Passion Week – The Intractable Conflicts that Sent Jesus to Calvary

Political tension, jealously, misunderstanding, fear, laziness, and all of the natural human sins and frailties led Jesus to Calvary. 

Jerusalem in the 1st century AD was an uneasy place.  A thin veneer of calm covered a seething cauldron of oppression, resistance, hatred, racial and religious conflict, and murder.  Palestine, known to all conquerors since antiquity as a hot bed of revolution, had by 30 AD been under Roman domination for nearly 100 years since Pompey conquered Jerusalem and desecrated the temple in 63 BC.

The political arrangement was simple.  The Roman conquerors wanted peace and taxes, the first to limit the expense in blood and treasure of holding Palestine, and the second to get as much as possible out of the province to finance their Imperial tastes and adventures.  Lacking a natural port like Greece, resources like Asia Minor, or major wheat harvests like Egypt, Palestine had little to offer their conquerors except for being an eastern outpost against the Parthians and a land bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa.  Many troops and lots of money were necessary to hold the land, so the Romans wanted the Jews to be quiet.

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Jesus’ Birth, Childhood, and Family Tree

What was Jesus’ background? Did God the Father arrange the Old Testament to prepare the way for Jesus as the Messiah? 

It is interesting that the one part of Jesus’ life that is most recognized in mainstream American society is His birth.  We celebrate Christmas, and despite the concerted and oftentimes angry effort to take Him out of Christmas, He remains an important part, even for many who may not believe much else about Him.  Both Matthew and Luke provide valid historical accounts.

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The Synoptic “Problem”

The Gospel of John is very different from the other three, and they are similar to each other. Is that a problem?

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are similar in many ways. They cover much of the same material, have the same general historical arrangement, and use many of the same words. Bible scholar JJ Griesbach named these gospels “synoptic” because they seem to “see together”. However, there are notable differences between these gospels. The presence of such striking similarities and curious differences causes Christians to ask “how can this be” and “where did these gospels come from”? This is the Synoptic Problem.

There are many possible solutions to the Synoptic Problem. First, it is possible that the Synoptics were all drawn from one source, possibly an original in Hebrew or Aramaic. This is a little hard to believe, though. If one gospel existed already, why write more, changing some of the material in the process? Who wrote it, and what was their relationship to Jesus? Why would such a source not be mentioned anywhere in Early Christian literature?

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