon them (Acts 15:28,29). Galatians 2 however, demonstrates how closes the Christian world once came to giving way to this Pharisaic tendency to proselytize, when even Peter and Barnabas were carried away, compelling the Gentiles, by their own actions, to Judaise (verses 11-14). How much is owed to the Apostle Paul from a human standpoint cannot be estimated, for he appears to have been the only one at this time who stood against the intrusion of rights. He opposed the circumcision of Titus, a Greek (verse 3), and withstood Peter to the face (verse 11). This latter action on the part of the Apostle evidently influenced Peter greatly, for when the council of Acts 15 was later held, he is found saying:
- “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers or we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Acts 15:10,11).
(The evidence demonstrating that the letter to the Galatians was written before Acts 15, is presented in The Apostle of the Reconciliation by C.H. Welch, pag. 84-86.)
Although the position of the Gentile was clearly defined at this time, and despite the later revelation given to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3) so evidently completely divorced from Judaism, yet has this Pharisaic tendency remained in all ages of the professing church. There have always been those who have sought to add to “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:11) the “command . . . to keep the Law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). Both Catholics and Protestants have alike been guilty of this practice, apparently being unaware that it is written of “you Gentiles”:
- “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens of the holiest of all, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).
The proselytes of old were limited in their approach to the Lord by type and shadow. At best, they basked in the reflected glory of Israel. The present Gentile members of the Body of Christ have, in contrast to these, been made “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the Holiest of All in light” (Col. 1:12). Such blessedness is almost beyond belief, especially in contrast to what the Gentile was “in time past”, and it should bring forth from every member of this blessed company thanksgiving unto the Father.
BRIAN E. SHERRING
The Background to the New Testament / No. 5.
A Samaritan, according to the etymological significance of the word, is an inhabitant of the land of Samaria, but in the sense in which is found in Scripture, it has an ethnological aspect. It is used of that hybrid race which stood halfway between the Jews and the Gentiles. Note how these three peoples are distinguished from each other in Matthew 10:5,6:
- “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Compare also Acts 1:8.
The origin of the Samaritans is to be traced to that period following the downfall of the Northern Kingdom, the ten tribes, Israel. The King of Assyria, having carried the original inhabitants of Samaria away to distant cities, repeopled the land with strangers. See 2 Kings 17:20-24:
- “And the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the land of spoilers, until He had cast them out of His sight . . . so was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day. And the King of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sephar-vaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the Children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities there.”
These strangers in time mixed with the original inhabitants of the land (it is doubtful whether they were all carried away), and the resulting hybrid race formed the nucleus of the Samaritans. Later, during Ezra-Nehemia period, a “mixed multitude”, separated from Israel and expelled from Jerusalem, were probably also absorbed among them. Thus, shortly after the return from Babylon, the Samaritans existed as a powerful nation in the centre of Palestine. The hatred which grew up between this people and the Jews dates from the time when Judah returned from the Babylonian captivity. When the children of the captivity began to rebuild their temple and their walls, the Samaritans offered their help:
- “Now when the adversaries (Samaritans, verse 10) of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel; then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do” (Ezra 4:1,2).
This offer was spurned by Israel, and these adversaries then set about to frustrate their purpose (verse 3-5). Involved in this opposition was one Sanballat who, according to an Aramaic papyrus discovered in 1909, was “governor of Samaria”. The various forms which his opposition took are noted in The Companion Bible at Nehemiah 2:10. They are all to be found in Nehemiah, and are grief (2:10), laughter (2:19), wrath and indignation (4:1-3), fighting (4:7,8), subtlety (6:1,2) and compromise (6:5-7).
A Sanballat is mentioned by Josephus as having built a temple on Mount Gerizim, but this testimony on this point is to be viewed with some suspicion as his chronology is evidently at fault. It is however possible, that Sanballat, after his failure to successfully oppose the building of the Temple at Jerusalem, did in fact build a rival temple for the Samaritans. (The interested reader is referred to The Antiquites of the Jews Book XI, chapter 8). Whatever be the truth of the foregoing, the fact remains that there did at one time exist on Mount Gerizim a temple, and even after its destruction by John Hyrcanus (over one hundred years before Christ) it remained a sacred site to the Samaritans.
After the death of Alexander the Great, when his kingdom had been divided amongst his four generals, a dispute concerning the true site of the Temple was brought before Ptolemy, the general to whom had been allotted Egypt and Palestine. Josephus records the event:
- “Now it came to pass that the Alexandrian Jews, and those Samaritans who paid their worship to the temple that was built in the days of Alexander at Mount Gerizim, did now make a sedition one against another, and disputed about their temples before Ptolemy himself, the Jews saying that, according to the Law of Moses, the temple was to be built at Jerusalem; and the Samaritans saying that it was to be built at Gerizim. They desired therefore the king to sit with his friends and hear the debates about these matters, and punish those with death who were baffled . . . . By this speech and other arguments, Andronicus persuaded the king to determine that the temple at Jerusalem was built according to the Law of Moses, and to put Sabbeus and Theodosius to death” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIII, chapter 3).
This dispute continued till the days of the Lord, when the woman of Samaria again brought it up in His presence (John 4).
There can be no doubt that Mount Gerizim was a hallowed site. Abraham built his first altar there (Gen. 12:6,7), as did also Jacob (Gen. 33:18-20), and the Lord commanded that His blessing should be put there:
- “And it shall come to pass, wen the Lord thy God hath brought thee in unto the land wither thou goest to posses it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon Mount Gerizim, and the curse upon Mount Ebal” (Deut. 11:29).
Note that Sichem and Shechem, mentioned in the first two of the previous three quotations, are one and the same, and originally represented a region in which the Mounts Gerizim and Ebal stood. Compare Sychar (John 4:5) and Sychem (Acts 7:16). Apart from the hallowed connections of Mount Gerizim, the Samaritans justified it as a place of worship from Deuteronomy 27:4,5:
- “Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in Mount Ebal . . . . And there shall thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God.”
The Samaritan Pentateuch reads, “Gerizim” for “Ebal”, and although this is thought to be a deliberate alteration, yet did the Samaritans rest their case upon it.
The relationship which existed between the Jews and the Samaritans during the Lord’s earthly ministry, is described for us in John 4:9:
- “Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him, how is it that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”
The Greek word translated “dealings” is sunkraomai, and it requires some explanation. It is evident from the narrative that the Jews did have some dealings with the Samaritans, for “His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat” (4:8). “The city” was Samaritan, and this implies two things: that the Jews did have dealings with them, and that the food sold must have been deemed kosher (or lawful). The lexicographer Parkhurst, recognizing the difficulty in the Authorized Version translation, quotes Dr. John Lightfood on the passage:
- “Lightfood, however, I think more justly, interprets sunkraomai by ‘being obliged, or laying themselves under any obligation to, by accepting of favours from'” (Greek Lexicon).
Hence, having no dealings with would seem to imply “having no friendly intercourse with”.
The attitude of the Jews toward the Samaritans may be further seen from such a passage as John 8:48, where the Lord is accused, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon”. Note also the suggestion of the disciples in Luke 9:54, when certain Samaritans would not received the Lord. Yet did the Lord portray this people in a good light in contrast to Israel, when He gave the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). and consider also, that of the ten lepers who were cleansed by the Lord. the one who turned back in thanksgiving was a Samaritan (Luke 17:11-19).
The Samaritans seem to have reacted favourably to the Gospel. This may be ascertained from the sequel to the Lord’s talk with the Samaritan woman. The woman, upon the return of the disciples from the city, left her waterpot, and, speaking to the men of that city, said, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?” (John. 4:29). The reaction of the Samaritans was immediate, for “they went out the city and came unto Him” (verse 30). The Lord, seeing them afar off, said:
- “Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (verse 35).
In verse 39, “Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that I ever did”, and, “Many more believed because of His own word” (verse 41).
When later, “Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them”, it is recorded that, “The people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake” (Acts 8:5,6). Luke also allies the church with Samaria (Acts 9:31), and refers to the brethren there (Acts 15:3). So the Samaritans, despite their origin, received the Word of God, proving again that God is no respecter of persons, a fact further emphasized by the willingness of the Lord to discuss with the woman of Samaria a subject as high and as holy as worship.
BRIAN E. SHERRING
The Background to the New Testament / No. 6.
