New Testament understanding through the Jewish perspective
The New Testament can be understood better through the eyes (perspective), among other things, of the Judaism of the First Century. We can understand the New Testament best through the interplay of Old Testment, and contemporary with the New Testament Jewish understandings and practice, thus avoiding reading in from our own post New Testament and cultural perspectives. This will not only help to the understanding of the New Testament, but also to the understanding of how to apply it rightly to our present situations.
- 1 Examples
- 1.1 Example 1. The Past carries through - in some way
- 1.2 Example 2. Telling without saying
- 1.3 Example 3. Feeling the texture. Taking the hint.
- 1.4 Example 4. What is real is real in many ways
- 1.5 Example 5."The Gates...the Gates!"
- 1.6 Example 6. Beyond the words but through the words
- 2 See Also
Example 1. The Past carries through - in some way
We are so used to living in the Christian or Christian influenced world that we just assume monogamy, one man and one woman, to be the starting position from which we build our married life. We view polygamy as a deviation perhaps of Islam, paganism, and view the polygamy of the biblical forefathers - Abraham, and Jacob with their wives (and concubines) in particular, but King David, King Solomon (surely his many wives got him in trouble!) as well, as something special and antiquated, and basically bracketed out from our consciousness. In addition, we encounter the problems of the modern mission field involving multiple marriages of recent converts to the Lord. What to do? "Require" that they divorce all their wives but one? Which one should they keep. The first? Any other criteria? Perhaps, divorce none and have a polygyomous church grow up? And what of the benefit that has accrued in certain situations by polygamous marriage - such as tribes where the men have almost been wiped out in wars and an overabundance of starving woman and children? Who would take care of them but the remaining men? What is the solution?
But the practice of Abraham and Jacob did not stop with the first century. In European Ashkenazi Judaism it continued on into the Middle Ages; and may only have been forbidded then by the influence of Christianity, while the Jews of Arab lands continued polygamy until this century, The Yemenite Jews immigrating to Israel after 1948 often came with multiple wives, and only now is that generation dying out and single marriage, which the State requires, is the non deviating rule.
Kmowing the normalcy of polygamy through the ages gives us and advantage of how to understand the Bible and how to apply it.
We can see that a bishop or overseer, in I Timothy 3:2, is to have only one wife, is, first of all, not speaking in referance to divorce and remarriage , but to the situation of polygamy. Then we can see, the wisdom of the rule of one wife for elders of the church - there is just too much to do and be responsible for in the work of the church that any more than one wife will deprive from the church and deprive from the family. Then we can see, that these are not iron clan rules, deviation from which is sin, but good and responsible quides that Paul is giving Timothy for the chosing of the leaders (and servants) of the Church. Then we can see, how it all fits in with the other guides - Don't chose a man that can't love and manage his own family, nor a man that has a bad reputation or drinks too much to lose sobriety, etc. And we can understand that all that needs to apply to our own situation in our century. And we can see that these were recommendations primarily to Timothy who had a task probably different from most of us, so we must truly learn the principles behind to make the wisdom of God's Word then applicable and real for our lives today. And we can see that the activity of the Holy Spirit did not end with the first century- and must not end for us in this century, by we must learn, and be enabled by Him to now apply what He has already told us in the Holy Scriptures for our present generation with its particulur problems.
Example 2. Telling without saying
Telling without saying. Four methods of Jewish Biblical interpretation are:
Peshat = the meaning simply on the surface of the text
Remez = the hint or clue to the deeper meaning than the surface
Derash = a more searching of the all facets relevant to the text and involving stories, customs, sayings, even analysis of the Hebrew letters, and relating to all facets of life
Sod = the secret and hidden, sometimes esoteric meaning of the text.
Together the first letters (consonents) of these words spell PaRDeS = Paradise. The second word, Remez, means hint or indication, and that is "telling without saying". This method is used in the writing of the account of the Gospel of Matthew of the giving of the "Sermon on the Mount" beginning with the Beatitudes "Blessed are..." This is rightly seen, in this most Jewish of Gospels, as the new Law , or, better, Teaching (Torah) of the Kingdom of Heaven paralleling and then exceeding the Old Law of Mount Sinai.
