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

They deliver Jesus to Pilate (Mt 27:2-27:2)

“They bound Jesus.

They led him away.

They delivered him

To Pilate,

The governor.”

 

καὶ δήσαντες αὐτὸν ἀπήγαγον καὶ παρέδωκαν Πειλάτῳ τῷ ἡγεμόνι.

 

This is almost word for word in Mark, chapter 15:1, except there was no mention that Pilate was the governor, but just assumes that.  In Luke, chapter 23:1, there is just the simple statement that they brought Jesus to Pilate.  In John, chapter 18:28-32, there was a long discussion of Pilate with the Jewish leaders.  Who is this Pontius Pilate?  He was the rather cruel Roman ruler, prefect, or governor of Judea from 26-36 CE, the exact time frame of Jesus.  These chief priests and elders of the people tied up Jesus (καὶ δήσαντες αὐτὸν).  They led him away and delivered him to Pilate (ἀπήγαγον καὶ παρέδωκαν Πειλάτῳ), the Roman governor (τῷ ἡγεμόνι) of Judea who had jurisdiction over death penalties in the Judean territory, since Judea was within the Roman Empire.  Interesting enough, a whole literature and artistic presentation of Pontius Pilate developed in 20th century with movie and TV portrayals of him.  He was certainly a central figure in this Passion of Jesus presentation.

The chief priests and the elders gather (Mt 26:3-26:3)

“Then the chief priests

And the elders

Of the people

Gathered

In the palace court

Of the high priest,

Who was called Caiaphas.”

 

Τότε συνήχθησαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως τοῦ λεγομένου Καϊάφα,

 

This is somewhat similar to Mark, chapter 14:1, and to Luke, chapter 22:2.  Matthew said that the chief priests (οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς) and the elders or the presbyters of the people (καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ) gathered together (Τότε συνήχθησαν) in the palace or court of the Jewish high priest (εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως), called Caiaphas (τοῦ λεγομένου Καϊάφα).  This Caiaphas was the son in law of the former high priest Annas.  Since Caiaphas was the high priest or chief Jewish religious person in Jerusalem from 18-36 CE, this would fit within this time frame of Jesus.  These chief priests and the elders of the people seem to consult with the high priest Caiaphas.  There was no mention of the Pharisees, Scribes, or Sadducees here.  This is no longer a theological argument, but a life and death issue.  The role of authority will be the key issue here.

Herod kills all the two-year old boys (Mt 2:16-2:16)

“When Herod saw

That he had been tricked

By the magi,

He was infuriated.

He sent men

To kill

All the male children

In and around Bethlehem

Who were two years old

Or under.

This was based

According to the time frame

That he had ascertained

From the magi.”

 

Τότε Ἡρῴδης ἰδὼν ὅτι ἐνεπαίχθη ὑπὸ τῶν μάγων ἐθυμώθη λίαν, καὶ ἀποστείλας ἀνεῖλεν πάντας τοὺς παῖδας τοὺς ἐν Βηθλέεμ καὶ ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ὁρίοις αὐτῆς ἀπὸ διετοῦς καὶ κατωτέρω, κατὰ τὸν χρόνον ὃν ἠκρίβωσεν παρὰ τῶν μάγων.

 

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, Herod realized that he had been tricked or outwitted by the magi (Τότε Ἡρῴδης ἰδὼν ὅτι ἐνεπαίχθη ὑπὸ τῶν μάγων), those tricky magicians.  He was very angry (ἐθυμώθη λίαν), so he sent out people (ἀποστείλας).  He ordered them to kill all the little infant boys (ἀνεῖλεν πάντας τοὺς παῖδας) under the age of 2 in the Bethlehem area and vicinity (τοὺς ἐν Βηθλέεμ καὶ ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ὁρίοις αὐτῆς).  He picked the age of 2 and under (ἀπὸ διετοῦς καὶ κατωτέρω) based on the information about the time frame (κατὰ τὸν χρόνον ὃν ἠκρίβωσεν) about the birth of this child that he had understood from the magi (παρὰ τῶν μάγων).  However, since the Bethlehem area was sparsely populated, this might have meant that he only killed about 20 children at most.  Thus, there would not have been wide spread panic, except in Bethlehem itself.  This story of the killing of the infant male children is like that of the Israelite male children in Exodus, chapter 1:15-22, where Moses was saved, just like Jesus here.  There, the Egyptian king told the midwives to kill every male Israelite baby.  Finally, he had all the Israelite male babies thrown into the Nile River.

One Davidic king (Ezek 37:24-37:25)

“My servant David

Shall be king

Over them.

They shall all

Have one shepherd.

They shall follow

My ordinances.

They shall be careful

To observe

My statutes.

They shall live

In the land

That I gave to

My servant Jacob,

Where you ancestors lived.

They,

With their children,

With their children’s children

Shall live there forever.

My servant,

David,

Shall be their prince

Forever.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, spoke lovingly about the kingship of David. However, King David lived nearly 400 years earlier than the time frame of the exile. Obviously, this is an allusion to a Davidic king, someone from his blood line. However, that would be hard to prove. The key point here was that there was going to be only one shepherd, one king, one country, not multiple kingdoms. Everyone would follow and observe Yahweh’s ordinances and statutes. They were going to live in the land that Yahweh gave to his servant Jacob, where their ancestors had lived. There they, their children, and their children’s children would live forever under the princely leader from the Davidic dynasty.

The siege of Jerusalem (Jer 32:2-32:2)

“At that time,

The army of

The king of Babylon

Was besieging Jerusalem.

The prophet Jeremiah

Was confined

In the court of the guard

That was in the palace

Of the king of Judah.

King Zedekiah of Judah

Had confined him.”

The time frame is clearly the time of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army. However, Jeremiah was imprisoned in the palace jail by King Zedekiah of Judah. King Zedekiah had been installed as king by King Nebuchadnezzar in 598 BCE. However, he revolted against him and sought the aid of King Hophra or Pharaoh Apries (589-570 BCE) of Egypt. This led to the siege that lasted almost 2 years as the Egyptians tried to help King Zedekiah. Eventually, the Babylonians were successful. Meanwhile, King Zedekiah had Jeremiah confined to prison because, as always, Jeremiah was pro-Babylonian.

King Zedekiah (Jer 27:1-27:1)

“In the beginning

Of the reign

Of King Zedekiah,

The son of King Josiah,

Of Judah,

This word came

To Jeremiah

From Yahweh.”

Once again we have an exact time frame for this oracle of Yahweh to Jeremiah. This oracle took place at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah or King Mattaniah (598-587 BCE). He was the son of King Josiah (640-609 BCE), but he was installed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (605-562 BCE) at the age of 21. His nephew King Jehoiachin or King Coniah (598 BCE) had preceded him for a couple of months. Thus this oracle took place around 598 BCE. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapter 34, not 27.