Tag Archives: Jesus

Index of articles on Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus

Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus.  Our total number of posts has now grown to more than 1700 and this makes it difficult to locate a post you may need. This index is prepared to assist you in your study of the birth of Jesus in ancient Bethlehem. Most, if not all, of the posts include at least one photo illustrating the lesson.

Other places near Bethlehem. Most of the links below are related to Herod the Great and the fortress he built near Bethlehem. I see that I have normally used the spelling Herodium, but sometime Herodion.

Historical Connections to Modern Christmas Celebrations. These post are post-biblical, historical references to customs associated with Christmas.

When other posts on this subject are written I will try to remember to update the list.

Breakfast with Jesus

Jesus told the disciples that after His resurrection He would go ahead of them to Galilee (Matthew 26:32). His third appearance to the disciples was on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee/Gennesaret).

Tradition locates the place of His meeting with the disciples at (or near) Tabgha on the northwest shore of the Sea of Tiberias. The events are recorded in John 21. The disciples had fished during the night and caught nothing. At day break Jesus invited them to “Come and have breakfast.”

The small church, made of the local basalt stone, is called the Church of the Primacy of Peter. Roman Catholics believe Christ promised and conferred the primacy of jurisdiction over the entire church on the Apostle Peter at this time and place (John 21:14-17). Need I say that many do not agree with this interpretation?

The traditional site where Jesus prepared breakfast for the disciples. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The traditional site where Jesus prepared breakfast for the disciples. The building covers what Catholics call the Mensa Christi (the Table of Christ). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Observe in the photo that the shoreline is far from the building. This is because the water level has been extremely low in the past few years. Remnants of a small harbor can be seen beside the building. Mendel Nun, in his well-known article about the 15 man-made harbors around the Sea of Galilee, writes about Tabgha:

In the winter, fishermen from Capernaum worked at Tabgha, where several warm mineral springs attracted musht, popularly called St. Peter’s Fish. (The name Tabgha is a corruption of the Greek for “Seven Springs.”) Today the remains of this small harbor’s breakwater can be seen when the water level is low. Christian tradition ascribes the meeting place of Jesus with his disciples to a prominent rock at the warm springs. From a fisherman’s viewpoint, this is the correct choice. This is the area where musht schools formerly concentrated in the winter and spring. Here Jesus met his disciples for the first—and also the last—time (Luke 5:1–7; John 21:1–8). On this rock, now known as the rock of the primacy of Peter, stands a small modern Franciscan chapel, the Church of the Primacy of Peter. It was built on the foundations of earlier churches, the oldest of which dates from the first half of the fourth century. The altar is built around a stone outcropping known to pilgrims as the Lord’s Table (Mensa Domini), on which Jesus served the disciples after the miraculous draught of fishes (John 21:13). (Nun, Mendel. “Ports of Galilee.” Biblical Archaeology Review. July/August 1999).

The carpenter in New Testament times

Jesus is called a carpenter in Mark 6:3. In Matthew’s account He is called the carpenter’s son. The study note in the NET Bible suggests that this was probably a derogatory term. Those who used the term thought of Him as “a common laborer like themselves.”

Lane says the term carpenter (Greek tekton) “commonly designates a worker in any hard material: wood, metal or stone, and so comes to mean a builder.”

Louw-Nida says,

There is every reason to believe that in biblical times one who was regarded as a tekton would be skilled in the use of wood and stone and possibly even metal.

A carpenter’s shop is exhibited at Nazareth Village. It is correct in showing tools for stone cutting as well as wood working.

Carpenter shop at The Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Carpenter shop at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

They were fishermen

The first disciples called by Jesus were fishermen. In the previous post we indicated the significance of fishing on the Sea of Galilee. The best time to see fishermen on the Sea is early in the morning. The photo below was made early one morning where the Jordan River exits from the Sea of Galilee. These fishermen have been fishing with nets and have brought in a nice catch.

Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee bringing in the catch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee bringing in the catch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This reminds us of the call Jesus gave to the disciples one day in ancient Galilee.

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:18-20 NAS)

The empty tomb

The women who came to the tomb of Jesus on the first day of the week found the stone rolled away from the tomb. When they entered the tomb the body was not there (Luke 24:1-3).

The two men (Matthew says angel) said,

He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:6-7 ESV)

Several tombs of the type in which Jesus was buried have survived the centuries. This one was discovered during road construction a few years ago near Mount Carmel.

A Roman Period tomb with a rolling stone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A Roman Period tomb with a rolling stone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The women told the apostles what happened when they went to the tomb.

