MATTHEW 2:1 ~ Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea. He was born during the time when
Herod was king.

Herod the Great was around 70 years old when Jesus was born, and at the height of his power.  After a
few murders and bribes,
Herod succeeded in getting the Roman senate to appoint him king of the Jews.  
But when he arrived, Jerusalem had closed their gates and refused to let him in.  He forced his way in and
took control.  

MATTHEW 2:2, 7 ~ After Jesus was born, some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem. The wise
men [magi]
asked people, “Where is the child that has been born to be the king of the Jews? We saw
star that shows he was born. We saw the star rise in the sky in the east. We came to worship him”….
Then Herod had a private meeting with the
wise men [magi] from the east. Herod learned from the wise
men [magi]
the exact time they first saw the star.

At this time there was a Magi Tribe in western India according to Bhavishya Purana and it was
considered the priestly tribe.  
There was a Magi Tribe in Media according to Herodotus i. 101, but they
were not as influential after Media united with
Persia.  When Babylon eventually merged with Persia, the
Chaldeans were considered to be
magi.  The term "magi" eventually came to mean mystic incantations,
astrology, etc. Although the religious writings of India and Medio-Persia do not include significance of a
single star as associated with kingship, the writings of ancient Daniel who lived in Babylon and Persia do.

MATTHEW 2:16 ~ Herod gave an order to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and the whole area around
Bethlehem. Herod had learned from the wise men the time {the baby was born}. It was now two years from
that time. So Herod said to
kill all the boys that were two years old and younger.

Historian Flavius Josephus, who lived during the time of Herod and Jesus, tells in his "Antiquities of the
of Herod killing his favorite wife Mariam, his brother-in-law, his father-in-law, two of his sons and
others ~ all out of jealousy and fear they would take his throne from him and kill him.  He even
another son while on his deathbed because that son thought his father was dead and declared himself
king of the Jews.

MATTHEW 2:19  ~ After Herod died, an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream. This happened
while Joseph was in Egypt.

In 2007, a Hebrew University archaeologist uncovered Herod's tomb at Herodium, a massive white-stone
complex  near Jerusalem,
Herod's desert retreat.  It housed a fortified palace, administrative buildings,
gardens, and ritual baths.  It was surprisingly found halfway up the mound.  There they found a slab of
high-quality, highly ornamented pink limestone. They also found
Herod's regally ornate sarcophagus.  
The remains of a huge staircase leading up to the
burial site have been uncovered, as well as an
enormous area set up for
Herod's funeral procession.

MATTHEW 2:22a ~But Joseph heard that Archelaus was now king in Judea. Archelaus became king
when his father Herod died. So Joseph was afraid to go there. Joseph was warned in a dream.

According to Roman records and contemporary historian, Josephus, Herod the Great's son, Herod
Archelaeus was to become the next king of the Jews upon his father's death.  He was even more cruel
than his father.  Two years after the beginning of is reign, he put down a riot of the Jews against him by
killing 3000 of them there in Jerusalem.  Therefore, Augustus Caesar named him ethnarc and parts of the
kingdom to his brothers, Herod Philip and Herod Antipas.  But
Archelaeus' cruelty continued.  After
further complaints to Caesar by the Jewish leaders, in 6 AD he was banished to Gaul.  Then Augusta
made Samaria, Idumea and Judea a Roman province to be ruled by a Roman governor.

MATTHEW 8:5- 9~ The [Roman] officer answered, “Lord, I am not good enough for you to come into my
house. All you need to do is command that my servant be healed, and he will be healed. I myself am a
man under the authority (power) of other men. And I have
soldiers under my authority. I tell one soldier,
‘Go,’ and he goes. I tell another
soldier, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and my
servant obeys me. {I know that you also have power like this.}”

In 63 BC, Roman Proconsul Pompeius Magnus ("Pompey the Great")  secured Judea for Rome. When
Queen Alexandra Salome died around 63 BC and a civil war broke out between her sons, Hyrcanus II and
Aristobulus II, Proconsul Pompey laid
siege to Jerusalem to get it under control and make the high priest,
Hyrcanus, the leader of Judea.  It took three months to break through the gates of the city and put
Hyrcanus in

Eventually political rule passed to the Herod the Great's father as a Roman procurator and later to
Herod the Great as a client king appointed by
Rome. A couple years after Herod the Great's death,
Judea came under direct
Roman rule as a province of Rome. It was common to see Roman soldiers on
patrol in all cities.

MATTHEW 8:9; 17:24 ~ Jesus went to the city of Capernaum…. Jesus and his followers went to
Capernaum. In Capernaum some men came to Peter. They were the men that collected the two-
drachma tax. They asked, “Does your teacher pay the two-drachma tax?”

