Trinity College of Biblical Studies-Free Online Bible College



The Life of Christ is a thorough study of Jesus life and teaching along with studies in the historical first-century setting of Judaism

Trinity College of Biblical Studies-Undergraduate Studies

       Trinity College of Biblical Studies Library

Register for this free Online Bible class by clicking on this link

Course Objectives:

Students in this course will:

·       Understand the question "Who is Jesus Christ?";

·       Appreciate the context of the New Testament;

·       Appreciate the historical Jesus and what He was all about;

·       Learn about the various terms and names of Jesus.

·       Appreciate what the resurrection is all about;

·       Understand the role of Tradition;

·       See how modern man interprets Jesus Christ.

      To develop an appreciation of (a) the distinctive Life  of Christ each of the New Testament authors, with special attention to the Synoptic Gospels, John, and Paul; (b) the Christology of the Early church with special attention to the Apostolic Fathers  c) a survey of the Life of Christ  twenty centuries of Christian devotion and theology; (d)  the Life  of Christ in the arts, with special attention to the novel and film; (e) the Christology of contemporary Jesus historians.

     To develop an acquaintance with the present state of biblical scholarship and the critical arms of research on the Jesus question that have developed over the past half century,  including an examination of  the Gospel story and the work of Jesus historians,

      To take a step forward toward understanding the “historical Jesus” whose words, acts, person, and presence gave rise to twenty centuries of Christological art, architecture, theology, music, literature, creeds, educational institutions, hospitals, and agencies of human service.

     To work toward a  better understanding  of why it is that Jesus of Nazareth has exercised such a catalytic effect on the human psyche/soul , as evident not only within the Christian church and its institutions, but in world religious tradition and the arts.

      To sort out one’s own perspective on Jesus and the Christological tradition and to consider  the implications this might have for the way I get out of bed tomorrow.


Essay Papers 30%

Reading Material 10%

Study Questions 10%

Lessons      10%

Book Review 8-10 Pages on The Quest of the Historical Jesus 20%

Quizzes 10%

Book Report 10%

Listen to Lectures

Quest for the Historical Jesus Lectures


The Jesus of Myth and History

Wright-Jesus Kingdom

Wright-Jesus Cross

Wright-Jesus God

Wright-Jesus Light

  Jesus' resurrection and God's new creation

Wright-Gods future of the world has arrived in the Person of Jesus

Wright-the Power of God vs the Powers of the  World

Wright-Understanding and Implementing Jesus Gospel in the Present World

Wright-Reimaging our mission as God's agents of new creation in the world

Wright-Fulfilling God's Kingdom project for the world as a mission shaped church

Watch Lecture Videos on following Jesus in the 21st Century

The Challenge of following Jesus in the 21st Century

The Challenge of following Jesus in the 21st Century. 2

The Challenge of following Jesus in the 21st Century. 3

Lectures on Highlights of the Life of Christ

Click on link to download

Life of Christ 1

Life of Christ 2

Life of Christ 3

Life of Christ 4

Life of Christ 5

Life of Christ 6

Life of Christ 7

Life of Christ 8

Life of Christ 9

Life of Christ 10

Life of Christ 11

Life of Christ 12

Life of Christ 14

Life of Christ 15

Life of Christ 16

Life of Christ 17

       Required Reading Material

Email for Life of Christ Lessons

The Life of Christ

The Quest of the Historical Jesus

Read links and Handouts

  Into His Own

Jesus Seminar

Historical Jesus Web Site

Prophesies concerning Jesus

Crucifixion Article


An Outline of The Life of Jesus

Ancient Account of Jesus

Can the Historical Jesus be made safe for Orthodoxy?

From Jesus to Christ

Palestine in the Time of Jesus

Archaeological Tour of Footsteps of Jesus

Article on the Shroud of Turin

Coins in the Time of Jesus

Virtual Museum Tour

Art Reference link

Background History

Read what Historian Josephus wrote about Jesus

From the Museums, Biblical Art, Links, and articles above (Not Textbooks) write a 10 page book report

Watch Videos click on links to view

Jesus movie

Introducing Jesus

Introducing the new testament

Holy Bible

Commentary for the whole Bible


Writing assignments.  Write answers to the following six questions in about 1-2 pages. This will improve your writing skills. All papers must be keyboarded or typed and on time. You will be asked at least once to take your written answer and lead a discussion about the question.  This will help you communication skills.

1.     Who is Jesus in the Gospel of Mark?

2.     Who is Jesus in  the Gospel of Matthew?

3.     Who is Jesus in the  Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles?

4.     Who is Jesus in the Epistle to the Romans and the Corinthians?

5.     Who is Jesus in  the Gospel of John?

6.    Explain Jesus of any modern theologian.



               Lecture One

Before the Gospels


A. An alien race in a unified world

From the time of the Babylonian Exile (587 BC) the Jews became scattered round the mediterranean world. They stood out from other people by their strange habits. As the mediterranean world became more homogeneous, first under one Empire, then under another, they stood out more and more.

First Alexander the Great (died 323 BC) created an unprecedently great empire which spread all over the eastern mediterranean from Greece round to Egypt and as far East as Afghanistan. All this area developed a single culture, known as 'hellenistic' from the Greek for 'Greek'. The same cults, theatres, temples, designs of cities are to be found everywhere. Everywhere a reasonably good standard of Greek was spoken, less sophisticated and delicate than the classical Greek of fifth century Athens, but still at its best a cultivated and distinguished literary language. Communication over the whole area would have been easy, for the same language and books would be familiar everywhere.

After Alexander's death, his empire was divided between three generals. It eventually became three empires, the Macedonian, the Syrian (or Seleucid, because these kings were descended from Seleucus) and the Egyptian (or Ptolemaic, because these kings were descended from Ptolemy). Palestine lay between these two latter empires and was dominated first by one, then by the other, depending on which was more powerful at the time.

In 167 BC the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes attempted to suppress the peculiarities of Judaism within his kingdom, and particularly in Palestine. He was called 'Epiphanes' because, like a number of eastern monarchs at this time, he claimed to be a god, or at least a manifestation of a god ('Epiphany' means 'Appearance', 'Manifestation'). He attempted to stop the Jews practising all their strange habits, to stop circumcising their male children, to start eating pork, to give up their strange, barbaric, mountain God, called Yahweh, who would accept no other God beside him, and embrace the many gods of the Greek world.

The Greek world had a god to preside over every activity, Artemis for hunting, Hephaistus for metal-working, Cybele for agriculture, Ares for war, and so on, while the Jews had only one God. In consequence the Jews were a nation apart, because all the public activities, such as plays in the magnificent open theatres (many of which still stand today) or Olympic and other Games, involved sacrificing to these gods, and so were closed to the Jews. In addition competitors in the Games were always naked, which the Jews thought shameful; and in fact their sexual morals and family life were a good deal more healthy than those of the hellenistic world. Then there was the curious Jewish custom of observing one day in seven (the week did not exist as a division of time in the hellenistic world) as sacred to their God, and refusing to work or engage in most activities. If the Jews were to be integrated into Antiochus' empire, it was essential that they should abandon this separatism.

Antiochus failed, largely due to the resistance spearheaded by a priestly family from Modein, on


the coastal plain, who later became known as the Maccabees (or 'Hammers'). They soon formed the first dynasty of Jewish rulers since the Exile, and achieved for Palestine a large measure of independence from Syria. They were followed by the Hasmonean Kings, who ruled the country until Pompey the Great overran it in 66 BC. By then they had enjoyed nearly a century of independent existence.