Temple & Priesthood
To build a temple for the Lord was the desire of David the King, and belonged to the period when, “the Lord had given him rest roundabout from all his enemies” (2 Sam. 7:1). But David was not allowed to fulfill this desire for he had been a man of war, and so the honour was reserved for his son Solomon. The building of this Temple represented the passing of the pilgrim stage and the establishing of the kingdom.
After the revolt of the ten tribes during the reign of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, this Temple suffered a series of misfortunes. In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak King of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took many of the Temple treasures away (1 King 14:25-28). Later, during the reign of Asa King of Judah, more of its treasures were taken in order to establish a covenant with the King of Syria, so that the Norther Kingdom, ruled at this time by Baasha, might defeated (1 Kings 15:16-21). Thus did the Temple continue to suffer, until finally, the King of Babylon removed all te vessels, burnt it down and demolished the wall. God’s reasons for allowing such a thing to happen are given in 2 Chronicles 36:14-21:
- “Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which He had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers. Rising up betimes, and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought upon them the King of the Chaldees . . . . He have them all into his hand. And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord . . . . all these he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem . . . . to fulfill the word of the Lord.”
Under Ezra and Nehemiah the Temple and walls were rebuilt at the decree of Cyrus King of Persia (Ezra 1:1-4). This second Temple, like the first, also had its trials, suffering especially at the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes who set up “an abomination of desolation” upon the altar (1 Macc. 1:54). Later the Maccabees cleansed the Temple from this pollution, and turned the enclosure into a fortress. By the time of Herod the Great (appointed Procurator of Judaea by Julius Caesar in 47 B.C.) it had fallen into decay.
Herod, in accordance with his policy of conciliating the people, and possibly also in expiation of the atrocity he committed by exterminating the Sanhedrin, put the work in order to reconstruct the Temple. But this work was done in such a way that it did not appear to the building of a third edifice. The Imperial Bible Dictionary has the following comment:
- Although it was an entirely new building which Herod projected and actually accomplished, yet his very object required that he should avoid conveying the idea of its being wholly new, and that he should rather appear aiming at the proper restoration and embellishment of the existing one. On this account he seems to have taken down the latter piecemeal, and put up the other in its place, so as to preserve the continuity of the edifice, and admit of its being still called, as it certainly was, the second temple.”
Herod’s temple was begun (according to The Companion Bible) in 20 B.C., and was still in the process of being built when the Lord walked this earth.
- “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple (naos), and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple (naos) in building, and wilt you rear it up in three days?” (John 2:19,20).
The Greek naos refers to the actual Temple building consisting of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, and should be distinguished from hieron which refers to the whole of the Temple courts. The other word translated “temple”, oikos (Luke 11:51), is really “house”, and is so translated in most of its occurrences. This distinction between the Greek words for “temple” must be taken as qualifying the statement concerning the unfinished work. In fact, according to Dean Farrar,
- “The assertion of the Jews was not strictly accurate, for ho naos autos (as distinguished from to hieron), with all its porticoes, had been finished in eight or nine years” (The Life of Christ).
This suggests that the Jews (John 2:20) were referring rather to the length in which the whole project had been in hand. Work on this temple continued until A.D. 64, just six years before its destruction by fire under Titus.
The Temple which stood during the Lord’s earthly days was an attempt by Herod to endear himself to his Jewish subjects, an attempt which failed. And yet in spite of this origin and motive, the Lord identified Himself with it, calling it “My Father’s house (oikos)” (John 2-16). Note also Matthew 21:12,13:
- “And Jesus went into the temple (hieron) of God . . . and said unto them, It is written, My house (oikos) shall be called The House (oikos) of Prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
Later “My house” became “your house” (Matt. 23:38). Yet even after this reversal with its associated prophecy concerning the desolation of the Temple, and even after the crucifixion of the Lord, Peter and John (perhaps the two apostles most near to the Lord) go up to this same Temple (hieron) at the hour of prayer. From the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles it appears that the Temple was the centre of activity of the early church. Just as the Jewish believers of this day did not disassociate themselves from the synagogues, neither did the Apostles separate themselves from the Temple. The object of the Apostles with their call to repentance was not to begin a new calling, but to make ready the people of God for the coming back of their Messiah. The hope of Israel was centred in this Messiah, and the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1, “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple“.
For nineteen hundred years the People of Israel have been without a temple, and although an effort was made under the Emperor Julian to rebuild, this and all other aspirations in this direction have been frustrated. At this present time, the once sacred height is occupied by the Mosque of Omar. In order that Matthew 24 may be fulfilled, it would seem to be necessary that the Temple be rebuilt. Then will the prophecy of Daniel (Matt. 24:15) be fulfilled, and the great tribulation commence, leading, as that chapter indicates, to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The events in the Middle East are surely seen by the most casual observer to be leading up to this rebuilding.
Everything connected with the priesthood was intended to be symbolical and typical, and pointed forward to the Great High Priest and his work for man. The essential idea of the priesthood as, “mediation”, Dr. Edersheim writes:
- “The Hebrew term for priest (kohen) denotes in its root meaning ‘one who stand up for another, and mediates in his cause'” (The Temple, its Ministry and Service at the time of Jesus Christ). This meaning can be felt from such a passage as Hebrews 5:1:
- “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices fro sins.”
Priesthood, in its widest sense, existed from the very earliest times. Before the Mosaic priesthood was instituted, the father was the priest to his own household. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job performed this function (Gen. 12:7,8; 26:25; 33:19,20; Job 1:5). The priesthood of Melchizedek would seem to be the Scriptural exception to this rule, for even the patriarch Abraham recognized his greatness (Heb. 7:4). It was “after the order of” this man that Christ was priest (Heb. 7:15-17).
The people of Israel was a whole were intended to be “a kingdom of priests”, but this was dependent upon the keeping of certain conditions.
- “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my convenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exod. 19:5,6).
But within this conception, the firstborn in particular were looked upon as specially beloning to God. This was because of the deliverance effected for the firstborn when in the land of Egypt.
- “All the firstborn are mine; for on the day when I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be; I am the Lord” (Num. 3:13).
Instead, however, of taking the firstborn, the Lord chose the tribe of Levi
- “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him . . . I have taken the Levites from among the Children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the Children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine” (Num. 3:,6,12).
Aaron and his sons in particular were chosen to “wait on their priests’ office” (verse 10), provided they satisfied the conditions of Leviticus 21:16-23.
The fixed duties of the priests included watching over the fire on the altar of burnt offerings that it should never go out (Lev. 6:12,13), offering a lamb every morning and evening and two lambs on the sabbath (Num. 28:3,4,9), attending to the golden lamp outside the veil (Exod. 27:20,21) and teaching and guarding the law of God (Lev. 10:11, see Mal. 2:7). In addition they were to be always at their post, ready to do the office of a priest for any Israelite who might require them. The high priest had the additional privileged duty of appearing before God once a year on the day of atonement.
There were thus three orders of ministers, corresponding with the three sections of the Tabernacle and later, the Temple.
- “The Levites were the appointed servants of the court, but from the holy place they were excluded on pain of death. The priests executed the ministry of the holy place, but were as solemnly prohibited from venturing beyond the veil which concealed the Most Holy. The priesthood culminated in the high priest, as mediator between God and the people” (Imperial Bible Dictionary)
From the time of David (although Jewish tradition places it earlier) the priesthood was arranged in 24 courses (1 Chron. 24). Each “course” did duty for a week, the days of which were further subdivided among the families which constituted the course. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was “of the course of Abia” (Luke 1:5).
It is beyond the scope of these articles to consider the history of the priesthood through the Old Testament. Attention must therefore be turned to the state at which that priesthood had arrived in New Testament days.
BRIAN E. SHERRING
The Background to the New Testament / No. 7.
The priesthood (cont.)
When the voices of the prophets ceased the way was open for the rise of Rabbinism, and as its power and influence increased, so that of the priesthood declined. At the time of Christ, the Rabbinic party, the Pharisees, were in complete control in all religious and ritual matters. Dean Farrar writes:
- “The wealth, rank, connections, and offices of the Sadducees gave them much worldly influence and authority, but in all religious and ritual matters the people sided so absolutely with the doctors of Pharisees that the Sadducees, even against their real views, were often compelled to conform” (The Life of Christ).
Were it not that the Sadducean priestly party were hand in glove with the ruling power, they would have had no place at all in Israel. The situation at the time of the Lord is apply put by Dr. Edersheim.
