Course Spotlight: The Death of James

We know from secular history that James died a martyr. Exactly how that happened is unclear, as there is more than one account describing his demise.

Course Spotlight From The General Epistles: (Part 1) The Letters of James and Peter

Digging Deeper: The Superscription on the Cross

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated reading time: 7 min

Did you know that, when Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross, a placard called a superscription was placed over His head with the accusation laid against Him?

This sign is mentioned by all four Gospel writers and yet the words expressed differ one from another. You may wonder why they are different, how they can be reconciled, and what is the significance of this detail about Jesus’ crucifixion. This Digging Deeper will delve into this matter to reconcile our four accounts and explain the spiritual significance of this inscription.

Historical sources inform us that a placard naming the charge against a person to be crucified (who was called a cruciarius) was inscribed on a white tablet with red or black ink letters and hung around the person’s neck as they carried the cross beam to the crucifixion stake. According to John 19:19, Pilate wrote this superscription to be affixed to the cross. Matthew 27:37 says it was placed over Jesus’ head. Since the crucifixion was a public display, its purpose was to deter on-lookers from crimes against the state.

Historically, this sign above the cross has been called the superscription, inscription, or the title on the cross. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines superscription as: “That which is written or engraved on the outside, or above something else” (e-Sword 13.0). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by James Orr, explains the various biblical terms for this inscription: “The fullest description is that of Mark, ‘the superscription of his accusation’ (ή ἐπιγραφὴ τῆς αἰτίας ἀυτοῦ, epigraphḗ tḗs aitı́as autoú) (Mark 15:26). Matthew calls it more briefly ‘his accusation’ (τὴν αἰτίαν αὐτοῦ, tḗn aitı́an autoú) (Matthew 27:37), while Luke styles it merely ‘a superscription’ (epigraphē) (Luke 23:38). In the Fourth Gospel it is called a ‘title’ (τίτλον, tı́tlon) (John 19:19)” (Ibid.).

The words of the superscription differ among the four Gospels:

“This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37)

“The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).

“This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38).

“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19).

The Scofield Reference Bible Notes (1917 Edition) reconciles these differences simply: “These accounts supplement, but do not contradict one another. No one of the Evangelists quotes the entire inscription. All have ‘The King of the Jews.’ Luke adds to this the further words, ‘This is’; Matthew quotes the name, ‘Jesus’; whilst John gives the additional words ‘of Nazareth'” (e-Sword 13.0). Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words adds that: ” … the variation serves to authenticate the narratives, showing that there was no consultation [collusion] leading to an agreement as to the details” (Ibid.). Compiling the various Gospel accounts, this superscription read “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers explains these differences further: “But in part also they may reasonably be ascribed to the natural variations sure to arise even among eye-witnesses, and à fortiori among those who were not eye witnesses, as to the circumstantial details of events which they record in common. On grounds of ordinary likelihood St. John’s record, as that of the only disciple whom we know to have been present at the crucifixion (John 19:25), may claim to be the most accurate” (e-Sword 13.0).

A superscription in three languages

A display of the original language letters of these superscriptions is available to us. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible illustrates the original languages:

In Hebrew – ΕβραΐϚι:

ישוע נצריא מלכא דיהודיא

In Greek – ΕλληνιϚι:

ΙΗΣΟΥΣ Ο ΝΑΖΩΡΑΙΟΣ Ο ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΕ ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩΝ

In Latin – ΡωμαΐϚι:

IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM (e-Sword 13.0).

The difference in phrasing may in part be due to the arrangement and translation of words from these three different languages. Necessarily, the superscription must have been sizeable to contain the total content. A Dictionary of Christ and the Apostles, edited by James Hastings, explains why it was displayed in more than one language: “The three languages of the τίτλος—Hebrew (i.e. Aramaic), Latin, and Greek—represent, as Westcott remarks, the national, the official, and the common dialects respectively. The true reading, therefore, preserves the more natural order. Bilingual and trilingual inscriptions such as this were naturally common in the East under the Roman Empire” (e-Sword 13.0). Another explanation declares the three languages were those of religion (Hebrew), of empire (Latin), and of intellect (Greek). Hebrew was the local language of the Jews, Greek was the universal tongue of the eastern Roman Empire, and Latin was the official language of the Roman government.

“I have written what I have written.”

