The historical setting (Lk 3:1-3:1)

“In the fifteenth year,

Of the reign

Of Emperor Tiberius,

Pontius Pilate was

Governor of Judea.

Herod was the ruler

Of Galilee.

His brother Philip

Was the ruler

Of the region

Of Ituraea,

And Trachonitis.

Lysanias was the ruler

Of Abilene.”

 

Ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος καὶ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Γαλιλαίας Ἡρῴδου, Φιλίππου δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνίτιδος χώρας, καὶ Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς τετρααρχοῦντος,

 

Luke tried to set the public activities of John and Jesus within a larger historical context.  Thus, here he said that it was the 15th year of the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (Ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος).  Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea (Ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος).  Herod was the tetrarch ruler of Galilee (καὶ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Γαλιλαίας Ἡρῴδου,).  Herod’s brother Philip was the tetrarch ruler of Ituraea and Trachonitis (Φιλίππου δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνίτιδος χώρας), while Lysanias was the tetrarch ruler of Abilene (καὶ Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς τετρααρχοῦντος).  Who and what is this all about?  Tiberius was the Roman Emperor from 14-37 CE.  15 years into his rule would be the year 29 CE.  Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea, but also Samaria to the north, and Idumea to the south, from 26-36 CE, so that this time frame is consistent.  Herod Antipas and Philip were the sons of Herod the Great (37-4 BC).  Herod Antipas ruled as tetrarch of northern Galilee and Perea that was east of the Jordan River from 4 BCE-39 CE.  His brother Philip ruled Ituraea and Trachonitis that were north of Galilee from 4 BCE-34 CE.  Finally, some unknown leader named Lysanias ruled as the tetrarch of Abilene that was north of Damascus, but included Lebanon.  Thus, these were all the rulers of the area where John and Jesus might have traveled within this time frame

Advertisements

Who do people say I am? (Mk 8:27-8:27)

“Jesus went on

With his disciples,

To the villages

Of Caesarea Philippi.

On the way,

Jesus asked

His disciples,

‘Who do people say

That I am?’”

 

Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰς κώμας Καισαρίας τῆς Φιλίππου· καὶ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἐπηρώτα τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ λέγων αὐτοῖς Τίνα με λέγουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἶναι;

 

Now this question about who Jesus is can be found in Matthew, chapter 16:13, and Luke, chapter 9:18, but there are slight differences.  In Luke, he is not in Caesarea Philippi, but in Mark and Matthew, Jesus was approaching this area near the city, but without entering the city itself.  Jesus asked his closest disciples who they thought that he was.  Caesarea Philippi was an ancient gentile Roman city, about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee at the southeastern base of Mount Hermon, where there was a shrine to the Greek god Pan.  This city may have appeared in the Old Testament under the name Baal Gad in the valley of Lebanon.  Today, it is located in the Golan Heights.  Mark said that Jesus with his disciples (Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ) was on his way (καὶ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἐπηρώτα τοὺς μαθητὰς) towards the villages of Caesarea Philippi (εἰς τὰς κώμας Καισαρίας τῆς Φιλίππου).  Then he asked or questioned his disciples (αὐτοῦ λέγων αὐτοῖς) about who did people or men think that he was (Τίνα με λέγουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἶναι).  Jesus wanted to know what his disciples were thinking.  In Matthew, he asked them about the Son of Man, but not here.

The town of Byblos

Byblos was the Greek name for an important ancient Phoenician city sometimes called Gebal.  Today the town of Byblos is 25 miles north of Beirut, Lebanon, in the Mount Lebanon area on the Mediterranean seacoast.  There have been inhabitants in this town continuously for over 5,000 years.  Byblos had a major papyrus trade between Greece and Egypt.  Thus, the Greek name of Byblos came to dominate.  In fact, some Byblos written inscriptions that were discovered in the 20th century, date from around 1,700 to 1,400 BCE.

The ruin of the powerful trees (Zech 11:1-11:3)

“Open your doors!

O Lebanon!

Thus,

The fire may devour

Your cedars!

Wail!

O cypress!

The cedar has fallen.

The glorious trees

Are ruined!

Wail!

Oaks of Bashan!

The thick forest

Has been felled!

Listen!

To the wail of the shepherds!

Their glory is despoiled!

Listen!

To the roar of the lions!

The tickets of the Jordan

Are destroyed!”

This oracle shows various strong trees as symbols of power.  Lebanon with its great cedar trees would be devoured by fire.  The glorious cypress trees would be ruined.  The oak tree forests of Bashan would be cut down.  The glory of the shepherds would be gone.  The roaring lions in the brush tickets of the Jordan River would be destroyed.  The powerful people better look out or they would become like these trees.

The great return (Zech 10:8-10:11)

“I will signal for them.

I will gather them in.

I have redeemed them.

They shall be

As numerous

As they were before.

Though I scattered them

Among the nations,

Yet in far countries

They shall remember me.

They shall rear their children.

They shall return.

I will bring them home

From the land of Egypt.

I will gather them

From Assyria.

I will bring them

To the land of Gilead.

I will bring them

To Lebanon,

Until there is no room for them.

They shall pass through

The sea of distress.

The waves of the sea

Shall be struck down.

The depths of the Nile

Shall dry up.

The pride of Assyria

Shall be laid low.

The scepter of Egypt

Shall depart.”

Yahweh was going to give a signal for the Israelites to gather, since he had redeemed them from their captivity.  They would be as numerous as they were before.  Even though they were scattered among many distant countries, they raised their children there before they returned.  Yahweh was going to bring them home from Egypt and Assyria.  He was going to put them in Gilead, the east side of the Jordan River, or in Lebanon, on the seacoast, until there was no more room for them there.  They would have no problems, since Yahweh was going to lead them through distressed seas, mild waves, and the deep dry Nile River.  The pride of Assyria would be brought down, while the control of the Egyptian rule or scepter would leave.

Against Tyre and Sidon (Zech 9:2-9:4)

“Tyre and Sidon thought

That they are very wise.

Tyre has built itself a rampart.

They piled up silver

Like dust.

They piled up gold

Like the dirt of the streets.

But now,

Yahweh will strip it

Of its possessions.

He will hurl

Her wealth

Into the sea.

Tyre shall be devoured

By fire.”

The 2 coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon, in present day Lebanon, thought that they were wise.  They had built fortresses to protect themselves.  They had so much silver and gold that it was like dust or dirt on the streets.  However, Yahweh was going to strip them of their possessions, by hurling their wealth into the sea.  The city of Tyre would also suffer a devouring fire.

The fourth curse against the Chaldean drunkards (Hab 2:15-2:17)

“Woe to you!

You make your neighbors drink!

You pour out your wrath,

Until they are drunk,

In order to gaze

On their nakedness!

You will be sated

With contempt,

Instead of glory!

Drink!

You yourself!

Stagger!

The cup

In Yahweh’s right hand

Will come around to you.

Shame will come upon

Your glory!

The violence done

To Lebanon

Will overwhelm you.

The destruction

Of the animals

Will terrify you,

Because of human bloodshed

With the violence to the earth,

To the cities,

To all who live in them.”

Habakkuk then cursed the Chaldean drunkards.  They made their neighbors drunk so that they would become naked.  They themselves would drink until they staggered around.  They used alcohol as a weapon and as a form of feasting.  Their glory would turn to shame.  They had been violent to Lebanon.  The destruction of animals would terrify them.  They had committed violence that led to bloodshed in the various cities that they had taken over.