New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus

New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesusby David Bivin
© 2006, En-Gedi Resource Center
Softcover, 208 pages, $13.99

Download a sample chapter (pdf)

David Bivin is the founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective, a journal that explores the Jewish context of the Gospels. He has traveled and lectured internationally for more than 25 years, and is the author of hundreds of articles on that subject.

New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus is a collection of some of his best writing on the Jewishness of Jesus, edited for the general reader. The book examines Jesus’ lifestyle as a first-century Jewish rabbi, and looks at how his words would have been understood within the larger framework of first-century Judaism. Many scholarly footnotes make it a valuable help to those who want to study in depth.

“In Jerusalem, David Bivin has interacted for decades with some of the best Jewish scholarship in the world. This book displays many of the brilliant Hebraic gems the author has mined that help illuminate the pages of the Gospels. Clearly written and very readable, Bivin shows why Christians need rabbinic sources if they intend to know and understand Jesus in his first-century Jewish setting. New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus is a valuable resource for every serious student of Scripture.”

— Marvin Wilson, Author of Our Father Abraham: The Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith

Order New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus ($13.99).

God is Our Refuge

by Bruce Okkema

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:1-3

MasadaMasada stands as a huge outcropping of rock jutting 1,440 feet above the desert floor on the western shore of the Dead Sea. It is located fourteen miles north of the southern end of the sea and eleven miles south of En-gedi. Masada remains today one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols, and except for Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of people visiting Israel.

Its history as a desert fortress goes back far into the past. David moved throughout this region of the southern Judean desert as he was hiding from Saul, and quite likely spent time on this mountain. Although Masada is not mentioned by name in the Bible, we see glimpses of it in several places where God is called a “rock of refuge,” or “my fortress.” Metzudah means “refuge” or “fortress” in Hebrew. (In addition to our text above, see also 1 Sam 22:4-5, 23:14, 24:22, and Psalms 18:2, 31, and 144:2.)

The remains that we we see today are from the time of Herod, who not only increased the fortifications, but built magnificent garden palaces on either end of the mountain. It almost never rains here, yet Herod built an elaborate water system to divert water that originated in the Judean mountains into cisterns at Masada. Servants carried water from there to upper reservoirs servicing the palaces, to an Olympic size swimming pool!

The reason Masada is one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols is for what occurred there during the Jewish revolt against Rome during 66 – 72AD. A group of Zealots took Masada and it became a place of refuge for other Jews fleeing the Roman terrorism. For three years they were able to fend off the Romans and worship the Living God while enduring the rigors of desert life. Finally, faced with certain capture and torture, the group of 960 chose to take their own lives, rather than become slaves of Rome. “The valor of the Jewish zealots residing on Masada during the Roman siege is celebrated as the supreme example of self-sacrifice for the preservation of the nation of Israel. Today, when the recruits of the Israel Armored Corps take their oath of allegiance, they do so on Masada to remind each generation of the price their forefathers paid for their nation. They cry: “Masada shall not fall again!” (1)

Masada

A view of the snake path from the top of Masada

To climb the arduous snake path in the 120° sun, to imagine looking down helplessly from above on your fellow countrymen enslaved to build a siege ramp against you, to stand at the precipice thinking across history about all the many who have served the Lord at the cost of their lives is to wonder if I will have the courage to stand that test for my Lord one day.

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:10-12.


Additional sources for this article:
(1) http://www.ancientsandals.com/overviews/masada.htm
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/masada.html
Josephus Flavius, Jewish Wars, Chapter 8 http://www.templebuilders.com

Stones of Destruction

by Lois Tverberg

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.’ – Luke 19:41-44

When we were near the Temple in Jerusalem, we saw a powerful sight – a great mound of huge blocks in a heap on the Herodian street adjacent to the Temple. This pile of stones is a “two-thousand-year-old scream frozen in stone.”1

The blocks were stones of the Temple that were heaved 50 feet over the Western support wall onto the street below, during the destruction of the Temple by the Romans on August 10, 70 AD. Roman soldiers set the fire to the Temple, and in order to recover the gold that melted between the stones, they pried every block apart and literally left not one stone on another. A person can still see how the pavement caved in from the impact of the stones that were dropped from above. It’s a breathtaking scene.

Stones

While Christians don’t have a lot of feelings about the event, the destruction of the Temple is still mourned by Jews to this day. The 9th of Av, the anniversary of its destruction, is a Jewish day of fasting. At weddings, a glass is broken in memory of the destruction of the Temple, and it is even a part of daily prayers:

Be pleased, O Lord our God, with your people Israel and with their prayers.
Restore the service to the inner sanctuary of your Temple, and receive in love and with favor both the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayers.
May the worship of your people Israel always be acceptable to you.
And let our eyes behold your return in mercy to Zion.
Blessed are you, O Lord, who restores his divine presence to Zion.2

It is fascinating that Jesus shares with the Jewish people this great mourning for Jerusalem and the Temple, as he prophesies their destruction in today’s passage in Luke 19. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was sent by God to warn the people of the impending doom of the Temple if the corruption of the priesthood didn’t end. (In Jesus’ day, the Sadducean leaders were widely known to be a “mafia”-like organization, and were largely responsible for his death.).3 When Jesus says in Luke 19:46 that “you have made it a robber’s den,” he was alluding to Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah 7 about God threatening to destroy the Temple for its corruption.