B. Palestine under Roman Rule

During Pompey's campaigns in the East he used the services of an Idumaean (from the territory south of Judaea) called Antipater as purveyor of supplies to his armies. Antipater became rich and influential, and eventually became the native ruler under Rome. His son, Herod, was appointed king in 40 BC. He was a friend of the Emperor Augustus, and the Romans envisaged his task to be to introduce Roman civilisation into the backward territory of Judaea. To this there was fierce resistance, and Herod, despite his title of King Herod the Great, was intensely disliked by the Jewish religious authorities. For one thing, he was only half a Jew (on his mother's side); for another he was known to sit very loose to the Jewish Law, at any rate outside Judaea. From his immense wealth he made great donations to the cities with a large Jewish community - he paid for the streets of Ephesus to be paved with marble - and also built standard hellenistic public buildings in Jerusalem, such as a theatre and a race-course. He was also responsible for building the magnificent Tomb of the Patriarchs which still stands at Hebron, and above all the splendid Temple at Jerusalem. So grandiose was this Temple that the Roman writer Pliny the Elder says it made Jerusalem 'far the most distinguished city of the East'. He also built fortified palaces in his kingdom, including his winter palace at Massada and his summer palace at the Herodium near Bethlehem, whose ruins still show traces of their splendour and wealth. They were built in the Roman style, but the surviving frescoes show that he was careful to avoid offending Jewish religious susceptibilities: the paintings are 'aniconic', avoiding all representations of humans or animals (in accordance with the current interpretation of the prohibition in the Law of graven images), and employing only geometric and floral designs.

At his death in 4 BC his kingdom was divided between his four surviving sons, who were named 'tetrarchs' (rulers of a quarter). Judaea and its capital Jerusalem were allotted to Archelaus, but Archelaus proved himself such a disastrous ruler that after ten years he was deposed and replaced by a Roman Prefect. The high priest continued to exercise a great deal of administrative power, but always under the supervision of the Roman governor. Symbolically, the high priestly vestments were kept in the custody of the governor, and one after another of the high priests were deposed because they were unsatisfactory to the Romans. Their activity as local ruler was therefore strictly controlled. During the ministry of Jesus, however, the high priest was Caiaphas, whose term of office lasted nearly 20 years, the last decade of which was during the governorship of Pontius Pilate. There must have been a fair understanding between the two of them.

Of the Roman governors we know most about Pontius Pilate. The Jewish historian Josephus and the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria both characterise his rule as tyrannical and unjust. He was eventually deposed by the Roman governor of Syria (his local superior) in 36 AD for his ruthless over-reaction to a messianic revolt in Samaria. However, only limited credence can be placed in the accounts of Josephus and Philo; both had a vested interest in exaggerating the harshness of the Roman regime in Judaea, and so excusing the Jewish reaction to it.

There had been minor insurrections against Roman rule in Palestine before this, but from now


onwards resistance stiffened and became more and more violent. Armed resistance was led by the Zealots, and eventually a full-scale revolt broke out in 66 AD. Rome reacted strongly, bringing armies to besiege Jerusalem, and in 70 AD the city was captured and the magnificent Temple was sacked. Of the three important groupings of the Jews, Sadducees, Pharisees and Zealots, only the Pharisees survived as a party. They re-formed at the city of Jamnia on the coastal plain, under the leadership of a Galilean rabbi, Yohanan ben Zakkai, reasserting and codifying the traditions of the Law. It is from there that the tradition of Pharisaic Judaism, the ancestor of all modern Judaism, spread.

C. Jewish Communities of the Mediterranean World

In the other parts of the mediterranean world, the Jews did not suffer from the persecution of the Syrian king Antiochus, and continued to develop in peace. In many cities by the time of Jesus there were large and flourishing Jewish communities. In Egyptian Alexandria they obtained the right to function as a political entity within the state, a city within a city, with its own administration. Cyrene in North Africa was not unlike.In many cities of the mediterranean world inscriptions show that there were synagogues, and large cities like Corinth or Rome had many synagogues, so many different Jewish communities. Each of these communities was ruled by a council of elders (in Greek presbyteroi, whence our 'presbyters'), presided by an archisynagogos ('president of the synagogue'). This was a temporary and elective office, which could be held several times by the same man.

Most societies dislike strangers, especially if they are clannish and rich. The Jews were forced by their peculiarities and differences from others (and especially their idea of cultic purity) to keep themselves to themselves and clear of others. Others did not really understand them and their strange ways, and consequently were suspicious of them. They trusted each other; they could by Law charge no interest to each other on loans, and this helped them to become already a comparatively rich group, sprouting into an early form of international banking system. They also had a slightly special relationship to the Roman emperors: their unpopularity made them rely on the emperor for protection, and the emperor normally took advantage of this to use them as supporters in the various cities. This in turn made them more unpopular.

D. The Pax Romana

By the time of the New Testament, communication between these communities was frequent and easy. The whole mediterranean world was ruled by Rome. But Rome, once it had conquered the world, did little more than ensure that the peace was kept, that there was a fair amount of justice and that they made enough money out of the provincials not only to pay for the armies but also to ensure a lavish income for their officials who administered them. The Romans had a stranglehold over most financial transactions within the Empire. But the whole area was a network of independent city-states, each with its own constitution and system of government, often ruling only a few hundred square miles of territory. This system was practicable because Rome prevented armed squabbles between these little states, and would judge cases of dispute between them. The Romans realised that local rulers understand their own people best, and also spared themselves the trouble of administering these territories - apart from taxing them heavily and lending rulers money at exorbitant rates of interest, interest which these rulers of course recouped from their subjects. Taxation was doubtless heavy, but modern estimates vary about just how oppressive it was to the poorer people.


Communications were easy because of the Roman peace which prevailed everywhere from 31 BC for a couple of centuries. Roman rule ensured that there was no war and no piracy. The great Roman roads, like 12-foot-wide walls sunk into the ground, criss-crossed the Roman world. This made land traffic easier and more rapid than it would be for another 1800 years. In crisis the emperor Tiberius once rode 200 miles (with frequent change of horses) in 24 hours. A steady 10-15 miles a day was uncomfortable and tiring but possible for the ordinary traveller by road. By sea travel was far quicker, though kept to an essential minimum in the dangerous winter (losses at sea were regular; a high proportion of the legal cases which have come down to us concerns insurance-disputes). Rome to Alexandria was possible in five days by ship, and Scipio showed the Roman senate how dangerously close Africa was to Italy by showing them a fig picked in Carthage the previous day. Trade flourished, and one merchant in Asia Minor claims on his tombstone to have made over 70 journeys to Rome. It has been calculated that in his dozen years of journeying Paul covered over 10,000 miles - and he was stable in Corinth or Ephesus for several of those years.

In this unified world there were travelling preachers and teachers in large numbers. Students travelled to different universities from Rome, but especially to Athens. Philosophers of the school called 'Cynics' travelled in poverty to spread their brand of knowledge. In a world where scientific causes of illness and disaster were poorly understood religion - and still more, superstition - held an important place.Those with means and leisure travelled to the famous shrines and centres of healing, like the shrine of Aeculapius at Epidaurus in Greece, whence stem a number of tales of miraculous healing. There were special centres of the 'mystery religions', promising salvation to those who were initiated into their secret rites, whose secrets were so closely guarded that they were never written down, and have remained largely secret to this day. Among these hordes of religious travellers and pilgrims, someone like Paul and his companions, pedalling their own particular recipe for salvation, would have excited little comment. The scene in the Acts of the Apostles of Paul being invited to speak to a group of philosophers at Athens is true to life. It was this ease of travel which enabled Paul to make his missionary journeys, travelling between the Jewish communities in Asia Minor and Greece, and to send the letters which have come down to us. His letters also provide evidence of the frequency of travel and communication between other members of these communities. Especially the greetings at the end of the letter to the Romans show how many people in the Christian community at Rome Paul had met, and how many more he knew about, even without going to Rome.

