Religious Facts


Here are some interesting facts that you might or might not know.

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These facts are from "The Veil Is Torn" Christian History Project, Book I, Chapter 1

1** The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2) occurred in the late spring of the year 3791 on the Jewish calendar. (p. 11)

2** Prior to gaining significance for Christians as marking the birth of the church, Pentecost was a Jewish feast that welcomed the first harvest. (p. 11)

3** The Roman provincial governor, Pontius Pilate was suspended from office in A.D. 37 for unknown reasons. Tradition holds that he committed suicide in A.D. 39. (p. 15)

4** The names Joshua and Jesus are in fact the same name. The Jewish version would be spelled in the English alphabet as Jehoshua; the Greek equivalent would be Iesous. (p. 16)

5** Two temples stood atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The original was built by Solomon about 960 B.C. and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The second was built in 515 B.C., and vastly expanded by Herod the Great in the first century before Christ. (p. 17)

6** Herod the Great was appointed king of Judea in 37 B.C. He was an Idumean, from Judea's neighbouring people to the south, whom the Jews had coerced into Judaism a century earlier. He ruled for 41 years with fierce consistency, bringing peace to the area by ruthlessly exterminating the slightest manifestations of anti-Roman nationalism. Jesus was born in or about the year that Herod the Great died. (p. 19, 20)

7** The Jordan River, a stream storied in the roots of Judaism and Christianity, spans the 100 direct miles between Mount Hermon on the Syria-Lebanon-Israel border and the Dead Sea, but its serpentine twists and turns give it a riverbed distance of some 225 miles. The river itself is little more than a stream, ninety to 100 feet wide, three to ten feet deep. The name Jordan means "flowing downward" or "the descending". (p. 22)

8** It was death for the Jews to speak the name of God. When they wrote it, it was called the Tetragrammaton for the four Hebrew letters YHWH (read from right to left), of the name. (p. 30)

9** During Jesus' time, crucifixion was the acceptable form of punishment for slaves, rebellious Roman troops, brigands and highway robbers. Its usage goes back long before the Romans to the Phoenicians, Persians and Egyptians. (p. 34)

These facts are taken from "The Veil Is Torn" Christian History Project, Book I, Chapter 2

1** The Sea of Galilee (called Yam Kinneret today) is a 40-thousand acre freshwater lake fed out of and flowing into the Jordan River. Fourteen by eight miles, it lies 686 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and has a maximum depth of 157 feet. (p. 43)

2** Fishermen still harvest the depths of the Sea of Galilee, known today as Lake Tiberias or Lake Kinneret. Not a "sea" but in reality, a small lake, it offers up sardines and tilapia to those who make their livelihood in that way. But of all the thriving market towns that circled the lake in Jesus' day, only Tiberias on the western shore still exists. (p. 43)

3** Though ceremonies at Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem were conducted with reverence, the din raised by hundreds of men at work and hosts of animals in captivity and distress must have been deafening. Smoke would have risen from the burnt offerings; the sweet odour of wood flames and roasting flesh mingling with the stench of incinerated bones and hair, settling heavily over the city. (p. 47)

4** The atmosphere in and around the great temple in Jerusalem would have been lively, charged with excitement, even joyful. Excited and exhausted pilgrims of all ages and descriptions arrived on foot, meeting other travelers, reuniting with family members, setting up camp around the city, singing, praying and weeping happily. During the great pilgrimage festivals, as many as 250-thousand visitors would descend upon Jerusalem, all under holy obligation to offer Temple sacrifices. (p. 47 - 48)

5** The Sanhedrin, before whom Jesus was questioned (see Mark 14) was a 70-member council that wielded power, not only within the Temple and Judaism, but also in the general government. It was designated to administer both Jewish law, for which it was the final court of appeal, but also, to some extent, civil and criminal law as well. (p. 49)

6** The Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:59) included a number of Sadducees - members of a party within Judaism that regarded any reference to bodily resurrection as blasphemously unacceptable under the traditions and beliefs handed down to them from Moses. They were strict in their Temple observances, and they enforced severe penalties on any who slipped. (p. 49)

7** Among the Sanhedrin (Acts 5), was a strong force of Pharisees - members of a party within Judaism. The Pharisees of the early first century were far more lenient than the Sadducees (Judaism's other major party), allowing the rules to be bent under certain circumstances rather than rigidly applied. The Pharisees therefore enjoyed much greater popular support. (p. 49)