- “Nor must we forget the powerful controlling influence with Rabbinism exercised. Its tendency . . . was steadily against all privileges other than those gained by traditionary learning and theological ingenuity. The Pharisee, or, rather, the man learned in the traditional law, was everything both before God and before man; ‘but this people, who knoweth not the law’, were ‘cursed’, plebeians, country people, unworthy of any regard of attention. Rabbinism applied these principles even in reference to the priesthood” (The Temple and its Services).
To be a priest, a man must satisfy the Sanhedrin on at least two counts: (a) genealogy, (b) physical perfection. Official records of descent were meticulously kept until the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in A.D. 70, when they were apparently lost. Priests also had to undergo a course of instruction, and before being allowed to officiate, were examined.
The distinction between the priest and Levite at the time of Christ indicated in the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35), is observed thus by Dr. Edersheim:
- “Generally . . . on the Levites devolved the Temple police, the guard of the gates, and the duty of keeping everything about the sanctuary clean and bright. But as at night the priests kept watch about the innermost places of the Temple, so they also opened and closed all the inner gates, while the Levites discharged this duty in reference to the outer gates, which led unto the Temple mount (the court of the Gentiles), and to the ‘Beautiful gate’, which formed the principle entrance into the ‘court of the women'” (The Temple and its Ministry).
There can be no doubt that at this time the office of high priest carried with it very considerable influence. This can be seen in Acts 9:1,2 where the jurisdiction of the high priest is recognized in the synagogues of Damascus, 140 air-miles to the north of Jerusalem:
- “And Saul . . . went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way . . . he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”
The possessor of the office had a house in the Temple, in addition to his own home in Jerusalem, and was entitled to certain marks of outward respect. According to the Rabbis, he was appointed by the Sanhedrin, and the office was to be held for life and was hereditary. But the high priesthood was interfered with, especially by Herod the Great, and became associated with crime and bribery. Dean Farrar writes of Herod that, “He trust into the high priesthood creatures of his own, of Egyptian and Babylonian origin.” Herod also interfered with the Sanhedrin, to whom even the high priest was answerable, and there can be no doubt that the assembly which condemned the Lord, was of a hybrid nature.
The association of the priests with the Sadducean party, and the fact that they had the chief share in the crucifixion of Christ, has been already noted. They appear on the scene largely at the end of the Lord’s ministry, after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and they were very active during the early Acts period. A glance at the occurrences of “the chief priests” (hoi archiereis) found in Mark 15, is very revealing of the part they had in the crucifixion:
- “The chief priests held a consultation . . . accused Him . . . delivered Him . . . moved people . . . mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; Himself He cannot save” (verses 1,3,10,11,13).
After the death of Christ, they, together with the Pharisees, persuaded Pilate (calling to mind the Lord’s prediction that after three days He would rise from the dead) of the necessity to secure the sepulchre and to set a guard. It was to these chief priests that the same guard reported after the resurrection of Christ, when they bribed them with much money to spread abroad the tale that, “His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept” (Matt. 27:62-66; 28:2-4, 11-15). What the real feelings of these chief priests (who were of the Sadducean persuasion, denying the resurrection of the dead) were, after the report of the guard, can only be a matter of conjecture. They were greatly distressed, however, at the later teaching of the Apostles:
- “And as they spake unto the people, the priest, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:1,2).
Having arrested them, and charged them not to speak henceforth to any man in then name of “Jesus”, the Sanhedrin released the Apostles. But their continued activity in the Temple filled the high priest and his associates with anger:
- “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees) and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison” (Acts 5:17,18).
The miraculous escape of the Apostles during the night, when the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, caused great perplexity to these Sadducees, and it seems that it was largely due to the wisdom of Gamaliel, a Pharisee, that the Apostles, having again been brought before the Sanhedrin, were delivered on this occasion (Acts 5:19-40). It is refreshing to read, just a few verses later, and in contrast to this, that “A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7).
Two words in particular are used in the New Testament in connection with the priesthood. They are hiereus, translated “high priest”, and “priest”, and archiereus, translated “chief priest”, “high priest”, and “chief of the priests”. The one reference where the word hiereus is translated “high priest” (Acts 5:24) is omitted by the best texts.
According to the Grimm-Thayer Lexicon, hiereus refers to “a priest; one who offers sacrifices and in general is busied with sacred rites”. Apart from its usage in the Gospels and Acts, of the priests living at that time, it is used in Hebrews in reference to Christ, Melchizedec and the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament. It is used in the Book of Revelation, of believers.
Achiereus, a word used many times in the Gospels, Acts and the Book of Hebrews, but never outside of those books, is explained in the Grimm-Thayer Lexicon thus:
- “(1). He who above all others was honoured with the title priest, the chief of the priests . . . (2). The plural archiereis . . .comprises, in addition to the one actually holding the high priestly office, both those who had previously discharged it and although deposed continued to have great power in the state . . . as well as the members of the families from which high priests were created, provided they had much influence in public affairs.”
The word is used in Hebrews particularly in reference to Christ. The situation with respect to the high priesthood at the time of Christ, has caused some consternation among Bible students. There can be no doubt that, at the time of the Lord’s trial, Caiaphas was high priest (Matt. 26:57; John 18:13,24), and yet, in Acts 4:6, Annas is called the high priest, whilst Caiaphas is given no title. In addition to this (in Luke 3:2, R.V.) there is mention of “the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas”, with reference to the time when “the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias”. The Companion Bible note on this last passage is:
- “Caiaphas was the high priest as successor of Aaron; while Annas was the Nasi, or head of the Sanhedrin (as successor of Moses), and thus associated with Caiaphas in government.”
The note of H.A. Meyer is as follows:
“The reigning high priest at that time was Joseph, named Caiaphas . . . who had been appointed by Valerius Gratus, the predecessor of Pontius Pilate (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, chapter 2). His father-in-law Annas held the office of high priest some years before, until Valerius Gratus became procurator, when the office was taken away from him by the new governor, and conferred first on Ismael, then on Eleazar (a son of Annas), then on Simon, and after that on Caiaphas . . . But Annas retained withal very weighty influence (John 18:12,13), so that not only did he, as did everyone who had been archiereus, continue to be called by the name, but, moreover, he also partially discharged the functions of the high priest.”
Either or both of the above suggestions may be true, but it seems fairly obvious from the New Testament record, that Annas, the ex-high priest, exercised considerable power and influence. Dean Alford says of him:
- “He had influence enough to procure the actual high priesthood for five of his sons, after his own deposition, Josephus Antiquities of the Jews Book XX, chapter 9).”
The character of Caiaphas, son-in-law to Annas, is seen clearly in his unconscious prophecy concerning the death of Christ for the people:
- “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all; nor consider it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (John 11:49,50).
The Sanhedrin had expressed their fear that, “The Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation” (verse 48) as a result of the following which the Lord would command, if allowed to continue with his miracles. Such was the attitude of these self-centred men. But Caiaphas was ahead of them, and saw in “this man” a victim, albeit innocent, by whom they could appease the suspicion of their conquerors. This attitude of Caiaphas lays open the character of the man.
To conclude this article on the priesthood, a few words from Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible may serve to emphasize the utter degradation into which the priesthood had come, shortly before the destruction of the Temple by Titus in A.D. 70.
- “In the scenes of the last tragedy of the Jewish history the order passes away without honour, ‘dying as a fool dieth’. The high priesthood is given to the lowest and vilest . . . other priests appear as deserting to the enemy; it is from the priest that Titus receives the lamps, and gems, and costly raiment of the sanctuary. Priests report to their conquerors the terrible utterance, ‘Let us depart’, on the last Pentecost ever celebrated in the Temple. It is a priest who fills up the degradation of his order by dwelling on the fall of his country with a cold-blooded satisfaction, and finding in Titus the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The destruction of Jerusalem deprived the order at one blow of all but an honorary distinction.”
BRIAN E. SHERRING
The Background to the New Testament / No. 8.
The word “sanhedrin” (or “sanhedrim”) does not occur in the A.V., the Greek sunhedrion being consistently translated “council”. In the LXX, the word is used in a general way of any session or assembly of persons deliberating or adjudicating. An example of this latter usage is found in Proverbs 22:10:
- “Cast out a pestilent person from the council, and strife shall go out with him; for when he sits in the council be dishonours all” (LXX).
In the New Testament the word is used more specifically, referring to (a) the smaller tribunal or “council” which existed in every Jewish town in which a synagogue was to be found, its function being to judge less important cases, and (b) the Sanhedrin, the great “council” which met in the Temple at Jerusalem, and had supreme authority in Israel (but of course subject, at the time of Christ, to the Roman procurator).
