Archive for the ‘New Testament’ Category


By Beth PiepenburgLazarus by Bonnat


In late December, Jesus had walked in the Temple in Solomon’s Porch during Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication). When the questioning crowd asked who He was, He replied that “I and my Father are one.” Angry, the Jews took up stones and sought to take Jesus by force, but he escaped across the Jordan in the area of Perea and dwelt there for two months. Soon Purim would be celebrated during the month of Adar, that is, from the evening of March 3rd to the evening of March 6th in the year 33 A.D[1].

John 11 has two parts: The raising of Lazarus, and the outcome of this event. Both parts are each arranged in a chiastic fashion. While the central theme for the first part is Jesus being the Resurrection and the Life, the central theme for the second part is Jesus residing at the location where Abraham encamped (Khirbet el-Maqatir)[2] between Bethel and Hai (possibly et-Tell).


KABOD (1-4)

From historical tradition, Lazarus is thirty years old when he became sick. His name means God is my helper, and he certainly would need God’s help. Along with his sisters, Mary and Martha, they live in the town of Date House, known as Bethany. By the way, the date palm is an Israeli symbol of praise. His sister Mary would become known for anointing Jesus in a few weeks to come. Desperate, his sisters send a message to Jesus about Lazarus being sick. By substituting the words, he whom you love, for their brother’s name, they are reminding Jesus of the strong relational friendship of love he has with Lazarus. Can you imagine the surprise when they hear from the messenger that Jesus had replieds, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the son of God might be glorified thereby.” Lazarus is now dead! However, this fourth verse is a Kabod = glory verse for two reasons. Not only is the word glory used twice for emphasis, but it is represented by twenty-six Greek words, which the numerical value of twenty-six in the Hebrew refers to both YHWH and glory.

LOVE (5-16)

Jesus has a strong brotherly love for this family. Although Mary is an important character in a previous narrative and a later narrative, Martha is the key person here who has interaction with Jesus. Then Jesus delays for two days before leaving the Jordan. Sometimes, our timing is not God’s timing. Fearing the enemies of the Lord, the disciples are concerned about Jesus being stoned if He should return to Jerusalem. Sensing their fear not only for Him but for themselves, His allegorical answer conveys not only that spring was approaching by the equal number of hours in a day, but that tension existed between day and night. While the twelve hours represent the disciples, the day represents Christ and the night represents Satan. Therefore, one cannot stumble in the daylight because he walks in the Light of Christ, unless he chooses to walk in the night because he walks not in the light. As his disciples are thinking upon his figurative answer, He explains in the following Kabod = glory verse of seventeen Greek words that He intends to awaken the sleeping Lazarus. Missing his point about sleep, they respond that Lazarus will be saved or will be well. Because they misunderstood what He had meant, He plainly tells them that Lazarus is dead. Evidently, Jesus sees this loss of a friend as an opportunity for spiritual growth of his disciples in the area of belief. They will need this object lesson for strength in next month’s event.  Is Thomas expressing his cowardice by sarcasm, or is he expressing his braveness and love for the Lord?


By the time Jesus had arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days, which also means that Lazarus had died four days ago. In fact, the messenger had left on the day that Lazarus had died. While Bethany is about two miles from Jerusalem, the distance is short climb for friends from Jerusalem to pay their condolences. Martha approaches Jesus, leaving Mary at the house. Addressing Jesus as Lord, she shares that if He had arrived in time, Lazarus would not have died. Yet, she maintains that Jesus has a direct connection with the Father. She is really posing an oxymoron by saying, if your presence had been here, then everything would be fine; however, I do believe that God answers your requests. In reality, her faith is limited to His presence.


When Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again, Martha acknowledges that her brother will rise at the Resurrection. Emphasized in the Greek are the two words I AM, which is equivalent to saying [3]אהיה in the Hebrew. “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” is the theme of the story of Lazarus. Yet, Jesus states that those believers who die will live, and they will not die in eternity. When He asks if she believes these truths, she professes that He is the Messiah, the Son of God.