                    Lecture Two         

In Jerusalem When Herod Reigned.

If the dust of ten centuries could have been wiped from the eyelids of those sleepers, and one of them who thronged Jerusalem in the highday of its glory, during the reign of King Solomon, had returned to its streets, he would scarcely have recognised the once familiar city. Then, as now, a Jewish king reigned, who bore undivided rule over the whole land; then, as now, the city was filled with riches and adorned with palaces and architectural monuments; then, as now, Jerusalem was crowded with strangers from all lands. Solomon and Herod were each the last Jewish king over the Land of Promise; Solomon and Herod, each, built the Temple. But with the son of David began, and with the Idumaean ended, ‘the kingdom;’ or rather, having fulfilled its mission, it gave place to the spiritual world-kingdom of ‘David’s greater Son.’ The sceptre departed from Judah to where the nations were to gather under its sway. And the Temple which Solomon built was the first. In it the shekhinah dwelt visibly. The Temple which Herod reared was the last. The ruins of its burning, which the torch of the Romans had kindled, were never to be restored. Herod was not the antitype, he was, the Barabbas, of David’s Royal Son.

In other respects, also, the difference was almost equally great. The four ‘companion-like’ hills on which the city was built, the deep clefts by which it was surrounded, the Mount of Olives rising in the east, were the same as a thousand years ago. There, as of old were the Pool of Siloam and the royal gardens - nay, the very wall that had then surrounded the city. And yet all was so altered as to be scarcely recognisable. The ancient Jebusite fort, the City of David, Mount Zion, was now the priests’ quarter, Ophel, and the old royal palace and stables had been thrown into the Temple area - now completely levelled - where they formed the magnificent treble colonnade, known as the Royal Porch. Passing through it, and out by the Western Gate of the Temple, we stand on the immense bridge which spans the ‘Valley of the Cheesemongers,’ or the Tyropoeon, and connects the Eastern with the Western hills of the city. It is perhaps here that we can best mark the outstanding features, and note the changes. On the right, as we look northward, are (on the Eastern hill) Ophel, the Priest-quarter, and the Temple - oh, how wondrously beautiful and enlarged, and rising terrace upon terrace, surrounded by massive walls: a palace, a fortress, a Sanctuary of shining marble and glittering gold. And beyond it frowns the old fortress of Baris, rebuilt by Herod, and named after his patron, Antonia. This is the Hill of Zion. Right below us is the cleft of the Tyropoeon - and here creeps up northwards the ‘Lower City’ or Acra, in the form of a crescent, widening into an almost square ‘suburb.’ Across the Tyropoeon, westward, rises the ‘Upper City.’ If the Lower City and suburb form the business-quarter with its markets, bazaars, and streets of trades and guilds, the ‘Upper City’ is that of palaces. Here, at the other end of the great bridge which connects the Temple with the ‘Upper City,’ is the palace of the Maccabees; beyond it, the Xystos, or vast colonnaded enclosure, where popular assemblies are held: then the Palace of Ananias the High-Priest, and nearest to the Temple, ‘the Council Chamber’ and public Archives. Behind it, westwards, rise, terrace upon terrace, the stately mansions of the Upper City, till, quite in the north-west corner of the old city, we reach the Palace which Herod had built for himself - almost a city and fortress, flanked by three high towers, and enclosing spacious gardens. Beyond it again, and outside the city walls, both of the first and the second, stretches all north of the city the new suburb of Bezetha. Here on every side are gardens and villas; here passes the great northern road; out there must they have laid hold on Simon the Cyrenian, and here must have led the way to the place of the Crucifixion.

Changes that marked the chequered course of Israel’s history had come even over the city walls. The first and oldest - that of David and Solomon - ran round the west side of the Upper City, then crossed south to the Pool of Siloam, and ran up east, round Ophel, till it reached the eastern enclosure of the Temple, whence it passed in a straight line to the point from which it had started, forming the northern boundary of the ancient city. But although this wall still existed, there was now a marked addition to it. When the Maccabee Jonathan finally cleared Jerusalem of the Syrian garrison that lay in Fort Acra, he built a wall right ‘through the middle of the city,’ so as to shut out the foe. This wall probably ran from the western angle of the Temple southwards, to near the pool of Siloam, following the winding course of the Tyropoeon, but on the other side of it, where the declivity of the Upper City merged in the valley. Another monument of the Syrian Wars, of the Maccabees, and of Herod, was the fortress Antonia. Part of it had, probably, been formerly occupied by what was known as Fort Acra, of such unhappy prominence in the wars that preceded and marked the early Maccabean period. It had passed from the Ptolemies to the Syrians, and always formed the central spot round which the fight for the city turned. Judas Maccabee had not been able to take it. Jonathan had laid siege to it, and built the wall, to which reference has just been made, so as to isolate its garrison. It was at last taken by Simon, the brother and successor of Jonathan, and levelled with the ground. Fort Baris, which was constructed by his successor Hyrcanus I., covered a much wider space. It lay on the northwestern angle of the Temple, slightly jutting beyond it in the west, but not covering the whole northern area of the Temple. The rock on which it stood was higher than the Temple, although lower than the hill up which the new suburb Bezetha crept, which, accordingly, was cut off by a deep ditch, for the safety of the fortress. Herod greatly enlarged and strengthened it. Within encircling walls the fort rose to a height of sixty feet, and was flanked by four towers, of which three had a height of seventy, the fourth (S.E.), which jutted into the Temple area, of 105 feet, so as to command the sacred enclosure. A subterranean passage led into the Temple itself which was also connected with it by colonnades and stairs. Herod had adorned as well as strengthened and enlarged, this fort (now Antonia), and made it a palace, an armed camp, and almost a city.