8** The Scribes of Jesus' day were scholars and theologians, guardians and interpreters of Jewish tradition. Because they were highly respected, scribes were often appointed to important offices, both religious and public. They also constituted a portion of the 70-member council known as the Sanhedrin. (p. 49)

9** If the beating received by the apostles in Acts 5:40 was the standard Jewish punishment for religious offences, it would have been far from a light penalty. Such transgressions called for 39 strokes of the lash, a punishment Paul the Apostle would recall receiving five times (2 Cor. 11:24). The 39 'stripes' were one less than the maximum of forty decreed for 'the wicked man' by the Book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 25:3) (p. 55)

10** Aramaic was the international language of Middle Eastern countries at the time of Christ, and the language thought to have been primarily spoken by Jesus, though he also used Greek and Hebrew. In the twenty-first century, Aramaic was still being spoken in small isolated communities throughout the Middle East, most of them Christian. (p. 56)

These facts were taken from "The Veil Is Torn" Christian History Project, Book I, Chapter 3

1** When the Babylonians conquered Judea in the sixth century B.C., most of the Jewish population was carried off into exile in the conquerors' land. Then Persia overwhelmed Babylon, and many Jews returned to their homeland. Others remained in Persia, where strong and influential Jewish communities arose. The major Jewish presence that developed outside of the Holy Land became known as the Diaspora, from a Greek word meaning "dispersion". (p. 70, 75)

2** For Jews of the Diaspora, separated from the Temple in Jerusalem, the synagogue became the centre of community life. The word "synagogue" is Greek for "the place where people are led together". (p. 71)

3** As many Jews of the Diaspora made their homes outside Palestine and adopted Greek as their primary language, it was inevitable that the Hebrew Scriptures would have to be translated into Greek. Thus was born the Septuagint, meaning "seventy" from the number of translators it took to make it. (p. 72)

4** Few translations of Scripture have been so monumental and so revered as the Septuagint - the first translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. It was ultimately presented to the King and Jewish community in Alexandria, and was pronounced so perfect a rendition of the Hebrew that further alterations were forbidden. (p. 72)

5** The Latin Vulgate, translated by St. Jerome in the late fourth century, was the official bible for much of the western world for a thousand years. (p. 72)

6** Did you know? Legend has it that at the behest of Ptolemy II of Egypt (285 - 246 B.C.), Demetrius of Phalerum, the royal librarian of Alexandria, invited a group of Jewish scholars to come to his city and undertake the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. The high priest Eleazar in Jerusalem agreed, and sent 72 translators, six from each tribe of Israel, along with a copy of the Torah written in gold lettering, to carry out the painstaking translation of what became known as the Septuagint. (p. 72)

7** 300 of the 350 citations from the Old Testament in the New, were drawn from the Septuagint version. (p. 72 - 73)

8** First century Jews, the people to whom Jesus spoke his "Good Samaritan" parable, viewed Samaritans as frauds and impostors. They posed as the descendants of the lost Jewish tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. This, said the Jews, was nonsense: those tribes had vanished forever when the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. The Samaritans were actually the whelps of a lot of immigrants the Assyrians imported into the area as replacement settlers, they said. (p. 78)

9** Did you know? The Samaritans of Jesus' time occupied the 870 square miles of land that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, separating Jewish Judea in the south from Jewish Galilee in the north. (p. 78)

10** Did you know? Caesarea, the city to which Peter was called in Acts 10, was the seaside jewel founded by Herod the Great and named for his patron, Caesear Augustus. It lay halfway between modern Haifa and Tel Aviv, and boasted the largest harbour on the east coast of the Mediterranean. In the first century, Caesarea was the Roman capital of Judea, affluent and opulent, with a theatre, a hippodrome, and a five-mile aqueduct that fed the city's water mains and fountains. (p. 83)

11** Did you know? Antioch-on-the-Orontes, the city where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 2), was built by Seleucus I in 300 B.C. By the first century, it was the third largest city in the Roman world, a centre of Hellenistic civilization and home to one of the largest communities of the western Jewish Diaspora. Its population included Greeks, Syrians, Macedonians and Jews, thrown together in one diverse, ethnically inclusive mix, while its location on the road between Asia Minor and Egypt helped ensure its prosperity. (p. 87)

12** Did you know? King Herod Agrippa the I, (Acts 12), was the grandson of Herod the Great. Apart from the celebrated slaughter of the children around Bethlehem, Herod the Great had carried out other notable murders. Before his own death, he executed three of his sons, including Agrippa's father, Aristobulus. That left Agrippa to be raised in Rome by his mother, Bernice. (p. 89)

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