In 1838, the American achaeologist, Edward Robinson discovered the ruins of the ancient Capernaum.  
Excavations began in 1905.  They uncovered two public buildings and a Jewish synagogue.  More
building foundations have been uncovered since then.  Artifacts and building foundations reveal that the
town was build in the second century BC.

MATTHEW 9:9; 17:24 ~ When Jesus was leaving, he saw a man named Matthew. Matthew was sitting at
his place for collecting
taxes. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Then Matthew stood up and followed Jesus.

Although Jewish tax was collected by Jewish priests or Levites, Roman taxes were necessary also in
order to pay for the support of the soldiers and Romans leaders.  Pictured is a relief depicting a
collecting scene on display at Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn, Germany.

MATTHEW 11:20-21 ~ Then Jesus criticized the cities where he did most of his miracles. Jesus criticized
those cities because the people there did not change their lives and stop sinning. Jesus said, “It will be
bad for you ...

In 1987, Israeli archaeologist Dr. Rami Arav folund 2 km from the north coast of the Sea of Galilee what
he believed to be the site was
Bethsaida.  In 1990, Rami and several colleagues from around the world
joined together to form the Consortium of the
Bethsaida Excavations Project, which since then has been
housed at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  This site has been confirmed to be that of

The ancient Jewish historian, Josephus Flavius, said that around 30 AD, Phillip, the son of Herod the
Great, improved the village of
Bethsaida so that it became a Roman city, then renamed it Julias, after
Livia-Julia, the wife of the late Emperor Augustus. Four years later, Phillip died and was buried at

MATTHEW 14:3 ~ Before this time, Herod [Antipas] had arrested John. Herod [Antipas] had tied John
with chains and put him into prison.
Herod [Antipas] arrested John because of Herodias. Herodias was
the wife of
[Herod] Philip,  Herod’s brother.

Herod Antipas was brother of Herod Archelaeus and Herod Philip.  Their father, Herod the Great,
divided his kingdom among his three sons.  
Herod Antipas was given Galilee, a province in the north,
and Perea, a province east of the Jordan River, and given the title "tetrarch" (ruler of one fourth).  His
Herod Philip, was given all the provinces east of the Jordan River except Perea (southern
Jordan today).  Although Herod the Great's will was contested before Tiberius Caesar, Caesar decided to
honor it as written.  

Herod Philip, the tetrarch, built a city in northern Palestine at the site formerly dedicated to the Greek
god, Pan.  He named it Caesarea in honour of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus.  It was often called
Caesarea Philippi to distinguish it from the Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast, a few miles west of

MATTHEW 14:1 ~ At that time Herod [Antipas], the ruler {of Galilee}, heard the things people said
about Jesus.

(LUKE 23:6-7 ~ Pilate heard this and asked if Jesus was from Galilee. Pilate learned that Jesus was
under [Governor]  Herod’s authority.
Herod [Antipas] was in Jerusalem at that time, so Pilate sent Jesus
to him.)

Herod Antipas built the city of Tiberius in Galilee on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and named it after

MATTHEW 15:21-22 ~ Jesus left that place and went to the area of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman
from that area came to Jesus.

Sidon has been inhabited since at least 4000 BC.  It was one of the most important Phoenician/Canaanite
cities,  Being on the Mediterranean Sea, it developed into a city with many skills in creating glass,
embroidery, etc., and a world-wide trade.  Homer praised Sidon.  It is said that Sidon later had a hand in
founding the city of Tyre south of it.  It has been fought over and controlled by Egypt starting in 1450
BCE, then Assyria 900 BCE and Persia around 539 BC.  It is part of Lebanon which used to be called

Pictured is an alabaster Phoenician figure probably of the Canaanite goddess Astarte, dated the 7th
century BC and now at the National Archaeological Museum of Spain

MATTHEW 16:13 ~ Jesus went to the area of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus said to his followers, “I am the
Son of Man.

Caesarea Philippi was built in a region called Panion/Banias after the Greek god Pan.  It included
shrines close to the spring called "Paneas". Also it had a temple, courtyards, a grotto and niches for
rituals, all dedicated to Pan. It was constructed on a cliff which towered over the city.  In the past, a giant
spring gushed from a cave set in the limestone bedrock and flowed in a waterfall down to the valley.  
Caesarea Philippi was at the foot of Mount Hermon.

In 1988 Pepperdine University, in association with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, began excavations in
the center of Caesarea Philippi, a few hundred metres south of the cave. Here they discovered what they
believe to be the palace of Herod Agrippa II built with fine Roman architectural design.

