MARK 1 The town of Nazareth ("Map 9") is located north of the Jezreel Valley in the hills of lower Galilee, approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Sepphoris.' While Sepphoris was an opulent Greco-Roman city during Jesus' youth and functioned as the capital of Galilee until A.D. 20, Nazareth remained in relative obscurity., Nazareth occupied about 60 acres, with a population of only about 500. In his writings Josephus named some 45 Galilean towns but never once mentioned Nazareth, and neither does the Talmud, which 'names 63 other Galilean sites, The insignificance of Nazareth provoked disparaging comments already in Jesus' day, such as Nathanael's retort:"Can any good thing come from [Nazareth]?" (Jn 1:46).
Nevertheless, the New Testament explicitly identifies Jesus as "the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee" (Mt 21:11). This humble town was the residence of Mary and Joseph (Lk 2:39) and the place where Jesus grew up (Mt 2:23; Lk 4:16). It was also the jumping-off point for his public ministry (Mk 1:9) and the site of his first rejection (Lk 4:16-30).3 He is frequently referred to in the Gospel narratives simply as "Jesus of Nazareth" (Mk 1:24; Lk 18:37), and the trufus (official placard) that Pilate affixed to the cross dubbed him "JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS" (Jn 19:19).4 Even his earliest followers were labeled "the Nazarene sect" (Ac 24:5).
Both Matthew and John, however, connected the origin of Jesus from Nazareth with an important precedent in the Bible. Matthew 2:23 states that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy, "He will be called a Nazarene." What was Matthew referring to? No Old Testament text contains those specific words, and Matthew did not indicate the source of his reference. Some have conjectured that he was alluding to Isaiah 11:1, in which the Messiah is called a "Branch" (the Hebrew word for branch,netzer, sounds similar to Nazareth). Others have proposed that Matthew was referring to the concept of the Nazirite, a person consecrated to God's service (Nu 6:1-21;Jdg 13).But John also linked his first mention of Jesus' origins in Nazareth to his assertion that Jesus was the fulfillment of what Moses and the prophets had written (Jn 1:45).John did not claim that Jesus' coming from Nazareth in and of itself fulfilled Scripture, but he did report Nathanael's astonishment at the idea that the Messiah could have hailed from such a little-known hometown (Jo 1:46).
Archaeological excavations conducted beneath the Church of the Annunciation have revealed that ancient Nazareth was an agricultural village. Pottery was found there dating from the Iron Age ll (900-600 B.c.) to the Byzantine period (A.D. 330-640). Excavations have also uncovered a number of Jewish tombs, including four that were sealed with rolling stones, typical of tombs used up to A.D. 70 and similar to the one in which Jesus was laid!, In addition, a third-century A.D.Jewish-Christian synagogue was discovered there. Oriented toward Jerusalem, it contained Jewish-Christian iconography within its mosaic floor. The synagogue that Jesus attended as a young man and in which he first proclaimed his Messianic identity (Lk 4) probably stood beneath this later structure. The present-day Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth was dedicated in 1969 and represents the largest Christian church structure in the Middle East.
Cynics and Satirists in the Greco-Roman World
MARK 2 The Cynics were members of a loosely organized school of philosophy founded in late fifth-century B.C. Greece. They rejected a conventional value system that emphasized such social constructs as wealth and status, seeking instead to live a virtuous life as defined by living according to nature. Cynics believed that society placed value on worthless things. They espoused primitivism as a way of life; some have compared them to the "hippies" of America in the 1960s. Their value system was based upon the equation that living a life void of any artificial value will inevitably lead to happiness. Anecdotes about Cynics abound. Alexander the Great reportedly visited Diogenes the Cynic and asked him to request anything at all. Diogenes, who was sunbathing at the time of the visit, responded simply by asking Alexander to move in order to stop blocking the sun. On the other hand, Socrates was reported to have told the Cynic philosopher Anthisthenes (who made a point of always wearing ragged clothing),"I can see your pride through the holes in your cloak."
Satire flourished in Roman culture. Satirists, like their predecessors the Cynics, were fundamentally social critics. One significant difference is that satire was more an art form than a philosophy (although Cynics did also engage in literary satire).Satirists wrote plays, novels and poems that ridiculed the vice and moral decay found in contemporary Roman society. Horace (died 8 B.c.) and Juvenal (d. early second century A.D.) can probably be regarded as the greatest Roman satirists.Both the Cynics and the Satirists sought to ridicule what they saw as the foolish trappings of society. For example, in Satire 3 Juvenal attacked the debauchery of the Hellenistic upper classes, and in Satire 6 he listed in great detail the supposed vices of Roman wives. However, the extant writings of both Cynics and Satirists are often characterized by perverse kinds of self-indulgence, as well as by ferocious anger, crassness and obscenity (especially on the part of the Satirists).
