PMW 2020-080 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.Emperor worship temple 4
In this fourth entry in an 8-part series I am arguing that the Jewish Temple in the first-century effectively functioned as tool of emperor worship, when understood spiritually.

Along with pride in their national shrine the Jews boast of their physical descent from Abraham, as Paul strongly indicates: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I” (2Co 11:22). This involves a trusting in the flesh (Gal 4:23, 39; 1Co 10:18 [Gk]). They pride themselves in physical circumcision (Ro 2:25-29; Gal 5:11; 6:12-13; Php 3:2-3; Tit 1:10). Indeed, they trust in all their ritual traditions as Paul’s testimony shows: “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” (Gal 1:14). When he defends his apostleship against his opponents he writes: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I” (2Co 11:22).

We see Judaism’s strong ritual concern early in the post-Pentecost Christian witness. In Ac 6:14 Stephen is charged with an attempt to “alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” Scharlemann (102) observes that “the word translated as ‘customs’ reads eth in Greek; and this, in turn, is a translation of the Hebrew minh got. It was used to cover the whole complex set of ritual prescriptions and religious obligations assumed by the Jew when he took upon himself the yoke of the kingdom. It was the word used to refer to carrying out the requirements of the oral tradition.”

Jewish pride ultimately leads them to engage war with Rome, vainly believing they hold “God as their only Lord and Master” (J.W. 7:10:1 §410). The Zealots particularly affirm “an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord” (Ant. 18:1:5 §23). John of Gischala responds to Josephus’ calls to surrender, noting that “he did never fear the taking of the city, because it was God’s own city” (J.W. 6:2:1 §98). This repeats the error of their fathers before the first temple’s destruction as we will see below. According to the Mishnah: “Upon three things the universe stands: upon Torah, and upon the Temple service, and upon deeds of lovingkindness” (Avot 1:2:). Scharlemann comments: “How badly Jerusalem and its High Council needed to hear Stephen’s [Ac 7] warning can be demonstrated from the fact that, at almost the very moment when the temple was about to be destroyed by Roman soldiers, in August A.D. 70, a prophet was able to persuade many of the inhabitants of Jerusalem that they ought to resort to the courtyard of the temple on the conviction that the God of Israel would never permit this sanctuary to fall into the hands of Gentiles.”

Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues

Navigating the Book of Revelation (by Ken Gentry)

Technical studies on key issues in Revelation, including the seven-sealed scroll, the cast out temple, Jewish persecution of Christianity, the Babylonian Harlot, and more.

See more study materials at:

During his minitry the Pharisees called for Jesus to rebuke his disciples for praising him at the Triumphal Entry. Jesus warns that the temple’s destruction will result when Israel fails to accept him: “And He answered and said, ‘I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!’” (Lk 19:40). This means that “if the disciples do not speak, if they do not proclaim Jesus as the redeemer of Israel and the bringer of peace, then the eloquent message of the tumbled stones of a destroyed city will cry out to the survivors that Jerusalem should have repented” (Gaston 359). This becomes clear four verses later when he declares that their enemies “will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Lk 19:44).

DeYoung has provided a careful and insightful analysis of the role of Jerusalem as a feature in the NT polemic against Israel. Paul castigates Jerusalem, the home of the temple, in Gal 4:21-31. In that passage Paul provides “a description of the hollow religious residue to which Jerusalem tenaciously clung after she rejected the salvation offered by Christ: a religion of servitude to the law” (DeYoung, JNT 103). That is, Israel clings to the ceremonial strictures of the old covenant economy as if that was the very heart of true religious devotion. Paul is showing “that Judaism, with its center in Jerusalem, was practicing a religion of bondage to the [ceremonial] law. This he does first of all by characterizing Hagar, then charging that by virtue of these characteristics she and Jerusalem have a basic similarity” (DeYoung, 104). Jerusalem has become a “slave woman” (Gal 4:22-23). This whole passage “represents, perhaps, the sharpest polemic against Jerusalem and Judaism in the N.T. It must have been quite a shock to the Jews to have their holy city linked up with ‘Hagar and her seed” (DeYoung 106).

Continuing his analysis, DeYoung (109) notes that in Heb 10-13 “there can be little doubt that the author intended these verses as an exhortation for his readers to break all ties with the Judaism of his day centered at Jerusalem. He has produced two of the most powerful arguments available. Jerusalem has lost all redemptive significance for the Christian because Christ has made the final sacrifice for sin outside the gates of Jerusalem, and redemption can only be found where he is — without the camp. Jerusalem has lost all eschatological significance; there is no abiding city on earth; hence the Christian, like Abraham, looks for the city which is to come (13:14), the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (12:22) whose builder and maker is none other than God himself.”

Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence

Kids Who Kill
(by Gov. Mike Huckabee)

Proposes a key to recovering our country’s basic values: faith, family, work, and community.

See more study materials at:

Hill cites J. B. Lightfoot’s observations on the significance of Stephen’s sermon. Hill writes “it was Stephen, the ‘martyr of liberty’ and acknowledged ‘forerunner’ of the apostle Paul, who ‘was the first . . . to sound the death-knell of the Mosaic ordinances and the temple worship” (Hill CC, 9). In fact, according to Weins’ (51) reflections on Acts 6:11, “the charge of abandoning Moses could soon be turned against the officials hearing and judging Stephen.”

This is because Stephen points out that their own fathers themselves turned against Moses (Ac 7:39-40), even making the golden calf (7:41). And they were as guilty as their fathers (7:52-53). Scharlemann (16) notes that Stephen’s sermon is the longest speech in Acts and that “its very length suggests that the author of Acts intended it to reflect some important facet of primitive church life.”

(To be continued.)


[1] Cp. Lk 3:8; 16:24, 30; Jo 8:39, 53, 56; Ro 2:17ff; cp. Ro 1:16; 2:9-10; 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11.

[2] Cp. 1Co 7:18-19; Ga 5:2-3, 5; Eph 2:11; Col 2:11; 3:11.

Click on the following images for more information on these studies:

Olivet Discourse EZ

The Greatness of the Great Commission

Title of third book here

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