In the account of Luke, it is the Sermon on the Plain. In Matthew, it is the Sermon on the Mount. Both are historically correct as the location on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee is a high hill fanning out to a plain and meeting the sea. Why does Matthew prefer to use a Mountain? Because this will recall to listeners and readers of the Gospel that other mount, Mount Sinai, which Moses had ascended to receive the now "Old Law".
Matthew 5:1,2. " Seeng the crowd of people, Jesus went up into the Mountain, and then sitting down, he called to him his followers, and then he opened His mouth, saying, 'Blessed are..'"
There was really no reason to tell us that He sat down - except that it is a Remez. It is an indication that the One wielding the authority was now, not Moses, but the Messiah come among His people. This follows from what was understood by the people, and can be understood, as well, by us, namely - Synagogues had within them the "Seat of Moses" . One can still see the Seat of Moses on the right side near the entrance of the ruins of the Chorazin synagogue on the hill above the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus gave a general caution to His twelve, His Apostles and Apprentices, not to be disobedient to what the Pharisees say - just don't do what they do! As it is they that now sit "on the seat of Moses".
And so the "greater than Moses" ascended also a hill, as Moses did in Sinai, and He "sat down" and they gathered around Him to hear, and "He opened His mouth and said". The "position" of authority is not standing (to preach) as it is in modern churches, but rather sitting *. It is not clear why this is so. Some suggestions: that authority was naturally derived from experienced distilled from age, and sitting was natural to older men; that sitting is the natural position of derived authority from Scripture which is spread before one in the form of Scrolls. Whatever the merit in these suggestions, sitting was the position of authority in 1st century Judaism. This probably influenced the posturing of the bishops of slightly later centuries as sitting with their clergy clustered aroung them.
"He opened his mouth saying...". The only way you can say, of course, is by opening the mouth, but here there is another Remez. It is the Biblical indicator of "speaking authoritatively" adapted from the (Hebrew - VaYa'an vaY'omer), and what came out was the Torah of the Kingdom of Heaven through the Messiah, a Torah at once fullfilling and then transcending the law of Moses given at Sinai. Blessed are the poor in spirit...
Other ramifications would be understood from these forms of expressions with their attendant associations. As "Moses on Mount Sinai" had entailed within it the forming of a new people, a nation to be, to be "spelled out" in the generations to come, so too, Jesus would be the "center piece" around which also would be formed a new people, spear- headed not by 12 tribes, but by 12 apostles, a nation quite like and quite unlike that which had preceded. The Nation of the New Israel, the Church built upon the Rock.
- Note: the seat as a sign of authority is very ancient. For example, In Tel Dan in the north of the Galilee, one can see the 4 holes for the 4 posts of the King of Israel's judgement seat and to the left of it the seat of the city elders, just outside the winding main road leading to the top of the tell and within the outer city gates. This is where he rendered judgement in the Norther Kingdom of Israel. In the 1st century, the brother of Herod Antipas, Philip rendered judgement, according to Josephus, all throughout his Tetrachies of Gaulinitis, Trachonitus, and Batanea in the Decapolis, by traveling from place to place setting up his portable seat. It is this Phillip which gave the name to Caesarea Phillipi by the Banias at the foot of Mt. Herman where Jesus asked His disciples, Who do men say that I am?
Example 3. Feeling the texture. Taking the hint.
Coming down low, often gives a true view of how things really are and how they differ from each other.
Many view the two accounts of the miraclulous feeding of the multitudes a literary fiction or at best a one time event told twice - with added color. Focusing on the literary and artistic creation of the form of the story, then, produces in us an unspoken and perhaps unrealized assuption that it never really happened, that it is a devise to make a point or teach a lesson, that it is not what it purports to be. But from down low and feeling the texture, we can see that these are differing stories, told for different reasons, and hence, without understanding fully, we are found with conviction as to their having actually taken place.