Hitherto we have only spoken of the first or old wall, which was fortified by sixty towers. The second wall, which had only fourteen towers, began at some point in the northern wall at the Gate Gennath, whence it ran north, and then east, so as to enclose Acra and the Suburb. It terminated at Fort Antonia. Beyond, and all around this second wall stretched, as, already noticed, the new, as yet unenclosed suburb Bezetha, rising towards the northeast. But these changes were as nothing compared with those within the city itself. First and foremost was the great transformation in the Temple itself, which, from a small building, little larger than an ordinary church, in the time of Solomon, had become that great and glorious House which excited the admiration of the foreigner, and kindled the enthusiasm of every son of Israel. At the time of Christ it had been already forty-six years in building, and workmen were still, and for a long time, engaged on it. But what a heterogeneous crowd thronged its porches and courts! Hellenists; scattered wanderers from the most distant parts of the earth - east, west, north, and south; Galileans, quick of temper and uncouth of Jewish speech; Judaeans and Jerusalemites; white-robed Priests and Levites; Temple officials; broad-phylacteried, wide-fringed Pharisees, and courtly, ironical Sadducees; and, in the outer court, curious Gentiles! Some had come to worship; others to pay vows, or bring offerings, or to seek purification; some to meet friends, and discourse on religious subjects in those colonnaded porches, which ran round the Sanctuary; or else to have their questions answered, or their causes heard and decided, by the smaller Sanhedrin of twenty-three, that sat in the entering of the gate or by the Great Sanhedrin. The latter no longer occupied the Hall of Hewn Stones, Gazith, but met in some chamber attached to those ‘shops,’ or booths, on the Temple Mount, which belonged to the High-Priestly family of Ananias, and where such profitable trade was driven by those who, in their cupidity and covetousness, were worthy successors of the sons of Eli. In the Court of the Gentiles (or in its porches) sat the official money-changers, who for a fixed discount changed all foreign coins into those of the Sanctuary. Here also was that great mart for sacrificial animals, and all that was requisite for offerings. How the simple, earnest country people, who came to pay vows, or bring offerings for purifying, must have wondered, and felt oppressed in that atmosphere of strangely blended religious rigorism and utter worldliness; and how they must have been taxed, imposed upon, and treated with utmost curtness, nay, rudeness, by those who laughed at their boorishness, and despised them as cursed, ignorant country people, little better than heathens, or, for that matter, than brute beasts. Here also there lay about a crowd of noisy beggars, unsightly from disease, and clamorous for help. And close by passed the luxurious scion of the High-Priestly families; the proud, intensely self-conscious Teacher of the Law, respectfully followed by his disciples; and the quick-witted, subtle Scribe. These were men who, on Sabbaths and feast-days, would come out on the Temple-terrace to teach the people, or condescend to answer their questions; who in the Synagogues would hold their puzzled hearers spell-bound by their traditional lore and subtle argumentation, or tickle the fancy of the entranced multitude, that thronged every available space, by their ingenious frivolities, their marvellous legends, or their clever sayings; but who would, if occasion required, quell an opponent by well-poised questions, or crush him beneath the sheer weight of authority. Yet others were there who, despite the utterly lowering influence which the frivolities of the prevalent religion, and the elaborate trifling of its endless observances, must have exercised on the moral and religious feelings of all - perhaps, because of them - turned aside, and looked back with loving gaze to the spiritual promises of the past, and forward with longing expectancy to the near ‘consolation of Israel,’ waiting for it in prayerful fellowship, and with bright, heaven-granted gleams of its dawning light amidst the encircling gloom.

Descending from the Temple into the city, there was more than enlargement, due to the increased population. Altogether, Jerusalem covered, at its greatest, about 300 acres. As of old there were still the same narrow streets in the business quarters; but in close contiguity to bazaars and shops rose stately mansions of wealthy merchants, and palaces of princes. And what a change in the aspect of these streets, in the character of those shops, and, above all, in the appearance of the restless Eastern crowd that surged to and fro! Outside their shops in the streets, or at least in sight of the passers, and within reach of their talk, was the shoemaker hammering his sandals, the tailor plying his needle, the carpenter, or the worker in iron and brass. Those who were less busy, or more enterprising, passed along, wearing some emblem of their trade: the dyer, variously coloured threads; the carpenter, a rule: the writer, a reed behind his ear; the tailor, with a needle prominently stuck in his dress. In the side streets the less attractive occupations of the butcher, the wool-comber, or the flax-spinner were carried on. In these large, shady halls, artistic trades were pursued: the elegant workmanship of the goldsmith and jeweller; the various articles de luxe, that adorned the houses of the rich; the work of the designer, the moulder, or the artificer in iron or brass. In these streets and lanes everything might be purchased: the production of Palestine, or imported from foreign lands - nay, the rarest articles from the remotest parts. Exquisitely shaped, curiously designed and jewelled cups, rings and other workmanship of precious metals; glass, silks, fine linen, woollen stuffs, purple, and costly hangings; essences, ointments, and perfumes, as precious as gold; articles of food and drink from foreign lands - in short, what India, Persia, Arabia, Media, Egypt, Italy, Greece, and even the far-off lands of the Gentiles yielded, might be had in these bazaars.

Ancient Jewish writings enable us to identify no fewer than 118 different articles of import from foreign lands, covering more than even modern luxury has devised. Articles of luxury, especially from abroad, fetched indeed enormous prices; and a lady might spend 36l. on a cloak; silk would be paid by its weight in gold; purple wool at 3l. 5s. the pound, or, if double-dyed, at almost ten times that amount; while the price of the best balsam and nard was most exorbitant. On the other hand, the cost of common living was very low. In the bazaars you might get a complete suit for your slave for eighteen or nineteen shillings, and a tolerable outfit for yourself from 3l. to 6l. For the same sum you might purchase an ass, an ox, or a cow, and, for little more a horse. A calf might be had for less than fifteen shillings, a goat for five or six. Sheep were dearer, and fetched from four to fifteen or sixteen shillings, while a lamb might sometimes be had as low as two pence. No wonder living and labour were so cheap. Corn of all kinds, fruit, wine, and oil, cost very little. Meat was about a penny a pound; a man might get himself a small, of course unfurnished, lodging for about sixpence a week. A day labourer was paid about 7˝d. a day, though skilled labour would fetch a good deal more. Indeed, the great Hillel was popularly supposed to have supported his family on less than twopence a day, while property to the amount of about 6l., or trade with 2l. or 3l. of goods, was supposed to exclude a person from charity, or a claim on what was left in the corners of fields and to the gleaners.

To these many like details might be added. Sufficient has been said to show the two ends of society: the exceeding dearness of luxuries, and the corresponding cheapness of necessaries. Such extremes would meet especially at Jerusalem. Its population, computed at from 200,000 to 250,000, was enormously swelled by travellers, and by pilgrims during the great festivals. The great Palace was the residence of King and Court, with all their following and luxury; in Antonia lay afterwards the Roman garrison. The Temple called thousands of priests, many of them with their families, to Jerusalem; while the learned Academies were filled with hundreds, though it may have been mostly poor, scholars and students. In Jerusalem must have been many of the large warehouses for the near commercial harbour of Joppa; and thence, as from the industrial centres of busy Galilee, would the pedlar go forth to carry his wares over the land. More especially would the markets of Jerusalem, held, however, in bazaars and streets rather than in squares, be thronged with noisy sellers and bargaining buyers. Thither would Galilee send not only its manufactures, but its provisions: fish (fresh or salted), fruit known for its lusciousness, oil, grape-syrup, and wine. There were special inspectors for these markets - the Agardemis or Agronimos - who tested weights and measures, and officially stamped them, tried the soundness of food or drink, and occasionally fixed or lowered the market-prices, enforcing their decision, if need were, even with the stick. Not only was there an upper and a lower market in Jerusalem, but we read of at least seven special markets: those for cattle, wool, iron-ware, clothes, wood, bread, and fruit and vegetables. The original market-days were Monday and Tuesday, afterwards Friday. The large fairs (yeridin) were naturally confined to the centres of import and export - the borders of Egypt (Gaza), the ancient Phoenician maritime towns (Tyre and Acco), and the Emporium across the Jordan (Botnah). Besides, every caravansary, or khan (qatlis atlis, κατάλυσις), was a sort of mart, where goods were unloaded, and especially cattle set out for sale, and purchases made. But in Jerusalem one may suppose the sellers to have been every day in the market; and the magazines, in which greengrocery and all kinds of meat were sold (the beṯ hashevaqim), must have been always open. Besides, there were the many shops (ḥanuyoṯ) either fronting the streets, or in courtyards, or else movable wooden booths in the streets. Strangely enough, occasionally Jewish women were employed in selling. Business was also done in the restaurants and wineshops, of which there were many; where you might be served with some dish: fresh or salted fish, fried locusts, a mess of vegetables, a dish of soup, pastry, sweetmeats, or a piece of a fruit-cake, to be washed down with Judaean or Galilean wine, Idumaean vinegar, or foreign beer.

