Tuesday, December 25, 2012

You Make This Ministry Happen

Dr. David R. ReaganBy

It's you who make this ministry happen!

Lamb & Lion Ministries is a Bible prophecy teaching ministry proclaiming the soon return of Jesus Christ. We exist to serve the Church in its effort to win souls for Christ and to disciple those who accept the Lord.

We do not believe it is possible to know the date when Jesus will return, but we do believe it is possible to know the season of the Lord's return, and it is our conviction that we are living in that season. We believe that Jesus is the only hope for the world today.

We exist to share that hope in Jesus Christ. But, we cannot do it alone. Without the support of people like you partnering with us, our television show "Christ in Prophecy" would not be broadcast all over the planet. Publications like the Lamplighter magazine, many books on Bible prophecy, and special booklets like this year's impacting A Prophetic Manifesto would never have gotten into the hands of people who need them. Educational videos that cover topics such as Bible prophecy, apologetics, Israel and world affairs from a biblical perspective would never have been produced. Our worldwide outreach via the Lamb & Lion website at lamblion.com and the new Lamb & Lion App would never have been made.

It is the Holy Spirit's work through you that makes this outreach possible and changes lives forever for Him.


Program Requirements

With 2013 fast approaching, would you consider supporting this ministry in the coming year as a Prophecy Partner?

The support base of Lamb & Lion Ministries consists of its Prophecy Partners. These are the people who pledge to pray for us regularly and who make a commitment to provide $25 a month or more in financial support for one year.

We currently have over 2,500 Prophecy Partners. We need to increase that number to over 3,000 for 2013 if we are to continue expanding our media outreach with the message of the soon return of Jesus.

We ask our Prophecy Partners to aim at giving $1 a day for a year — or $30 per month. Many do this, and some give much more. The minimum contribution is $25 per month.

The most important thing we expect of our Prophecy Partners is for them to pray daily for the ministry.


Program Benefits

There are many benefits and blessings associated with being a Prophecy Partner. First and foremost is the knowledge that your sacrificial support is going to a ministry whose purpose is to point people to Jesus Christ and to proclaim His soon return.

As a Prophecy Partner you will receive the Lamplighter magazine free of charge, and every other month you will receive a special gift together with a personal report from Dave Reagan highlighting major events and decisions affecting the ministry. Prophecy Partners are also eligible for a ten percent discount on select materials produced by the ministry at our Online Resource Center.

To sign up as a Prophecy Partner, call our ministry at 972-736-3567 between 8am and 5pm Central time, Monday through Friday, or sign up online.


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Thank you and God bless you as we anxiously await the soon return of the King — Jesus Christ!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Will the World End Today?

Nathan JonesBy Nathan Jones

Is the world going to end today?

Many people in the secular world today are pointing to today — December 21st, 2012 — as the date for the end of the world. What is the basis of this speculation? And, is there any biblical basis for it?

Find out as Doug Harris interviews Nathan Jones and other guests on Britain's apologetics television program "Simply the Truth."


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Explorations in Antiquity Center: First Century Economy

Dr. David R. ReaganWatch MP3 PDFBy

How did economics work in First Century Israel?

This question was posed to Dr. James Fleming, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Biblical Archaeology, on our show Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Fleming lived and taught in Israel for 37 years at Jerusalem University College and at the Hebrew University. His first claim to fame is that he discovered the ancient Eastern Gate buried beneath the current one. Dr. Fleming has walked or motorcycled about every square mile of Israel, and is so familiar with Israel past and present that Israeli tour guides come to him for training.

He now operates the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, an interactive museum where people here in the U.S. can experience the life and times of Jesus Christ in the First Century. It's a fascinating place, and so in this series we're going to tour the facility to glean new insights into the Bible by understanding the manners, customs and times of the Bible.


Explorations in Antiquity Center


Threshing Floor

Dr. Fleming: A farmer growing barley and wheat would spend four months of the year in an agriculture installation known as the threshing floor. In March and April it is the barley harvest. Farmers would bring in the handfuls of the sheaves of grain and put it in the threshing floor.

The threshing floor is always a place where bedrock is exposed instead of a soft ground. You'd also have a threshing sled with sharp rocks in it that is turned with the rocks facing down. A trained mule or donkey or the farmer standing and guiding them makes circles. The sharp rocks scrapping the bottom cuts the pieces of the stalks into smaller and smaller pieces.

The farmers would then us winnowing forks. They'd wait until a windy afternoon and throw the cut pieces up into the air. The lighter elements would be blown aside and the grain falls back down.

Threshing Floor

Usually though there's still some pieces of stalk left in with the grain, so then they'd have to sieve it a little bit more usually using pieces of cloth or whatever to sieve it. Finally, they'd bag up the grain. And, that'd be their harvest.

The threshing floor is important for the farmer in knowing what their economy was going to be like. Did they get four bags threshed or 40 bags?

Interestingly, in reference to Canaanites in the Bible, at a place called Ras Shamra was found an altar built to Ba'al at a threshing floor. Remember Ba'al is the rain god and so the god of the economy. He's the "GNP god," and so at the pagan threshing floor is where they'd be thanking Ba'al for the harvest.