The first feeding was in the Jewish area of the north west shore of the sea of Galilee. He had come to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and had sent out his followers to preach and practice the kingdom among the Jews, and not the Samaritans or the Gentiles. And it was in this area that he had the multitudes sit down on the green grass in groups of fifty and a hundred as Israel long ago had grouped in the desert. He had chosen His twelve to " sit on the thrones":of Israel, not abolishing Israel, but fulfilling Israel in the new nation and people he was forming. It was green grass at that time of year because of the season and because it was at the Jewish end of the north shore fed by the seven springs ("heptapeigon" in Greek) which would become linguistically corrupted to its present name of Tabgha. There these seven springs gushing forth from warm water underground sources brought a steady flow of warm currents into the Sea attracting the many fish, most notably, the fresh water Tilapia, "Musht" in Arabic, "Amnon" in Hebrew, and "St. Peter's" fish to the Christian tourist. Such was the case up until this warm flow was stopped up by the 1950's water diversion project of the State of Israel diverting the flow to the National Water Carrier taking irrigation to the Negev, causing "the flowers to bloom" . And there in the back of the present day Church of the Primacy at the lip of the Sea, and indeed the base of the church itself, can be seen the 1st century steps leading down to the little harbor where the fishermen disciples of Jesus, along with so many others in the 1st century, had tied up their boats and rigged and repaired their nets. In this area, up the hill a bit, Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, gave the blessing, and fed them all, through the hands of the disciples, filling thousands of their stomachs to the amazement of the disciples who saw it all happen before their eyes and from their own hands. And so the Messianic Kingdom was dawning then and there before their eyes. And in that spot, the Byzantines would build a church whose floor now appears as part of the floor of the present "reconstitued" Roman Catholic Church of the Multiplication, and there under the altar of both churches is the Byzantine Mosaic of the Feeding but with four loaves and two fish and not five loaves and two fish as so clearly presented in the Gospel of Mark. But the sensitivity of the Byzantines was accurate and thought out for they saw that the fifth loaf was Jesus Himself and His presence among them at the Eucharist. Of special note in the Gospel and for the early church (whose deacons distributed the blessed bread to the people of the Lord unable to attend the assembly) is that it was 12 baskets that remained over and distributed - a basket each for the reconstitued Israel descended from the 12 Fathers the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All so Jewish, in the Jewish Tetrarchy of Herod Antipas.
But quite different, the second feeding, then after a "foray" of Jesus passing out of the Tetrachy of Herod Antipas, and Through the Valley of the Doves, the way that led to Gush Halav, where the Apostle Paul's parents had been born and lived and from which (Jerome) had been exiled to Tarsus in Cilicia, and coming into the non Jewish Phoenicia, and seeing such faith as never had been in Israel, and knowing what the promise of the Father had been that all the peoples of the world would be blessed in the choosing and the seed of Abraham, and knowing that that is also why he was called and where it would all lead, Jesus returned and passed into the Gentile area of the Tetrachy of Herod Antipas' brother Philip and to the Roman Decapolis, to the eastern gentile shore of the Sea of Galilee, and there, this time not on the green grass but on the barren hill, He did the same, He blessed the bread and this time there were many small fish, the Galilee "sardines", and fed the gentiles just as He had the Jews, miraculously, and to their stomachs full, and this time there were Seven baskets left over. For seven was known to be the number, not only of completion, and perfection, and fulfilling of the epoch, but also it was the number signifying "all the peoples of the world." For it was seven nations that Israel had dispossed coming into the Land (Deut. 7:1) - the Hittites, Girgashιtes (these were still living in the Decapolis in the first century), the Amorites, Canaanites, Perrizites, Hivites, and Jebusites. And it was, according to first century thinking as well as Biblical formulation, 7x10 = 70 peoples which constituted the whole of the peoples of the world around Israel (Gen. 10). And so the Kingdom of Heaven would now be open to all the peoples of the world, and "unto the ends of the earth."
From close to the ground - two stories, two Feedings, two messages (with one Church to embrace them both), and two real occurances. .