The College Press Bible Study Textbook hypothesizes why Pilate directed these words to be affixed to Jesus’ cross (John 19:19-22): “Pilate may have ordered it nailed to His cross to clear his record with Caesar, since the basic charge of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God would not interest Roman jurisprudence” (e-Sword 13.0). The Jews condemned Jesus for blasphemy (Matthew 26:65). However, they did not have the authority to execute Jesus without Roman permission. They laid the political charge of insurrection on Jesus when they presented Him to Pilate. Being Roman governor, it was Pilate’s responsibility to investigate. He knew it was out of envy they falsely accused Jesus (Matthew 27:18). Pilate pronounced Jesus an innocent man (John 19:4, 6). The Jews in turn tricked Pilate into condemning this innocent man (John 19:12). Pilate had already been in trouble with the Roman emperor so he did what was expedient for his career by handing Jesus over for crucifixion.

The Jews wanted to change the superscription wording to state that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews (John 19:21). Jesus never made such a claim. From his earlier conversation with Jesus, Pilate learned that Jesus was not threatening the Roman Empire when He explained ” … My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36 KJV). Others claimed Jesus’ kingship for Him (John 12:13). Inadvertently, Pilate formalized Matthew’s theme that Jesus was the King of Israel – i.e., He was the prophesied Messiah from the Hebrew Bible. Pilate publicized that the Jews had killed their King. Out of spite and revenge, he humiliated the Jews for their forcing him to concede to Jesus’ death. The Jews wanted Pilate to anathematize Jesus through the crucifixion. Instead, his inscription endorsed Jesus’ kingly office. Like Balaam, Pilate in effect blessed Jesus when the Jews wanted him to curse Him instead (Numbers 24:10).

Jesus of Nazareth: King

It is pertinent that when Jesus was born, Gentile wise men who traveled to the Holy Land to worship Him asked, “Where is He that is born king of the Jews? (Matthew 2:2). During Jesus’ trials, Pilate, a Gentile Roman governor, proclaimed by this superscription “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Pilate ennobled Jesus to the rank of King of the Jewish people. More broadly speaking, Jesus is not merely King of the Jews but the Lord of the universe and King over all humanity (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 17:14).

To bring our study to a close, a comment by J.M. Gibson in The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, edited by Joseph S. Exell, summarizes the spiritual meaning of this superscription: “A better inscription for the cross the Apostles themselves could not have devised. ‘This is Jesus,’ the Saviour—the Name above every name. How it must have cheered the Saviour’s heart to know that it was there! ‘This is Jesus, the King,’ never more truly King than when this writing was His only crown. ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews,’ despised and rejected of them now, but Son of David none the less, and yet to be claimed and crowned and rejoiced in, when at last ‘all Israel shall be saved’” (e-Sword 13.0).


Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: 2 Peter and Jude Comparison

The epistles of 2 Peter and Jude share many common themes. View the comparison between each epistle and identify the key concepts!

Course Spotlight From The General Epistles: (Part 2) The Letters of John and Jude

Digging Deeper: Jesus Stopped at a Comma

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated Reading time: 8 min.

Did you know that when Jesus read a passage of Isaiah during a synagogue service He stopped his reading at a comma?

This was a most unusual preaching strategy but it was done deliberately. My last Digging Deeper article entitled “Jesus’ Sermon at His Hometown Synagogue” outlined the liturgy and custom of the first-century Jewish synagogue. In it, I explained that Jesus was recognized as a member of His Nazareth synagogue and was invited by custom to read a portion of either the Law or the Prophets. Jesus may have deliberately chosen the scroll of Isaiah for this sermon to His fellow worshipers. However, what He read and pointedly commented upon caused them to rise up and threaten His life.

Luke alone records this incident in Luke 4:16-30. Jesus quoted two passages from Isaiah He was beginning to fulfill: Isaiah 61:1-2 and Isaiah 58:6. Combining two texts with a similar theme was a common practice called a gezerah shava. If you read Isaiah’s original version, you will notice some rewording of the text in Luke’s account. This was common practice throughout our New Testament. God, the Author and Chief Editor of the Bible, is at liberty to revise and rephrase His word as necessary depending on the context in which it is cited.

Jesus First Came as a Prophet

When Jesus proclaimed that the Spirit was upon Him, He meant that he was moved to do some supernatural work. In Luke 4:18 He explained He was anointed by the Spirit, as Luke later explained in Acts 10:38, that authorized Him to preach. The Old Testament ceremony of anointing with oil inaugurated men into the offices of priest, prophet, or king. Jesus first came as the Prophet (Matthew 21:11; John 7:40), today He is our High Priest in heaven, and He will return as our King. He holds all three offices at once.

Jesus explained this anointing enabled Him to preach the gospel to the poor. He was a master preacher and teacher. One matter Luke emphasized about Jesus’ ministry was His concern for those materially poor. They were often at the mercy of unscrupulous officials and businessmen. It was generally thought that their suffering was due to God’s curse and was their fault. By contrast, those who relieved the poor were considered especially righteous since almsgiving was synonymous with righteousness in the minds of many at the time.

