Artifacts & Biblical History

Cut off His Head! John the Baptist

by Steve Ray on August 30, 2015

Beheading of John the Baptist
August 29

Beheading sm.jpgWhy was John so special? He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New. He was the first to proclaim the news that Jesus was the Messiah, the Lamb of God. He was 100% from the lineage of Aaron the High Priest.

Where was he born and what do we know about him? He was born in Ein Kerem west of Jerusalem. Prior to birth he was sanctified in the womb by the Holy Spirit when the Blessed Virgin Mary arrived for the Visitation. He later left for the wilderness where he probably associated with the Essenes at Qumran. Jesus probably met him in the Wilderness. He ate locusts and wild honey so he was a manly man!

Why was John beheaded–getting mixed up in morality and politics John did not get beheaded for preaching Christ, per se, but for criticizing the King. It is similar to us today criticizing and immoral government that requests we deny our consciences to follow their laws. John lost his head for criticizing the powers that be in government. 

What sources do we have outside the Bible? The Jewish historian Josephus tells us about John, especially his death which took place in Herod’s Fortress of Machareus on the east side of the Dead Sea in modern country of Jordan

Where is the head of John the Baptist today? There is a lot of controversy on this matter and many have claimed to have his skull. I would not be willing at this point to vouch for any of them.

To learn more about John, see my DVD Jesus, the Word Became Flesh and see where he was beheaded — filmed on location.  Click here.

Below: The remains of Herod’s Fortress of Machaerus where John was beheaded and what it looked like at the time of Christ.

As it was in the time of Christ

How Marchareus looks today

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I am doing a show on Relevant Radio about the “Rivers of the Bible” at 9 AM Eastern at RelevantRadio.com. I will soon post the link to listen to the archived show.

We mentioned on the show when Steve at a grasshopper at the Jordan Rive like the John the Baptist did You can see the video here: http://www.catholic-convert.com/blog/2009/11/21/living-the-bible/ ?

Two Seas in Palestine, by Bruce Barton

Sea of Galilee

“There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees spread their branches over it and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters. Along its shores the children play, as children played when He was there. He loved it. He could look across its silver surface when He spoke His parables. And on a rolling plain not far away He fed five thousand people.

“The River Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills. So it laughs in the sunshine. And men build their houses near to it, and birds their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is there. 

Jordan River

“The River Jordan flows on south into another sea. Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.

“What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie not the country about. 

Dead Sea

“This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

“The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps. 

“The Sea of Galilee gives and live. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead. There are two kinds of people in the world. There are two seas in Palestine. There are two kinds of people in this world. What kind are we?”

See our upcoming pilgrimages at FootprintsOfGod.com. Not listed yet, but we have a Family Holy Land Pilgrimage over Christmas break in 2016. Contact Suzanne for more info at sparran@ctscentral.net or at 800-727-1999, ext 121.”

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The Holy Family Ate those Pesky House Sparrows

by Steve Ray on July 12, 2015

The Holy Family was not wealthy. When you had a firstborn son in Israel you were required to take a lamb to the Temple for the redemption of your firstborn son but if you were poor you could take to turtledoves instead. Mary and Joseph took the two turtledoves or pigeons which demonstrates they were not a wealthy family (Lk 2:24).

Another food that was common among the people of Israel and the Middle East, and still is today, were grasshoppers, locusts and crickets.

According to the law of Moses insects and swarming things were unclean. But of all the insects these three were kosher (Lev 11:22). These were the crickets, locusts and grasshoppers. John the Baptist would not have eaten them if they were not clean according to the law of Moses. But we know that he did eat them (Mt 3:4) and so did I

Janet and I were sitting on our back porch yesterday morning drinking our coffee and discussing the Mass readings for the day. Jesus said “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny…”

I am mediately interrupted my reading and said to my wife, “Why would anyone sell two sparrows? And why would anybody want to buy them?” This sent me on a quest. 

My first bird book when I was a kid

My discovery amazed me!

My father moved us out to the country in 1961. I was only six years old when we moved to a little farm forty miles west of Detroit Michigan. My father instilled in me a love for watching birds and I have been an avid birdwatcher around the world ever since. I still have my books from 10 years old marking the dates and list of all the birds I’ve seen and when I saw them. 