This section is similar to the earlier one (17-22), moving from the arrival of Jesus, to the crowd, and then to the first sister of Lazarus. Not only has Jesus arrived, but he is calling now for Mary. Their comforters, who follow Mary toward the grave, will become witnesses of this event. Although Mary expresses the same words as her sister, she does so from a spirit of worship.

LOVE (29-37)

Jesus identifies with their suffering by his own groaning and weeping. Thus, the Jews recognize the strong relational friendship of love Jesus has for Lazarus, but fail to recognize the greater bond of brotherly love He has for Lazarus. Knowing that Jesus had opened the eyes of the blind man at Hanukkah (Jn. 9), could He not have the foresight to know the condition of Lazarus? Could He not have prevented Lazarus’ death?

KABOD (38-44)

Groaning again, Jesus comes to the closed cave, and asks for the stone to be taken away. Aghast, Martha reminds Him that the body is in decay due to being dead for four days. You see, the Jews had a belief that the soul could not return to the body once it was in decay[4]. Obviously, Lazarus was good and dead! For Martha to see the glory of God, a key phrase here, Jesus reminds her “if you would believe”. Because of the people standing by Jesus gives thanks to the Father who hears Him. Then Jesus calls Lazarus to come forth! Lazarus, bound hand and foot with grave clothes and his face bound by a towel (soudarion). Jesus says for them to loose Lazarus and let him go.



While many believed, some did not and reported to the Pharisees about what Jesus has done. His miracles bothered many of the members of the Sanhedrin. Two things bothered them: People would believe on Him, and their corrupt power was at risk with the Roman government. Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest from 18-36 A.D., suggested that it was best for one man to die for the people so the nation be spared. From that point on, most of the Sanhedrin sought for the death of Christ.

JESUS (54)

Jesus went northerly to Ephraim (Ai – Khirbet el-Maqitir)[5] with his disciples, an area located next to the wilderness. This is an important statement, because Jesus was staying at the spiritual location where Abraham had built an altar to the Lord.


Soon Passover would be observed with many coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves, and hoping to see Jesus. Would He dare to appear in person? However, the Jewish leaders had commanded that if anyone knew of Jesus’ whereabouts, they were to report it to them.


Not only does this miraculous event link the previous healing of the blind man at Hanukkah, but it will link the chain of events to come during Passion Week.


[1] According to my astronomical calculations.
[2] At the time of Joshua conquest, Ai had already moved to the location of Khirbet el-Maqatir.
[3] Ex. 3:14 And God saith unto Moses, `I AM THAT WHICH I AM;’
[4] “Bar Kappara taught: Until three days the soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking that it will go back; but when it sees that the facial features have become disfigured, it departs and abandons it” (Genesis Rabbah 100:7; cf. Leviticus Rabbah 18:1; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 12:6).

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2018. All rights reserved.



by Beth Piepenburg8th_Night_of_Chanukkah_in_Meah_Shearim

Hanukkah is a religious and cultural holiday celebrated by Jews. One of the main themes is the lighting of candles and blessings for eight days. Introduced during the “400 Years of Silence”, what connection does it have to Scripture or to the Messiah? Was God really silent or was He moving in the Jewish nation? Was Hanukkah a manmade holiday or was it inspired? Is Scripture silent about Hanukkah? As an inspired eight day feast, Hanukkah has much to do with prophecy, history, astronomy, Scripture, and the Messiah.

In the sixth century B.C., Daniel the prophet, received several visions about four nations that would appear in the destiny of the Jewish nation. The first vision described an image of four elements which was smashed by a stone. In the second vision, four winds came forth over a great sea, with four beasts coming up from the sea, and then the Ancient of Days appeared. In the third vision, Daniel saw himself in the Elami palace by a stream and saw a ram with two horns, one higher than the other. As this ram pushed himself in every direction over those around him, then a he-goat with a conspicuous horn between its eyes arose from the West, and smote the ram. The table below summarizes the three visions. (Dan. 2:31-45; Dan. 7:1-9; Dan. 8:1-8, 15-22)