Example 4. What is real is real in many ways
What is real is real in many ways and the smallest of matters are great with portent.
Jesus said : Don't think that I have come to destroy the law and the prophets but to fulfill. I tell you with the fullest force that until heaven and earth pass away not one yod (jot) or a letter's ornament (tittle) shall pass away from the Torah (law) until every thing shall come to be. Therefore whoever shall loosen one of the most minor of these commandments and teaches others will be be called "minor" in the Kingdom of Heaven.And whoever does and teaches others to do, this one will be called "great" ("rav") in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matt. 5:17-20.
The "yod" is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the tittle or decorative flip of the scribe's pen made in the writing of the letter (or, according to the script, radiating lines) is likewise small in size. But also known and internalized in the Jewish perspective, this letter and this decoration are opposites as well as similar in size. In Aramaic and Hebrew, the yod, despite its size, is pregnant with meanings. Inserted it can change "luck' or a particlular god (gad) into a goat (gedi) or ligament (gid). Suffixed it can turn God into "my God (Eli). With verbs, it can turn active to passive as in "written" (ktiv). It can change "you have come" to "I have come", and "come!" to a woman, It can serve as a consonent as in the English word "You" or as a vowel as in the word "healthy", and many, many other meanings does a Yod supply.Unlike the yod, the tittle has only one meaning, if it can be called a meaning. It adds beauty. That is all. But beauty has with it, integrally, the sense of fittingness, wholeness, holiness, and warming of the heart. All of these, are part of the text and within the text, inseparable from the text.
The text is the Torah, usually translated as the "Law" - as in "the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings" (the Old Testament). But Judaism knows of a more precise term for "Law". It is Halakha, from the root for "walking". This is the term for legal prescriptions. This is in disctinction from Aggada - telling or recitings, and which takes in stories, parables, narratives, anecdotes. The Torah, the 5 books of Moses, is Aggadic as well as Halakhic. Therefore "law" doesn't do it justice (or rather, our sense of "law" is inadequate}. Illuminating Instruction is better ("Torah" is from the root "to instruct")
Jesus said something strange, something unthinkable for any Rabbi, Teacher, or notable to say.; These could say,"I have come to obey, or practice and teach, to maintain and uphold the Torah". but Jesus said, " I have come to fulfill the Torah." That has a double connotation. Jesus Himself fills up the whole variegatated content, impulsesof meanings, and beauties of the Torah, and Jesus Himself in some sense brings a closure to the Torah, a pivotal transition to something new - And this he does in the sermon, not on Mount Sinai, but the Mount of Beatitudes by the Sea of Galilee. Thus the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31 forecasts the New Covenant of the Lords Supper and of Calvary, but receives its concretization and "authorization" from the very words of Jesus Himself - " I have come to fulfill". Jesus, the Fulfillment of Torah, then becomes for His followers the new and true principle of interpretation by which, in their obedience, their love, their prayer, they either enact the Truer and Deeper Torah, and so become "great", or in their failures to obey, become "minor" in the Kingdom of Heaven"
If understanding of transition "from" and transition "to" is true, it ought to be be shown in other ways and places in the New Testament as the New Testament is no mere theological textbook but a book of real life. And that it does.
"By calling this Covenant 'new' [Jeremiah 31], He has made the first one obsolete, and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear". Hebrews 8:13, See Acts Chapter 15 for the transition in life of the Church from exclusively Jewish to predominently Gentile and the transition away from the Law of Moses.
The inclusion of these words of Jesus concerning His fulfilling of the Law, are from the times of Jesus on earth and no invention of the later Gentile dominated church. At the later time, there would have been no need for these Jewish oriented and Jewish pervaded discussion concerning the Mosaic Law. The Church was dynamic and in transition and full of real life.
Example 5."The Gates...the Gates!"