Recently it has become fashionable in some scholarly circles to argue that Jesus himself was a Jewish follower of a cynical philosophy. In reality, other than the simplicity of his life, Jesus had nothing in common with the Greek Cynics. Roman authorities clashed with Cynics because the latter tended to be anarchic. Jesus, who taught, for instance, that people should pay their taxes (Mk 12:17),1 could hardly be classified as anarchic.
Herod the Great
MARK 3 Herod the Great began his career as military governor of Galilee in 47 B.C.' The Roman Senate then appointed him king of Judea in 40 B.c. After violently suppressing a significant opposition from the aristocracy in Jerusalem, he formally began his reign in 37 B.c. and ruled until his death in 4 B.C. Herod's father, Antipater, was an idumean convert to Judaism,, and his mother, Cypros, was a Nabatean. Herod curried favor with the Jews but was staunchly allied to Rome and embraced Greco-Roman culture and religion. He is known for his extensive building programs; evidence of some of this activity can still be seen today. In this arena, Herod's accomplishments were impressive and included the following:
Temples to Roma, Augustus and Baal Shamim; the Pythian temple at Rhodes; and, of course, the Jerusalem temple.
Palaces at Masada, Jericho, Ascalon and elsewhere.
Gymnasia, baths, fountains, colonnades, markets and other public buildings throughout the eastern Roman Empire.
Entire cities, such as Caesarea Maritima and Sebaste.5
Herod's rise to power came about during a tumultuous period in Roman history—the civil wars of the First and Second Triumvirates. Herod often backed the losing side; for example, he was on the side of Antony and Cleopatra when they were at war with and finally defeated by Octavian (later known as Caesar Augustus).v Nevertheless, Herod had remarkable political instincts and was able to save his life and power by quickly submitting and swearing allegiance to Octavian. Indeed, every
move he made was designed in some way to ensure that he eliminated his enemies and held on to the support of the people who mattered. For example, Herod divorced his first wife, Doris,and became engaged to Mariamne, granddaughter of the high priest Hyrcanus II (Herod ultimately executed both of them). His tenuous hold on power-- a single misstep and he could have lost everything—may have contributed to the paranoia that led him to execute so many, including his own children. Jesus was born during the reign of Herod (Mt 2:1), who, near the end of his life, gained eternal infamy by having the baby boys of Bethlehem put to death (Mt 2:16). Caesar Augustus is reported to have once made the pun that he would rather be Herod's pig (in Greek, hus) than his son (huios), a reference to the fact that as a nominal Jew Herod at least had scruples about killing pigs—if none about executing his own family members.
The holy family fled to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath (Mt 2:13 — 14).While they were there Herod died of disease in his palace at Jericho, which has been excavated. His body was carried in an elaborate procession to Her-odium (see"Map 9"), near Bethlehem,where he was interred with splendor. In spite of extensive excavations at Herodium, Herod's tomb has never been located.
Herod's kingdom was divided among three of his four surviving sons: Archelaus, ruler of Judea and Samaria, (Mt 2:22); Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (Mt 14:1-10); and Philip II, tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis (Lk 3:1).Other members of Herod's extensive family (he had ten wives) are mentioned in the New Testament: a fourth son, Philip I (Mt 14:3-11; Mk 6:17-28; Lk 3:19); a granddaughter Herodias, who married two of his sons (her uncles), Philip I and Herod Antipas (Mt 14:3-11; Mk 6:17-28; Lk 3:19); a grandson Herod Agrippa I (Ac 12:1-23;23:35); a great-grandson Agrippa II (Ac 25:13 — 26:32); great-granddaughters Bernice (Ac 25:13-27; 26:30), Drusilla (Ac 24:24) and Salome (Mt 14:6-11; Mk 6:22-28).
Politics in the Holy Land Leading Up to the Time of Jesus
MARK 4 The Holy Land just prior to and during the time of Jesus was formally under the supervision of the Roman governor of Syria.The Roman period began in 63 B.c. and culminated with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 and the establishment of Jerusalem as a pagan city in A.D. 135. As a critical epoch in the history of Israel, ancient contemporaries and modern interpreters view these years as a period of tremendous change, expectation and consequence.