MATTHEW 20:29 ~ When Jesus and his followers were leaving Jericho, many, many people followed

Tell es-Sultan is ancient
Jericho.  It was first excavated in the very early 1900s and periodically since
then.  The city is many thousands of years old, but was destroyed around 1550.  It remained uninhabited
until  the 9th century BC. In the 8th century BC, the Assyrians invaded it.  Later the Babylonians did.  
Around 550 BC, the city was emptied of people, which was during the period that the Jews were exiled to
Babylon.  Cyrus the Great of Persia repopulated the city when he allowed  the Jews to return to their
former homeland.  

However, they settled a mile southeast of the former site of Jericho (Tel es-Samrat).  Between 336 and
323 BC, Alexander the Great made it his personal estate.  Around 30 BC, Rome gave Jericho to Herod
the Great.  He built there a hippodrome-theatre and new aqueducts to irrigate the area below the cliffs
and reach his winter palace built at the site of Tulul al-Alaiq.  Remains of both still survive.

MATTHEW 21:1 ~ Jesus and his followers were coming closer to Jerusalem. But first they stopped at
Bethphage at the hill called the
Mount of Olives. There Jesus sent two of his followers into the town.

The more important citizens of Jerusalem were traditionally buried on the Mount of Olives.  Near the
modern village of Silwan, is where important citizens during the times of the Judean kings were buried,
including some of the prophets of the Bible.  There are an estimated 150,000 graves on the
Roman soldiers camped on the
Mount during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The religious ceremony
marking the start of a new month was held on the
Mount of Olives after the Second Temple was built by
the Jews who returned from Babylonian captivity.  The mountain is 80 meters higher than the Temple
Mount and offers a panoramic view of the Temple site.

MATTHEW 22:17-2 ~ So tell us what you think. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? Yes or no?” But Jesus
knew that these men were trying to trick him. So he said, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to catch me
saying something wrong? Show me a
coin used for paying the tax.” The men showed Jesus a silver coin

An early form of the silver denarius was first minted in 269 BC with an average weight of 6.8 grams or
1⁄48 th  of a Roman pound.   Rome standardized its coinage around 211 BC.  It began to experience slow
deflation of value toward the end of the rule of Augustus Caesar,  At that time, its
silver content fell to 3.9
grams, 1⁄84 th  of a Roman pound.

MATTHEW 22:20-21 ~Then Jesus asked, “Whose picture is on the coin? And whose name is written on
the coin?” The men answered, “It is
Caesar’s picture and Caesar’s name.” Then Jesus said to them,
“Give to
Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. And give to God the things that are God’s.”

Tiberius Caesar was one of Rome's most famous and successful generals, conquering much of Europe,
but never really wanted to be emperor.  In BC 4, Augustus Caesar adopted him, and made him co-regent
in AD 13.  Augustus Caesar died the following year at age 75.   
Tiberius Caesar sometimes put himself
in exile to brood, or was suspicious and jealous.  There was much confusion during his reign.  He was the
Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD.  Upon his death, Caligula became Caesar.

MATTHEW 24:1-2 ~ Jesus left the temple area [in Jerusalem] and was walking away. But his followers
came to him to show him the temple’s buildings. Jesus asked the followers, “Are you looking at these
buildings? I tell you the truth. They will be destroyed. Every stone will be thrown down to the ground.
Not one stone will be left on another.”

The triumphal Arch of Titus in Rome was built soon after the death of Titus at the order of his brother,
Roman Emperor Domitian.  It commemorated the triumph of Titus, especially the
destruction of
including the temple in AD 70, nearly 40 years after Jesus' prediction.   In AD 66 Jewish
Zealots began an outright war against the Romans who had controlled their country for decades.  Titus
went to Jerusalem to quell the rebellion.  Finally in the early autumn of AD 70, a
fire was begun in the
temple and spread to the rest of Jerusalem.  Titus took advantage of the situation and broke through
walls.  One significance of the Arch of Titus is that it depicts the seven-branched menorah and
trumpets used in Jewish
temple worship.

MATTHEW 26:3, 57 ~ Then the leading priests and the older Jewish leaders had a meeting at the palace
where the high priest lived. The high priest’s name was Caiaphas…. The men that arrested Jesus led
him to the house of
Caiaphas the high priest. The teachers of the law and the older Jewish leaders
were gathered there.