The former usage is found in Matthew 10:17 and Mark 13:9, where the word is in the plural form:
- “But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils.”
- “But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten.”
Most occurrences however, refer to the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, sometimes designated “The Grand Sanhedrin” by authorities. The word sunhedrion, from sun together and hedra a seat, means literally, “a sitting together”.
Origin of the Sanhedrin
Jewish tradition traces the origin of the Sanhedrin to Numbers 11:16,17:
- “The Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto Me seventy men of the elders of Israel . . . and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee . . . and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee.”
The Sanhedrin at the time of the Lord’s sojourn on earth was similarly constituted, being made up of seventy members (priests, Levites, scribes and notable members of high priestly families) plus the president (the High Priest). This body sat in the Temple precincts.
It is outside the scope of this article to trace the possible history of this body from Moses to Christ, but it may be observed that Ezekiel was given a vision of such a company (in connection with Israel’s idolotry), and an assembly which bestowed upon Simon (father of John Hyrcanus) the supreme power, referred to in the Apocrypha, may well have been such a body.
- “So I went in and saw . . . the idols of the house of Israel . . . and there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah . . . with every man a censer in his hand” (Ezek. 8:10,11).
- “At Saramel in the great congregation of the priest, and people, and rulers of the nation, and elders of the country, were these things notified unto us . . . The people therefore, seeing the acts of Simon . . . made him their governor and chief priest” (1 Macc.14:28,35).
The Sanhedrin at the time of Christ
Mention has already been made in these articles of the interference of Herod the Great with the Sanhedrin. At one time he is said to have exterminated every member of this body except one, whose eyes he put out. Soon after this, he put into the High Priesthood men of Egyptian and Babylonian origin, who would of course preside over the Sanhedrin.
It would seem, in the light of this, that the body which condemned the Lord, was of a hybrid nature, if indeed He actually appeared before the Sanhedrin as such. Dr. Edersheim asserts in his Jesus the Messiah, that it was “no formal, regular meeting of the Sanhedrin”, pointing out that if it had have been, “all Jewish order and law would have been grossly infringed in almost every particular”. He quotes the Jewish historian Dr. Jost:
- “A private murder, committed by burning enemies, not the sentence of a regular constituted Sanhedrin. The most prominent men who represented the Law, such as Gamaliel, Jochanan ben Zakkai, and others, were not present.”
It is alas only too sad to relate, and in opposition to this view, that even normally calm assemblies of intelligent men, when their judgments is clouded by hatred of fear, will act in the most irrational and unlawful manner. The men who opposed the Lord, even if they could be so described, were certainly burning with a hatred for Him and all He stood for, and there seems no reason to doubt, under such circumstances, that the so-called “Grand Sanhedrin” could act in a way which infringed “all Jewish order and law”. As to be absence or otherwise of the most prominent members of this body, since Scripture is silent on this, it cannot be established with any certainty one way or the other.
Authority of the Sanhedrin
The authority of the Sanhedrin at this time, was to judge in the more important causes, to the extent of pronouncing the death sentence, but with the limitation that such sentences should be confirmed by the Roman procurator, and be put into effect by the Roman power. Hence the words of John 18:31; 19:7:
- “The Jews therefore said unto him (Pilate), It is not lawful for us to put any man to death . . . We have a law, and by our law He ought to die.”
The death sentence had in effect been already passed upon the Lord by the Jews, and they now sought the conformation of Pilate, and consequent carrying out of that sentence by the Roman power.
The death of Stephen has sometimes been quoted as demonstrating that the Sanhedrin did have the power to carry out the sentence of death at this time, but what happened with respect to the first Christian martyr was done in the heat of the moment, and is not to be quoted against the plain words of John 18:31 already referred to. The N.E.B. translation portrays graphically what happened to Stephen in Acts 7:57,58:
- “At this they gave a great shout and stopped their ears. Then they made one rush at him and, flinging him out of the city, set about stoning him.”
It may be remembered that there were times during the Lord’s earthly ministry when a similar thing could have happened, although confessedly not in connexion with the Sanhedrin. See for example John 8:59 and 10:31.
- “Ye have heard . . . but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council (Sanhedrin): but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire (lit. Gehenna of fire)” (Matt. 5:21,22).
In the above passage three degrees of punishment are allude to, pronounced by two courts. “The Judgement” would represent the local synagogue “councils” (Matt. 10:17 and Mark 13:9), which decided lesser cases, but could pronounce the death sentence by the honourable method of the sword, and ordain scourging (Matt. 23:34) and excommunication (John 9:34). The Sanhedrin dealt with more serious offences, and had the power to ordain death by the more ignominious stoning, and the further disgrace of the Gehenna of fire, the end of a malefactor, whose corpse was denied a proper burial and was thrown out into the valley of Hinnom (outside Jerusalem), where it would be devoured by worms, or the fires which were kept burning there constantly to keep down pestilence. See Isaiaih 66:24; Mark 9:43-48.
The meaning of Matthew 5:21,22 will be considered in a consequent article; it is enough for the moment to observe the constitution and authority of the judicial system in Israel at this time. All matters, civil, political and religious, came under the jurisdiction of these tribunals, which were intimately connected with the religion of Israel. Such a system is, on paper at least, a Theocracy, and this Israel was intended to be. How far they fell short of this in practice, to say nothing of the impossibility of running such a system whilst under the Roman yoke, is evident to any reader of the Gospel narrative.
The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to His own people could have re-established that Theocracy, but the prevailing attitude of the leaders of the people was, “we will not have this man to rule over us”. They rejected their King-Priest, both during the Gospel and Acts period, and “the hope of Israel” was postponed to a future date, whilst the Lord turned His attention to another aspect of His purposes — the building up of the Body of Christ, a heavenly plan.
BRIAN E. SHERRING
The Background to the New Testament / No. 9.
The Greek sunagoge, “synagogue”, derives from the verb sunago, “to gather together”, and there are many occurrences of the word both in the LXX and New Testament. In the LXX the word is mostly translated by the words “congregation”, “assembly” and “company”, but apart from Acts 13:43 (“congregation”) and James 2:2 (“assembly”), the N.T. renders consistently “synagogue”. The A.V. translation of the word in James is most unfortunate, as it obscure the close connexion of the early believers with the synagogue, which is an important consideration for a correct understanding of the things at this time.
It is possible to use the word “synagogue” in much the same way as “church” is used today, i.e. of the company met together, or the building in which they meet. Revelation 2:9 is an example of the former usage, when it refers to “a synagogue of Satan”. Here it is not a building which is in view, but a company of people who promote the cause of Satan.
Origin of the Synagogue
Although the synagogue as a building did not appear until late on in the history of Israel, the custom of resorting to the “men of God” on the sabbath for the reading and exposition of the Law, was of great antiquity. This is suggested in Acts 15:21:
- “For Moses from generations of old, in every city, has those proclaiming him in the synagogues, being read every sabbath” (lit.)
Dr. John Lightfoot identified the “high places”, mentioned in the O.T. in a good sense, with the synagogue.
- “And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place . . .” (1 Sam. 9:19).
- “Thou shalt come to the hill of God . . . thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place . . . and they shall prophesy: And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee . . .” (1 Sam. 10:5,6).
These “high places” must not be confused with others used for idolotrous purposes (e.g. 1 Kings 11:7).
The gathering together in companies of the people of Israel came about gradually over in a period of time. With the division of the land amongst the twelve tribes, and the choice of Jerusalem as the accepted centre of worship, the people found themselves at varying distances from the place where the Lord had put His name. It was only natural that those at a distance from this centre, and required to present themselves there three times a year, should desire to meet together for prayer, reading and edification at other times. So was born the synagogue; first simply a company of people meeting in the open, but later (after the return from Babylon), in a building erected for this purpose.
The object of the synagogue was not to supplant the Temple, which was the House of Prayer, but to provide houses of prayer for those at a distance from the Temple, who were not able to attend as often as they would like to have done. Eventually, as the synagogue came to play a bigger and bigger part in the life of Israel, and with the rise of Rabbinism, synagogues were built in Jerusalem itself, until at the time of Christ, a great number existed there. Prayer was still offered with due recognition of the Temple as the dwelling place of God, the worshipper turning towards Jerusalem to pray.
- “Daniel . . . his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God” (Dan. 6:11).