When David conquers Jerusalem, he purchases the threshing floor of Araunah and builds an altar to the Lord. A different god is going to be thanked at Jerusalem's threshing floor. So, the threshing floor is not only an agricultural installation, but it's also a religious installation.

David went up and bought a threshing floor not because it was a vacant lot, but probably because Ba'al was being worshipped there and David is changing the religious status of Jerusalem's threshing floor. Of great significance, the threshing floor David bought was on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem where eventually Solomon built the Temple. The Temple that Jesus saw was the Second or Herod's Temple built on the very same spot.


Market Area

Dr. Fleming: The market street was a vending area.

At our Center you would see where we have a place where you could weigh out buying some nuts. Let's just say you wanted three ounces. I'd put my three ounce weight on one side of a hanging scale. The merchant would then be adding nuts on the other side of the scale until both sides are level.

There is a phrase "Kitsat hessed, be-vakasha" which means "a little grace please." If the vendor wants you to come back they put another handful onto your side of the scale. Now listen, that is the same phrase for, "I am a God full of hessed, full of grace." The Bible speaks about God who is so gracious that He puts a little bit more on our side of the weight.

It's a wonderful thing to watch the kids be able to act out this biblical truth on the scales.

Vendors never did what some did in the early years of the United States by putting their thumb on the weight side of the scale. In fact, because people are worried about unscrupulous vendors, they also had their own bureau of weights and standards. If there is somebody who might be having two sets of weights like remember Deuteronomy talking about that, there is a way to be certain the weights are tested.

Market Area

The example at the Center has both dry volume weights and liquid volume containers. There would be different containers for different volumes. If you had a quart of milk and you were suspicious that it wasn't accurately sized, you could come to the guy in charge of the weights and measures and pour your milk into his little quart measuring container. You'd pour it in there and it would drain out and you'd see if it did fill up a quart. If there was a discrepancy, then the man in charge of the weights and measures would fine the vendor.

The man in charge of checking weights and measurements is mentioned in the Gospels. At Capernaum there has been found an usually translated word "royal steward" or "royal official." The word is agironomous or basilikos, for the agora or market and the basilica.

Who is the man in charge of weights and measures? He's the guy in John 4 who had a sick son who went to Cana, but he's the guy in charge of checking weights and measurements as well. So, Capernaum had a Bureau of Standards as well.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Explorations in Antiquity Center: Burial of Christ

Dr. David R. ReaganWatch MP3 PDFBy

Was there any significance as to how Jesus' body was wrapped?

This question was posed to Dr. James Fleming, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Biblical Archaeology, on our show Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Fleming lived and taught in Israel for 37 years at Jerusalem University College and at the Hebrew University. His first claim to fame is that he discovered the ancient Eastern Gate buried beneath the current one. Dr. Fleming has walked or motorcycled about every square mile of Israel, and is so familiar with Israel past and present that Israeli tour guides come to him for training.

He now operates the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, an interactive museum where people here in the U.S. can experience the life and times of Jesus Christ in the First Century. It's a fascinating place, and so in this series we're going to tour the facility to glean new insights into the Bible by understanding the manners, customs and times of the Bible.


Explorations in Antiquity Center


Tomb

Dr. Reagan: Let's take a look at the New Testament tomb. It was a classic rolling stone type of tomb.

Dr. Fleming: Yes, and it would have been quite big. Joseph of Arimathea was one of the elders, which means a member of the Jewish ruling Sanhedrin. Archaeologists have discovered some tombs in Jerusalem with this same large entry stone, so we know the tomb Jesus was put in must have been a wealthy tomb.

The entry stone rolls uphill to open. It would be easier to close the tomb than open it. Because opening was going to take a lot of pushing, that's why the women who came to prepare Jesus' body were wondering who would help them push back the stone.

Tomb Entrance

Usually a wealthy Jewish tomb's entryway was decorated with floral or geometric designs.

Outside of the tomb, there would be a mourner's bench. For one week you would visit the tomb daily and you would cry. There were even tear vases or tear cups that they would use to collect their tears. That way the mourners could inter their grief by putting the tear cup into the tomb. Archaeologist have found many tear cups in the tombs. The act is about burying your grief with your loved one. There are even mentions of these tear bottles in the Bible.

After coming up a flight of stairs in our tomb here at the Center, we enter the anterior of the tomb. In order to have people be able to view the inside of the tomb easier, we've made it so there are three fully preserved niches and two of these niches are preserved though the roof "broke" and later "collapsed" for ease of viewing externally.

There would be three more niches running in other directions. In front of the niches is a U-shaped bench on three sides. That's where you would dress the body and then afterwards slide it into a niche. At the Center we have one sort of example "body" to see.

The tomb of Christ is a typical Herodian Period tomb. These kind of tombs were only found in Jerusalem from 37 BC to 70 AD, which is a very restricted period. Because of the timing, they're called Herodian Period tombs.