Joseph, son of Caiaphas, was a Roman-appointed high priest of the Jews AD 18-36 ~ 18 years, and
went by the name of
Caiaphas.  He was the highest Jewish leader of the Jews since, at that time, Rome
appointed Romans governors to rule the Jews.  He was leader of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the supreme
court of the Jews.  His power among the Jews was ultimate.  In AD 36, Vitellius, the Syrian governor,
removed him from office, partly because of his cruelty.   

In 1990, an ornate limestone casket ("bone box") was found while paving a road in the Peace Forest
south of the Abu Tor neighborhood two miles south of the Old City of Jerusalem.  It was in a family tomb
and contained the bones of an elderly man.  On the side of the box, written in Aramaic was this:  
bar Kayafa"
(Joseph son of Caiaphas).  It is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Sanhedrin burial cave is also called “the tomb of the judges” in Arabic and has 71 burial niches.  
The caves are surrounded by a forest planted by the Jerusalem municipality.

MATTHEW 27:1-2, 11-13, 19, 24 ~ Early the next morning, all the leading priests and older leaders of the
people decided to kill Jesus.  They tied Jesus with chains. Then they led him to
Pilate the governor.
They gave Jesus to
Pilate.  Jesus stood before Pilate the governor. Pilate asked him questions. He
said, “Are you the king of the Jews?”Jesus answered, “Yes, I am.” When the leading priests and the older
Jewish leaders accused Jesus, he said nothing. So
Pilate said to Jesus, “You hear these people
accusing you of all these things. Why don’t you answer?”…
Pilate said these things while he was sitting in
the place for judging. While he was sitting there, his wife sent a message to him. The message said, “Don’
t do anything with that man (Jesus).
He is not guilty. And today I had a dream about him, and it troubled
me very much.”…
Pilate saw that he could do nothing to make the people change. And he saw that the
people were becoming upset. So
Pilate took some water and washed his hands so that all the people
could see. Then
Pilate said, “I am not guilty of this man’s death. You are the ones that are doing it!”

Pilate was prefect (governor) of Judea from AD 26 to AD 36, the fifth Roman prefect, or procurator, of
Judea. Historians of his time described him as cruel.  He even Temple treasury funds to build an aqueduct
for Jerusalem, and then mercilessly suppressed the protest that erupted in response. In AD 36, he
massacred a large number of Samaritans, so was removed from office.  

In 1961, an inscription was discovered in a staircase of the Roman theater at Caesarea, the Romans seat
of government for Judea.  It is on display at the Israel Museum.  It reads:


MATTHEW 27:27 ~ Pilate’s soldiers brought Jesus into the governor’s palace. All the soldiers gathered
around Jesus.

Ancient historian, Josephus, reported that Herod the Great's palace was on the western hill of
Jerusalem.  In 2001 parts of it was found under a corner of the Jaffa Gate citadel. Archaeologists state
that in the 1st century, the Praetorium – the
palace of the governor (prefect) – was on the western hill of
Jerusalem.  Procurators/governors of Judea resided in Herod's

MATTHEW 27:32 ~ The soldiers were going out of the city with Jesus. The soldiers forced another man
there to carry the cross for Jesus. This man’s name was Simon from

Cyrene was founded in the 4th century BC by Greeks.  The city spontaneously submitted itself to the rule
of Alexander the Great and, at his death.  Ptolemy III Euergetes bequeathed it to the Roman people in 96
Cyrene became a Roman province in 74 BC, and was given by Mark Anthony to Cleopatra.  
Temples, monuments, an agora and a forum still survive today.

MATTHEW 27:33-34 ~They came to the place called Golgotha. (Golgotha means “The Place of the

There is a hill at the northeast side of old Jerusalem, just outside its walls, that has the shape of a skull on
it. A cemetery is nearby.   It is just outside the Jaffa gate and opposite the temple and fortress of Antonio.

MATTHEW 27:35a ~ The soldiers nailed Jesus to a cross.

An Ossuary (small casket only for the bones] was found in Northern Jerusalem in an area called Giv'at ha-
Mivtar.  The tombs were part of a huge Jewish cemetery of the Second Temple period (second century
BC to 70 AD), from Mt. Scopus in the east to the Sanhedran tombs in the northwest.  It dated to around
10 AD and contained the remains of a young man by the name of Yehohanan [Jonathan] son of Hagkol.  
Among his bones was an ankle bone with a 7 inch nail through it.  

It is on display at the Israel Museum.  Details of the archaeologist who explored the tomb are here:  http:

MATTHEW 27:35b-36 ~ Then the soldiers gambled with dice to decide who would get Jesus’ clothes.  
The soldiers sat there and continued watching Jesus.

The Alexamenos graffito is the earliest known image of the crucifixion and is dated around 85 AD. It was
discovered when a building called the domus Gelotiana was unearthed on the Palatine Hill in Rome. It had
been the emperor Caligula's personal house, his palace.