Jesus then proclaimed He was sent to heal the brokenhearted – those who were in despair of heart including those who mourn over their sins leading to repentance. He continued His sermon stating He came to preach deliverance to the captives – i.e., the forgiveness of sins and remission of its penalty. Those who are held in Satan’s snare as his captives in body, mind, or spirit Jesus will deliver.

Jesus added that He had come to recover sight to the blind – including those spiritually blind to God’s truth. During His ministry, Jesus healed many who were physically blind. He next declared that He came to set at liberty those who are bruised – i.e., oppressed, broken people. Jesus came to free people from heavy burdens of sin and oppressive rabbinical restrictions.

Jesus knew what it was like to be poor, brokenhearted, and bruised (Isaiah 53:3-5). The phrase “to set at liberty them that are bruised” in Luke 4:18 was Jesus’ insertion of a paraphrase from Isaiah 58:6. He was announcing a time when salvation was available to His audiences. The final phrase of Isaiah 61:2 states that throughout His ministry He came to comfort all that mourn: those who mourn over loss or sin. He still does today!

Stopping at a comma

In Luke 4:19, Jesus quoted only part of Isaiah 61:2. Notice the complete verse: Isaiah 61:2 KJV  “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.” “The acceptable year of the Lord” sometimes refers to the Jubilee year of Leviticus 25:8-17. However, Jesus applied it to His ministry then. He offered liberation from sin and its consequences. Those who accepted His salvation offer became His disciples.

As He quoted Isaiah 61:2 He stopped at the first comma (in the English Bible) and omitted “the day of vengeance of our God” and the rest of that verse (Luke 4:19). His reason seems to have been that the day of vengeance of our God is reserved for His second coming when He returns as conquering King and administers vengeance (justice) on those who willfully oppose Him.

Many Jews at the time believed that salvation was for them a matter of nationality rather than of submission to God. They considered vengeance and retribution to be reserved for the Gentiles. Some of the Jewish sects believed that Messiah would return as a powerful, conquering prince at the head of a mighty army to vanquish their enemies. When Jesus came instead as a suffering Servant Messiah who died for human sin, they rejected Him because He did not meet their messianic expectations. Their pride, prejudice, and preconceived opinion blinded them to their own spiritual need for repentance. What follows in this story is the result of this attitude.

Scripture fulfilled in a Man from Nazareth

In Luke 4:20 Jesus ended His reading, rolled up the scroll of Isaiah, and handed it back to the chazzan so He could sit down, as was customary, to deliver a sermon about these passages. The eyes of the congregation were fixed upon Him. There was an atmosphere of suspense building as they wondered what He would say next. He proclaimed that these texts were being fulfilled in their hearing (Luke 4:21). By contrast, they expected these passages to be fulfilled in a coming messianic age. Jesus said this phase of His ministry had already begun and they were being given an offer of repentance and discipleship.

The audience wondered at such gracious words coming from one they had known since He was a boy. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”, they asked (Luke 4:22). “How could He be the Messiah?” Rather than respond favorably to His offer, in Luke 4:23 Jesus predicted they would recite to Him a proverb that questions a person’s power and authority: “Physician, heal thyself.” Instead of responding to His offer, they asked Him to perform a miracle such as those they had probably heard about from His earlier ministry in Judea and Capernaum. By this point, Jesus had already turned water into wine and healed the nobleman’s son. Out of mere curiosity, they wanted to see a miracle but not transform their lives through genuine spiritual responsiveness.

Not accepted at home

Jesus then explained that prophets are seldom fully trusted back home (Luke 4:24). Jesus recited a proverbial expression that placed Him in the long line of prophets who were rejected by their people. What led to their rejecting Him was His noting examples of two Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who performed miracles for Gentiles during an age of Israelite apostasy (Luke 4:25-27).

This was more than they could stand so they arose in wrath (Luke 4:28). Their rage had been building as they sat listening to Him but now it boiled over. They were not slow to see how Jesus applied these Old Testament stories to them. He inferred they were just as apostate as Israelites in the time of Elijah and Elisha. Instead of accepting the message to repent of their sins, they chose to destroy the messenger. Familiarity had bred contempt for one of their own. 

To accept His words meant they would have to accept that God offered salvation to Gentiles whom they looked down upon as “dogs.” They were unwilling to humble their hearts. Their fierce, nationalistic pride and bigotry resented the thought of God’s blessing faith-filled Gentiles in the time of Elijah and Elisha. In effect, Jesus had compared his townsfolk to their unbelieving ancestors. Jesus even gave them another opportunity about a year later but instead they were offended in Him. As a result, He did not work many mighty miracles in his hometown (Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:5). At the time, even His siblings did not believe in Him (John 7:5).