One of the birds that we find everywhere and I’ve always called it a “rat with wings” was the ubiquitous House Sparrow. They always destroyed the eggs of the beautiful Bluebirds in the bluebird houses we had built. In every way we have considered them pests and I cannot recall how many I have shot with my pellet gun.
That all changed yesterday morning when my wife and I were drinking our coffee and reading the daily readings of the Church.

With Jesus’s words about sparrows being sold two for a penny or three for two pennies (Mt 10:29; 12:6) my questions popped up.

My first inquiry was what the word “sparrow” meant. I discovered the word was usually used generically for any small bird, but presumably and most likely the House Sparrow (passer domesticus) which originated in the Middle East! Surprise, Surprise! They are a biblical bird! I was always under the impression they were from Europe, but nope. They immigrated to Europe and America.

My second inquiry was “Why would anyone want to buy the sparrows?” And then I found the big surprise — they were used as food by the poor people among the Jews because they were considered a clean food — kosher. Entrepreneurs would trap them and sell them. The purchaser would kill them, pluck them and cook them.

According to a popular Jewish commentary on Deuteronomy we read, “In practice, only a limited number of birds (and their eggs) are considered permissible [kosher]: chicken, capon, Cornish hen, turkey, domestic duck and goose, house sparrow, pigeon, squab, palm dove, turtledove, partridge, peacock, and, according to some authorities, guinea-fowl, quail, and what is today called pheasant.” Jeffrey H. Tigay, Deuteronomy, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 139.

Emperor Domitian had a special price limitation on food items and the sparrows were the cheapest among those food price limitations he set. 

 

Sparrows on skewers for cooking

Sparrows were sold in the marketplace and eaten frequently enough for Jesus to mention them as something that everyone would commonly know. Sparrows were eaten as a common food. 

I found lots of quotes from historical sources but way too many to add here. 

But one thing is for certain, we have very little idea of the Holy Family’s day-to-day living and what they experienced  000 years ago — and what they ate. Grasshoppers, sparrows…?

Next time I have all the grandkids here at our home — I doubt they’ll eat the grasshoppers — but I’ll bet they enjoy the sparrow pie – especially if I don’t tell him what’s in it :-)

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Jesus Was A Jew – So What is That To You?

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 Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture and religion of Jesus and his Jewish ancestors.  [...]

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History of Middle East in 90 Seconds

April 13, 2015

Fascinating moving map. Click the image below to see biblical and modern history of the volatile Middle East.

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I love St. Paul and love to write about him and his epistles. I also enjoyed traveling through six countries filming his life story and theology. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is often seen as impossible to understand except by theologians — and most skip right over this masterpiece. With hopes that you will [...]

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A gentleman heard me on Relevant Radio earlier. I had mentioned on the air that one of the great humiliations of a crucifixion was that a man was crucified naked. This thoughtful gentleman wrote to challenge my comments. Below is his e-mail and my response. Dear Mr. Ray, Please correct your description of the Passion. [...]

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Steve on Lots of Radio Shows this Week

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Lots of Radio Shows this Week – Join Me!  All times are Eastern Time All of the “Virtual Tours” came out VERY different, since a few of them were pre-recorded. None of them were alike :-) Each interviewer asked, and will ask different questions which take us in many different directions. It is a topic [...]

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Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter

February 19, 2015

                          St. Cyprian of Carthage (beheaded 257 AD) one hundred and fifty years before the New Testament writings were collected into one book called “The Bible”: “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon [...]

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Talk on Overview of Salvation History (with pictures) Tonight at St. Irenaeus in Michigan

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In Rochester Hills I will be giving a talk I usually give overlooking Jerusalem from the south. I tell the story of salvation history from Adam and Eve until today, emphasizing the life of Christ. It is great to see the whole story right before your eyes! Tom Govern has joined up multiple times on [...]

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The Pain of Stolen Honey – In Preparation for “John the Baptist & Our Lord Baptism”

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A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain and suffering. Today there is protective equipment and methods to harvest honey, but in times past it took [...]

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Biblical Measurements and Units

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Cubits, a spam, and ephah and a bath. What do all of these mean in the Bible? Here is a helpful chart taken from Verbum.

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Ending 2014 with a Day in Bethlehem: Visiting the Nativity, Cave of the Shepherds, Dining and Dancing

December 31, 2014

The first video is our full day touring Bethlehem with Mass twice :-). Once at the cave of the shepherds and the second time in a Carmelite monastery to celebrate Mary the mother of God. We also did a whole lot of other things all day in Bethlehem. Video 2 is our wining, dining and [...]

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