The rough drawing  shows a man looking at the person on the cross with one arm raised, and with this
caption in Greek:  "Alexamenos worships [his] God".  It is on display at the Paletine Museum, Rome.

MATTHEW 27:36-37 ~ The soldiers put a sign above Jesus’ head with the charge against him written on
it. The sign said: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”   Two robbers were nailed to crosses
beside Jesus. One robber was put beside Jesus on the right and the other was put on the left.

At first, crucifixion was a punishment for slaves.  Then it became common execution of criminals and
enemies of the government.  Unless it was a mass crucifixion, the name of the condemned man's crime
was on a plaque attached to the cross.

Crucifixion was used to punish foreign captives, rebels and fugitives, especially during times of war and
rebellion. Captured enemies and rebels were crucified en masse. Accounts of the suppression of the
revolt of Spartacus in 71 B.C. lined the road from Capua to Rome with 6,000 crucified rebels and 6,000
crosses. After King Herod's death, Quintilius Varus, the Roman Legate of Syria, crucified 2,000 Jews in
Jerusalem. During Titus's siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Roman troops crucified some 500 Jews.
HEROD the GREAT's Jericho Palace
Relief showing a Median MAGI,
from Gur-Eshagh, Iran
Ancient historian Flavius JOSEPHUS
HEROD the Great's sarcophagus
Herod ARCHELAEUS coins
Relief of Roman SOLDIERS from
around 50 AD, now on display at
the Louvre, Paris
CAPERNAUM archaeological
Excavation of BETHSAIDA
Amphitheatre in City of Tiberius
Caesarea Philippi, built by
HEROD PHILIP and named for Caesar
Statue of goddess found in
Excavations of ancient JERICHO
Part of the elite cemetery on the
Tiberius Caesar
Tiberius CAESAR
Relief from Arch of Titus depicting
the capture of candle stick and
trumpets from temple in Jerusalem
SANHEDRIN burial cave.
Coins minted in Caesarea during
PILATE Inscription
Temple to Apollo in CYRENE
Excavation of Herod's Palace Tower
GOLGOTHA, Place of the Skull
Chest holding bones of a
CRUCIFIED man.  Ankle bone with
nail still through it.

MARK 1:21~ Jesus and his followers went to Capernaum. On the Sabbath day Jesus went into the
synagogue and taught the people.

In 1838, the town of Capernaum was discovered by American archaeologists.  The pictured
synagogue was discovered in 1866 by British archaeologists.  In 1894, Italian archaeologists
purchased the land.  In 1905, German archaeologists began excavations.  In 1926, restoration work of
synagogue began, and was continued in 1976.  Although the synagogue was built around 400 AD
with white blocks of calcareous stone, archaeologist Loffreda found an older foundation of basalt dating
to the first century. He concluded this was the foundation of a first-century

MARK 2:7-8 ~ Jesus went away with his followers to the lake. Many people from Galilee followed him.
8Many, many people also came from Judea, from Jerusalem, from
Idumea, from the area across the
Jordan River, and from the area around Tyre and Sidon. These people came because they heard about
all the things Jesus was doing.

Idumea is another name for Edom.  Edomites were descendants of Esau, grandson of Abraham and son
of Isaac.  Even though who converted to Judaism were not always accepted fully by Jews who
descended from Esau's brother, Jacob (Israel).  

Assyrian inscriptions called Edomites Udumi" or "Udumu".  Egyptian inscriptions called them "Aduma".  
After the Babylonian captivity of the Jews in the early 600s, the Greeks and Romans called them
"Idumeans".  After Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, mention of the Edomites disappeared from
worldwide writings.  Pictured is an ostracon (written on pottery chard) of a receipt for flour dated to the
4th century BC in Idumea.  It is number MS 2060/1 in the Schoyen private collection in London.

MARK 5:1-2 ~ Jesus and his followers went across the lake to the area where the Gerasene people
lived. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man came to him from the caves where dead people are buried.

Gerash was one of the ten important cities of the Decapolis on the east side of the Jordan River (see
below).  It was established 2000-3000 BC.  Three decades after Jesus, this city was annexed by the
Roman province of Syria.  It has been nicknamed the city of 1000 columns because so much of the
ancient city has been preserved.

MARK 5:20; 7:31 ~ So the man left and told the people in the Ten Towns [Decapolis] about the great
things Jesus did for him. All the people were amazed....Then Jesus left the area around Tyre and went
through Sidon. Jesus went to Lake Galilee. Jesus went through the area of the
Ten Towns [Decapolis].