Arrival of Rome and the End of the Hasmoneans
Roman control debuted in Israel in the wake of a conflict for succession between two sons of the Hasmonean queen Salome Alexandra: Hyrcanus II, who had served as high priest, and Aristobulus II, who had been the chief military commander.Although Hyr-canus initially yielded to his brother, he was pressed by the Idumean leader Antipater to fight for the throne. Both sides sent delegations before the Roman general Pompey in Damascus, who eventually sided with Hyr-canus. In the meantime, the supporters of Aristobulus had barricaded themselves in the temple of Jerusalem. Pompey's forces besieged the temple mount for three months, eventually taking the area.Josephus recorded that Pompey desecrated the temple by entering into the Most Holy Place (Wars,1.7.1— 6). Hyrcanus was confirmed in power, although denied the title of king and stripped of all coastal and Transjordanian Greek cities. After another rebellion in 57 B.C. by Aristobulus's son Alexander, Hyrcanus retained only the high priesthood and the temple, while the province of Judea was divided into five administrative districts. During the course of a Roman civil war between Pompey and Julius Caesar, the Idumean Antipater encouraged Hyrcanus to support Caesar and to send auxiliary troops to his aid in Egypt (47 B.c.). As a gesture of thanks, Julius Caesar conferred upon Hyrcanus the title Ethnarch of the Jews (an Ethnarch was a man appointed by Rome to be ruler of a people) and named Antipater as the first procurator of Judea.' Antipater named his two sons, Phasael and Herod, as prefects over Judea and Galilee, respectively. Herod quickly distinguished himself and was named prefect of Syria by the Roman governor.,
Herod the Great Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C. was a blow to Jewish communities throughout the empire and produced a period of instability in Rome. During this interval the eastern empire was attacked by Parthians from Mesopotamia. They named Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, as high priest and king in Jerusalem. Phasael was captured and slain, while
Herod fled to Rome. After the defeat of the Parthians, Mark Antony and Octavian (Julius Caesar's heir)3 conferred the title King of the Jews upon Herod in 37 B.C.
Herod ruled from Jerusalem with the support of Rome from 37 to 34 B.C. He functioned as a client-king (a king who rules under the authority of an outside power) and was considered a "friend and ally of the Roman people" (a title conferred by the senate upon non-Romans whose support they valued). He was dependent upon Rome for his kingship and was compelled to swear an oath of allegiance to Caesar (Josephus,Antiquities, 17.2.4),In return he promised stability, order and tax revenue. Herod earned an international reputation as a great benefactor and builder of cities and temples, but his legacy within Judaism is almost entirely negative. Josephus recorded the contemporary evaluation that Jews suffered more during the reign of Herod than during the entire period prior to Herod since the Babylonian exile (Josephus, Wars, 2.6.2).
Herod's Successors and Uneasy Relations Between Rome and the Jews
MARK 4 Herod's Successors When Herod died in 4 B.C., the predominantly Gentile area northeast of the Sea of Galilee, known as Iturea and Trachonitis, was given as a tetrarchy to Philip, the half brother of Antipas (Mt 14:3; Lk 3:1). Philip ruled his territory well from his newly constructed cap-ital, Caesarea Philippi.' When he died in A.D. 34 his tetrarchy was incorporated into the Roman province of Syria. Galilee and Perea were assigned to Philip's half brother Antipas (also known as Herod the tetrarch; cf. Mt 14:1; Lk 3:1). Herod Antipas ruled from Sepphoris, near Nazareth, and later from Tiberias until his banishment by the Roman emperor Caligula in A.D. 39.3 He is often remembered for his illegal marriage to his brother's wife, Herodias, and for his imprisonment and execution of John the Baptist (Mt 14:3;Josephus, Antiquities, 18.5.1-2).
Judea and Samaria were placed under the control of Herod's son Archelaus (the full brother of Antipas and half brother of Philip), who was given the title of ethnarch (cf. Mt 2:22). Archelaus began his reign by slaughtering 3,000 people during the Jewish Passover, and he was eventually banished for incompetence by Augustus to Gaul in 6 A.D. (Josephus,Antiquities, 17.13.2). At this point Judea became a Roman province, ruled directly by a series of Roman prefects (A.D. 6— 41) and then procurators (A.D. 44-66), who maintained their residence in Caesarea and at the Fortress of Antonia near the temple in Jerusalem.The most important prefecture for early Christianity was that of Pontius Pilate (A.D.26-36).3
The Uneasy Relations Between Rome and the Jews The first act of direct Roman rule was the taking of a census by Quirinius, legate of Syria, in order to determine the amount of tribute owed by Judea (cf. Lk 2:1-3; Ac 5:37).4 The census itself and the paying of tribute provoked great animosity within Judean society. Under the prefects, internal Jewish affairs were governed by the high priestly aristocracy and judicial cases were determined by the Sanhedrin, or court of seventy-one., The prefects reserved the power of the sword, or the right of capital punishment. However, Jewish leadership seems to have retained this power in cases that dealt exclusively with religious crimes, especially those having to do with the sanctity of the temple. It is for this reason that Jesus, Paul and Stephen were tried on the accusation of"speaking against" or "defiling" the temple (Mt 26:61; Ac 6:13 — 14; 21:28). The prefects further maintained their authority over the high priests through
the power of appointment and by means of Roman custody of the high priestly garments (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.1.1).
After a brief return to Herodian rule under Agrippa from A.D. 41-44 (cf. Ac 12:20 — 23),Judea,Samaria and Galilee were ruled by a series of procurators until the outbreak of war in A.D. 66. Agrippa's son reigned over a small kingdom in the north from A.D. 48-66 (Ac 25:13), and several later procurators are known from the New Testament, including Marcus Antonius Felix (A.D. 52-59; Ac 23:24) and Porcius Festus (A.D. 59-62; Ac 24:27), under both of whom Paul was imprisoned.
