This is the long-time-coming fourth in a series of responses to a horribly-wrong set of things said in what was described by others I know as a “good” message at church*.
The claim was made that 5,000,000 people came from Jerusalem to the house of Lazarus/Mary/Martha to greet Jesus on the way to Jerusalem. Why would you say that?
The regular population of Jerusalem at the time was around 20,000. Estimates of the number of people in town for passover in those years vary from 150,000 to 3,000,000. Josephus’ estimate was 2.7 million, and that is probably a highly-inflated number -possibly by an order of magnitude- but for the moment we’ll grant it for the sake of argument. If there were fewer than 3M people in town, 5M at the triumphal entry parade is rather a bit of a stretch. I’m willing to call this claim “busted” right there.
For the moment, we will say there were three millions of people.
Here is an estimated 1.8 million people on the National Mall in D.C.
Now here is the scale of the place – the green area is full of people in the above photo.
Source: Google Maps
Josephus lived from about 37-100AD. Jesus died several years before Josephus was born. For him to have an accurate count of the people of Jerusalem a few years before his birth would be quite a feat. Josephus wrote that one Roman who was trying to impress another Roman (that the city of Jerusalem was Kind-of a Big Deal) had the priests count the people. There are a couple of good reasons that might never have happened but we’ll allow that it did. According to Josephus, the priests counted the sacrificial lambs (256 000) and multiplied by 10, assuming 10 people on average would share a lamb. I’m thinking, there was definitely some multiplication by ten happening, but perhaps the decimal moved the wrong way on the wrong number!
Joachim Jeremias estimated that 19,200 lambs *at most* could have been slaughtered in the two hours Josephus stated were the time of slaughter, estimated based on the number of people allowed in the temple courts at one time and the procedures observed with each sacrifice. Let’s allow some slack in the times, speed and dimensions and go all the way to 25,600 total lambs killed. That gets you to 270,000 people according to the 10 people/lamb calculation.
The argument has been made that MOST (by far) of the lambs could have been slain by the people in the city (vs. ONLY in the temple), which would allow a quarter million lambs, or a zillion billion since we are making up numbers. The passover requirement was that they kill the lamb in the temple. If you allow making up numbers and locations to supplement historical events, have at it in private if you please, but don’t try to foist it off on the rest of us.
This page also says only a few thousand could have been slain in the limited time they were to be slain in the temple.
Jesus came from the mount of olives to the city. Say he came a kilometer. 5 million people wouldn’t have fit. 5 million is a kilometer-square sea of people shoulder to shoulder, with no room for strawing clothes or cutting palm fronds. We don’t know exactly how many people greeted Jesus as he came to Jerusalem. One thing I’m pretty sure of: There were nowhere near 5 Million people there that day.
The claim was made, that the palm fronds strewn in front of the Lord as he rode into town were left over from the recent feast of Tabernacles. Why would you say that? It says in the Bible (here) and (here) that they CUT branches to straw in the way.
The claim was made, that it was an old marriage custom for the bride and groom to cut their hands and hold hands, mingling their blood, and this was making them “one flesh”. This was claimed to be a “cut covenant”.
Why would you say that? This is silliness! The Act of Marriage is what makes a copulating couple one flesh. If there is any shedding of blood going on (and the Biblical ideal is, that the virgin wife does bleed from one spot) it happens . . . somewhat farther down the body than the arms, if you take my meaning. Joining right hands in modern wedding ceremonies is not reminiscent of some ancient “blood brothers” style covenant. It’s just nice.
The claim was made, that Jesus died on Friday. This is both a great error and a very common misconception.
From my notes taken hastily (longhand) the night this message was delivered:
“By the way, Jesus died on Friday. Not Thursday, Wednesday, or Saturday. You have to know a couple of things about the culture of the time and place.”
* when you say how many days a thing takes, you *can* count part of a day.
* there were two ways to reckon a day. From morning to morning or from afternoon to afternoon.
* the week began on Sunday
Jesus returned from the dead on the first day of the week (sunday) BEFORE dawn. That means we are talking about a Sunday that started on what we would call Saturday afternoon. Counting backwards:
Day 3: Sunday night to saturday night
Day 2: Saturday night to Friday night
Day 1: Friday night to Thursday night
So: we count three days, to wit: Sunday morning, saturday and Friday afternoon. Three. The Romans took him off the cross to placate the Jews who still had a sabbath (Saturday) coming up. So he was for-sure DEAD by our Friday night. By Sunday dawn he was up again. By modern reckoning, a day and a half – but by ancient Jewish reckoning, three days.”
Why would you say that?
This isn’t even hard. To say that parts of days can be counted when the Man himself said it would be three days and nights, I have to start questioning motives here. It takes the most cursory of readings of the Holy Bible to find a Friday crucificiton, but even a little study leads to belief that Friday wasn’t it. If you want the long version, go here: ad2004.com/
Jesus said that he would be “…three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Saturday night, between nightfall and the next dawn, he rose from the dead. “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” This “before dawn” is the end of the weekly sabbath. Sunday was the next daytime. This gets complicated because you can have up to four different ways to count the days, but you have to remember: Jesus said the sign was Three days and Three nights. After these periods had elapsed, meaning 72 hours, he would be resurrected. That is, he would be in the earth for just this long.
The above linked ad2004 page goes through it and draws some very important conclusions about the timing of this event, but here is the short version:
14 Nisan – Wednesday daytime, around 3PM, he died. He was buried by nightfall Wednesday. This was the same time (not merely coincidence!) that the Passover lambs were slain.
15 Nisan – Wednesday 6PM to Thursday 6PM is the first day in the tomb and the first day of the feast of unleavened bread (a special sabbath)
16 Nisan – Thursday 6PM to Friday 6PM is the second day in the tomb
17 Nisan – friday 6pm to saturday 6PM is the third day in the tomb. This is the weekly sabbath, and it ends on Saturday at nightfall. In (during) this sabbath, he rose.
On. The. Third. Day.
If you don’t believe in a Wednesday crucifiction/Saturday resurrection, you are wrong because the Bible says so. Click here and read the whole thing.
Wow VFD that’s a pretty good fisking. Maybe you should ask the guy if you can get your knife out of his back when he’s done!
“Speaking the truth in love” I want people to know what the actual history is. I believe that there is no need to exaggerate the facts to impress people. If the amazing truth of the Gospel is not enough, nothing will be. I also believe that when the long-held tradition of men is in error, it is our duty to mention the error to our fellow men.
The other three posts in this series:
Other sources not linked inline above:
http://www.josephus.org/Passover.htmhttp://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Audio.details/ID/151/Passover-Part-10.htm (sadly disappeared from the ‘net!)