Wrapping the Body

Dr. Fleming: You can imagine then that Friday Jesus' body would have been brought up to the tomb, but not yet slid into a niche. He would have simply been laid on the bench because due to the Sabbath the women couldn't work and so would have had to return to the tomb on Sunday to add grave cloths and spices. Usually the women would be bringing grave clothes with the body. Possibly Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea may have been bringing a mixture of myrrh and olives and some grave cloths as well so that they could have wrapped the body with the spices. But, the Sabbath was coming so they couldn't properly prepare the body for burial. Remember the Scriptures say as they exited the tomb the Sabbath was being manifest, and that means the Jewish people were lighting their oil lamps just before the sunset. It wouldn't be then the tradition of the women to come back on Saturday.

At the first light Sunday morning, the women wanted to add more grave cloths because they didn't have enough time before sunset Friday night to properly prepare Jesus' body. So, here they are coming back to the tomb wondering who would help them roll back the massive stone that covered the entryway. Anyone familiar with the Resurrection story knows the stone was already rolled back when they got there, and so we have this mystery of the resurrection narrative.

Let's mention a bit more about burial practices. Those tending the body would wrap the body from foot to head. Notice they'd have to tie off the shoulders and then come around again and start with the head. The head was a separate wrapping from the body. That separate head wrapping is mentioned in John 11:44 and the Gospel narrative of John 20:7.

If someone had just stolen Jesus' body after unwrapping the grave clothes, you'd expect to see a jumbled pile of grave clothes left behind. Instead, the women and Apostles saw the head wrapping separately folded apart from the body wrapping. Remember that there's a little space between them because there is a tying off at the shoulders and starting anew with the head. That's significant!

Wrappings

When the women tell the disciples, and Peter and John run to the tomb, remember John got there first. I guess he could jog faster. He stooped and looked in because the entryway was only five to seven hands high for the door. Peter when he got there walked right in, so he is the first one to witness the empty tomb. It must have been so strange a thing to see when he saw the head wrapping separate from the body wrappings. Once he saw them all neatly laid out, he finally believed. If someone had stolen the body and left the grave cloth,s there would have been just a pile of grave cloths.

People back then would have understood to tie off the body and then start again coming in from the shoulders for the head. The witnesses to the Resurrection were seeing the head clothes separate from the body clothes, and that made them realize they could not explain the arrangement of the grave clothes. The body was missing, but the grave clothes were left undisturbed.

Normally what would happen is that the preparers of the body would add more spices the rest of that week as the body decomposes and gets smellier. Remember in the Lazarus story in John's gospel Martha says, "By now Lazarus stinks." So, they would have added more spices for the entire week as they kept coming back for the funeral wake. They would add time for crying out on the bench out in front.


Bone Box

Dr. Fleming: The interior of the tomb of Jesus has an arrangement of a U-shaped work area inside. The angel part of the resurrection narrative was there, one angel sitting at the head and one at the foot. Their positions showed the body had not yet been slid into a niche. A niche again is made to hold the body in a family tomb, and so the body would slide in headfirst.

The climate in Jerusalem would take about two years to decompose a body. So, the plan would be at the end of those two years to come back and collect the bones and put them into a bone box called an ossuary.

Bone Box

The proof of the resurrection of Jesus however is not just found in the folded arrangement of the grave clothes, which could not be explained. Rather, Jesus' followers turned that First Century upside down. They should have returned to their nets had the resurrection not occurred, but instead they turned the First Century upside down.

It was the early disciples' belief in the Resurrection that kept them serving God. It kept them even in spite of danger and persecution. They were willing to give their lives in obedience to God's will, sharing the Gospel throughout the Roman world.


In the seventeenth and last part of this series with archaeologist Dr. James Fleming at his Explorations in Antiquity Center, we'll glean some biblical insights by looking at the economy of First Century living.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Explorations in Antiquity Center: Implements of the Crucifixion

Dr. David R. ReaganWatch MP3 PDFBy

What were some of the implements used in Jesus' crucifixion?

This question was posed to Dr. James Fleming, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Biblical Archaeology, on our show Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Fleming lived and taught in Israel for 37 years at Jerusalem University College and at the Hebrew University. His first claim to fame is that he discovered the ancient Eastern Gate buried beneath the current one. Dr. Fleming has walked or motorcycled about every square mile of Israel, and is so familiar with Israel past and present that Israeli tour guides come to him for training.

He now operates the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, an interactive museum where people here in the U.S. can experience the life and times of Jesus Christ in the First Century. It's a fascinating place, and so in this series we're going to tour the facility to glean new insights into the Bible by understanding the manners, customs and times of the Bible.


Explorations in Antiquity Center


The Nails

Dr. Reagan: Where were the spikes put in the hand?

Dr. Fleming: It's interesting that in this particular case we only have one finding so far where we know the person died by crucifixion in Jerusalem. It shows the spike is where you would have a wristwatch. That's not where we traditionally would think in the hand. But, what's interesting is that the Hebrew word for hand covers from the shoulder down. So, wounds in Jesus' hands do not need to mean an English hand from the wrist up. Probably the nail would enter where the wrist bones pull together at the ulna and radius, and there would be put the spike.

Crucifixion Nails

Dr. Reagan: How long did it normally take to die?

Dr. Fleming: You could last for days depending on whether you had been scourged or not.