Danil visions

In the third vision of the he-goat, the large horn was Alexander the Great who reigned between 336 B.C. and 323 B.C.  After leaving his homeland, Alexander conquered many lands. When the Levant fell in 333-332 B.C., he paid a visit to Jerusalem, but continued to conquer Egypt and Persia in 331 B.C. After Alexander’s death, his kingdom was divided among his four generals, denoted by the four smaller horns in the vision. From one of the four kingdoms comes forth a small horn that persecutes the Jews for 6.33 years and desecrates the Temple. (Dan. 8: 9-14, 23-27; Dan. 11)


Under the Seleucids, Antiochus IV Epiphanes began persecuting the Jews around 170 B.C. He appointed a Hellenistic High Priest to the Temple, prohibited the study of the Torah, and desecrated the altar with the sacrificing of a pig. Desiring to switch over to the rule of the Ptolemies, the Jews rebelled in 167 B.C., and Antiochus had 40,000 Jews murdered. In 165 B.C. a high priest named Matthias joined forces with his youngest son, Judah Maccabee (the hammer), against Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Ousting the Seleucids, the Jews were able to rededicate the Temple on the 25th of Kislev, Dec. 13, 164 B.C. (148 SE). Kislev is the ninth month in the Hebrew calendar, and the feast began on the first day of the week of that particular year. While the Jews had enough undefiled oil to last one day, the oil miraculously lasted eight days. Although Hanukkah means dedication, the feast is also known as the Festival of Lights. How interesting that the number eight and oil symbolize the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit, respectfully.

From an astronomical view, a spiritual battle is portrayed in the skies. During this particular week, the sun is positioned in Keshet the archer, whose bow is directed at Akrab the scorpion. The moon will move into several constellations during the week. In five mornings, the moon has journeyed through three constellations: Moznayim the scales of justice, Ophiuchus the serpent bearer who attacks Akrab the scorpion, and Keshet the archer whose bow is directed at Akrab the scorpion. During the remaining evenings, the moon progressed through two constellations: Gedi the Atonement goat, and Deli the water bearer.

Mazz 164c


Where is Hanukkah mentioned in Scripture? In the Gospel of John, the theme of Hanukkah is introduced by demonstrating that Jesus forgives, heals blindness, and identifies Himself as the Light. When a woman is caught in adultery (Jn. 8), the scribes and Pharisees bring her to Jesus in an attempt to accuse Him. Although she deserved death, Jesus forgave her. Shortly afterwards, Jesus identifies Himself by declaring, “I AM the Light of the world…” On a following day (Jn. 9), Jesus expresses to his disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”; and proceeds to heal a blind man. Then Jesus leaves the Pharisees to ponder their own blindness.

There are several key words in the Hanukkah passage in John 10:22-30. On the Feast of Dedication, winter had arrived and Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Aha! The Feast of Dedication is Chag CHanukkah in the Hebrew! Although the Feast of Dedication had commenced on the evening of December 17, 32 A.D., winter arrived on December 22, which is on the 5th day of Hanukkah that year. Therefore, we know that Jesus was at the temple in Solomon’s porch between December 22nd and 25th.  Remarkably, the porch of Solomon was the original part of Solomon’s Temple. Is it any surprise that the Jews are full of suspense if Jesus is the Messiah? Yet, when he reveals, “I and the Father are one,” they are ready to stone Him.

As a result of the animosity, Jesus goes to the Jordan and many come to Him there. The beautiful story of Lazarus being raised from the dead (Jn. 11) foreshadows the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Likewise, the Hanukkah Menorah directs us to the eighth day, the Resurrection Day.

What was happening in the starry skies? A similar scene of the first Hanukkah was on display this year. The sun and the moon are the signs and moedim in the skies that are mentioned in Genesis 1:14. They are not to be worshiped, but only serve to point out specific themes. On the evening of December 21 and the morning of December 22, the moon was enveloped by the sun, testifying that “I and the Father are one.”  On the evening of December 22, two things had happened. First, the New Moon ushered in the tenth month called Tevet; second, the moon was in the constellation of Gedi, the Atonement goat which represents Christ.