It is amazing to see the fulfillment of Jesus’ words frozen in stone yet today.


(1) This was uncovered and visible to the public for the first time in 1997. It was described in a Jerusalem Post article by Abraham Rabinovich, a copy is available at this link.

(2) From the Amidah – available on this link.
(3) See Jesus and the Sadducean Syndicate, by Robert Mason, at this link.

God is Our Refuge

by Bruce Okkema

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. – Psalm 71:1-3

Masada stands as a huge outcropping of rock jutting 1,440 feet above the desert floor on the western shore of the Dead Sea. It is located fourteen miles north of the southern end of the sea and eleven miles south of En-gedi. Masada remains today one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols, and except for Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of people visiting Israel.

Its history as a desert fortress goes back far into the past. David moved throughout this region of the southern Judean desert as he was hiding from Saul, and quite likely spent time on this mountain. Although Masada is not mentioned by name in the Bible, we see glimpses of it in several places where God is called a “rock of refuge”, or “my fortress”. Metzudah means “refuge” or “fortress” in Hebrew. (In addition to our text above, see also 1 Sam 22:4-5, 23:14, 24:22, and Psalms 18:2, 31, and 144:2.)

The remains that we we see today are from the time of Herod, who not only increased the fortifications, but built magnificent garden palaces on either end of the mountain. It almost never rains here, yet Herod built an elaborate water system to divert water that originated in the Judean mountains into cisterns at Masada. Servants carried water from there to upper reservoirs servicing the palaces, to an Olympic size swimming pool!

The reason Masada is one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols is for what occurred there during the Jewish revolt against Rome during 66 – 72AD. A group of Zealots took Masada and it became a place of refuge for other Jews fleeing the Roman terrorism. For three years they were able to fend off the Romans and worship the Living God while enduring the rigors of desert life. Finally, faced with certain capture and torture, the group of 960 chose to take their own lives, rather than become slaves of Rome. “The valor of the Jewish zealots residing on Masada during the Roman siege is celebrated as the supreme example of self-sacrifice for the preservation of the nation of Israel. Today, when the recruits of the Israel Armored Corps take their oath of allegiance, they do so on Masada to remind each generation of the price their forefathers paid for their nation. They cry: “Masada shall not fall again!” (1)

To climb the arduous snake path in the 120° sun, to imagine looking down helplessly from above on your fellow countrymen enslaved to build a siege ramp against you, to stand at the precipice thinking across history about all the many who have served the Lord at the cost of their lives is to wonder if I will have the courage to stand that test for my Lord one day.

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:10-12


Additional sources for this article:
(1) http://www.ancientsandals.com/overviews/masada.htm
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/masada.html
Josephus Flavius, Jewish Wars, Chapter 8 http://www.templebuilders.com

Metzudah – God is Our Refuge

by Bruce Okkema

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. – Psalm 71:1-3

Masada stands as a huge outcropping of rock jutting 1,440 feet above the desert floor on the western shore of the Dead Sea. It is located fourteen miles north of the southern end of the sea and eleven miles south of En-gedi. Masada remains today one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols, and except for Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of people visiting Israel.

Its history as a desert fortress goes back far into the past. David moved throughout this region of the southern Judean desert as he was hiding from Saul, and quite likely spent time on this mountain. Although Masada is not mentioned by name in the Bible, we see glimpses of it in several places where God is called a “rock of refuge”, or “my fortress.” Metzudah means “refuge” or “fortress” in Hebrew. (In addition to our text above, see also 1 Sam 22:4-5, 23:14, 24:22, and Psalms 18:2, 31, and 144:2.)

The remains that we we see today are from the time of Herod, who not only increased the fortifications, but built magnificent garden palaces on either end of the mountain. It almost never rains here, yet Herod built an elaborate water system to divert water that originated in the Judean mountains into cisterns at Masada. Servants carried water from there to upper reservoirs servicing the palaces, to an Olympic size swimming pool!

The reason Masada is one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols is for what occurred there during the Jewish revolt against Rome during 66 – 72AD. A group of Zealots took Masada and it became a place of refuge for other Jews fleeing the Roman terrorism. For three years they were able to fend off the Romans and worship the Living God while enduring the rigors of desert life. Finally, faced with certain capture and torture, the group of 960 chose to take their own lives, rather than become slaves of Rome. “The valor of the Jewish zealots residing on Masada during the Roman siege is celebrated as the supreme example of self-sacrifice for the preservation of the nation of Israel. Today, when the recruits of the Israel Armored Corps take their oath of allegiance, they do so on Masada to remind each generation of the price their forefathers paid for their nation. They cry: “Masada shall not fall again!” (1)

To climb the arduous snake path in the 120° sun, to imagine looking down helplessly from above on your fellow countrymen enslaved to build a siege ramp against you, to stand at the precipice thinking across history about all the many who have served the Lord at the cost of their lives is to wonder if I will have the courage to stand that test for my Lord one day.

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. – Psalm 2:10-12