If from these busy scenes we turn to the more aristocratic quarters of the Upper City, we still see the same narrow streets, but tenanted by another class. First, we pass the High-Priest’s palace on the slope of the hill, with a lower story under the principal apartments, and a porch in front. Here, on the night of the Betrayal, Peter was ‘beneath in the Palace.’ Next, we come to Xystos, and then pause for a moment at the Palace of the Maccabees. It lies higher up the hill, and westward from the Xystos. From its halls you can look into the city, and even into the Temple. We know not which of the Maccabees had built this palace. But it was occupied, not by the actually reigning prince, who always resided in the fortress (Baris, afterwards Antonia), but by some other member of the family. From them it passed into the possession of Herod. There Herod Antipas was when, on that terrible Passover, Pilate sent Jesus from the old palace of Herod to be examined by the Ruler of Galilee. If these buildings pointed to the difference between the past and present, two structures of Herod’s were, perhaps, more eloquent than any words in their accusations of the Idumaean. One of these, at least, would come in sight in passing along the slopes of the Upper City. The Maccabean rule had been preceded by that of corrupt High-Priests, who had prostituted their office to the vilest purposes. One of them, who had changed his Jewish name of Joshua into Jason, had gone so far, in his attempts to Grecianise the people, as to build a Hippodrome and Gymnasium for heathen games. We infer, it stood where the Western hill sloped into the Tyropoeon, to the south-west of the Temple. It was probably this which Herod afterwards enlarged and beautified, and turned into a theatre. No expense was spared on the great games held there. The theatre itself was magnificently adorned with gold, silver, precious stones, and trophies of arms and records of the victories of Augustus. But to the Jews this essentially heathen place, over against their Temple, was cause of deep indignation and plots. Besides this theatre, Herod also built an immense amphitheatre, which we must locate somewhere in the north-west, and outside the second city wall.

All this was Jerusalem above ground. But there was an under-ground Jerusalem also, which burrowed everywhere under the city - under the Upper City, under the Temple, beyond the city walls. Its extent may be gathered from the circumstance that, after the capture of the city, besides the living who had sought shelter there, no fewer than 2,000 dead bodies were found in those subterranean streets.

Close by the tracks of heathenism in Jerusalem, and in sharp contrast, was what gave to Jerusalem its intensely Jewish character. It was not only the Temple, nor the festive pilgrims to its feasts and services. But there were hundreds of Synagogues, some for different nationalities - such as the Alexandrians, or the Cyrenians; some for, or perhaps founded by, certain trade-guilds. If possible, the Jewish schools were even more numerous than the Synagogues. Then there were the many Rabbinic Academies; and, besides, you might also see in Jerusalem that mysterious sect, the Essenes, of which the members were easily recognized by their white dress. Essenes, Pharisees, stranger Jews of all hues, and of many dresses and languages! One could have imagined himself almost in another world, a sort of enchanted land, in this Jewish metropolis, and metropolis of Judaism. When the silver trumpets of the Priests woke the city to prayer, or the strain of Levite music swept over it, or the smoke of the sacrifices hung like another shekhinah over the Temple, against the green background of Olivet; or when in every street, court, and housetop rose the booths at the Feast of Tabernacles, and at night the sheen of the Temple illumination threw long fantastic shadows over the city; or when, at the Passover, tens of thousands crowded up the Mount with their Paschal lambs, and hundreds of thousands sat down to the Paschal supper - it would be almost difficult to believe, that heathenism was so near, that the Roman was virtually, and would soon be really, master of the land, or that a Herod occupied the Jewish throne.

Yet there he was; in the pride of his power, and the reckless cruelty of his ever-watchful tyranny. Everywhere was his mark. Temples to the gods and to Caesar, magnificent, and magnificently adorned, outside Palestine and in its non-Jewish cities; towns rebuilt or built: Sebaste for the ancient Samaria, the splendid city and harbour of Caesarea in the west, Antipatris (after his father) in the north, Kypros and Phasaelis (after his mother and brother), and Agrippeion; unconquerable fortresses, such as Essebonitis and Machaerus in Peraea, Alexandreion, Herodeion, Hyrcania, and Masada in Judaea - proclaimed his name and sway. But in Jerusalem it seemed as if he had gathered up all his strength. The theatre and amphitheatre spoke of his Grecianism; Antonia was the representative fortress; for his religion he had built that glorious Temple, and for his residence the noblest of palaces, at the north-western angle of the Upper City, close by where Milo had been in the days of David. It seems almost incredible, that a Herod should have reared the Temple, and yet we can understand his motives. Jewish tradition had it, that a Rabbi (Baba ben Buta) had advised him in this manner to conciliate the people, or else thereby to expiate the slaughter of so many Rabbis. Probably a desire to gain popularity, and superstition, may alike have contributed, as also the wish to gratify his love for splendour and building. At the same time, he may have wished to show himself a better Jew than that rabble of Pharisees and Rabbis, who perpetually would cast it in his teeth, that he was an Idumaean. Whatever his origin, he was a true king of the Jews - as great, nay greater, than Solomon himself. Certainly, neither labour nor money had been spared on the Temple. A thousand vehicles carried up the stone; 10,000 workmen, under the guidance of 1,000 priests, wrought all the costly material gathered into that house, of which Jewish tradition could say, ‘He that has not seen the Temple of Herod, has never known what beauty is.’ And yet Israel despised and abhorred the builder! Nor could his apparent work for the God of Israel have deceived the most credulous. In youth he had browbeaten the venerable Sanhedrin, and threatened the city with slaughter and destruction; again and again had he murdered her venerable sages; he had shed like water the blood of her Asmonean princes, and of every one who dared to be free; had stifled every national aspiration in the groans of the torture, and quenched it in the gore of his victims. Not once, nor twice, but six times did he change the High-Priesthood, to bestow it at last on one who bears no good name in Jewish theology, a foreigner in Judaea, an Alexandrian. And yet the power of that Idumaean was but of yesterday, and of mushroom growth!

Queen Helena of Adiabene tomb, "Tomb of the Kings",  April 2005

This tomb was constructed about 50 A.D. by a Queen who converted to Judaism and then moved to Jerusalem.  It is located near the American Colony Hotel, in Jerusalem, near the city center.  It cost 3 shekels (about 75 cents) to enter.


Herod Family Tomb, Jerusalem, April 2005
This tomb has been identified as the Herod family tomb.  Herod died about 4 B.C. and probably was not buried in his family's tomb.  The tomb is located outside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City in a park between the windmill and the King David Hotel.


The Personal History of Herod - The Two Worlds in Jerusalem.

It is an intensely painful history, in the course of which Herod made his way to the throne. We look back nearly two and a half centuries to where, with the empire of Alexander, Palestine fell to his successors. For nearly a century and a half it continued the battle-field of the Egyptian and Syrian kings (the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae). At last it was a corrupt High-Priesthood - with which virtually the government of the land had all along lain - that betrayed Israel’s precious trust. The great-grandson of so noble a figure in Jewish history as Simon the Just (compare Ecclus. 1.) bought from the Syrians the High-Priestly office of his brother, adopted the heathen name Jason, and sought to Grecianise the people. The sacred office fell, if possible, even lower when, through bribery, it was transferred to his brother Menelaus. Then followed the brief period of the terrible persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes, when Judaism was all but exterminated in Palestine. The glorious uprising of the Maccabees called forth all the national elements left in Israel, and kindled afresh the smouldering religious feeling. It seemed like a revival of Old Testament times. And when Judas the Maccabee, with a band so inferior in numbers and discipline, defeated the best of the Syrian soldiery, led by its ablest generals, and, on the anniversary of its desecration by heathen rites, set up again the great altar of burnt-offering, it appeared as if a new Theocracy were to be inaugurated. The ceremonial of that feast of the new ‘dedication of the Temple,’ when each night the number of lights grew larger in the winter’s darkness, seemed symbolic of what was before Israel. But the Maccabees were not the Messiah; nor yet the Kingdom, which their sword would have restored - that of Heaven, with its blessings and peace. If ever, Israel might then have learned what Saviour to look for.