We have two spikes here because a piece of acacia wood was found under the head of the nail in the crucified person we have talked about. In our replica you can see in this case the soldier hammered the spike into a piece of wood first like a washer so it would be less likely the body could pull out over the spike.

Another aspect, the criminal normally carried a sign through the streets with his crime posted around his neck. It'd say, "I'm a robber," or a thief or whatever. For Jesus His sign read, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." It was also nailed above His head. That was probably the sign He carried for mocking.

We have three languages written on the sign. Romans signs had these little fly wings on the edge of them.


The Hyssop Stick

Dr. Fleming: What's also interesting is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke say someone put a sponge with sour wine on a stick. John uses the word hyssop stick which is a reed that grows nearby. You remember in the book of Exodus the ancient Hebrews are told to dip hyssop in the blood of a paschal lamb and swab it on their doorpost and lintel. Do you see now why John is mentioning the stick?

There is a Passover connection with the crucifixion. There's a bloody doorpost and hyssop and redemption from death in Egypt. The Passover points to a bloody crucifixion post. Hyssop and blood bring redemption from death at the cross. John is drawing a paschal connection with Christ's death.

Hyssop Stick

The hyssop stick doesn't need to necessarily be a long pole. Someone doesn't want to touch a dying person, and Jesus doesn't have the strength. Remember the first time He didn't want something to drink, but later in the day He said, "I thirst." He doesn't have the strength to lift His head back. You can suck from a sponge if someone held it up to you.

Now, the sour wine is a strong wine that has turned to vinegar. It doesn't hasten the death, but it is considered merciful because it makes you a little bit less aware of your surroundings after they put sour wine into your system. Those who loved Jesus would have been grateful that some sour wine had been offered to Him.


Gambling

Dr. Fleming: John's gospel mentions there were four soldiers at the cross. It's curious because Roman sources talk about four soldiers involved in crucifixions as well.

A Jewish male had five items of clothing. Therefore, if there are four soldiers attending to the person being crucified, you can see what is going to happen. They are going to gamble for the fifth item of clothing. One soldier gets the turban that's usually tied around the head. One soldier gets the sandals. One soldier gets the outer robe which normally open in the front. Another soldier gets the sash to tie the outer robe. What remains is the long tunic, or the long tee-shirt.

Roman's Gambling

If I can speak as a Roman soldier for a minute, one of the perks of crucifixion is that you can sell the guy's clothes on the market. Who is going to buy a quarter of a tunic if you tear it into four pieces? So, the soldiers throw the dice.

For Roman dice, believe it or not, they were made from the ankle bones of cattle. They land on four sides rather than six. Well, if there are four soldiers, you could cast lots to see who would be the lucky soldier to get the fifth item — the tunic.


Unbroken Bones

Dr. Fleming: Death by crucifixion was definitely brutal. Jesus was on the cross from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

In Judaism, you are supposed to be buried the day you died, so that afternoon the Roman soldiers broke the leg bones to hasten the deaths. The first person on one side of Jesus, they broke his legs. The middle person — Jesus — did not need his bones broken as he was already dead. They never did break Jesus' legs. The third prisoner, again, his legs are broken.

Jesus' bones not being broken has a very important Passover connection. The Passover sacrificial lamb's bones were not to be broken. Jesus became the unblemished sacrifice with unbroken legs. Not having his bones broken also fulfilled the Psalm 34:20 prophecy that His bones would not be broken.


In the sixteenth part of this series with archaeologist Dr. James Fleming at his Explorations in Antiquity Center, we'll glean some biblical insights by looking at how Jesus would have been buried.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Explorations in Antiquity Center: Crucifixion and the Cross

Dr. David R. ReaganWatch MP3 PDFBy

Was Jesus crucified like we see in the movies?

This question was posed to Dr. James Fleming, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Biblical Archaeology, on our show Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Fleming lived and taught in Israel for 37 years at Jerusalem University College and at the Hebrew University. His first claim to fame is that he discovered the ancient Eastern Gate buried beneath the current one. Dr. Fleming has walked or motorcycled about every square mile of Israel, and is so familiar with Israel past and present that Israeli tour guides come to him for training.

He now operates the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, an interactive museum where people here in the U.S. can experience the life and times of Jesus Christ in the First Century. It's a fascinating place, and so in this series we're going to tour the facility to glean new insights into the Bible by understanding the manners, customs and times of the Bible.


Explorations in Antiquity Center


Purpose of Crucifixions

Dr. Reagan: What can you tell us about the crucifixion techniques of the First Century that will help us better understand the Bible?

Dr. Fleming: Before we get into this, I have to say that when something is really gruesome and horrific, well sometimes all you can do is speak matter-of-factly. Just describe it. That's what the Gospels do when they report simply "and they crucified Him," and then move on. So, certainly I realize we are talking about our Lord Jesus Christ, but let's speak matter-of-factly like the Bible when I give you some background on the Crucifixion. We just have to be descriptive about it.

Okay, had Jesus been tried in the Jewish court system and found guilty, His death would have been by stoning. Jews were not allowed an instrument of torture or slow pain, but Jesus would be made to suffer. He was referred to by the Jewish religious authorities to the Roman court system and brought to Pontius Pilate so that His death would be the worst by crucifixion.