The reality of Roman control during the time of Jesus produced various reactions within Israelite society. Archaeology has revealed the large extent to which the upper classes adopted Greco-Roman customs and welcomed this new relationship. Evidence for such Hellenization can be observed in both public and private architecture, civic institutions and the widespread use of the Greek language. At the same time, Roman control generated widespread animosity and concern for the vitality of traditional Jewish values and expectations.
Messianic Conflicts and the Fall Jerusalem
MARK 4 Messianic Movements and Other Conflicts One of the most explicit Messianic images of the Old Testament, the vision of four successive empires in Daniel 2 and 7, was understood to signal the advent of the Messianic kingdom after the downfall of Rome.' For this reason a number of Messianic movements arose within this period. According to Josephus, the actions of Messianic teachers and the failure of Judean and Roman leaders to deal effectively with them propelled the nation toward open revolt. A review of select Messianic incidents reveals the tension, potential violence and general atmosphere in which Jesus proclaimed the "good news of the kingdom" (Mt 4:23):
Near the time of Herod's death in 4 B.C., two leading Jewish teachers incited their students to remove the large, golden eagle (the symbol of Rome) that Herod had erected over the great gate of the temple. Herod arrested the teachers and their students and proceeded to burn them alive, also deposing the reigning high priest for his assumed complicity (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.6.2).
The census of Quirinius in A.D. 6 prompted an open revolt, led by Judas of Galilee, which was violently suppressed (Antiquities, 18.1.1; Ac 5:37).
When Pilate became prefect in A.D. 26 he commanded his troops to bring standards bearing the image of Caesar into Jerusalem. A large crowd followed him to Caesarea and sat outside his palace for five days and nights in protest. When he surrounded them with troops, they fell prostrate, exposed their necks and confessed themselves willing to die rather than to have the (Mosaic) Law transgressed (Antiquities, 18.3.1).
Pilate later used funds from the temple treasury to build an aqueduct and crushed all public opposition to this action (Antiquities, 18.3.2).
He also slaughtered a group of Galileans while they were offering sacrifices in Jerusalem (Lk 13:1).
John the Baptist appeared in Judea around A.D.29, preaching repentance,the imminent advent of God and public criticism of Herod Antipas. He was arrested and subsequently executed (Mk 6:16-29).
A few years later Pilate crucified Jesus of Nazareth on the charge that he claimed to be "THE KING OF THE JEWS" (Mt 27:37; Antiquities, 18.3.3).
In A.D. 36 Pilate brutally suppressed a Messianic movement in Samaria, which precipitated his removal from office (Antiquities, 18.4.1-2).
In A.D. 41 the emperor Caligula sought to have a statue of himself erected in the temple of Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of Jews protested, demanding that they be slain first (Antiquities, 18.8.2-3).
Around A.D.45 a would-be prophet,Theudas, led a large crowd to the Jordan, promising to part the river at his own command as the sign of a new exodus. Roman troops slaughtered most of his followers and carried the head of Theudas to Jerusalem (Antiquities, 20.5.1; Ac 5:36).
Many other such incidents are described in ancient sources, providing an important window into the complex and challenging world of the Holy Land during the time of Jesus.
The End of Jerusalem All of these tensions ultimately led to the Jewish revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem., Josephus blamed the incompetence and insensitivity of the later procurators for the disastrous revolt. Despite initial Jewish success, the rebellion was crushed and the temple destroyed by the Roman general Titus in A.D. 70. After the war Judea was governed by a legate of senatorial rank who was under the direct supervision of the emperor. A second Jewish revolt in A.D. 132-135, led by the Messianic pretender Bar Kokhba ("son of the star"; cf. Nu 24:17), resulted in a great slaughter of Jews and the forcible removal of surviving Jews from the land.The Romans renamed the province Palestine and converted the temple into a pagan shrine.Jerusalem it-self became a Roman city, named Aelia Capitolina.
Gergesenes, Gerasenes or Gadarenes?
MARK 5 Three of the four Gospels record the miracle of the healing of the demoniac (and, as a consequence, of the pigs rushing into the sea), but a vexing issue remains: Did this take place in the region of the Gerasenes, the Gadarenes or the Gergesenes? All three can be found among the Greek manuscripts of the Gospels. On textual evidence alone, manuscripts of Matthew 8:28 probably favor "Gadarenes,"but those of Mark 5:1 and Luke 8:26 both suggest"Gerasenes." Gadara, modern Umm Qeis,was about 5 miles (8 km) from the Sea of Galilee and thus cannot have been the place where the miracle took place. Gerasa (Jerash) contains magnificent Roman ruins and a number of pagan temples, but it is 37 miles (60 km) southeast of Galilee and thereby also out of the question as the site of the miracle. Gergesa (see "Map 9"), modern Kursi, is situated on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and is also the only spot on this shore with a steep bank overlooking the sea (Mk 5:13). The church historian Eusebius identified this as the site of the miracle. The remains of a Byzantine monastery, built in the sixth century to commemorate this healing, have been found here. Based upon this evidence, it would appear that the earliest
texts rendered the site "Gergesenes " but that, because the name was unfamiliar to many scribes and because of the similarity in pronunciation and spelling, it was erroneously copied as both "Gerasenes" and "Gadarenes."