It is probable that the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) when first given, was prayed with the same attitude.
Synagogues were very often built beside running water, no doubt to provide for the “divers washings”, and in towns where no synagogue existed, it was customary to gather by the side of a river if possible. The N.T. Philippi seems not to have possessed a synagogue, although many of the towns of the dispersion did, so Luke testifies:
- “On the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made” (Acts 16:13).
The interested reader may also like to compare Ezra 8:15,21 and Ps. 137:1.
When the New Testament period opened, a great number of synagogues existed both in Israel, and many towns of the dispersion. It is claimed by one authority that there were 480 in Jerusalem alone, and although this is no doubt an exaggeration (or may even be a symbolic number), a great number almost certainly did exist in Jerusalem. This factor led, as would be expected, to many differences of doctrine, and this is suggested by Acts 6:9:
- “Then there arose certain of the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.”
When the Acts church arose, it was looked upon as simply another set or synagogue of the Jews:
- “As concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against” (Acts 28:22).
Constitution of the Synagogue
The basic division of the N.T. synagogue was into three parts, dealing with worship, education and government. There were the ordinary services of worship, which included prayer, the reading of the Law and Prophets, and the word of exhortation. Then followed the Rabbinic school concerned with the exposition of the word, although some Rabbis had their own schools of divinity, unattached to the synagogue. The teaching of children was also undertaken in the synagogues. Thirdly, the “council” of elders sat in judgement over the affairs of the community.
The synagogue service provided for the “word of exhortation” from one of the congregation or a stranger, and an invitation to some to take part in the service by reading the Scriptures, possibly with comments. This accounts for the invitations given to the Lord at Nazareth, and Paul in Pisidian Antioch:
- “And He came to Nazareth . . . and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias”.
- “They came to Antioch . . . and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on” (Luke 4:16,17; Acts 13:14,15).
Officials of the Synagogue
The officials of the synagogue were the elders or “rulers” (archontes), whose chief was the archisunagogos (“chief ruler”), the “minister” (huperetes), whose duty it was to keep the sacred books, and possibly a number of clerks (akin to the N.T. “deacons”), who took charge of alms etc.
Besides these regular officials were those who participated in the service itself. The Sheliach Tsibbor, or angel of the congregation was chosen by the chief ruler to conduct the devotions, as were also those who read in the Law and Prophets or gave a word of exhortation. There was also the Interpreter, who translated or paraphrased the reading of the Law and Prophets into Aramaic, for the Hebrew was little understood.
The rulers were elected by the congregation, but they must satisfy certain requirements of knowledge, and posses special qualifications, of which humility and gentleness were two. These rulers, elders or shepherds, formed the local “council” or tribunal, already referred to in the previous article, and acted in a judicial capacity.
Upon the chief ruler divulged the whole responsibility of the synagogue, and he would see that all was done “decently and in order”, as well as making sure that nothing improper took place. The attitude of the archisunagogos (“ruler of the synagogue”) in Luke 13:14 is in line with his duty:
- “And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day.”
In the eyes of this “ruler”, the Lord may teach, but not heal in the synagogue on the sabbath. This was an “improper” act.
Arrangement in the Synagogue
Synagogues were built so that the worshippers would face the right direction during prayers. This was, as has been seen, toward Jerusalem. The Temple, however, was so built that the worshippers faced west, with the rising sun at their backs (see Ezek. 8:16), and it seems that some synagogues were patterned on this.
Inside the synagogue, and generally in the middle, was the bema (probably “Moses seat” in Matt. 23:2), an elevated platform from which was read the Law in a standing position, whilst the address was delivered seated (Luke 4:16,20).
Also in the synagogue was the “Ark”, a moveable box containing the Scriptures, and in front of this the “chief seats” on which sat the elders and notables facing the congregation. These seats were coveted by the “hypocrites” of Matt. 23:6.
The veiled women were separated from the men, being accommodated in a gallery, although some authorities claim that the men and women sat in opposite aisles, separated by a low wall or lattice.
The alms chests, in which were made collections for the relief of the poor of the district, were probably near the entrance, and it was into these that the “hypocrites” cast their gifts with great ostentation (Matt. 6:2).
Ten persons were required to from “a congregation” and so constitute an assembly recognized by God, and at a later date in some larger cities, ten persons were paid so as to be free from secular employment and always ready to form a congregation. Thus was the “presence of God” assured. In contrast to this the reader might note the word of the Lord to His disciples that “where two of three are gathered together (sunago) in My name, there am I in the midst of them”.
Discipline in the Synagogue
It seems strange to modern church-goers that a place of worship was used to deal with certain offences, and that the council of elders could discipline their flock in the synagogue, and yet it was so. The Lord warned His disciples that scourgings in the synagogues awaited them (Matt. 10:17), and the Apostle Paul, before his conversion, beat believers in the synagogues were he found them (Acts 22:19), as well as later suffering the same himself at the hands of his own people (2 Cor. 11:24). Forty stripes were allowed (Deut. 25:3), but the Jews, always careful not to exceed this, reduced it to thirty nine.
There were also degrees of excommunication which might be inflicted according to the nature of the offence. These ranged from the lightest, which forbad intercourse with others during a period of thirty days, after which, upon the repentance of the guilty person, restoration was made, to the most serious, which cut the person off from all the privileges of being an Israelite, and the effect handed them over to the judgment of God. These two extremes have a parallel in the affairs of the Christian communities during the Acts period:
- “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorcerly, and not after the tradition which he received of us (2 Thess. 3:6).
- “I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or an extortioner; which such an one no not to eat” (1 Cor. 5:11).
The object of this break of fellowship with disorderly believers, was that they might be “ashamed” and come to repentance, but they were not to be counted as “enemies” (2 Thess. 3:14,15).
The more serious offences, dealt with only by the Apostles themselves, led to “the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor. 5:5), and were probably the “sin unto death” of 1John 5:16, seen in the experience of Ananas and Sapphira (Acts 5), and suggested in 1 Corinthians 11:29-31).
Excommunication from the synagogue was the experience of the blind man (John 9:34). It was a constant deterrent to confessing faith in Christ (John 12:42), and was to be the lot of the disciples of the Lord before His return to the earth (John 16:2).
BRIAN E. SHERRING
HET NU KOMENDE VREDERIJK – Een Compendium van Artikelen – gepubliceerd in de periode van 2005 t/m 2019 – Waarvan een aantal ook in het boek: “Het Jodendom, de Landbelofte het Vrederijk”.
HUBERT LUNS / JANUARI 2020
DE OPENBARING – bevrijding van bezet gebied
Zie Studieseries: van dhr. André Piet / zie ook: Rubrieken Dagboek + Blogs
Gemeente Eben-Haëzer: blokje zondagsdiensten – Terugkijken …
Verzoening hoe? . . .
DE ANTICHRIST en DE VOLEINDING / dhr. H.Verweij
Bij een voorstelling als die van de komende Antichrist kan men slechts trachten door tekstvergelijking, het naspeuren van de context en extrapolerend uit eigentijdse gegevens, een schets te maken die deze voorstelling verstaanbaar maakt. Aan onze visie mag dus geen andere waarde worden toegekend dan die men zou toekennen aan een zo verantwoord mogelijke speculatie en extrapolatie. Dit neemt overigens niet weg dat de hoofdlijnen van de nu volgende schets verantwoord kunnen worden door een zo getrouw mogelijk volgen van de betreffende voorstellingen.
De gestalte van de Antichrist is op zichzelf een vreemde, fantastische figuur, maar plaatst men hem in de bijbelse context, met name in die van de voorstellingen over de eindtijd en in de toekomstbeelden van moderne visionaire auteurs en moralisten, dan is hij toch heel goed denkbaar!
Om de mogelijkheid van een komende pseudo-messias die zich later ontpopt als de exponent van het absolute kwaad, onder het oog te kunnen zien, moeten wij de situatie in ons opnemen waarin hij volgens de voorstellingen geplaatst wordt.
Hij verschijnt op het wereldtoneel als het Christus-organisme — de gemeente der ‘eerstelingen’ — van de aarde is weggevoerd en zich verenigd heeft met de Volkomen Mens. Nu de gemeente van Christus voltooid is en opgenomen, zijn de eindgerichten begonnen, maar de achtergebleven mensheid heeft daar — uitgezonderd zij die zich bewust zijn wat er wezenlijk gebeurd is — geen notie van. De ‘eerstelingenoogst’ moest geborgen worden vóór de luciferische activiteit zich ten volle op aarde kon ontplooien (1 Kor. 15,23; Ap. 3,10; 4,4; 5,8-10). De andere ‘oogsten’ zullen geschieden onder de gerichten. ‘Wee de aarde . . . want de duivel is tot u neergedaald, in grote grimmigheid, wetend dat hij weinig tijd heeft’ (Ap. 12,12).
