Jesus Christ and the Primitive Church of Jerusalem

This page is an excerpt from
Cycles of Salvation History

by Ulrich Utiger

Page 8

Giotto di Bondone: The Crucifixion
Giotto di Bondone: The Crucifixion

Page description
The similarity between the life of Jesus and the primitive Church of Jerusalem founded by the Apostles.

Contents of this page
The life of Jesus Christ
The primitive Church of Jerusalem
Comments

Short summary of the previous pages
The life cycle of the angels and man is composed of four phases: peace, sin, judgment and return to peace. The same phases are discovered in the patriarch's and the Israelite era (see Summary of Salvation History). Since Jesus, salvation history does not concern the Israelite people anymore but introduces a new era with four cycles. The first cycle of this era is centered around the entire life of Jesus and is similar to the life cycle of Adam, with whom salvation history became necessary.

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THE CHURCH DURING THE ROMAN EMPIRE

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JUDAS MACCABEUS


   
  

 

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The Era of the Spiritual Kinship

The last biblical events

The life of Jesus Christ

The era of the Israelite people ended with the arrival of the Messiah, because they rejected him. From then on, God’s people were no longer united by a physical kinship descending from Abraham, but by a spiritual kinship descending from God the Father by Christ, who is the First-born of the Holy Spirit, thanks to whom humans become adoptive children of God (Gal 4:4-7).

The first cycle of this era began with the political independence of the Jews and their religious liberty, which they acquired thanks to the Maccabees and could uphold despite a new occupation of their country by the Romans in 63 BC. At the end of this first phase, Jesus is born from Mary by a virginal conception (Mt 1:18-25) around 6 BC.[49] He lived and worked among humans like one of them, he, through whom all things, heaven and earth, the invisible and visible world, have been created (see The life cycle of the angels and humans). When the time was ripe, Jesus preached the Kingdom of Heaven and revealed his power through many miracles to glorify his Father and to lead people to him.

The Jewish scribes did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, however, and tried to incriminate him as heretical because he did not stem from their priestly hierarchy and he sought to accomplish his mission independently. But they did not succeed and only compromised themselves (Mt 9:1-8; 12:1-28). This is why they planned to get rid of their Messiah: they arrested and delivered him to the Roman governor, in front of whom they wrongly accused him of being an adversary of Cæsar. Thereafter, Jesus was condemned to be crucified (Jn 19:12-16).[50] This is the sin of the Jews and pagans, but, according to Jn 19:11, more the sin of the Jews.

This sin must be relativized however because it formed part of God’s plan: Jesus is the Lamb of God that had to be sacrificed in order to wash away our sins, according to Isaiah 53 and John 1:29. In general, the whole Jewish religion is only a prefiguration of the new covenant, the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law by Christ (Mat 5:17-18; Rom 13:8-10; Heb 3-10). During the old covenant, the Law was written on tablets of stone (Ex 32-34), that is, outside humans, which means that the Jews were unable to accomplish the Law and thus repeatedly caused God’s anger. This changed with Jesus, who is the Messiah fulfilling the Law,[51] writing it on hearts of flesh by the Holy Spirit (Dt 6:4-8; Jer 31:33; 2 Co 3:3).

The following anger expressed itself by a darkening of the Sun and an earthquake (see appendix D: Crucifixion date). However, Jesus said on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). This is why the earthquake is only a prefiguration of the future end-time judgment, which will be provoked by the persecutions against the last Saints.[52] The darkening of the Sun expresses the fact that the Sun is an image of God: when God dies the Sun ceases to shine.

The phase of revival consists of the resurrection. According to John 1:1-14, Jesus is the incarnated Word. Therefore, his assassination represents the suffocation of the Word, which yet became invincible through the resurrection. The next cycles have a common denominator in this sense, since they also have a word – “incarnated” by the Christians – that is persecuted but resuscitated afterwards. This word is the Gospel.

The primitive Church of Jerusalem

The apparitions of the Lord during forty days (Ac 1:3) and the Ascension (Ac 1:9-11), as well as the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles (Ac 2:1-12), belong to the first phase of the following cycle, as we shall see in Mary and the Holy Spirit. Fortified by the Spirit, the Apostles preached to the Jews, many of whom converted (Ac 2:14-3:26). The Gospel was thus first brought to them and Jerusalem still remained the religious center.

However, the Jewish scribes denied the Gospel just as they rejected Jesus. This is why God abandoned his people and chose the pagans (Rom 11:16-24), who should also hear God’s word: the Jewish scribes put St. Peter and St. John in prison arguing that they do not have the right to preach without their permission (Ac 4:1-22). The persecutions widened (Ac 5:17-41; 7:51-60), especially with Saul (Ac 8:1-3; 9:1-2), who converted though (Ac 9:3-19) to become St. Paul (Ac 13:19) and for this reason began himself to suffer oppression by the Jews (Ac 13:44-52; 17:1-9).

This is why the divine anger did not delay and Jesus’ word, that all the blood of the assassinated prophets would come on the Jews, and Jerusalem be deserted and destroyed (Mt 23:33-24:2), came true. According to the Jewish historiographer Josephus Flavius in The Jewish War, a series of insurrections against the Roman occupation provoked a war in AD 66-70. Towards the end of this war, Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans, which ended with its destruction and the enslavement of its survivors.