The Life of Jesus
MARK S In what year was Jesus born, and when was he crucified? These are longstanding historical questions.The seemingly obvious answer to the first—that he was born in A.D.1 (there is no year 0) —is incorrect, however, since the calculations on which our modern calendar is based were faulty. The basic data of Jesus' life are well known. After his birth in Bethlehem,, he spent most of his youth and early years of ministry in Galilee.2 Like many Jews, Jesus would have made trips to Jerusalem and Judea (noted especially in John's Gospel), but he is also reported to have journeyed at various times into the regions surrounding Galilee, such as Phoenicia (Mt 15:21)3 and Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:13).4 But most of his life was spent in his hometown of Nazareth and in the fishing villages around the sea of Galilee., Jesus' final period of ministry centered on Judea, with the crucifixion and resurrection events occurring in and about Jerusalem.
The chronology of Jesus' life, though clear in outline, cannot be fixed with absolute precision. Matthew and Luke both inform us that Jesus was born before the death of Herod (4 s.c.),though it would appear that his birth occurred toward the final years of Herod's reign,, suggesting an approximate date of 6-4 s.c. The next chronological marker comes from Luke 3:1, where we learn that John the Baptist's ministry began during the fifteenth year of the reign of the emperor Tiberius.7 Since A.D. 14 is the generally accepted date for Tiberius's accession to the throne, John's ministry would have commenced between August of A.D. 28 and December of 29. Jesus began his own ministry shortly after John had embarked on his, at some point in A.D.28 or 29, making Jesus about 32 or 33 years old at the time. This fits well with Luke's statement that Jesus was about thirty years old (Lk 3:23).
The duration of Jesus' public ministry was approximately three years. While the exact chronology of this period is difficult to ascertain, the final phase of his ministry allows for closer scrutiny. It is clear that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, who governed Judea from A.D. 26-36.8 Moreover, it is likely that he was put to death on a Friday on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month Nisan, as the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in preparation for the Passover that Friday night;this is the clear implication of John's narrative (in 18:28; 19:31). While it is true that in the Synoptic Gospels Jesus referred to the Last Supper, which took place on a Thursday, as a "Passover" meal (e.g., Mk 14:12-16), this may be accounted for in a few different ways. It has been suggested, with some historical support, that some Jews (in this case Jesus and his Galilean companions) may have reckoned the feast days from sunrise to sunrise rather than from sunset to sunset. This explanation would accommodate the material both in John and in the Synoptics. It is also possible that Jesus deliberately held his meal on a different day from the Passover because of his intention to radically transform the meaning of the Passover.9
Taking Friday, Nisan 14, as the day of the crucifixion, astronomical data informs us that the only years from A.D. 29-36 that could have seen Nisan 14 on a Friday are A.D.30, 33 and 36. A.D. 36 is easily dismissed as too late, while A.D. 30 seems too early (although some who begin Jesus' ministry in A.D.28 and shorten his public ministry find it acceptable).This leaves A.D. 33 as the most likely date for the year of Jesus' death and resurrection.
MARK 6 The city of Sepphoris (modern Zippori) is mentioned nowhere in the Bible, even though it was a town that Jesus must have known well. Located just four miles (six km) northwest of Nazareth,' Sepphoris had become quite prominent by the first century B.C. In the winter of 39/38 B.C., Herod the Great captured it and used it as his northern base.2 At his death the city rebelled but was harshly defeated by the Roman governor, Varus. Herod Antipas inherited this territory from Herod the Great and set about rebuilding the town, transforming it into the most opulent city of Galilee.3 A theater seating three thousand, possibly built by Herod Antipas, was located there. A beautiful mosaic of a woman's face has been unearthed there, dating much later, to the third or fourth century A.D. The first-century inhabitants of the city appear to have been staunchly pro-Roman, since they refused to join the Jewish revolt of A.D. 70. During the second century A.D., however,the city did become a center of Jewish learning.
The elaborate rebuilding of this city, carried out by Herod Antipas, occurred during the lifetimes of both Joseph and Jesus.Since the two were craftsmen (perhaps carpenters; see Mk 6:3), some suggest that they may in fact have worked at construction projects there. Sepphoris is the traditional birthplace of Jesus' mother, Mary.
MARK 9 Jesus chose as the headquarters for his Galilean ministry the city of Capernaum , on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.' In Matthew 9:1 Capernaum is referred to, in fact, as Jesus'"own town." Jesus stayed in Peter's house there and frequented the Capernaum synagogue. Residents of the town were simple folk who made their living from fishing, agriculture, industry and trade. The road leading to Damascus passed nearby, providing a commercial link with regions to the north and south.