Van de achtergebleven mensheid uit gezien is het toneel volkomen anders. Het is wellicht niet geheel onmogelijk ons enige voorstellingen te maken van de situatie die dan op de wereld heerst. De Antichrist is immers een toekomstige figuur, niet slechts ten opzichte van de profetie en de apocalyps maar ook voor ons, twintigste-eeuwse mensen. Als wij aan de Antichrist denken, moeten wij dus een toekomstige wereld schetsen. Dan mogen wij, extrapolerend uit de gegevens van onze tijd, wel veronderstellen dat ondanks alle moeilijkheden die ons thans nog behagen, een toekomstige mensheid vrijwel ongelimiteerde mogelijkheden tot een ongekende evolutie heeft, die zelfs het karakter van een transmutatie kan aannemen. Als er geen allesvernietigende kernoorlog uitbreekt (en gezien de gevolgen moet een dergelijke oorlog reeds tot de eindgerichten worden gerekend en is het uitbreken daarvan naar onze mening vóór de eindgerichten niet waarschijnlijk) zullen de tendensen naar een vrijwel alles omvattende beheersing en ordening zich doorzetten. Dan zullen materiële welvaart (afgezien van de slachtoffers van sanerende werkingen en bijverschijnselen) weelde, genot en levensduur waarschijnlijk tot ongekende hoogte stijgen. De mens staat op het punt door de verworvenheden en perspectieven van wetenschap en techniek zijn tevoren illusoir ‘paradijs’ te realiseren. De bouwstenen voor een wereldomspannende heilstaat liggen gereed. Vrijwel onbeperkte productiemogelijkheden en ver doorgevoerd automatisme, de ontwikkeling van de computer en de geperfectioneerde, bijna-menselijke robot, scheppen de voorwaarden voor een economie, die in principe de huidige welvaart voor een deel der wereldbevolking kan doen evolueren in weelde voor alle mensen. Het wachten is slechts op de geniale architect, die de politiek en sociaal-economische formule vindt om deze mogelijkheden waar te maken. Hetzelfde geldt de idealen van wereldeenheid en wereldvrede, waarvan de bedreiging en de verstoring, zoals vroeger, inherent is aan potentieel gebrek en aan onkunde, maar uit het ontbreken van een formule en een macht die deze idealen kan realiseren, verklaard moet worden. Politieke en economische wereldordening is geen onmogelijkheid meer en als zij eenmaal tot stand gebracht kunnen worden zal deze basisordening nog oneindig veel meer mogelijkheden aan de expansie van wetenschap en techniek verlenen dan in een verscheurde en aan allerlei groepsbelangen gebonden wereld mogelijk is. Het ligt in de lijn van de ontwikkeling, dat langs wetenschappelijke weg zelfs een ‘geluksstaat’ voor de mens bereikt kan worden, die betrekkelijk onafhankelijk is van materiële omstandigheden! Met gebruikmaking van electroden en chemische preparaten experimenteert men reeds met succes op menselijke hersenen, teneinde bewustzijnstoestanden op te wekken die zonder enige twijfel met een authentiek beleefd geluk gelijkgesteld mogen worden. In aanmerking genomen dat technieken nog maar nauwelijks beproefd zijn en bij voortgaande experimenten tot een veel grotere perfectie zullen worden opgevoerd, gezien de verbluffende vorderingen in de neuro- en hersenchirurgie en de genetische conditionering, mag zonder aarzeling een nu nog onvoorstelbaar conditionering van het menselijk bewustzijn tegemoet worden gezien.
Deze ontwikkelingen zijn veel nabijer dan men zich over het algemeen kan voorstellen en eerst als men dit beseft, kan iets begrepen worden van het vooral hatelijk karakter van de eindgerichten in zo’n wereld! Er zijn theoretisch immers twee mogelijkheden: de mensheid zal reeds een deel van de bovengenoemde mogelijkheden hebben kunnen realiseren of — als de eindgerichten nabij zijn — zij op het punt staan dit ‘paradijs’ binnen te gaan. In beide gevallen zullen de eindgerichten de indruk maken van een bijzonder ongelukkige coïncidentie en, voor zover men allengs een patroon in de gerichten gaat onderkennen, het besef doen ontwaken dat men te doen heeft met een onduldbare, maar bovenmenselijke machtige vijand, die een zo lang begeerd ‘geluk’ juist verwoesten wil als het vlak voor de deur staat.
Of men deze ‘vijand’ werkelijk als de God van de openbaring zal erkennen of dat men hem als een ongelegen komende macht uit de wereldruimte zal beschouwen, zijn ‘ingrepen’ zullen door de mensheid als bijzonder als bijzonder hatelijk en onduldbaar worden ervaren en alleen dít kan ons verklaren waarom de Antichrist vrijwel de gehele mensheid in de eindfase der gerichten achter zich krijgt om openlijk strijd te voeren tegen God!
De Antichrist verschijnt in de wereldgeschiedenis als alles rijp is voor een geniale unificator. Hij is de supermens, de ‘top’ van de eigengerechtige menselijke evolutie, het eindpunt van de van God afvoerende weg. In hem zal alles verenigd zijn wat de mens kan begoochelen en bewonderen. Alles wat potentieel mogelijk is in een reeds zo hoog ontwikkelde wereld als de onze kan en zal hij verwerkelijken. Wanneer wij ook maar oppervlakkig kunnen zien hoe de grote lijnen van de tegenwoordige wereldontwikkeling naar een culminatiepunt moeten voeren, wordt tevens duidelijk dat de komst van een wereldheerser noodzakelijk en onvermijdelijk is. De machtsblokken in onze wereld worden steeds groter in omvang, maar ook steeds kleiner in aantal. Locale problemen worden meer en meer verbonden aan mondiale vraagstukken en de dreiging van het kernzwaard noodzaakt tot een wereldeenheid die voordien zelfs niet discutabel was. Vergeten wij daarbij niet, dat de onder de Antichrist tot stand komende wereldstaat ook een alliantie is tegen een door alle volken ervaren gemeenschappelijk gevaar: de mysterieuze massale verdwijning van mensen uit alle delen van de wereld en de grote catastrofen die over de wereld komen. Moeten wij nu uit het voorgaande besluiten dat een eventueel komende wereldregering per sé die van de geprofeteerde Antichrist is? Wij moeten ons onthouden van speculaties over het tijdstip van de eindgerichten in het algemeen en dat van de komst van de Antichrist in het bijzonder. Ongetwijfeld draagt onze tijd reeds verschillende trekken van een antichristelijke wereld, niet het minst door de afval in het christendom zelf, maar het is natuurlijk heel goed mogelijk dat de aanwezige tendensen zich nog niet doorzetten in de absolute zin van een antichristelijk wereldregiem. Er kunnen nog allerlei tussenfasen komen en partiële oplossingen worden gevonden voor alles uitmondt in de wereldordening en heerschappij van één mens, die door zijn persoonlijkheid en ongekende eigenschappen, de mensheid tot afgodische verering zal brengen.
Wie is nu deze Antichrist, wat is zijn achtergrond en waardoor wordt zijn optreden gekenmerkt?
Hij is niet identiek met de leider der luciferische engelen, de Tegenstander, die van het begin der mensenschepping af het kwaad in de wereld heeft gebracht en het heilsplan van de Volkomen Mens weerstaat. Hij is dus geen incarnatie, maar een instrument van de Tegenstander, een vleselijk mens die door de uit de hemel verbannen Tegenstander met al diens macht op aarde bekleed wordt. Wat dat betekenen moet, welk een indruk deze mens op de wereld zal maken, kan nauwelijks bevroed worden. In de beschouwing over de engelenwereld en de luciferische machten is wellicht enigszins duidelijk gemaakt, hoe onvoorstelbaar groot de macht en de vermogens van de hoogste der gevallen engelen moet zijn. ‘Lucifer’ behoort tot de engelen die, ondanks hun val, ‘toegang’ tot God hadden en zijn rijk is van kosmische afmetingen. Hij kon de mens Jezus rechtmatig alle rijken van deze wereld aanbieden, omdat hij daar tot aan zijn volkomen ondergang bij de wederkomst van Christus daadwerkelijk de beheerser van ís. Zijn volkomen verdorvenheid neemt niet weg, dat hij tot het laatst toe de grote Tegenstander van God blijft, weliswaar slechts als zodanig toegelaten, maar dan toch geheel en al in staat om de schepper van hemel en aarde te weerstaan! Zijn intelligentie en zijn macht zijn hem door God verleend en als creatuur kan hij zonder God niets doen, maar als zodanig zijn deze intelligentie en deze macht onvergelijkbaar veel groter dan die van de gevallen mens.