Jesus traveled from Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterannean Sea to the Decapolis east of the Jordan
River in today's Jordan  The cities and "suburbs" had similar political structure and language, and were
considered centers of Greek and Roman culture.  They were (1) Gerasa (Jerash) in Jordan; (2)
Scythopolis (Beth-Shean) in Israel; (3) Hippos (Hippus or Sussita) in Israel; (4) Gadara (Umm Qais) in
Jordan; (5) Pella (West of Irbid) in Jordan; (6) Philadelphia, modern day Amman, the capital of Jordan;
(7) Al Husn in Jordan; (8) Capitolias (Beit Ras) in Jordan (Dion, Jordan); (9) Canatha (Qanawat) in Syria
Arabella (Irbid), in Jordan; (9) Raphana in Jordan; (10) Damascus, the capital of modern Syria.

MARK 15:46; 16:2-4   ~ Joseph bought some linen cloth. Joseph took the body {from the cross}
and wrapped the body in the linen. Then Joseph put the body in a
tomb (grave) that was dug in a wall
of rock
. Then Joseph closed the tomb by rolling a large stone to cover the entrance....Very early on
that day, the first day of the week, the women were going to the
tomb. ...The women said to each other,
“There is a
large stone covering the entrance of the tomb. Who will move the stone for us?”....Then
the women looked and saw that the
stone was moved. The stone was very large, but it was moved
away from the entrance.

Archaeologist Hershel Shanks explains that typical tombs in that area and period were carved out of
and had a stone at the entrance.  "Like most of the tombs of this period...a cave-like cutting
into the soft limestone that abounds in Jerusalem....typical Jewish
tomb....On the outside, in front of the
entrance to the
tomb, was a forecourt....the entrance itself  blocked by a stone slab and led to a
large, carved-out chamber."

Hundreds of
tombs in Jerusalem alone have been hewn in the slopes mostly of the Mount of Olives
and Mount Scopas.  Typically they had a square
stone covering a narrow opening.  Bodies were
placed in niches or on benches cut into the walls of the burial chambers.  
Ancient drawing of CRUCIFIXION

JOHN 5:1-7 ~ Later Jesus went to Jerusalem for a special Jewish festival. In Jerusalem there is a pool
five covered porches. In the Jewish language it is called Bethzatha [Bethesda].  This pool is near
Sheep Gate. Many sick people were lying on the porches {beside the pool}....So Jesus asked the
man, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no person to help me get into the
water when the
water starts moving."

The pool of Bethesda was built during the time of the first temple and was a reservoir with a dam to
control release
of the waters when needed.  Since it was by the sheep gate, it may have been used to
wash sacrificial sheep.  After the second temple was built, a second pool was created to increase the
water supply for the temple.  The two pools were separated by a central dyke.  The water was very deep
(15 M, c.45 feet).  The pools combined were 50 M (about 150 feet) by 120 M (about 360 feet).  

Herod the Great, who died shortly after the birth of Jesus, built a new water system for the temple, so it
no longer was needed for that. So gradually it was turned into a popular healing center with Roman
baths; hence the name
Beth (house of) Hesda (graceful waters).  Around the pools were columns.  
Five porches have been excavated at the site.  

JOHN 6:23 ~ But then some boats from Tiberias came. The boats landed near the place where the
people had eaten {the day before}. This was where they had eaten the bread after the Lord (Jesus)
gave thanks.

Herod Antipas, tetrarch of the province of Galilee and son of Herod the Great, built the city Tiberias
around 20 AD.  It became the capital of Galilee, and he also built a palace there.  It was on the shore of
the Sea of Galilee which then began to be called the Sea of
Tiberias.  At first, Herod brought in many
non-Jews to populate his new city.  Within a few decades it had became the largest city in Israel.  In
2009, an amphitheater was discovered in
Tiberias that could seat 7000 people.  Even today it is a
sprawling metroplex.  

JOHN 9:7,11 ~ Jesus told the man, “Go and wash in the pool Siloam.” (Siloam means “Sent.”) So the
man went to the
pool. He washed and came back. Now he was able to see....The man answered, “The
man that people call Jesus made some mud. He put the mud on my eyes. Then Jesus told me to go to
Siloam and wash. So I went to Siloam and washed. And then I could see.”