It was in the vicinity of Capernaum that Jesus chose several of his disciples: the resident fishermen Peter and his brother Andrew (Mk 1:16-18); John and James, the sons of Zebedee, also local fishermen (1:19-20); and Matthew, a tax collector (2:13-14). In addition,Jesus performed several miracles there. He cured Peter's mother-in-law of a fever (1:29-31), healed many townspeople of diseases and demon-possession (1:32-34) and restored a paralytic on a pallet let down with ropes by his friends through a roof (2:1 —5). Elsewhere in the town Jesus healed the servant of the Roman centurion under whose auspices the local synagogue had been constructed (Lk 7:1-10).
The remains of what was probably a first-century synagogue were discovered beneath those of a later, Byzantine-period synagogue. The first-century structure archaeologists uncovered featured a basalt floor 60 feet (18 m) wide by 79 feet (24 m) long. Too large to have been a private dwelling, this was very possibly the synagogue at which Jesus taught (Mk 1:21). Impressive remains of the Byzantine-era synagogue can still be seen by visitors today.2 A site that may have been the location of Peter's house has also been excavated. The remains are located 84 feet (26 m) south of the synagogue, at the bottom of three layers of construction.The topmost layer has been identified as the ruins of a fifth-century octagonal church;the second layer, a fourth-century house-church; and the lowest layer, a simple, first-century home. The house had narrow wails, which would have been too weak to support a second story or a roof of masonry; it probably had a roof of branches covered with earth. Thus, this house or one like it could have been the scene of Jesus' healing of the paralytic man who was lowered through the roof (2:4).
New Testament Jericho
MARK 10 Mark 10:46-52 tells of Jesus' healing of blind Bartimaeus as he was going out from Jericho. The same account in Luke 18:35-43, however, records that this happened as Jesus was approaching Jericho.This appears to be a contradiction in the texts, but the explanation may be very simple—that in Jesus' day there were two cities called Jericho—an Old Testament Jericho and its New Testament counterpart. The Old Testament city was located at a site now called Tell es-Sultan, and the New Testament city at nearby Tulul Abu el-Alayiq.
The new town, which thrived from the late second century B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70,2 extended south and west of the mound that covered the ruins of Old Testament Jericho.The heart of the newer city was the winter palace complex built by Herod the Great, situated about 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of Old Testament Jericho.3 Incorporating the foundations of earlier Hasmonean palaces, this complex covered an area of some 35 acres and was made up of luxurious palaces, villas, gardens, pools, theaters and athletic facilities.The Jewish historian Josephus mentioned many of these palatial facilities, as well as the murder of Aristobulus III in one of the pools (Josephus, Antiquities 15.3.3 and Wars 1.22.2).
Mark related the healing of Bartimaeus to Old Testament Jericho; thus the event occurred as Jesus was leaving that city and entering its New Testament counterpart. Luke, on the other hand, associated the incident with New Testament Jericho; following this, he recounted Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus within the town (Luke 19:1-10). Thus, Luke wrote that Bartimaeus was healed as Jesus was approaching Jericho (18:35) and then that Jesus encountered Zacchaeus as he entered and was passing through the city (19:1).
MARK 11 For hundreds of years the Jerusalem temple was the center of Jewish life. However, in the centuries leading up to the New Testament era, the postexilic edifice rebuilt by Zerubbabel' suffered serious damage. The renovation and expansion of this dilapidated structure gave Herod the Great the opportunity to construct the greatest of his numerous building projects and perhaps the most impressive structure Jerusalem has ever seen.
Work on Herod's temple began in 20-19 B.C., and though most of it was finished within ten years, adornment continued until A.D. 63. Herod faced a significant challenge: The size of the temple was limited by the Biblical precedent of Solomon's temple,a fairly modest structure., But pagan temples of the New Testament era were becoming increasingly mammoth, and the Jerusalem temple if confined to Biblical standards would have seemed puny in comparison. Therefore, although the temple proper was left fairly small, the temple precincts in Herod's scheme were enormous. Zerubbabel's temple had to be torn down and the three surrounding valleys filled in. Massive retaining walls helped to support the platform of the temple precinct (the western retaining wall is the familiar "Wailing Wall").The temple and its surrounding courtyards created a rhomboid shape, measuring 1,590 feet (485 m) on its western side, 1,536 feet (468 m) on the eastern side, 1,035 feet (315.5 m) on the northern side and 912 feet (278 m) on the southern side.
The temple area was essentially a series of concentric courts, each of increasing holiness as one proceeded closer to the temple proper.
The first courtyard, the court of the Gentiles, was open to Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. This area contained the merchant and money-changing areas, and here the blind and lame begged and children were present (Mt 21:14-15).
Only Jewish men and women could enter the court of women, which contained chests for tithes that contributed to temple expenses and was the location of the poor widow's contribution (Mk 12:44).