Pilate liked crucifying Jews. He liked humiliating them. Normally, the governors before him allowed the criminals to still be robed, but Pilate had them crucified in the nude as a more excruciating form of humiliation. Of course, religious art for modesty purposes put a loin cloth on crucifixion renderings.

Crucifixion Road

The day of Jesus' crucifixion saw two others up for crucifixion. Did you know, though, that the historian Josephus born about 30 AD said that in 6 AD there were 2,000 crucifixions in just one day in Jerusalem? The point I want to make related to that is that all the trees lining all the roads to and from Jerusalem became crucifixion places. So, to be biblically accurate, in my museum we have a steep roadway and along it several trees that have been turned into crucifixion places. Do you see how lining the streets with the suffering and dying would be a way of intimidating the people as they approach a town?


The Cross

Dr. Reagan: That's very interesting to me, because I didn't know where the Romans in Israel got the wood for all these crucifixions. I knew there were a lot of crucifixions, but there's not that much wood in Israel.

Dr. Fleming: Right, so the Romans just used trees. They tended to have the criminal bring the crossbar along themselves. The word for cross means "crossbar." That's why you'll see on our models a transportable crossbar. The upright portion of the cross is a rooted tree.

Dr. Reagan: You are already destroying my images of Jesus walking through the Via Dolorosa dragging this huge cross. Jesus just had the crossbar then?

Dr. Fleming: Yes.

Jesus had been scourged by Pilate, and quite frankly, scourging is a form of torture. There is no word in the Hebrew for scourge.

Dr. Reagan: Some didn't even live through that.

Dr. Fleming: True. I was interested to see a number of years ago when the New Testament was being translated into Hebrew what word would be used for scourge, because there is no such word. The translators simply stated, "Pilate tortured Jesus." Scourging used a cat-of-nine-tails which is a multi-whip with one handle. That way you could strike 40 spare one, 39, but the guy could still have 200 marks on his back.

In any case, Pilate scourged Jesus. Having been scourged, I am sorry for the detail, but that meant Jesus didn't have the use of His back muscles. Even though it is quote "only the crossbar," Jesus is stumbling because He can't really carry it. When the procession got to the upright tree that was going to be used, Jesus and the crossbeam would be fastened to it. Don't necessarily picture a high cross with ladders leading up.

Crucifixion Tree

Jerusalem is a city and the trees around it are not forest trees. The trees available are being pruned such as olive trees, fig trees, and ones like that. Probably the soldiers could lift the crossbeam without a ladder to the upright.

Dr. Reagan: Yes, and the Romans would have wanted those crucified down close to the people so they could see them to get the ultimate impact.

Dr. Fleming: Sure, right. Part of the torture of crucifixion was the amount of time the criminal would last. It could be a long time, even days. To make it last, the Romans provided a saddle beam where the buttocks would rest on the saddle. With your feet having a nail or nails driven through them, you could then push down on your feet if you slid off and to get a few more breaths in as you rested on the saddle, that is until you slid off again. It was not merciful for you to last longer.

Archaeologists have found a case of a man who was crucified revealing an ankle bone with the spike through it. The skeleton was found in a tomb in 1968 while building an apartment compound. What is unusual about this is the ankle bone had a spike that hit a knot in the upright and it was bent. At my Center I have duplicated this find, so we have here on the crucifixion tree a spike there along with a piece of wood.

Dr. Reagan: So, even though the crucified man may be sort of sitting, he would have his legs pulled back?

Dr. Fleming: In that particular case, maybe the tree wasn't tall enough to have the legs down straight. In the find's case, the knees came out and then back and on either side of the tree so that the ankle bone had the spike coming in through the sides. Because the spike hit a knot, the loved ones couldn't pull it out. That's how we knew that.

Dr. Reagan: This is the first I've ever heard a cross having a saddle beam. My impression was that the Romans wanted those suffering to hang there so the position would cause them to suffocate.

Dr. Fleming: Eventually they would slide off from exhaustion, which would make it hard to breathe.


In the fifteenth part of this series with archaeologist Dr. James Fleming at his Explorations in Antiquity Center, we'll glean some biblical insights by looking at the archaeology behind some of the aspects of the Crucifixion.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Explorations in Antiquity Center: Passover in the Last Supper

Dr. David R. ReaganWatch MP3 PDFBy

Where is the Passover in the Last Supper?

This question was posed to Dr. James Fleming, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Biblical Archaeology, on our show Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Fleming lived and taught in Israel for 37 years at Jerusalem University College and at the Hebrew University. His first claim to fame is that he discovered the ancient Eastern Gate buried beneath the current one. Dr. Fleming has walked or motorcycled about every square mile of Israel, and is so familiar with Israel past and present that Israeli tour guides come to him for training.

He now operates the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, an interactive museum where people here in the U.S. can experience the life and times of Jesus Christ in the First Century. It's a fascinating place, and so in this series we're going to tour the facility to glean new insights into the Bible by understanding the manners, customs and times of the Bible.