Although Hanukkah is a traditional Jewish holiday, Christians can appreciate its spiritual significance, too.  Not only did the observance of Hanukkah preserve a memory of a historical and religious event that occurred during the 2nd century B.C., but it would be symbolic of the Light. The prophetic background seen by Daniel and the witness in the starry skies add further testimony to the story of Hanukkah and to the Messiah. Therefore, take the time during Hanukkah to reflect upon the significance of the holiday by lighting some candles or reading Scriptures pertaining to light and oil..

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2017.

BARABBAS: The Scapegoat

In earlier writings, BARABBAS’ name was Jesus Barabbas literally meaning Jesus, son of the father. However, the Gospel writers say he was the following:

  • Mt (27:16)   notable/notorious prisoner
  • Mk (15:7)    insurrectionist/rebel
  • Lk (23:19)   sedition/rebellion, murder
  • Jn (18:40)   brigand/robber

While Barabbas was a robber, his antithesis was Jesus Christ “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philipians 2:6).  Barabbas played an important character during the trial of Jesus Christ, but we have to dig into Old Testament scriptures to understand his goatish nature.

Barabbas was a notorious robber, murder, and rebel. As has been speculated by some, I doubt he was some kind of heroic ‘freedom fighter’. If he had been one, would Pontius Pilate have considered the possibility of releasing him? All that the Governor Pilate would have needed on his hands would be a future Spartacus style uprising, for which Pilate would have been answerable to Caesar. Knowing that the Jewish leaders, out of spite, desired Jesus to be crucified, Pilate gave the people a choice to release either Jesus Christ or Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, who undoubtedly would not win the support of the people. As we know, Pilate’s plan backfired.

Before being brought to Pontius Pilate, Jesus had been interrogated by Caiaphas, the high priest. When angered by Jesus’ words, Caiaphas then rent his clothes. Because it was sin for the high priest to rend his clothes (Lev 21:10, 10:6), Caiaphas’ action would have disqualified him from his religious service during Passover.

Matthew 26:64-65 – Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!

Had Pilate, in a sense, become the Jewish high priest, since Caiaphas had rent his clothes?  The Roman Emperor was the ‘pontifex maximus’, the high priest of the Roman religion. Representing the Emperor Tiberius, Pilate who was the prefect could decide judicial cases. By religious disqualification of the Jewish high priest, Pilate unknowingly filled the seat of the high priest when he decided the fate of the “goats” and by washing his hands of the affair. In essence, he was replacing the Roman appointed Jewish high priest, who could not officiate due to the rending of his garments.


Lev 16:7 The high priest presented two goats before the tent of meeting, where judgment decisions were made. (Ex 33:7-10)

  • The Governor Pontius Pilate presents Jesus and Barabbas in front of the praetorium, the residence of the Governor.

Lev 16:8 The high priest cast lots for the two goats: one for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.

  • Pontius Pilate asks the crowd to make a decision of whom to release: Barabbas or Jesus. Having come under Roman rule, the Jews were allowed the privilege of asking for the release of one prisoner of their choosing during Passover.

Lev 16:9 The goat on which the Lord’s lot fell was to be sacrificed as a sin offering.

  • The people, at the urging of the priests and elders, choose Jesus to be crucified.

Lev 16:10 The goat on which the lot fell is to be the scapegoat presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement, and then to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

  • They choose Barabbas, a symbol of the antichrist, a man of sin and a son of the devil. Then Pontius Pilate releases Barabbas unto them.

Lev 16:15-17 Then the high priest would kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat, making an atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle of Congregation, and for the Congregation of Israel.

  • After Pontius Pilate has Jesus scourged, Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified. Christ is making atonement for the sins of the world.

