Christian reading

Issue N47

answers for a jew, valeriy sterkh

Answers for a Jew

Why is the Old Testament obsolete? (ending)

Talmud says: «Forty years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, sanhedrin was removed [from Chamber of Hewn Stones] and relocated to the marketplace» (Sabbath, 15a). The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple happened in 70 NE, so Talmud must refer to 30 NE when Jesus was crucified. The possible reason for the removing of the sanhedrin was the earthquake that happened at the crucifixion. The building which was used for gatherings collapsed.

Another passage in Talmud says: «Forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple, the lot [of the goats] failed to come up on the right side; the tongue of gold did not become white; the western lamp went out; the doors of the Holy Place [Temple] opened by themselves…» (Yoma, 39b).

The lot of the goat is part of a Jewish ceremony of sending a scapegoat into the wilderness: «And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD'S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness» (Lev 16:7-10). Both lots were pulled out of the box using two hands. If the lot "for the Lord" fell on the left side, it was considered a bad sign – a sign of a great sin in Judea. According to tradition, after 30 NE and until the destruction of the Temple, this lot "for the Lord" never fell on the right side.

The tongue of gold, or the red string, was attached to the scapegoat's head or horns, and also to the neck of the goat that would be sacrificed to the Lord (see Talmud, Yoma). According to the tradition, part of the red string was hung by the gates of the Temple or attached to a rock in the wilderness near the cliff from which the goat fell. If by the next day the string by the Temple gates grew white, there was celebration; if it didn't, there was grief (see Rosh Hashanah, 31b). This sign was associated with the following prophecy: «Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool» (Is 1:18). But there was no miracle in the year of crucifixion, or later. The string remained red.

The miracle of the western light or western lamp (Ner Maaravi) refers to something that happened with one of the lamps of the Temple Menorah. Evidently, it was the middle lamp, the one closest to the West relative to the three Eastern lampstands (see Rashi on Sabbath 22b). This lamp was also called Ner Elohim (The Lamp of the Almighty) or Shamash (Servant). It was filled with the same amount of oil as the other lamps, but in the morning, when the priest came to clean Menorah after burning all night, he would always find this lamp still lit, while the six others were out. After the execution of Christ this miracle stopped.

In the year of crucification, the eastern gates of the Temple opened by themselves, without any visible cause. It was the fulfillment of this prophecy: «Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut [until it comes out]» (Ezek 44:1-2).

The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans, though a great tragedy in itself, does not even compare to the tragedy of forfeiting the grace of God by the Jews. That's why there is no divine blessing on the contemporary Jewish worship service.

(to be continued)