The period even of promise was more brief than might have been expected. The fervour and purity of the movement ceased almost with its success. It was certainly never the golden age of Israel - not even among those who remained faithful to its God - which those seem to imagine who, forgetful of its history and contests, would trace to it so much that is most precious and spiritual in the Old Testament. It may have been the pressure of circumstances, but it was anything but a pious, or even a ‘happy’ thought of Judas the Maccabee, to seek the alliance of the Romans. From their entrance on the scene dates the decline of Israel’s national cause. For a time, indeed - though after varying fortunes of war - all seemed prosperous. The Maccabees became both High-Priests and Kings. But party-strife and worldliness, ambition and corruption, and Grecianism on the throne, soon brought their sequel in the decline of morale and vigour, and led to the decay and decadence of the Maccabean house. It is a story as old as the Old Testament, and as wide as the history of the world. Contention for the throne among the Maccabees led to the interference of the foreigner. When, after capturing Jerusalem, and violating the sanctity of the Temple, although not plundering its treasures, Pompey placed Hyrcanus II. in possession of the High-Priesthood, the last of the Maccabean rulers was virtually shorn of power. The country was now tributary to Rome, and subject to the Governor of Syria. Even the shadow of political power passed from the feeble hands of Hyrcanus when, shortly afterwards, Gabinius (one of the Roman governors) divided the land into five districts, independent of each other.

But already a person had appeared on the stage of Jewish affairs, who was to give them their last decisive turn. About fifty years before this, the district of Idumaea had been conquered by the Maccabean King Hyrcanus I., and its inhabitants forced to adopt Judaism. By this Idumaea we are not, however, to understand the ancient or Eastern Edom, which was now in the hands of the Nabataeans, but parts of Southern Palestine which the Edomites had occupied since the Babylonian Exile, and especially a small district on the northern and eastern boundary of Judaea, and below Samaria. After it became Judaean, its administration was entrusted to a governor. In the reign of the last of the Maccabees this office devolved on one Antipater, a man of equal cunning and determination. He successfully interfered in the unhappy dispute for the crown, which was at last decided by the sword of Pompey. Antipater took the part of the utterly weak Hyrcanus in that contest with his energetic brother Aristobulus. He soon became the virtual ruler, and Hyrcanus II. only a puppet in his hands. From the accession of Judas Maccabaeus, in 166 b.c., to the year 63 b.c., when Jerusalem was taken by Pompey, only about a century had elapsed. Another twenty-four years, and the last of the Maccabees had given place to the son of Antipater: Herod, surnamed the Great.

The settlement of Pompey did not prove lasting. Aristobulus, the brother and defeated rival of Hyrcanus, was still alive, and his sons were even more energetic than he. The risings attempted by them, the interference of the Parthians on behalf of those who were hostile to Rome, and, lastly, the contentions for supremacy in Rome itself, made this period one of confusion, turmoil, and constant warfare in Palestine. When Pompey was finally defeated by Caesar, the prospects of Antipater and Hyrcanus seemed dark. But they quickly changed sides; and timely help given to Caesar in Egypt brought to Antipater the title of Procurator of Judaea, while Hyrcanus was left in the High-Priesthood, and, at least, nominal head of the people. The two sons of Antipater were now made governors: the elder, Phasaelus, of Jerusalem; the younger, Herod, only twenty-five years old, of Galilee. Here he displayed the energy and determination which were his characteristics, in crushing a guerilla warfare, of which the deeper springs were probably nationalist. The execution of its leader brought Herod a summons to appear before the Great Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, for having arrogated to himself the power of life and death. He came, but arrayed in purple, surrounded by a body-guard, and supported by the express direction of the Roman Governor to Hyrcanus, that he was to be acquitted. Even so he would have fallen a victim to the apprehensions of the Sanhedrin - only too well grounded - had he not been persuaded to withdraw from the city. He returned at the head of an army, and was with difficulty persuaded by his father to spare Jerusalem. Meantime Caesar had named him Governor of Coelesyria.

On the murder of Caesar, and the possession of Syria by Cassius, Antipater and Herod again changed sides. But they rendered such substantial service as to secure favour, and Herod was continued in the position conferred on him by Caesar. Antipater was, indeed, poisoned by a rival, but his sons Herod and Phasaelus repressed and extinguished all opposition. When the battle of Philippi placed the Roman world in the hands of Antony and Octavius, the former obtained Asia. Once more the Idumaeans knew how to gain the new ruler, and Phasaelus and Herod were named Tetrarchs of Judaea. Afterwards, when Antony was held in the toils of Cleopatra, matters seemed, indeed, to assume a different aspect. The Parthians entered the land, in support of the rival Maccabean prince Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus. By treachery, Phasaelus and Hyrcanus were induced to go to the Parthian camp, and made captives. Phasaelus shortly afterwards destroyed himself in his prison, while Hyrcanus was deprived of his ears, to unfit him for the High-Priestly office. And so Antigonus for a short time succeeded both to the High-Priesthood and royalty in Jerusalem. Meantime Herod, who had in vain warned his brother and Hyrcanus against the Parthian, had been able to make his escape from Jerusalem. His family he left to the defence of his brother Joseph, in the inaccessible fortress of Masada; himself fled into Arabia, and finally made his way to Rome. There he succeeded, not only with Antony, but obtained the consent of Octavius, and was proclaimed by the Senate King of Judaea. A sacrifice on the Capitol, and a banquet by Antony, celebrated the accession of the new successor of David.

But he had yet to conquer his kingdom. At first he made way by the help of the Romans. Such success, however, as he had gained, was more than lost during his brief absence on a visit to Antony. Joseph, the brother of Herod, was defeated and slain, and Galilee, which had been subdued,. revolted again. But the aid which the Romans rendered, after Herod’s return from Antony, was much more hearty, and his losses were more than retrieved. Soon all Palestine, with the exception of Jerusalem, was in his hands. While laying siege to it, he went to Samaria, there to wed the beautiful Maccabean princess Mariamne, who had been betrothed to him five years before. That ill-fated Queen, and her elder brother Aristobulus, united in themselves the two rival branches of the Maccabean family. Their father was Alexander, the eldest son of Aristobulus, and brother of that Antigonus whom Herod now besieged in Jerusalem; and their mother, Alexandra, the daughter of Hyrcanus II. The uncle of Mariamne was not long able to hold out against the combined forces of Rome and Herod. The carnage was terrible. When Herod, by rich presents, at length induced the Romans to leave Jerusalem, they took Antigonus with them. By desire of Herod he was executed.