Only ritually clean Jewish men were permitted to proceed beyond into the court of Israel. When Jesus came to the temple and "looked around at everything" (11:11), he was surveying this area.
Only priests could move farther into the temple area.The approach included an altar of uncut stones, the porch and finally the temple itself.Constructed of marble and gold,the temple was built to the same specifications as Solomon's earlier counterpart. Golden spikes lined the roof to prevent birds from alighting there and defiling the structure.
Entering the temple proper, one first came to the Holy Place, which contained the lampstand, the table for the bread of the Presence and the incense altar, all cast in pure gold.
Separated by a heavy, embroidered curtain, the Most Holy Place contained only a single rock, upon which the high priest offered incense and sprinkled blood once annually on the Day of Atonement (the ark of the covenant had long since been lost). Some surmise that the Most Holy Place was located where the Islamic holy place, the Dome of the Rock, now stands.
Other important structures were within the vicinity of the temple. The Fortress of Antonia, north of the temple vicinity, was the barracks for Roman troops in Jerusalem.Soldiers from the fortress could enter the temple area quickly if needed, as when a riot broke out during Paul's visit there (Ac 21:31-32). On the south side of the temple was the house for the Sanhedrin and a bathhouse for ritual immersion (a requirement for entering the temple area)., As a social center, the temple was the most important locale for education and debate in Judea (Lk 2:46), as well as the backdrop for many events recorded in the Gospels, most notably Jesus' ejection of the merchants. Jesus' actions and words up-on that occasion created an "enacted parable." He was angry not only at the extortion but also at the moneychangers' occupation of the court of the Gentiles, which effectively limited access to this area.
For all its glory, this temple had a short lite. Completed in A.D. 63, it was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans.Jesus' words to his disciples in this regard were fulfilled: Not one stone was left upon another (Mt 24:2).
The Imperial Cult
MARK 12 The Roman imperial cult was essentially a "religion" based upon the deification of Roman emperors. It had its origins in eastern and Greek practices, in which kings were often said to be gods. Roman emperors were regularly deified after their deaths by an act of the Senate. The attribution of deity was seen as the highest possible manifestation of gratitude and honor, and participation in the imperial cult was a religious way of expressing gratitude for the benefits experienced during that emperor's rule.There was no expectation that the deified emperor would continue to intervene in human affairs, and sacrifices were also made to the "genius," or spirit, embodied in his current, living successor.
The imperial cult had both a religious and a political function, serving as a unifying factor in the empire and as a test of loyalty., Refusal to participate in the cult by offering sacrifices in honor of the emperor could result in execution. The New Testament's central confession that"Jesus is Lord," as well as references to Christ as "Savior" and the "Son of God," while based upon Jewish and Christian theology, also served to undermine the lofty assertions of the imperial cult. The silver denarius mentioned in Mark 12:15 bore the image of the emperor Tiberius and the inscription "Augustus Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus," reflecting both the deification of Augustus and Tiberius's desire to highlight his filial relationship to his deified predecessor.
The imperial cult placed early Christians in the empire in a dilemma. On the one hand the cult was fundamentally a manifestation of the antichrist, while on the other, Christians were called upon to respect the institution and power of government (Ro 13).This quandary was anticipated in the Jews' question about paying taxes, and Jesus' answer pointed to a paradox of the Christian life: Believers, though in the world, are not to be of it.
The Upper Room
MARK 14 Christian tradition, supported by Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 310 —386), identifies the site of Holy Zion Church in Jerusalem as the place where the upper room was located. This may well be correct, but the story is complicated and details are disputed by scholars.
First, it is unclear whether there were one or two "upper rooms." Mark 14:15 and Luke 22:12 each speaks of an upper room where the Last Supper was held,1 but Acts 1:13 uses a different Greek word to refer to the upper room where the disciples met after the resurrection of Jesus. Even so, the two rooms may well have been one and the same.
The traditional location of the upper room at Holy Zion Church is called the Cenacle or, in Latin, the Coenaculum. It is located outside the Old City near the Zion Gate and may be seen on the sixth-century Madaba Map,an ancient mosaic map of the Holy Land. The Cenacle is also (erroneously) referred to as David's Tomb.
Holy Zion Church was damaged in the 1948 war,and this allowed Israeli archaeologist Jacob Pinkerfeld to investigate the site. He concluded that a Roman-period synagogue had stood on the spot, arguing that the building had a niche that could have been a repository for Torah scrolls and that it was oriented toward the temple mount. Christian scholars responded that this was probably a Jewish-Christian church built after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 702 to commemorate the site of the Last Supper (the present-day Holy Zion Church being a later structure built at the same site). They note that the building appears to have been constructed from reused stone from the fallen temple of Herod and that it is actually oriented toward the Holy Sepulchre (obviously implying that the builders were Christian). Since then numerous scholars have weighed in on both sides of the issue, some favoring the interpretation of the structure as a synagogue and others as a church. The debate is also complicated by questions involving comments by ancient writers.