En het is déze grote hemelvorst, die in de eindstrijd, waarin hij bovendien wéét ‘een kleine tijd’ te hebben en dus alles op alles moet zetten, zijn schitterend genie en zijn grote macht verleent aan de mens. Wie deze mens is en van welke nationaliteit, is nog verborgen. De voorstelling geeft alle aanleiding tot de gedachte dat hij als een universeel genie uit de massa zal verrijzen en dat hij onbetwist en zelfs een door de grootmachten aangezocht wereldheerser zal worden. De opvatting dat de Antichrist een brute tiran zal zijn, is, althans wat betreft de eerste periode van zijn regiem, vóór hij het masker afwerpt, niet juist. Velen zullen in hem veeleer de messias zien, de bovenmenselijke figuur die alles in de wereld in korte tijd op orde stelt, die zowel cultureel als staatkundig en economisch tot schitterende prestaties komt. Hij ondersteunt en moedigt de opvattingen over zijn messiasschap bovendien aan door zijn bovenmenselijke vermogen aan te wenden en verschillende wonderen te doen. Uit de profetie dat hij een figuur naast zich heeft, die een religieuze cultus om de persoon van de Antichrist weeft, een cultus die tenslotte leidt tot aanbidding van de Antichrist, kan worden afgeleid dat deze bewust de illusie wil verspreiden dat het messiaanse rijk is gekomen is. Het raffinement van de luciferische wereldleider treedt ten volle aan de dag, als wij weten dat hij enerzijds de geopenbaarde Christus als een bedrieger lastert en hij anderzijds met bovenmenselijke tekenen doet voorkomen, dat hij de ware Christus is. Het meest kenmerkende van zijn optreden is het omkeren van waarheid en leugen. Er is geen sprake van dat de Antichrist atheîstisch of anti-religieus zou zijn! Hij verwerpt de ‘traditionele’ God, maar niet omdat God niet zou ‘bestaan’, doch omdat hij zichzelf als de ware God voorstelt. Hier kunnen zich de onbekendheid met de openbaring, het subjectivisme in de religiositeit, het schijn-christendom en de onwetenheid der aanhangers van niet-christelijke religies, op zijn verschrikkelijkst wreken. Want de Antichrist brengt de mensheid wérkelijk en ongekend ‘geluk’, een nooit vermoede en weelde en welvaart, die in de aanvang alle schijn hebben van het messiaanse heil. Hij brengt dit Utopia door bovenmenselijke vermogens tot stand en met een dermate suggestieve invloed, dat hij in de ogen van zeer velen de werkelijke messias zal zijn. Christus zal in die tijd als een bedrieger of minstens als een bedrogene worden verklaard.
Tijdens het regiem van de pseudo-messias wordt de wereld echter geteisterd door ontzettende rampen. In het begin zal men nog trachten deze catastrofen als toevallige calamiteiten van uitzonderlijke omvang te beschouwen. Waarschijnlijk zullen vele overlevenden door hypnotische machinaties en bewustzijnsvormende preparaten een zo groot mogelijke immuniteit tegen de beangstigende verschijnselen en rampen worden verschaft. Ook na de ingrijpendste en miljoenen wegrapende gerichten bekeren de mensen zich immers niet van hun kwaad, dat inmiddels tot ongekende proporties is uitgedijd (Ap. 16, 9-11). Maar uiteindelijk zal men de wereldomspannende catastrofen als stelselmatige en geleide gerichten gaan herkennen. Toch zal juist deze herkenning tot de culminatie van het kwaad leiden. De illusie van de eindelijk aangebroken Gouden Eeuw, de illusie, dat ‘god’ geen onbestemde dreiging buiten onze wereld is, maar een supermens binnen de eigen, vertrouwde wereld, de omstandigheid dat deze ‘gekozen’ mens-god mét de ‘traditionele’ God ook alle taboes en wetten heeft opgeruimd en ongebreideld uitleven van wellust en genotzucht toelaat, wordt nu op onverdragelijke wijze verstoord door een doodgewaande en gehate macht, die het altijd heeft doen voorkomen dat hij God is!
God heeft in de voorgaande eeuwen van ellende en armoede zo hardnekkig gezwegen, dat men hem dood en een verzinsel waande. Nu de mensheid eindelijk in staat is gesteld haar eigen paradijs te scheppen, wordt het plotselinge, ‘naijverig’ ingrijpen van deze gehate macht als onduldbaar ervaren. Oude ressentimenten worden sterk verhevigd en de zo ontstane gevoelens monden uit in een felle haat tegen de macht, aan wiens bestaan overigens niet meer getwijfeld kan worden. De Antichrist is de gewenste, ideale god naar het beeld en gelijkenis van de gevallen mens.
Hij heeft de ‘oude’, imaginaire God van de Bijbel onttroond en ontmaskerd als een boosaardige tiran. Maar onder de druk van aan de profetie beantwoordende gerichten kan hij als boven-menselijke macht niet langer worden ontkend! Nu blijkt, dat de z.g. ‘god’ van de Bijbel altijd een sinister spel met de mens heeft gespeeld. Om deze onvermijdelijk uit de situatie van de eindtijd voortvloeiende visie en vijandschap te kunnen verklaren, is het nodig ons de religieuze ontwikkeling in te denken en de wijze waarop de Tegenstander deze voor zijn doeleinden benut. Daarbij moeten wij ons herinneren, dat het oogmerk van de luciferische machten te allen tijde is geweest in de plaats van God te treden en aanbeden te worden, mede om op deze wijze de volkomen menswording van de potentiële mens te verhinderen. De ‘mensenmoorder van den beginne’ haat niets zozeer als de mens, die eenmaal bestemd is in gemeenschap met God het heelal te beheren en te vervullen! Juist de religie is altijd het voornaamste operatiegebied van de luciferische machten geweest, juist dáár ‘schoven’ zij zich tussen God en de op aanbidding aangelegde mens. Zij waren het die de ook in zijn gevallen staat naar het beeldschap verlangende mens valse godsbeelden voorhielden. Met de in de moderne tijd opkomende en zich verder ontwikkelende rationalistische en existentiële afwijzing van het ‘godsbestaan’ zijn de luciferische machten geconfronteerd met een unieke situatie, die in de mensengeschiedenis geen precedent heeft! Het liet de Tegenstander immers koud wélke projectie of wélke afgod de mensen vereerden of vreesden, in al de relaties werden immers zij aanbeden.
Het authentieke, oprechte a-theïsme is echter een even grote vijand van de Tegenstander als het authentieke geloof in de geopenbaarde God! In het atheïsme — voor zover dit echt is, want dikwijls is het slechts de afwijzing van valse godsbeelden en caricaturen uit verlangen naar de ware God! — schuilt voor de Tegenstander wél de voldoening dat de Enige en Ene God ontkend wordt, maar tevens betekent het dat iedere god, dus óók de Tegenstander en zijn luciferische rijk, als fictief wordt beschouwd.