"And I say to you , You are Peter ("rock" in Greek - Petros, and in Aramaic - "Cepha", and upon this Rock, I will build my Church, and the gates ("pulai" in Greek, "sha'ar" in Hebrew) of Hell shall not prevail against it." Matt. 16:18
When the words of Jesus are read or heard, the understanding that occurs is often the opposite of what is intended. Often the understanding is that the Church will be preserved from succumbing under the battering of Hell. But the opposite is true . The Church is the one on the offensive, rather than the one being on the defensive, and it is Hell that is the one being battered and breached. The gates, what are they? Informing the "gates" of this passage is not what is understoood by gates today. Today it conjures up the picture of wooden or metal rather flattened barrier standing in the way of the entrance, and on hinges, closing the entrance off, and secured by some type of bar or lock. Ancient Israel did know this type of gate, but that was only the outer part of a complex defensive fortification, the key to the defense of the whole city.
Tel Dan in the north of Israel provides a good example. An enemy desiring to gain entrance to the city, must ride or go on foot along the bottom of the high outer walls exposed to view and weapons of the defenders on the ramparts. He then must turn left to approach the outer gate. The holes may still be found sunk into stone within which were the posts of the outer gates which swung open and shut. Around this gate area is stony but leveled ground upon which the defending force could be amassed. Then the intruder host must again turn left to force entry into what can only be called the "gateway"., a more accurate translation than "gate". The turn is a calculated defensive stratagem as it breaks a charge, causing horse and man to be slowed at a crucial point and to be exposed sideways. Surviving intruders than find themself in an wide area, which in peaceful times is the location for the King and his elders and for the rendering of judgrment "at the gates". At Tel Dan the King's huge judgement seat has been reconstructed over the widely spaced original holes in the stone and to the side is the ledge serving as the seat of the elders. But in war time, the area is full of warriors. Then the stone road leads out of this area and up* narrowing, again important as it allows entrance to only two at a time or at the most three, but almost immediately, the intruder is confronted with the pilasters. These were protusions from the side of the walls lining the road into the city, usuallyin pairs or triplets on either side of the road , which make for rooms for soldiers or guards. In Caananite times they were shallow rooms, in Israelite times deeper. Intruders would be attacked from either side of the road from these rooms, successively as they made their way up. They were also and at the same time attacked all along the way from up above them as the the road was below ground level and shadowed by embankments all along the way. The way now was slow blocked by dead and dying man and horse. Then the road turned again, this time to the right, slowing and exhaustng and exposing the attacker, and only then could the the intruder be said to be in the city - only to be met by more defenders. This then was the the gateway. This picture of the Gateway did not directly influence the wording of the saying of Jesus above, but it did directly influence the words of the Old Testament Scripture and these , in turn, did directly affect the wordings used by Jesus.
Have you walked in the depths of the Abyss? Have the gateways (SHA'ARei) of Deatrh been exposed to you, the gateways (SHA'ARei) of the Dark Opression? Job 38:17
I said in the waning of my days, To the gateway (SHA'ARei) of Sheol I have been commanded, That is what awaits the remainder of my days. I said, I will not see the LORD, the LORD!, in the Land of the living. I will not see men any more, people of the inhabited world. Isaiah 38:10
Hell is likened to a Fortified City of the underworld, which not only defends itself but also retains its captives, the sons of men, within its fortifications. Hell must be breached in order to rescue them. The Fury of Hell's defenders is pure Tumult and Shriek. That is the nature of the Fortified City in Israel, which informs the Old Testament backdrop to the New Testament sayings. Many of the cities were double cities - a lower city and and upper city. Around this complex was the open field containing tents and dwellings for living and work. . At the appoach of an enemy, the men, women, children, and animals crowd into the lower city which is protected by the walls of the city. The lower city, already crowded with dwellings for the populous, and defending warriors, becomes even more so. If the lower city is breached, the upper city, containing administrative functions, garrisons, food and grains storage, shrines, water access, etc. become intolerably crowded, hoping for the attack and the siege to be over. Such were some of the cities of Israel as indicated by the AYIM at the end of their names. AYIM means "double"- the double cities, upper and lower. Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), Mahanayim, Kiryatayim etc. Other cities were also "double" but without indication in their names.