The photograph at right shows the Pool of Siloam in the early 1900s.  An early description of the pool
by a Major Conder reads, "There is nothing picturesque about it, certainly. The crumbling walls, and
fallen columns in and around it, give it an air of neglect." It is a parallelogram about fifty-three feet
long and eighteen feet wide
. . . . Dr. Thomson says he has seen this pool nearly full, but that now
the water merely passes through it. "The
intermittent flow is supposed to be due to a natural syphon,
but the natives' explanation is that a
dragon lives below and swallows the water when he is awake, but
that when he sleeps it wells up freely. "  Much of its large surroundings with broad steps and columns
had already been covered over through the centuries, and eventually the pool itself was; but it was
rediscovered in 2004.

Read in our History section under Nehemiah 2 for an explanation of the Dragon Well and Gihon Spring
connected to the
Pool of Siloam with its intermittent flow,

JOHN 19:31-33  ~ This day was Preparation day. The next day was a special Sabbath day. The Jewish
leaders did not want the bodies to stay on the cross on the Sabbath day. So they asked Pilate to order
that the
legs of the men be broken {to make them die sooner}. And they asked that the bodies of the
men be taken down from the crosses. So the soldiers came and
broke the legs of the first man on the
cross beside Jesus. Then they
broke the legs of the other man on the cross beside Jesus.  But when
the soldiers came close to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead. So they did not
break his legs.
But one of the soldiers stuck his spear into Jesus’ side. Blood and water came out.

Hershel Shanks, prominent archaeologist who discovered in a tomb in Jerusalem a chest with bones of a
crucified man inside, explained that the man's legs had been broken.  "We may conclude that the
executioners broke his legs on purpose in order to accelerate his death and allow his family to bury him
before nightfall in accordance with Jewish custom."   
Ancient SYNAGOGUE in
IDUMEAN inscription from 4th
century BC
Ancient GERASH with modern
Jerash in background.
Typical CAVE TOMB  in ancient

LUKE 2:1 ~  At that time, Augustus Caesar sent out an order to all people in the countries that were
under Roman rule. The order said that all people must write their name in a book (census).

Augustus Caesar ruled the Roman Empire from 27 BC to 14 AD.  In 27 BC, the Roman senate awarded
him the esteemed title "Augustus". During his reign, he enlarged his empire by annexing several
countries and establishing "client kings".  He also established a standing army called the Praetorian
Guard, created a network of roads, and
revised the tax system.  

He wrote a record of his accomplishments in his
Res Gestae Divi August ~ Deeds of the Divine
 Copies were engraves on pillars and temple walls throughout the empire.  The entire text
has survived on a temple to Augustus in Ankara, Turkey.

LUKE 3:1-3 ~  It was the 15th year of the rule of Tiberius Caesar. These men were under Caesar:
Pontius Pilate, the ruler of Judea; Herod, the ruler of Galilee; Philip, Herod’s brother
, the ruler of Iturea
and Trachonitis;
Lysanias, the ruler of Abilene.  Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At that
time, a command from God came to John, the son of Zechariah. John ...went through the whole area
around the Jordan River. He told the people {God’s message}. John told them to be baptized to show
that they wanted to change their hearts and lives. Then their sins would be forgiven.

Tiberius, Pilate, Herod and Philip were discussed above.  Lysanias ruled Abilene from about 40-36
BC.  His
tetrarchy of Abilene was also called Chalcis and Iturea.  Coins from his reign call him
tetnarch and high priest.  A temple inscription found at Abila, named
Lysanias as the Tetrarch.  It
For the salvation of the Au[gust] lords  and of [all] their household, Nymphaeus, free[dman] of
Lysanias tetrarch this street and other things.

LUKE 6:13,15 ~ The next morning, Jesus called his followers. He chose twelve of them. He named
these men “apostles.” They were....
Simon (called the Zealot)...

The Zealots were a political/religious sect of the Jews made up of religious terrorists.  They fought for
freedom from control by Rome.  The
Zealots were often feared even by their own people.  Their aim
was the return of the land to Jewish religious and political rule and traditions.  They led skirmishes and
sometimes wars against the Romans.  It continued for decades.  In 70 AD when Titus destroyed
Jerusalem with its temple, they took Masada from the Romans; it took the Romans three years to get it
back.  Rather than surrender, 936
Zealots committed suicide.