The prophecy of the seventy weeks shows that this siege of Jerusalem and the temple is the phase of judgment of this cycle because Jesus is connecting it with the disastrous abomination (Mt 24:15): as seen in The prophecy of the seventy weeks, this prophecy has multiple references, which thereby express an approximate proportion of time. We have also seen in The prophecy of the seventy years of exile that the beginning of the seventy weeks has to be marked by an announcement. As it is, this announcement is made by Jesus (Lk 21:20-24) around AD 30. If we equalize the day-variable of the seventy weeks to a month, the time that should pass from this announcement to the beginning of the last week, that is, sixty-nine weeks, is approximately forty years (69 × 7 = 483 months = 40¼ years). Hence this brings us directly to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

The last week has a duration of seven months, in the middle of which the disastrous abomination shall be erected, according to the prophecy: Josephus writes that Titus and his troops set up in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem around the feast of Easter, that is to say, on April 14 of the year 70. Then they conquered the city little by little. It was taken on September 8 and then largely destroyed so that there was symbolically no longer “one stone upon another” (Mt 24:2).

Josephus does not indicate with accuracy the duration of this systematic destruction, though he writes that Titus, having finished everything and honored his soldiers, went with his army to Cæsarea to spend the winter there. Thus we can suppose that the destruction of Jerusalem may have lasted until October or perhaps even November, for at this time they certainly did not destroy a city in one day, as it is possible in present times. In sum, this makes an effective duration of approximately six to seven months for the whole siege of Jerusalem.

As for the disastrous abomination, there are several events recorded by Josephus that could be interpreted as the realization of this prophecy. The most striking is the interruption of the daily sacrifices in the temple on July 14 and the arson of the temple on August 10, when the legionaries sacrificed to their standards in the Holy of Holies. So effectively about three and a half months passed from the beginning of the siege, that is to say, from April to the profanation of the temple. The resemblance to the theoretical proportion of the prophecy is consequently manifest.

Josephus reports that over a million of the habitants were killed and almost one hundred thousand captured and enslaved, which de facto signified the end of the Jewish state, although there was still a last rebellion from 132 to 135 under Bar Kokhba, considered the Messiah, against the Romans. However, this led not to a long-lasting restoration of the state. From then on, the Jewish population was banned from Jerusalem and lived in the Diaspora.

The destruction of Jerusalem thus constitutes the phase of judgment and is the consequence of the preceding persecutions committed by the Jews against the Christians, which forms the phase of sin. The horrible persecutions Nero ordered in AD 64 as consequence of the burning of the city of Rome can also be added to this phase. We will return to this in the next section.

The phase of revival is the reception of the Gospel by the pagans (Ac 10:1-11:18; 13:46-47; 22:1-21; 28:23-28), which indeed had already begun before the destruction of Jerusalem. This is why the phases must be understood on a large scale and the events of a certain phase be summed up in order to determine their “center of gravity”. In fact, the evangelization before the destruction of Jerusalem rather concerned the Jews spread over the Middle East, according to the New Testament writings. Only afterwards did it spread across the whole Roman empire. So there is a large overlapping of the phases, which do not change abruptly on large time scales but little by little like the four seasons, during which winter days intermingle with spring days, and so on.

The Gospel was thus resuscitated by the pagans and resembles the incarnated Word, who is dead and has become alive again. The center of the Church then changed from Jerusalem to Rome, because it was the most important pagan city, where the Cæsars reigned over the gigantic Roman empire.

Appendix D: Crucifixion date

In order to find the date of the crucifixion, one has to calculate Nisan 14, the first month in spring and fixed date of Passover, because Jesus was crucified on the preparation day (Jn 19:14-31), which is, independently from Passover, the day before Sabbath, a Friday in our terms. The Jews calculated the beginning of a month from a new moon. This day in spring would become the first of Nisan. So one has to know when was new moon in spring and then add 14 days to get 14 Nisan, which can easily be done with the help of astronomical software.

An often mentioned crucifixion date is AD 30. However, the first new moon after spring was on March 22 at 10:30 pm Jerusalem time. The Jewish day begins at twilight. Therefore the first of Nisan started on March 22 and Nisan 14 on April 5 at 6 pm. From 6 am to 6 pm on Nisan 14 in AD 30, it was April 6 according to our calendar. This was a Thursday and not a Friday. This is why it is unlikely that the crucifixion took place in that year, unless the Jews made an error in determining the new moon because of bad weather conditions and decided Nisan 14 to be on April 7.

The year AD 33 is also often mentioned because it is a good candidate: full moon in spring was on March 19 at about 3:30 pm. Consequently, the Jews saw the first sliver of moon only in the night of Nisan 2 and decided the first of Nisan to be on March 20. April 3 was 14 days later, on a Friday. On all the other days from AD 26 to 36 there is no other Nisan 14 falling on a Friday. In addition, in AD 33 there was a partial lunar eclipse on April 3, visible in Jerusalem from moonrise at twilight, that is, the eclipse had already begun and the moon was consequently colored red like blood, according to certain prophecies. There was also a lunar eclipse in AD 31, but this was not on a Friday, and in AD 34, neither on a Friday and poorly visible in Jerusalem. On all the other days from AD 26 to 36 there were no other lunar eclipses on Nisan 14.

Furthermore, Phlegon of Tralles records in his Olympiades: “In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad [AD 32 or 33], a failure of the Sun took place greater than any previously known, and night came on at the sixth hour of the day [noon], so that stars actually appeared in the sky; and a great earthquake took place in Bithynia and overthrew the greater part of Nicæa.” In speaking of a “failure of the Sun” he suggests that it was not a solar eclipse, which cannot take place during a full moon. This may have been the darkening of the Sun, which Matthew 27:45 is referring to. So we see that there is some evidence that Jesus died on April 3 in AD 33, although historical arguments must also be taken into consideration (see also Chronology of Jesus and Crucifixion darkness and eclipse).

Geologist Steven A. Austin also claims to have discovered the earthquake that happened at the moment when Jesus died (Mt 27:50-51). The sediments of the Dead Sea show indeed a thin layer mixed with non-usual material provoked by the tremors of an earthquake, pointing to AD 33 (see www.icr.org/article/greatest-earthquakes-bible).