No one is suggesting that the actual building where the Last Supper took place has been located, but only that remains of a church that commemorated its location have been unearthed. We should note that the debate here centers not upon the historicity of the Last Supper account but simply upon whether or not the traditional identification of its location is accurate. The traditional Cenacle still remains the strongest candidate for being that location.
The Shroud of Turin Controversy
MARK 15 No other artifact in the history of scholarship has been the subject of as much debate and study as the Shroud of Turin.This piece of linen cloth is said to bear the front and rear images of a man apparently crucified in Roman fashion.' His injuries correspond to those suffered by Jesus. Proponents argue that this is the actual burial cloth of Christ, while opponents see to it as a clever hoax.
The History of the Shroud. The basic historical details, as we know them, are as follows:
The shroud's first known appearance was in France in the 1350s. The original owner died in 1356 without having revealed where or how he had acquired the cloth.
A fire in 1532 damaged the cloth, and repair patches were added.
It has been housed in Turin since 1578.
Some theorize that the shroud is the same as the Mandylion, a sacred relic of Constantinople that was said to have borne the divine and miraculous imprint of Jesus' face.
The Mandylion is said to have been dis-covered in 525 in Edessa in eastern Turkey. It found its way to the Byzantine capital in A.D. 944.
The shroud disappeared from Constantinople in 1204, when a crusader army loot-ed the city. The leaders of the expedition were French,which could explain the shroud's westward journey.
Basic Facts About the Shroud.
The shroud is a swath of linen cloth measuring 14 feet 3 inches (4.3 m) by 3 feet 7 inches (1.1 m). The figure on the cloth is naked, with hands folded across the pelvic area. He is bearded and between 5 feet 10 inches (1.8 m) and 6 feet 1 inch (1.9 m) in height.The cloth bears a number of extraordinary features:
It's purple stains may be from blood.
Potsherds or coins may have covered the eyes. Some argue that the outline of a coin from the time of Pontius Pilate is present, but the fabric is so coarse and the image so unclear that substantiation is difficult.
The image is barely visible up close, and only a rough outline can be discerned by standing farther away. However, when photographed and viewed in negative, the shroud reveals a clear image, formed in such a way that a three-dimensional reconstruction of the man's appearance is possible.
The image, on the very surface of the cloth only, is said to be no more than two fibrils (filaments or fibers) deep.
It was not painted on. Rather, some of the threads were themselves changed to produce the image. Adherents suggest that at the moment of the resurrection Jesus' body radiated energy and fixed his image upon the shroud.
The traces of flogging on the body are said to accurately depict Roman scourging. The 100-plus lash marks evident on the image have a dumbbell shape, conceivably reflecting the use of a Roman flagrum.
The shoulders are said to exhibit abrasions that could have been the result of the victim's having carried the crossbar of a cross.
Studies on the soil and pollen preserved in the fibers suggest that the cloth originated in or near Jerusalem.
Supporters of the shroud's authenticity argue that no individual in the Middle Ages could have had the expertise to deliberately create such a piece. In 1988, however, British scientists released the results of carbon 14 testing that dated the cloth to between 1260 and 1390. The shroud was judged to have been proven a fraud, yet subsequent re-searchers have argued that the sample for the carbon 14 test was taken from a part of the shroud that had been repaired and not from the original fabric.
In 2002 the shroud underwent substantial restoration, including the removal of the repair patches from 1532. Some researchers fear that this process will limit or invalidate any further testing.The enigma of the shroud continues. It remains either the most significant archaeological artifact ever found or one of the most ingenious forgeries in history.
The Ending of Mark
MARK 16 There are several different endings to the Gospel of Mark found in the various Greek manuscripts. Most Greek texts and several ancient translations conclude with the ending familiar to us as Mark 16:9 —20.The earliest Greek manuscript with that ending is from the fifth century, but evidence from the church fathers suggests that it was already in existence during the second century. Many scholars feel, however, that the vocabulary and themes of the traditional ending are inconsistent with the rest of the Gospel.
In the two oldest Greek manuscripts and in a number of ancient versions, Mark's Gospel ends at 16:8. Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of any ending of this Gospel account beyond verse 8, and Eusebius and Jerome affirm that nearly all Greek manuscripts known to them were concluded with this verse. Most scholars believe that this is indeed the point at which the original Gospel probably ended and suggest that the other endings very likely developed during the second century, after the Gospel of Mark was read alongside the other Gospels and appeared, by comparison, to lack a satis-factory conclusion. Despite its abruptness, Mark 16:8 is arguably an appropriate ending for the Gospel, since one of its motifs is the fear caused by God's powerful work in and through Jesus (see, e.g., 5:15,33; 9:6).The women's fear suggests that God had performed one more climactic, powerful work, confirming the testimony of the empty tomb and the angelic announcement that Jesus had indeed arisen from the dead, just as he had promised (8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:34).