"Christ never sent anyone anywhere without Him having gone there first"
The following Scriptures may best be understood in the context of Christ's succesful intrusion and breaching of the Gates of Hades and his rescuing the captives that were and the captives to come.
In the body, He was put to death, in the spirit, He was raised to life. And in the spirit, He went to preach to the spirits in prison...
...the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has entered heaven and is at God's right hand, now that He has made the angels, and dominions, and powers His subjects. 1 Peter: 18-22
The dead had to be told the Good News as well, so that though, in their life on earth, they had been through the judgement that comes to all humanity, they might come to God's life in the spirit. 1 Peter 4: 5,6
"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him"[ 2 Corinthians 2:14
This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the Heavens, in order to fill the whole universe). (NRSV) Ephesians 4: 8-10
The Church continues the attack on Hell's fortress, not of the underworld, but on the Devil's dominion and inroads on this earth
"I say to you, you are that Rock, and on this Rock I will build my community, the ones I have called to join me in the battle. The Gateways of Hell will not withstand that attack you will make on it!". What remains to understand is the "Rock". Though "rock" has been used to describe both God and Christ, there is another reference which may be in force here. It is of the rock once thrown, having the force to destroy the Kingdom which is not God's.
"In the time of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race; it shall shatter and destroy all the previous kingdoms, and itself last for ever - just as you saw [ "and I was looking and I saw a rock cut out of the mountain, a rock untouched by human hands and it struck..."] the stone untouched by hand break from the mountain and shatter iron, bronze, earthenware, silver and gold." Daniel 2: 44,45
- Note: The Gateway road always leads up and thus posing more of a difficulty for the attacker. This is because fortress cities were throughout the centuries built one civilization on top of the other there being no other place to go as the original hill contained access to the precious water supply. The final city thus was situated much higher than the original city and the only way to capture it was up. This is what "tel" signifies - Tel Megiddo, Tel Lachish, Tel Hazor, Tel Dan, Tel Arad.
Example 6. Beyond the words but through the words
Judaism has often been described as Orthopraxy - "straight doing" instead of Orthodoxy - "straight opinion or believing". Though not entirely true, there is much truth in this. But Christianity has a lot of orthopraxy in it - for being a believer is not just a matter of believing the meaning of words.
There is a church, Peter of Gallicantu - Peter of the Crowing of the Cock - that is just outside of the Old City walls of Jerusalem (2 miles by miles). One enters through Jaffa Gate (opening west towards Jaffa), also known as Bab elHalil = Gate of the Friend (opening south toward Hebron, the city of Abraham, the "friend of God") and passing right to the west of the City, one passes by the museum Citadel of David (where General Allenby received the surrender of Turkish forces in World War 1), the Kishle - the old Turkish police station (then British police station, then Israeli), through the narrow street of the Armenian quarter and tunnel with its cathedral and seminary, and just before reaching the Jewish quarter, passing out of the Zion Gate into the Mt. Zion of the Crusaders, down the hill, to the church. A walk 2,000 years ago would have taken you as you go westwards, through the ever increasingly populated residential section that King Herod built for the priestly families he imported from Italy to ensure loyalty to himself (Josephus).
Entering the church, one is struck by the beauty of the dome and walls, and accustoming to the dim light both filtering through the stained glass and manificently and kalaidascopically shining through, one sees the theme - the betrayal by Peter of Jesus in the courtyard to the house of Caiaphas the High Priest Is the night descending or is the day dawning? Without realizing it, you have entered into the actual courtyard of the house, or to be more exact, the Roman Catholic church built on the actual site. Stairs leading off to the side lead you down into the middle section of the house (just as so many houses built today in modern Jerusalem are multistoried homes wrapped around a hill and thus are terraced stories) and you see that it is not only the Roman Catholics of the French order with their archaeologists who think this was the actual site. For you are now in the remnant church from the Byzantine period (4th cent.- 7th cent.) with its hewn out side "benches", altar in front, and right in the center of the sanctuary a strange holed area (now protected so you do not fall in). It was not known that this was a Byzantine church until the plaster put on after Byzantine times, making whatever was below non porous to act as a water reserve, was scraped off. And there on the neck of whatever was below, as you peer down, appear crosses incised on the wall of the neck - typical of the era Byzantine crosses. But what was it down there before it was a Byzantine viewing hole, and then a water reservoir, and then topped by a Roman Catholic Church?