Lev 16:18-19 The priest would make atonement for the altar, and would sprinkle the blood upon it seven times, cleansing it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

  • At Gethsemane, his sweat becomes great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Lk 22:44)
  • Internal bleading (Is 53:5, Micah 5:1, Mt 26:63-64)
  • His beard is ripped out (Is 50:5-6)
  • Jesus is whipped (Ps 129:3, Is 50:6, Is 53:5, Mt 27:26, Mk 15:15, Jn 19:1, 1 Pet 2:24)
  • The crown of thorn causes bleeding from the head (Mt 27:29, Mk 15:17, Jn 19:2)
  • His hands and his feet are nailed to the cross (Mt 27:35)
  • His side is pierced (Jn 19:34)

Lev 16:20-22 When he had made an end of reconciling the holy place, the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he would bring the live goat, making confession of iniquities and transgressions upon its head, and sending it away into the wilderness. The goat would bear all the inquities unto a land uninhabited, and he would let go the goat in the wilderness.

  • Barabbas is the scapegoat that will be set free to go wild, while Jesus becomes the sacrificial goat for the sin offering.

Lev 16:24, 26 The priest would wash his flesh and his clothes.

  • Pontius Pilate washes his hands.

Deuteronomy 21:6-8 The elders would wash their hands of an innocent murder.

  • Pilate is washing his hands, though prior to the death of Jesus, of murder.  It was a Jewish custom, not a Roman custom.

Imagine how this scene of the two goats was played out for centuries during their sacrifices to be as a foreshadow of Christ and the scapegoat.

Jn10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Samaritans, the people of Samaria belonged to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Throughout their history, they seemed to be in tension with the tribe of Judah. Could it be they thought that their tribes should dominate, since they were descended from Joseph?

The Bible and other writings give us a glimpse of the tension that existed between the tribe of Judah and the tribes of Joseph.

a)   Tension had developed at the time of the Judges when Eli, a descendant of Aaron’s son Ithamar, usurped the priesthood. Refusing to acknowledge Eli as the High Priest, the tribes of Joseph supported the rightful priesthood through Uzzi, a descendant of Aaron’s son Eleazar, and they set up worship at Mt. Gerizim, the mountain of blessings near Shechem. When David (c.1040–970 BC) became king, he restored the rightful lineage of the high priest to Zadok, a descendant of Eleazar, and set up worship at Jerusalem.

b)   After Solomon’s death, friction arose between the Northern and Southern tribes with the Northern tribes setting up their own Kingdom under Jeroboam (931 BC).

c)   Later, Judah formed an alliance with Assyria against Northern Israel, which was then conquered (721 BC), and the elite sent as exiles to Assyria. The Assyrian king sent people from the Babylonian cities of Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim to repopulate Samaria and mix with the remaining inhabitants. Of course, these people brought their religious beliefs with them.

d)   After the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile (537 BC), the Samaritan leader, Sanballat, troubled the people of Judah as related in the Book of Nehemiah. The Samaritans had their own temple at Mt. Gerizim, while the Jews had theirs at Jerusalem.

e)   We learn from Josephus that when the Greeks conquered the land of Israel (333-331 BC), that the Samaritans legally disassociated themselves from the Jews and allowed their temple to be renamed Zeus Hellenios or Zeus Xenios. While the Greeks forcefully profaned the Temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans requested that their temple be dedicated Zeus.

f)    After the Israelites won their independence, they invaded Samaria, a dependent state of the Seleucid Greeks, and the Judean king, John Hyrcanus, destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim and devastated Samaria (c. 129 BC).

Understanding the tensions of racial purity, religious purity, and general animosity between the Jews and Samaritans will give a background for understanding New Testament references. The Rabbinical Jews held the Law, Prophets, and Writings sacred along with the Oral Law (Traditions of Men); the Sadducees held to the Torah as Law denying the inspiration of Oral Law and accepting the Prophets and Writings as divinely inspired; the Samaritans held only to the Torah as Law. While the Jews worshiped on the mountain at Jerusalem, the Samaritans worshipped at Mt. Gerizim.

Many Samaritans became Christians, many followed the Gnostic leadership of Simon Magus (Acts 8), and many continued in their traditional religious beliefs. Through the following centuries, they have suffered from war and persecution or converted to Islam, leaving about 721 dedicated Samaritan followers in 2007. They are a people who have been quite religious yet mislead, have had many differences with the Jews, and have suffered from war and persecution from many groups up to the twenty-first century.

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