LUKE 10:33; 17:15-16 ~ Then a Samaritan man traveled down that road. He came to the place where
the hurt man was lying. The
Samaritan saw the man. He felt very sorry for the hurt man. The Samaritan
went to him and poured olive oil and wine on his wounds. Then he covered the man’s wounds with cloth.
Samaritan had a donkey. He put the hurt man on his donkey, and he took him to an inn. At the
inn, the
Samaritan cared for him....When one of the men saw that he was healed, he went back to
Jesus. He praised God loudly. He bowed down at Jesus’ feet. The man thanked Jesus. (This man was

Samaria was originally the capital city of the northern kingdom, but later it referred to a large around  
that city. After the nation of Israel had a civil war, the northern 10 tribes were called Israel, and the
southern two tribes were called Judah.  Eventually the northern Israelites were taken as captives to
Assyria.  There they assimilated with the local population until their identity was fused and forgotten.  
Sargon, the king of Assyria sent people from his towns to live in Israel and farm it so it wouldn't turn into
a desolate desert.  (Think A-sam-ria)

The imported Assyrians brought their own idols to worship, but decided to add the local Yahweh to their
other gods.  They became "mixed breed" of both Assyrian and Jewish, and their religion did also. They
were so despised that, by the time of Jesus, the pure-bred Jews would go out of their way and travel
completely around
Samaria to travel between northern Israel (in Jesus' day known as Galilee), and
southern Israel (in Jesus' day called Judea).  Even today, DNA of people whose ancestors lived in
Samaria shows their father's side as Mesopotamian (area of Assyria) and their mother's side as Jewish.

LUKE 19:1-2, 6-8 ~ Jesus was going through the city of Jericho.  In Jericho there was a man named
Zacchaeus. He was a wealthy, very important tax collector....Then Zacchaeus came down quickly.
He was happy to have Jesus in his house. All the people saw this. They began to complain, “Look at
the kind of man Jesus stays with.
Zacchaeus is a sinner!” Zacchaeus said to the Lord (Jesus), “I want
to do good. I will give half of my money to the poor.
If I have cheated any person, I will pay that person
back four times more!”

In the Roman system of taxation, they appointed a procurator to serve as governor and chief tax
collector of each province.  Every few years, the Roman government would put up the office of
Publican (public tax collector) for auction.  Those who won their provincial bid would pay the required
taxes in advance, and the government would promise to repay it with interest, once the publican was
actually paid the
taxes by the citizens.  The publican was allowed to charge whatever he wanted for
taxes and pocket the overage for himself.  The government always protected the publicans, and they
always became rich.  During the first century, a popular phrase was
"publicans and sinners".  

LUKE 19:15-16 ~ “But the man became king. When he came home, he said, ‘Call those servants that
have my money. I want to know how much more money they earned with it.’ The first servant came and
said, ‘Sir, I earned ten bags of money [ten
minas] with the one bag [one mina] you gave me!’

Both Hebrews and Babylonioans had minas in their coin system.  A mina of silver weighed 1.26 lbs.
In 2011, US silver was worth about $35/ounce which is $560/pound.  Add another 26
th of a pound @
$90, and the value of one
silver mina would be $650 in US dollars.  Ten minas, then, would be worth
$6500 in US dollars.  (One US ounce equals 28.3 grams.)

LUKE 21:1-4 ~ Jesus saw some rich people putting their gifts for God into the temple money box. Then
Jesus saw a
poor widow.  She put two small copper coins [mites] into the box. Jesus said, “I tell you
the truth. This
poor widow gave only two small coins [mites]. But she really gave more than all those
rich people.  The rich people have plenty; they gave only what they did not need. This woman is very
poor. But she gave all she had. And she needed that money to help her live.”

A mite was a lepton.  The lepton is probably the lowest denomination coin ever struck by any nation
in all of history.  It was minted by Pontius Pilate between 29 AD and 32 AD.  
A lepton was worth
1/100th of a drachma.
 A Roman drachma was 3.4 grams or about 1/8 of an ounce.  

In 2011, copper was worth about $4/pound or 25 cents/ounce US currency. A
lepton was worth
1/100th of a drachma.  A Roman drachma was 3.4 grams or about 1/8 of an ounce.  Therefore, a
Roman drachma of
copper would be worth a little over 3 cents/pennies US currency.  With a lepton
being worth 1/100th of a drachma, the
lepton would be worth .0003 of a US cent/penny or 3/100s of
a cent/penny.
 (One US ounce equals 28.3 grams.)
Excavation of Abila, capital of
Abilene where
LYSANIAS was Tetrach.
Masada, conquered by ZEALOTS
in the middle of Israel
House of a typical RICH
Roman (uncovered in Pompii)
Silver Coin under Tiberius Caesar
Copper MITES worth
3/100s of a US cent/penny
A portion of the healing
Excavatiions of Old Tiberias
POOL OF SILOAM 100 yrs ago with
steps covered over.  Pool site
today with pool covered over.
Crucifixion was in use
particularly among the
Seleucids, Carthaginians, and
Romans from about the
6th century BC to the
4th century AD.

In the year 337, Emperor
Constantine I abolished it in
the Roman Empire (Europe
and Middle East).