This was the first of the Maccabees who fell victim to his jealousy and cruelty. The history which now follows is one of sickening carnage. The next to experience his vengeance were the principal adherents in Jerusalem of his rival Antigonus. Forty-five of the noblest and richest were executed. His next step was to appoint an obscure Babylonian to the High-Priesthood. This awakened the active hostility of Alexandra, the mother of Mariamne, Herod’s wife. The Maccabean princess claimed the High-Priesthood for her son Aristobulus. Her intrigues with Cleopatra - and through her with Antony - and the entreaties of Mariamne, the only being whom Herod loved, though in his own mad way, prevailed. At the age of seventeen Aristobulus was made High-Priest. But Herod, who well knew the hatred and contempt of the Maccabean members of his family, had his mother-in-law watched, a precaution increased after the vain attempt of Alexandra to have herself and her son removed in coffins from Jerusalem, to flee to Cleopatra. Soon the jealousy and suspicions of Herod were raised to murderous madness, by the acclamations which greeted the young Aristobulus at the Feast of Tabernacles. So dangerous a Maccabean rival must be got rid of; and, by secret order of Herod, Aristobulus was drowned while bathing. His mother denounced the murderer, and her influence with Cleopatra, who also hated Herod, led to his being summoned before Antony. Once more bribery, indeed, prevailed; but other troubles awaited Herod.

When obeying the summons of Antony, Herod had committed the government to his uncle Joseph, who was also his brother-in-law, having wedded Salome, the sister of Herod. His mad jealousy had prompted him to direct that, in case of his condemnation, Mariamne was to be killed, that she might not become the wife of another. Unfortunately, Joseph told this to Mariamne, to show how much she was loved. But on the return of Herod, the infamous Salome accused her old husband of impropriety with Mariamne. When it appeared that Joseph had told the Queen of his commission, Herod, regarding it as confirming his sister’s charge, ordered him to be executed, without even a hearing. External complications of the gravest kind now supervened. Herod had to cede to Cleopatra the districts of Phoenice and Philistia, and that of Jericho with its rich balsam plantations. Then the dissensions between Antony and Octavius involved him, in the cause of the former, in a war with Arabia, whose king had failed to pay tribute to Cleopatra. Herod was victorious; but he had now to reckon with another master. The battle of Actium decided the fate of Antony, and Herod had to make his peace with Octavius. Happily, he was able to do good service to the new cause, ere presenting himself before Augustus. But, in order to be secure from all possible rivals, he had the aged Hyrcanus II. executed, on pretence of intrigues with the Arabs. Herod was successful with Augustus; and when, in the following summer he furnished him supplies on his march to Egypt, he was rewarded by a substantial addition of territory.

When about to appear before Augustus, Herod had entrusted to one Soëmus the charge of Mariamne, with the same fatal directions as formerly to Joseph. Again Mariamne learnt the secret; again the old calumnies were raised - this time not only by Salome, but also by Kypros, Herod’s mother; and again Herod imagined he had found corroborative evidence. Soëmus was slain without a hearing, and the beautiful Mariamne executed after a mock trial. The most fearful paroxysm of remorse, passion, and longing for his murdered wife now seized the tyrant, and brought him to the brink of the grave. Alexandra, the mother of Mariamne, deemed the moment favorable for her plots - but she was discovered, and executed. Of the Maccabean race there now remained only distant members, the sons of Babas, who had found an asylum with Costobarus, the Governor of Idumaea, who had wedded Salome after the death of her first husband. Tired of him, as she had been of Joseph, Salome denounced her second husband; and Costobarus, as well as the sons of Babas, fell victims to Herod. Thus perished the family of the Maccabees.

The hand of the maddened tyrant was next turned against his own family. Of his ten wives, we mention only those whose children occupy a place in this history. The son of Doris was Antipater; those of the Maccabean Mariamne, Alexander and Aristobulus; another Mariamne, whose father Herod had made High-Priest, bore him a son named Herod (a name which other of the sons shared); Malthake, a Samaritan, was the mother of Archelaus and Herod Antipas; and, lastly, Cleopatra of Jerusalem bore Philip. The sons of the Maccabean princess, as heirs presumptive, were sent to Rome for their education. On this occasion Herod received, as reward for many services, the country east of the Jordan, and was allowed to appoint his still remaining brother, Pheroras, Tetrarch of Peraea. On their return from Rome the young princes were married: Alexander to a daughter of the King of Cappadocia, and Aristobulus to his cousin Berenice, the daughter of Salome. But neither kinship, nor the yet nearer relation in which Aristobulus now stood to her, could extinguish the hatred of Salome towards the dead Maccabean princess or her children. Nor did the young princes, in their pride of descent, disguise their feelings towards the house of their father. At first, Herod gave no heed to the denunciations of his sister. Presently he yielded to vague apprehensions. As a first step, Antipater, the son of Doris, was recalled from exile, and sent to Rome for education. So the breach became open; and Herod took his sons to Italy, to lay formal accusation against them before Augustus. The wise counsels of the Emperor restored peace for a time. But Antipater now returned to Palestine, and joined his calumnies to those of Salome. Once more the King of Cappadocia succeeded in reconciling Herod and his sons. But in the end the intrigues of Salome, Antipater, and of an infamous foreigner who had made his way at Court, prevailed. Alexander and Aristobulus were imprisoned, and an accusation of high treason laid against them before the Emperor. Augustus gave Herod full powers, but advised the convocation of a mixed tribunal of Jews and Romans to try the case. As might have been expected, the two princes were condemned to death, and when some old soldiers ventured to intercede for them, 300 of the supposed adherents of the cause were cut down, and the two princes strangled in prison. This happened in Samaria, where, thirty years before, Herod had wedded their ill-fated mother.

Antipater was now the heir presumptive. But, impatient of the throne, he plotted with Herod’s brother, Pheroras, against his father. Again Salome denounced her nephew and her brother. Antipater withdrew to Rome; but when, after the death of Pheroras, Herod obtained indubitable evidence that his son had plotted against his life, he lured Antipater to Palestine, where on his arrival he was cast into prison. All that was needed was the permission of Augustus for his execution. It arrived, and was carried out only five days before the death of Herod himself. So ended a reign almost unparalleled for reckless cruelty and bloodshed, in which the murder of the Innocents in Bethlehem formed but so trifling an episode among the many deeds of blood, as to have seemed not deserving of record on the page of the Jewish historian.

But we can understand the feelings of the people towards such a King. They hated the Idumaean; they detested his semi-heathen reign; they abhorred his deeds of cruelty. The King had surrounded himself with foreign councillors, and was protected by foreign mercenaries from Thracia, Germany, and Gaul. So long as he lived, no woman’s honour was safe, no man’s life secure. An army of all-powerful spies pervaded Jerusalem - nay, the King himself was said to stoop to that office. If pique or private enmity led to denunciation, the torture would extract any confession from the most innocent. What his relation to Judaism had been, may easily be inferred. He would be a Jew - even build the Temple, advocate the cause of the Jews in other lands, and, in a certain sense, conform to the Law of Judaism. In building the Temple, he was so anxious to conciliate national prejudice, that the Sanctuary itself was entrusted to the workmanship of priests only. Nor did he ever intrude into the Holy Place, nor interfere with any functions of the priesthood. None of his coins bear devices which could have shocked popular feeling, nor did any of the buildings he erected in Jerusalem exhibit any forbidden emblems. The Sanhedrin did exist during his reign, though it must have been shorn of all real power, and its activity confined to ecclesiastical, or semi-ecclesiastical, causes. Strangest of all, he seems to have had at least the passive support of two of the greatest Rabbis - the Pollio and Sameas of Josephus - supposed to represent those great figures in Jewish tradition, Abtalion and Shemajah. We can but conjecture, that they preferred even his rule to what had preceded; and hoped it might lead to a Roman Protectorate, which would leave Judaea practically independent, or rather under Rabbinic rule.