Stairs leading off to the side lead you down to a lower level of the House, and entering it you wonder what this could ever be. It is a prison, just as the Talmud says was part of the house of the High Priest - a "holding" jail for prisoners who would be later brought before Pilate, the Roman Procurator, for trial. You see the carved out of the rock individual cells with their tell tale holes for lock enclosures and off to the side in slight elevated area is the guard post. But behind the quard post is a hole in the wall. Looking through the hole, one sees a deep carved out pit, at least the depth of two men, now lit up, but originally, dark, muddy, choking. This is the dungeon, and where the Lord would have been kept - until the next day and Pilate. Stairs leading off to the side lead you down to that dungeon bring you past the side walls and more incised Byzantine crosses and then the bottom, and on one wall, the one behind and to the right of the winding hewn out stairs, the tell tale carbonized sign on the wall of the swinging braizier used during the service. So this also was a church (or at least a chapel), in commemoration of Christ, his imprisonment and suffering, in the Byzantine period. Looking up, you can see the hole viewed previously from the Byzantine church above, and you can see the crosses.
Ascending the steps back again into the Byzantine church, on either side of the Altar, can be seen two paintings, this time from the "Roman Catholic era" - our own times. On the left is the portrayal of the denial of Peter, three times, that He knew the Man. True to the New Testament, He is croached by the fire in the court yard at the time of His denial. It was cold that night. And there climbing, or rather being led away, is Jesus, who has turned is head and is looking at Peter, also true to the Bible. There are no words of Jesus at this time, neither in the New Testament nor indicated by the portrayal here. This is the Biblical "enacted remez" or hint principle of interpretation (see "Example 2."). No need for words for its meaning is understood. It is understood resting on faith in the human ability to perceive what subsequent words could explicate and define. We know that Peter will soon leave, smitten by that look, stricken to the depth of his heart, but not to take the route taken by Judas from the village of Kyriot- that of suicide.
Then, passing to the other side of the altar, we see the painting of Jesus, after his resurrection from the dead, meeting his disciples, Peter is among them, by the shores of Galilee. Jesus is cooking fish for them, over the fire. and we know, that is, knowing what had happened from the New Testament, that Peter would be spoken to by the Lord he had denied three times when croaching by the fire. Jesus would ask him three times " Peter, do you love me? Peter would answer, again three times over the fire, in the affirmative, and Jesus would entrust him, would once again entrust him, with what was on His heart, " Then, feed my sheep!" - three times.
And so, the Lord gave to Peter the gift that, I am sure, Peter could never forget, which had the power to change his life all the days left him - forgivness, and reconciliation , and restoration, by the only way that could have reached him to the depths of his being* - Three for three and over the fire!
"Love is accurate, or soon learns to be."
The authenticity of the site finds added support from the following:
A stone plaque with the biblical citation of the offering made by Israel to the High Priest,
behind the church on the lowest level, excavated servant quarters rooms with the remains of the mill stone turned by donkey ("better for you to have a millstone tied to the neck and cast in to the sea, than to hurt one of these little ones..." - indicating a rich residence,
the nearby pools of water for ritual purification before entering the temple area. These "Mikveh" are distinquished by steps the lead to nowhere. That is, they go down to the pool that is truncated leaving room enough just for a man to dip and then ascend. Some of the steps have center divider allowing, requiring, one way down and the side up, facilitating crowds of pilgrims in the shortest of time.
And to the side of the house the original 1st century Roman stepped road, leading from the Mt of Olives (in plain view across the Kidron valley) where the Lord was arrested, and passing the house, on to the Temple area (also in plain view) where Jesus would be lead for His "trial" before Pilate
Sometimes, With the "I forgive you.", cook a good fish dinner and invite the person over - with all your heart. Make sure there is good wine and a good cup of hot coffee!