1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:1-2 ESV)

The Gospel of John records the reaction of Peter and the other disciple [John]:

3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. (John 20:1-10 ESV)

I asked Frank and Norm, two living disciples, to stoop and look into an empty tomb much the way Peter and John did on that first day of the week.

Two disciples look into an empty tomb. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Two disciples look into an empty tomb. Photo by F. Jenkins.

The tomb of Jesus

The New Testament describes the tomb and burial of Jesus:

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. (Matthew 27:57-61 ESV)

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre likely contains the empty tomb of Jesus. Since 1810 the tomb has been covered by a monument that hides the original appearance of the tomb. In fact, even in the 4th century Constantine changed the natural appearance of the area by cutting away some of the natural stone.

The tomb is similar to other tombs from the first century. This one is small, but that would be consistent with the fact that it was the personal tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The museum of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in the Old City has a model of the tomb showing a side view. From right to left one enters the tomb when the rolling stone is moved away. The first room serves as a vestibule. The second room contains a bench or shelf cut into the rock. This was called the arcosolium. The wrapped body would be placed on this bench.

Model of the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Model of the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Believers appreciate the loving care Joseph gave the body of Jesus.

The house of Caiaphas

Jesus observed the Passover of the Jews somewhere in the upper city of Jerusalem, the present Mount Zion. Scholarly consensus locates the house of Caiaphas at a site near the Cenacle on Mount Zion. Another site, further down the slope toward the Pool of Siloam, is held by some as the house of Caiphas. It is  called St. Peter in Gallicantu (cock-crow). According to this tradition, it is the place where Jesus was taken after His arrest (Matthew 26:57). If correct, this would be the site of Peter’s denial of the Lord.

The late W. Harold Mare says,

Whatever interpretation is accepted, one is impressed with the ancient stone stairs that run from the vicinity of the Cenacle down past the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu to the Pool of Siloam, stairs that are thought to be from the Jewish period. It could be that these were the very stairs used by Jesus as he went down from the Last Supper to the Kidron Valley and on to Gethsemane (John 18:1). (The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area. Baker, 1987)

My understanding is that Jesus would have observed the Passover and instituted the Lord’s Supper in the Upper City. He then went with His disciples to Gethsemane. From there He was taken to the House of Caiaphas. Jesus may have taken these steps in both directions. Here is a photo of those stone stairs that I made in 1979.

First century steps leading to the Upper City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

First century steps leading to the Upper City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Jesus Tomb Unmasked

unmasked_thumbExpedition Bible has produced a high-quality DVD entitled The Jesus Tomb Unmasked. This is an expose of the Discovery Channel “documentary” about the Talpiot Tomb. You remember the claim that this was the tomb of Jesus and his wife Mary. The Jesus Tomb Unmasked may be ordered as a DVD, or watched online free. Information here.

The film features several of the scholars who were quoted in the Discovery Channel film. In this film they say their comments were taken out of context in The Lost Tomb of Jesus.

HT: Todd Bolen, BiblePlaces Blog.

A place called Gethsemane

Gethsemane is a place well known in the minds of Christians, for according to the Gospels it was there that Jesus prayed alone to the Father before his arrest and trial. The word Gethsemane means oil-press. It is the name of an olive orchard on the Mount of Olives. Not many olive trees remain on the mountain originally named for them. This photo was made in the modern Garden at the Church of All Nations.

Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Take time to meditate on the events of that night.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.

Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matthew 26:36-46 NASu)

The Way of the Cross – Via Dolorosa

Numerous events from the last day prior to the crucifixion of Jesus are recorded in the New Testament (Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19). As early as Byzantine times Christians began to follow the final steps of Jesus on specified days. Over the centuries many changes were made in the route and the stops. The traditional Via Dolorosa, as known today, was fixed in the 18th century.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor says,

The Via Dolorosa is defined by faith, not by history. (The Holy Land, 5th edition, 37)

He continues,

The present Way of the Cross has little chance of corresponding to hsitorical reality… (38)

According to tradition, the third station of the cross is where Jesus falls the first time under His cross. It sounds reasonable, but the Gospels make no specific mention of this.

Roman period street near 3rd station of the cross. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Roman period street near 3rd station of the cross. Photo by F. Jenkins.

This photo shows the street in front of the third station. The plaque in Hebrew, Arabic and English provides the following information about the street.

Paving stones, apparently from the Second Temple Period (ca. 100 B.C.C. – 100 C.E.). The street was found in its entirety 3 meters below the existing level and was partially restored by the Municipality of Jerusalem … 1980-1981.

This means that the street Jesus might have walked is at least 10 feet below the present street level.