It was also under the government of Herod, that Hillel and Shammai lived and taught in Jerusalem: the two, whom tradition designates as ‘the fathers of old.’ Both gave their names to schools,’ whose direction was generally different - not unfrequently, it seems, chiefly for the sake of opposition. But it is not correct to describe the former as consistently the more liberal and mild. The teaching of both was supposed to have been declared by the ‘Voice from Heaven’ (the baṯqol) as ‘the words of the living God;’ yet the Law was to be henceforth according to the teaching of Hillel. But to us Hillel is so intensely interesting, not merely as the mild and gentle, nor only as the earnest student who came from Babylon to learn in the Academics of Jerusalem; who would support his family on a third of his scanty wages as a day labourer, that he might pay for entrance into the schools: and whose zeal and merits were only discovered when, after a severe night, in which, from poverty, he had been unable to gain admittance into the Academy, his benumbed form was taken down from the window-sill, to which he had crept up not to lose aught of the precious instruction. And for his sake did they gladly break on that Sabbath the sacred rest. Nor do we think of him, as tradition fables him - the descendant of David, possessed of every great quality of body, mind, and heart; nor yet as the second Ezra, whose learning placed him at the head of the Sanhedrin, who laid down the principles afterwards applied and developed by Rabbinism, and who was the real founder of traditionalism. Still less do we think of him, as he is falsely represented by some: as he whose principles closely resemble the teaching of Jesus, or, according to certain writers, were its source. By the side of Jesus we think of him otherwise than this. We remember that, in his extreme old age and near his end, he may have presided over that meeting of Sanhedrin which, in answer to Herod’s inquiry, pointed to Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah. We think of him also as the grandfather of that Gamaliel, at whose feet Saul of Tarsus sat. And to us he is the representative Jewish reformer, in the spirit of those times, and in the sense of restoring rather than removing; while we think of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, in the sense of bringing the Kingdom of God to all men, and opening it to all believers.

And so there were two worlds in Jerusalem, side by side. On the one hand, was Grecianism with its theatre and amphitheatre; foreigners filling the Court, and crowding the city; foreign tendencies and ways, from the foreign King downwards. On the other hand, was the old Jewish world, becoming now set and ossified in the Schools of Hillel and Shammai, and overshadowed by Temple and Synagogue. And each was pursuing its course, by the side of the other. If Herod had everywhere his spies, the Jewish law provided its two police magistrates in Jerusalem, the only judges who received remuneration. If Herod judged cruelly and despotically, the Sanhedrin weighed most deliberately, the balance always inclining to mercy. If Greek was the language of the court and camp, and indeed must have been understood and spoken by most in the land, the language of the people, spoken also by Christ and His Apostles, was a dialect of the ancient Hebrew, the Western or Palestinian Aramaic. It seems strange, that this could ever have been doubted. A Jewish Messiah Who would urge His claim upon Israel in Greek, seems almost a contradiction in terms. We know, that the language of the Temple and the Synagogue was Hebrew, and that the addresses of the Rabbis had to be ‘targumed’ into the vernacular Aramaean - and can we believe that, in a Hebrew service, the Messiah could have risen to address the people in Greek, or that He would have argued with the Pharisees and Scribes in that tongue, especially remembering that its study was actually forbidden by the Rabbis?

Indeed, it was a peculiar mixture of two worlds in Jerusalem: not only of the Grecian and the Jewish, but of piety and frivolity also. The devotion of the people and the liberality of the rich were unbounded. Fortunes were lavished on the support of Jewish learning, the promotion of piety, or the advance of the national cause. Thousands of votive offerings, and the costly gifts in the Temple, bore evidence of this. If priestly avarice had artificially raised the price of sacrificial animals, a rich man would bring into the Temple at his own cost the number requisite for the poor. Charity was not only open-handed, but most delicate, and one who had been in good circumstances would actually be enabled to live according to his former station. Then these Jerusalemites - townspeople, as they called themselves - were so polished, so witty, so pleasant. There was a tact in their social intercourse, and a considerateness and delicacy in their public arrangements and provisions, nowhere else to be found. Their very language was different. There was a Jerusalem dialect, quicker, shorter, ‘lighter’ (lishna qalila). And their hospitality, especially at festive seasons, was unlimited. No one considered his house his own, and no stranger or pilgrim but found reception. And how much there was to be seen and heard in those luxuriously furnished houses, and at those sumptuous entertainments! In the women’s apartments, friends from the country would see every novelty in dress, adornment, and jewellery, and have the benefit of examining themselves in looking-glasses. To be sure, as being womanish vanity, their use was interdicted to men, except it were to the members of the family of the President of the Sanhedrin, on account of their intercourse with those in authority, just as for the same reason they were allowed to learn Greek. Nor might even women look in the glass on the Sabbath. But that could only apply to those carried in the hand, since one might be tempted, on the holy day, to do such servile work as to pull out a grey hair with the pincers attached to the end of the glass; but not to a glass fixed in the lid of a basket; nor to such as hung on the wall. And then the lady-visitor might get anything in Jerusalem; from a false tooth to an Arabian veil a Persian shawl, or an Indian dress!

While the women so learned Jerusalem manners in the inner apartments, the men would converse on the news of the day, or on politics. For the Jerusalemites had friends and correspondents in the most distant parts of the world, and letters were carried by special messengers, in a kind of post-bag. Nay, there seem to have been some sort of receiving-offices in towns, and even something resembling our parcel-post. And, strange as it may sound, even a species of newspapers, or broadsheets, appears to have been circulating (mikhtaḇin), not allowed, however, on the Sabbath, unless they treated of public affairs.

Of course, it is difficult accurately to determine which of these things were in use in the earliest times, or else introduced at a later period. Perhaps, however, it was safer to bring them into a picture of Jewish society. Undoubted, and, alas, too painful evidence comes to us of the luxuriousness of Jerusalem at that time, and of the moral corruption to which it led. It seems only too clear, that such commentations as the Talmud gives of Isa_3:16-24, in regard to the manners and modes of attraction practised by a certain class of the female population in Jerusalem, applied to a far later period than that of the prophet. With this agrees only too well the recorded covert lascivious expressions used by the men, which gives a lamentable picture of the state of morals of many in the city, and the notices of the indecent dress worn not only by women, but even by corrupt High-Priestly youths. Nor do the exaggerated descriptions of what the Midrash on Lamentations describes as the dignity of the Jerusalemites; of the wealth which they lavished on their marriages; of the ceremony which insisted on repeated invitations to the guests to a banquet, and that men inferior in rank should not be bidden to it; of the dress in which they appeared; the manner in which the dishes were served, the wine in white crystal vases; and the punishment of the cook who had failed in his duty, and which was to be commensurate to the dignity of the party - give a better impression of the great world in Jerusalem.

And yet it was the City of God, over whose destruction not only the Patriarch and Moses, but the Angelic hosts - nay, the Almighty Himself and His shekhinah - had made bitterest lamentation. The City of the Prophets, also - since each of them whose birthplace had not been mentioned, must be regarded as having sprung from it. Equally, even more, marked, but now for joy and triumph, would be the hour of Jerusalem’s uprising, when it would welcome its Messiah. Oh, when would He come? In the feverish excitement of expectancy they were only too ready to listen to the voice of any pretender, however coarse and clumsy the imposture. Yet He was at hand - even now coming: only quite other than the Messiah of their dreams. ‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become children of God, even to them that believe on His Name.’      


The Life of Christ is a thorough study of Jesus life and teaching along with studies in the historical first-century setting of Judaism

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