Explorations in Antiquity Center


Passover and the Last Supper

Dr. Fleming: There is evidence that the Last Supper was indeed a Passover meal. One evidence is the reclining meal. The rabbis at the time of Jesus taught that every Jew whether bond or free had to have at least one meal a year reclining like a free person. Slaves normally had to eat standing, but at the Passover meal reclining would be necessary because that's the feast to remember when you used to be a slave, but thanks to God, you are now free. The Passover then would have been eaten while reclining, so too the Last Supper is originally also a reclining meal.

At the Last Supper, there is special attention given to cups. When the meal had ended, Jesus again took a cup. At the Passover, you are supposed to have four cups of the fruit of the vine. It's a meal where they sing. They sang a hymn and left and went to Gethsemane. In all instances then, the Last Supper really seems like it is a Passover meal.

When the meal had ended, Jesus had a number of sayings, particularly recorded in John's gospel. Did you know that amazingly almost half of the Book of John concerns Jesus' last night with His disciples? John 12-18 is in Gethsemane. We have sayings about, "I'm the vine, you are the branches." Jesus tells them about not being sorrowful for He's going away from them, but will be sending a comforter. "I am the way, the truth and the life."

Remember at the Last Supper how it was very important that Jesus wash the Apostles' feet. He washed them so they would remember that He had done it. Concerning foot washings, the text doesn't say, "Do this in remembrance." So, the act is not quite as strong as partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, but they'd remember that He had done it.

I'm not sure if you'd agree, but I wonder if foot washings show Jesus' organizational chart for the Church. If I was leaving my staff, I would leave an organizational chart. Jesus washed their feet. The organizational chart of the Church is that we serve one another.

Foot Washing

Jesus wanted His disciples to remember that He had washed their feet. I try to remind myself whenever I am tempted to point out someone else's dirt. What's wrong with this picture? Hasn't the Lord washed my feet? Why am I pointing out someone else's dirt? Can't I give them a break? The Lord has given me a break.

What of Jesus' saying that the Lords Supper was done in "remembrance of me?" Remembrance word in Greek means "don't have amnesia." Amnesia becomes very important, as we're told not to forget what Jesus is about to do on the cross for our sins.

Jesus wanted His disciples to remember the meaning of His last message. "This evening, remember these words of comforts that I have given you. Remember the vine and the branch and the cups. Follow me to find the way, the truth, and the life. Remember I've washed your feet. This act will help you through life."

At the end of the Passover meal you would sing four songs: Psalm 115, 116, 117, and 118. They are called the "Hallel." The people attending the Passover feat would have sang a hymn before leaving.

Did you know the rabbis taught if you celebrated the Passover inside the city limits of Jerusalem you were supposed to stay inside the city limits all night? That's why the Apostles didn't go to Bethany like they had on other nights that week. They instead went to Gethsemane. Gethsemane is within the city limits.

Jesus' teachings continued as they walked to Gethsemane. He taught them that the shepherd was about to be taken and the sheep would be scattered, quoting Zechariah 13:7. Jesus was the brave shepherd. Do you remember when Jesus was arrested? Since the religious leaders thought he would run off, they told Judas to kiss the guy so they could quick jump on him before he left. The kiss allowed the religious guards to know who they were supposed to arrest. Instead, Jesus stepped forward bravely protecting the flock. Remember once Jesus was assured that only he would be taken, he went willingly? Peter and John followed.

Betrayed

The night of the Last Supper was a night of many failures in Peter's life. I wonder if that was part of what was behind Jesus' saying in Matthew, Mark, and Luke that He'd been looking forward to eating the Passover with them. It's the only one of the seven feasts the Jews have that reclined at a table. Eating a meal in this way shows you forgive someone. Maybe Jesus thought it would help them later in life to remember his last meal with them and that it was at a feast table. Being a place or setting of forgiveness might help them through the dark days ahead. So, there are wonderful things to associate with this special last meal.

Isn't it great to be alive? We have found so many examples of reclining tables and sitting practice and things like that which reveal insight into who God is.

Dr. Reagan: One of the aspects that excites me is that Jesus has made a promise, and that promise is that one day He will return and drink the cup with us. Believers in Christ will partake in the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. So, the Lord's Supper today which is based upon the Passover Supper is not only a remembrance of the past, but a remembrance of the promise of the future that He is coming again.


In the fourteenth part of this series with archaeologist Dr. James Fleming at his Explorations in Antiquity Center, we'll glean some biblical insights by learning about First Century crucifixion techniques.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Explorations in Antiquity Center: Peter at the Last Supper

Dr. David R. ReaganWatch MP3 PDFBy

Where would Peter have sat at the Last Supper?

This question was posed to Dr. James Fleming, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Biblical Archaeology, on our show Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Fleming lived and taught in Israel for 37 years at Jerusalem University College and at the Hebrew University. His first claim to fame is that he discovered the ancient Eastern Gate buried beneath the current one. Dr. Fleming has walked or motorcycled about every square mile of Israel, and is so familiar with Israel past and present that Israeli tour guides come to him for training.