In zoverre ontmythosering en eigenwereldlijke secularisatie nog van een transcendentie relatie met God willen weten, hebben de luciferische machten in déze subjectieve ‘geloofsgronden’ nog een vruchtbaar werkterrein, daar hier geen toetsing van het geloof aan de objectieve Godsopenbaring meer mogelijk is. Zij weten echter, dat in dit existentialistische type van christendom reeds veel onbewust of nog niet toegegeven atheïsme schuilt en dat ook veel kerkelijk en formalistisch christendom zal uitmonden in het atheïsme. Deze ontwikkeling moet er toe leiden, dat de Tegenstander een laatste grote kunstgreep zal uithalen. Er blijft hem in de toekomst niets anders over dan zichzelf voor te stellen als God, om op deze wijze het atheïsme radicaal te doorbreken en bovendien de kroon op zijn religieuze begoocheling te zetten. Het ongelofelijk raffinement van de Tegenstander en de diepte van zijn verdorvenheid komen nu duidelijk tot gestalte. Geen situatie leent zich beter voor zijn opzet dan die ontstaat in de periode der gerichten. Dan zal de Tegenstander niet alleen het atheïsme kunnen doorbreken door zichzelf als ‘god’ te tonen, maar dan zal hij ook in staat zijn zowel de resten van theïsme als het atheïsme óm te buigen tot een militant anti-theïsme, in die zin, dat dit antitheïsme gericht is tegen de door hem als een boosaardig wezen voorgestelde God der openbaring! Dit zal hem niet moeilijk vallen, aangezien déze God het is, die het pas verworven ‘paradijs’ van de mensheid verstoort met wereld vernietigende rampen en dit met ondergang bedreigt. De profetie, dat de Antichrist zich zal verzetten tegen alles wat ‘god’ heet, is geen atheïsme, maar antitheïsme. Hij wil alléén ‘god’ zijn en om dit uiteindelijk te kunnen bereiken zal hij de nodige wonderen en tekenen moeten doen, dat de mens van de eindtijd hem als ‘god’ aanvaardt en aanbidt.
Eén zeer gewichtige factor staat hem bij deze opzet in de weg: ook de reeds zo lang zwijgende God der openbaring gaat in de eindtijd ‘spreken’. Atheïsme, religieuze projectie, valse religie, eigenwereldlijke secularisatie en ontmythosering worden in de periode der eindgerichten overtuigend doorbroken door de God, die zijn woorden waarmaakt. Onder de druk der gerichten, vooral die welke andersoortig zijn en vreemd aan alles wat de mens tevoren heeft ervaren, kan de openbaring van de Bijbel niet langer als een verzinsel worden beschouwd. ‘Insiders’ zullen wijzen op het verband tussen de apocalyptische gerichten en de profetie en velen zullen hierdoor overtuigd worden. Nu wordt nóg een reden duidelijk waarom de Tegenstander zich als de ‘ware god’ moet ‘openbaren’. Nu komt de verleugening van de ‘Vader der leugen’ tot zijn meest geraffineerde vorm in wat tevoren reeds werd aangeduid als de omkering van waarheid en leugen. De Antichrist weet dat de samenhang tussen bijbelse profetie en eindgerichten op den duur zo evident is, dat de God der openbaring als een onloochenbare werkelijkheid beschouwd zal worden. Hoe paradoxaal dit ook klinken moge: het atheïsme heeft in de latere fase van de eindtijd afgedaan! De werkelijkheid van de God der openbaring kan niet langer worden ontkend, maar de aangebeden ‘messias’ (aan wiens ‘godheid’ door tallozen niet meer wordt getwijfeld, vooral sinds hij uit de dood is verrezen) heeft autoriteit genoeg om de hoedanigheid van God te ‘ontmaskeren’. De zozeer bedreigde mensheid wil maar al te graag luisteren naar deze bovenmenselijke figuur, als hij oproept tot de strijd tegen een wel bestaande, maar volgens hem niet onoverwinnelijke macht. Het ligt geheel in zijn lijn niet de werkelijkheid van JHVH/Christus te ontkennen, maar deze te erkennen! Daarbij verzekert hij de mensen tevens dat deze zo boosaardig manipulerende en onder de ongelukkige mensheid operende macht níet God is.
Het gehele heilsplan van God wordt nu door de Antichrist ‘ontmaskerd’ als het boosaardig project van een machtige ‘buitenaardse intelligentie’, die, wetend, dat er op déze planeet een wezen zou evolueren dat eens het heelal (en dus ook zijn rijk) zou veroveren, van den beginne jaloers is geweest en bevreesd voor de kosmische expansie van de mens. Deze kosmische supermacht had de evolutie van de mens kunnen afbreken en hem kunnen vernietigen nog voor hij tot enige noemenswaardige ontwikkeling zou zijn gekomen, maar liever maakte hij gebruik van de mens door hem aan zich te onderwerpen. De religieuze aanleg van de mens werd misbruikt door verschillende openbaringen, die onder het mom van liefde en heil de mensheid onder een complex van ondragelijke eisen en wetten brachten. De gehate mens werd met sadistische voldoening ‘klein’ gehouden en verhinderd mondig te worden; hij werd voortdurend in ellende gedompeld om des te meer verslaafd te kunnen geraken aan het narcoticum van een ‘eeuwig heil’. Maar nu de mensheid eindelijk de fictie van haar religieuze voorstelling doorzien heeft, nu zij de banden met de gehate godheid heeft verbroken, nu zij zelf het paradijs gaat verwezenlijken en op het punt staat haar rijk tot de sterren uit te breiden, nu de mensheid ontdekt heeft dat de ‘ware’ God uit het eigen ras is voortgekomen, nú heeft die zogenaamde ‘god’ het gevaar gezien en heeft hij besloten zijn sadistische genoegens op te geven voor de zekerheid en de veiligheid van een vernietigd mensenras. De rampen die wij thans moeten beleven — zo spiegelt de Antichrist het de mensen voor — zijn geen Goddelijke gerichten, maar vernietigingspogingen van de oude macht die ons altijd reeds heeft gevreesd, maar met wie hij zich tot voor kort straffeloos heeft kunnen amuseren.
Deze satanische laster mag bijzonder fantastisch aandoen in ónze tijd, hij zal in de wereld van de eindgerichten gretig ingang vinden. Waar bovenwereldlijke realiteiten in die periode ervaren worden en het menselijk bewustzijn in de toekomst zal gewennen aan de mogelijkheid (en misschien zelfs aan de geconstateerde aanwezigheid) van machtige en intelligente wezens in het heelal, zal de ‘verklaring’ van de Antichrist niet meer als een fantastisch verzinsel klinken, maar als een volkomen aanvaardbare zaak! De Antichrist zal daarbij natuurlijk niet nalaten ook zijn eigen rol in de bijbelse profetie om te keren. Hij zal het zo voorstellen, dat JHVH wel wist, dat de mensheid eens zijn eigen ‘god’ zou voortbrengen en dat deze ‘werkelijke’ god een groot gevaar voor hem betekenen zou. Daarom heeft hij hem bij voorbaat reeds verdacht gemaakt als een pseudo-Christus, terwijl in werkelijkheid Jezus een door JHVH gezonden ‘bedrieger’ is geweest, die een groot deel van de mensheid nog eeuwen lang onmondig heeft gehouden.
Als de ‘verklaring’ van de Antichrist ingang heeft gevonden bij de overgrote meerderheid van de radeloze mensheid, kan hij de mensen er ook van overtuigen dat nu de tijd rijp is het juk van de ‘boosaardige’ JHVH en zijn ‘trawant’ Christus definitief af te werpen. De rampen die over de wereld komen bewijzen dat het nu gaat om het zijn of het niet-zijn van een mensheid die in staat is het heelal te veroveren en zélf God te worden. Als de mensheid nu onvoorwaardelijk zijn algehele leiding aanvaardt, zal hij haar aanvoeren in de strijd tegen de macht die het op zijn algehele vernietiging heeft voorzien. De Antichrist verheelt hierbij niet, dat ook de geprofeteerde wederkomst van Christus werkelijkheid zal worden, dat als alle rampen tenslotte gefaald hebben de gehele mensheid uit te roeien, een invasie uit de wereldruimte is te verwachten, waarin JHVH een laatste poging zal doen de mensheid te liquideren. De macht van JHVH is tenslotte geen almacht, anders had hij de gehele planeet reeds verwoest; zijn macht blijkt niet toereikend om dit te realiseren. Dit feit moet de nog overgebleven mensheid sterken in de overtuiging, dat JHVH in een laatste massale krachtsinspanning, in een openlijke strijd verslagen kan worden. Dit laatste appél brengt de radeloze en reeds zo zwaar geteisterde mensheid geheel onder de macht van de Antichrist, die nu zijn schaapsvacht kan afleggen en geheel en al het Beest wordt zoals hij in de tweede fase van zijn regiem getekend is.
Wordt vervolgd: (pag. 418-439)!!
Studies en studieboeken:
Kehilat HaCarmel – Haifa / Israel
Standing in the Gap!
El Shaddai Ministries: Sjabbat vieren met Pastor Mark Biltz
Special Books as:
BLOOD MOONS, GOD’S DAY TIMER, DECODING THE ANTICHRIST
Gerard J.C. Plas