He now operates the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, an interactive museum where people here in the U.S. can experience the life and times of Jesus Christ in the First Century. It's a fascinating place, and so in this series we're going to tour the facility to glean new insights into the Bible by understanding the manners, customs and times of the Bible.


Explorations in Antiquity Center


Where Peter Would Have Sat

Dr. Reagan: Where would poor Peter be sitting at the Last Supper if not at the most honored seats?

Dr. Fleming: There are three evidences that would have led the first hearers to imagine Peter reclined at the lowest place at the table. Sitting in the lowest spot doesn't sound like Peter, does it? After all, Peter is as we find him in Mark's gospel first out of the boat, first to sink, first to confess, first to deny, and first to guess when he doesn't know the right answer. Remember the Lord said, "I want you to forgive one another." I always pictured Peter going, "How many times Lord, seven?" Jesus answered, "No, seventy times seven." So, Peter tended to be the first to volunteer and the most vocal of the Apostles.

Three evidences people would have us picture Peter sitting at the lowest place during the Last Supper.

Peter's Spot

Number one is the weakest evidence, and so we'll just call it "Peter's Personality." If Peter and John schlepped everything upstairs and got the room ready, it's probably alright with Peter for Jesus to give the right hand seat to John. After all, John helped. But, for Jesus to give the guest of honor seat to the treasurer, remember Judas kept the purse, well nobody likes the treasurer.

By the way, Judas might have been the only Judean as Judas Iscariot means "Judas, the man of Kerioth." Kerioth is a village south of Hebron in Judea. Remember after Judas' tragic suicide, the Ascension story addressing the eleven? "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up in the clouds?" So, the eleven may have all been Galilean's and Judas probably was the only Judean.

For Jesus to give the guest of honor seat to Judas probably seemed like bad judgment to Peter. I can picture Peter whining, "Well, I didn't get an important seat" and then stomping around "stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp" and plops down. That'd be very human of Peter. After all, we find earlier particularly in Mark's gospel, Peter seems to only open his mouth to exchange feet, right? He's always saying and doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

There are three stronger evidences.

So, the second evidence occurs when it is time to wash the feet. Everybody knows that the lowest placed person at the table was the one who was supposed to wash the guests' feet. In fact, we find a basin on many archaeological digs near the lowest place at the table. If Peter had already schlepped everything upstairs and did all this preparation work, he is certainly not about to do more. So, when it's time for the foot washing, nobody moves. The other guys aren't feeling so bad because they're not positioned in the place at the table that has to do it. They were probably thinking, "Oh, Peter's there, it will do him some good."

Normally a good teacher tries three things when your students are not catching on. Number one, you might just wait a while before asking, "Has anyone learned what it's about being a servant?" Nobody moves. Two, you might give a hint. Remember at the Last Supper we have Jesus saying, "I don't want you to lord it over one another like the pagan Gentiles do." Still, no one moves. And third, of course, you set the example yourself.

Foot Washing

The third evidence that Peter was sitting at the lowest and last position on the right can be discerned from when Jesus said, "One of you will betray me." Everyone asked modestly, "Is it I?" In fact, that's what's great in Da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper," for he is depicting Jesus saying, "One of you will betray me." Most art until that time showed the moment of the consecration of the bread and the fruit of the vine. But, with Da Vinci, everyone's face is asking, "Is it I? Could I do that?"

In John's gospel Peter asks, "It's not me, is it?" Peter's sure it's not him, but remember, he was dying of curiosity to know which of these other guys it was who was going to speak against Jesus. It says he motioned to the beloved disciple to ask Jesus who it was. Now, because of John sitting in the first position on the left, do you see John would be looking away from everyone on his left elbow? It would therefore be hard for any of these people to catch John's attention. But, from the opposite seat at the far right, it wouldn't have been so hard for John to see Peter. He therefore had to be in a place he could catch the beloved disciple's eye.

When it comes to the time to wash the feet, here's the most important point. You are always supposed to wash them a certain way. Jesus took the towel and basin and started washing the feet. Partway through, Jesus asks, "Who is greater, the one who washes the feet, or the one whose feet are being washed?" The Apostles reply, "The one whose feet are being washed." And Jesus said, "Yet, here am I washing your feet."

The fourth and strongest evidence that Peter was sitting in the last position is when Jesus finally got to Simon Peter, you can imagine how bad he would have felt by then seeing His master wash all the other guy's feet before him. Peter is the only one who refused to let Jesus wash his feet. This would have led First Century hearers of the text, knowing there is a place assigned to washing feet, to imagine Peter was probably the only one in the place actually assigned to wash their feet.

Remember how Peter actually says, "He cries out, 'Lord I refuse to let you wash my feet.' 'But Simon your feet are dirty.'" Great conversation! "'I feel so bad, give me a bath.' 'What has been bathed only needs their feet washed.'" This interchange would have contributed to people picturing Peter positioned probably at the lowest end of the table.

It's nice, isn't it, that we can picture how people would have sat in the First Century? In light of the culture, we have four descriptions from First Century sources about the seating around such a table. The seating is something that we archaeologists feel confident about.


In the thirteenth part of this series with archaeologist Dr. James Fleming at his Explorations in Antiquity Center, we'll glean some biblical insights by learning the Passover meaning in the Last Supper.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Explorations in Antiquity Center: Seating at the Last Supper

Dr. David R. ReaganWatch MP3 PDFBy

Where would Jesus, John and Judas Iscariot have sat at the Last Supper?

This question was posed to Dr. James Fleming, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Biblical Archaeology, on our show Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Fleming lived and taught in Israel for 37 years at Jerusalem University College and at the Hebrew University. His first claim to fame is that he discovered the ancient Eastern Gate buried beneath the current one. Dr. Fleming has walked or motorcycled about every square mile of Israel, and is so familiar with Israel past and present that Israeli tour guides come to him for training.

He now operates the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, an interactive museum where people here in the U.S. can experience the life and times of Jesus Christ in the First Century. It's a fascinating place, and so in this series we're going to tour the facility to glean new insights into the Bible by understanding the manners, customs and times of the Bible.


Explorations in Antiquity Center


Where Jesus Would Have Sat

Dr. Reagan: Where would the key figures during the Last Supper have been sitting at the U-shaped table?

Dr. Fleming: There was an order of importance. If you didn't know the seating arrangement in advance you might have the same argument Jesus' disciples had as they walked into the room for the Last Supper. An argument arose as to who was the greatest among them.

The Apostles knew there was an order of importance when seating. They knew that when facing the table the big-wigs sat on the left-hand side.

Triclinium

Don't think of the middle of the table being the most important like Leonardo Da Vinci did when he painted "The Last Supper." The middle is for the sort-of-sometimes-wigs, sometimes-no-wigs, meaning just the medium level.

Over to the right I'm sorry to say is for the least important. So, the order goes left to right, from most to least important.

Dr. Reagan: So, Jesus would not be sitting in the middle as He's the most important person?

Dr. Fleming: Right. Do you remember when Jesus earlier in Luke's gospel chapter 14 said something to the effect, "When you're invited to a feast don't take an important place. Someone more important than you may come and the host will move you down. Why don't you take a low place. What an honor for you when the host will move you up." Jesus saying this means that everyone in Jesus' day knew about the order of seating arrangement.

Did you know archaeologists have even found games where the board is set up as a triclinium? To play you move up and down the game board for more levels of importance.

Dr. Reagan: Would Jesus then have sat on the far left end?

Dr. Fleming: Actually, the second place in on the left would be the host's spot.

First remember that you're not sitting, you're lying down. You would always recline on your left elbow and so you would eat with you right hand, even if you are left handed. To eat at such a table you'd have to learn to eat with your right hand and recline on your left elbow. For a thief to have his right hand cut off as punishment would therefore then be a social stigma, for you couldn't eat at a banquet. See why the healing of the man with the withered right hand at the Capernaum synagogue would be a special joy, for now he could attend a banquet.


Where John Would Have Sat

Dr. Reagan: If the host sits or lies down in the number two seat, the seats on each side of him must have been very special places.

Dr. Fleming: On either side of the host are the main guest seats. The right side of the host or first seat would be for the right-hand man or assistant. Any host has a right-hand assistant. This comes from a military motif where a general in a battlefield would 9 out of 10 times have their sword in their right hand. With their shield on their left they couldn't defend their right side, so they'd have a right-hand man with a shield to protect that undefended area. That would be for the most trusted position. That the Ascension narrative has Jesus ascending to the right hand of God the Father means the right side is the most trusted position.

Dr. Reagan: So, who would have been Jesus' right-hand man?

Dr. Fleming: The one leaning on Jesus' chest — John. John if you remember wanted to speak to the person behind him — Jesus — and so he needed to lean back.

Dr. Reagan: John being most likely the youngest and therefore the lowest in the Apostles' eyes must have galled Peter. He was numero uno by all accounts.

Dr. Fleming: You're not kidding. In Church art Peter is near Jesus. Da Vinci has him near Jesus. Remember though that Peter is not near Jesus and so has to motion to John to ask Jesus who the betrayer is.


Where Judas Iscariot Would Have Sat

For the next most important place, I will skip over the host in the second seat on the left and go to the third seat on the left. This seat is for the guest of honor. He would be located to the left of the host. Any host has a right-hand assistant, so too a guest of honor. Now this is going to surprise some people. When people think of the Apostles, usually in their minds Judas is at the end of the line and without a halo.

Seating Order

The way the host shows the guest of honor is to dip bread into his bowl and put it in the mouth of the guest of honor, which is called offering the sop. Remember clearly in the Gospels Jesus offered the sop. If you asked anyone in Jesus' day how one shows who the guest of honor is, he shares the bowl of the host.

Now here's kind of a sad thought. If Jesus has John leaning on his chest, Judas who is already arranged to exchange information for money has Jesus heavy on his heart in every sense of the word. I don't imagine he ate much.

Remember the text said that Jesus offered the dip to Judas before he left. I hope Judas knew the Lord loved him to the end. He offered him that reconciliation bread till the end.


In the twelfth part of this series with archaeologist Dr. James Fleming at his Explorations in Antiquity Center, we'll glean some biblical insights by learning where at the Last Supper Peter would have sat.