In Luke 4:29, these congregants led Him to the brow of a hill overlooking Nazareth, intending to cast Him down headfirst and then stone Him to death for blasphemy. This was contrary to Jewish custom that forbad execution without trial and forbad it being conducted on the Sabbath. Not only that, but Roman law required the governor’s permission before executing one of their own. They were acting like a lynch mob. In Luke 4:30-32, Jesus miraculously passed through their midst and continued His ministry in Capernaum. His time of sacrificial death had not yet come (John 7:30). Many elsewhere became His disciples. Jesus lived this proverbial expression: “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house”  (Matthew 13:57 KJV).


Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: A Sign from God

There are many instances in the Bible where God’s people ask Him for a sign. Does God want us to look for signs for Him in everything that we do?

Course Spotlight From The Life, Teachings, and Ministry of Jesus Christ: (Unit 3) The Judean Ministry

Course Spotlight: Easter or Passover?

In some of our online courses, we have a “Student Thoughts” section where we ask a question to see what the students think. In our course on the Biblical Passover, we asked the question:

If you had to defend why you don’t keep Easter, and the reasons you keep the Passover to someone in the world, how would you explain your beliefs in a concise way while keeping in mind the principle from Matthew 10:16, “be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”?

Take a look at some of the responses below!


I would politely explain that I kept the Feasts God instructed us to keep, as we were instructed in the pages of the Bible. This would give me an opportunity to explain my joy of finding the answer to what had always puzzled me even as a child since I could count — How I could not reconcile Friday crucifixion and Sunday morning as being three and one half days, and that I also found how rabbits and eggs sneaked into the picture…Depending on my listener’s reaction I would also add the prophecy Christ Himself gave of Jonah and the fish.”

-MS

If I were confronted about why I keep the Passover instead of Easter, I would explain that I keep the Feasts and Holy Days that Christ and the Disciples kept in the New Testament. I would explain that Easter is not in the Bible and if it is, it is a mistranslation of the word Pascha which means Passover. Also God tells us that He will not accept pagan rituals in worship of Him and when people keep the traditions of Easter, they are not keeping God’s commandment to keep the Passover. They are in fact worshiping a fertility goddess called Eostre who’s origin is pagan. I would tell them to do some research on the origin of Easter.”

-AL

My defense for observing Passover instead of Easter would be that mathematics rules out my observance of Easter. In Matthew 12:40, Jesus said, ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’ Easter keepers are saying that Jesus was in the heart of the earth only two nights and one day, which is only half of the time He stated would prove him to be the Messiah. Concisely stated, I observe Passover because I really do believe that Christ was the promised Messiah, who now sits at the right hand of the Father as our intercessor. Stated another way, if Easter depicts the actual time between Christ’s burial and His resurrection, we have no Savior!”

-RM

Digging Deeper: Jesus’ Sermon at His Hometown Synagogue

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated Reading time: 7 min.

Did you know that Jesus was considered a member of his hometown synagogue congregation and was thereby invited to preach to them on a Sabbath?

I have never preached a sermon in my hometown, although I have done so in my home state. Paul spent several years preaching in his hometown of Tarsus, in today’s nation of Turkey. If you were invited to speak before your hometown congregation, what would you say to them? You may want to be complimentary and grateful to those who witnessed your life changes in their community. This Digging Deeper will explore the first-century Sabbath liturgy in a narrative only Luke records to better understand what happened when Jesus addressed His local congregation.

The Gospel According to Luke records this experience in Luke 4:16-30. It occurs near the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. This was Jesus’ first visit to the town of Nazareth, where He grew up, since His baptism by John the Baptist. It is important for our understanding of Jesus’ sermon to remember that the Gospels refer to this area as “Galilee of the Gentiles” in the first century. During Pax Romana, the era of “Roman peace”, Galilee was occupied by many non-Jews. Luke records this incident right after reporting Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). However, John’s Gospel inserts His early Judean ministry following His baptism by John the Baptist and His temptation by the Devil. Following that, Luke briefly records Jesus being well-received when He taught in the Galilean synagogues (Luke 4:14-15). Jesus was both a preacher and a teacher, which are different means of communication. Teaching can be more effective than preaching because teachers can turn passive listeners into active participants. Jesus expected a response to His messages from the audience.

The First Century Synagogue

The word synagogue means “assembly.” Perhaps more than any other institution, the synagogue preserved the religion, culture, and special status of the Jewish people. These meeting places originated during the Babylonian captivity of the House of Judah and developed further during the time between the testaments (the Intertestamental Period). These buildings served as places of prayer and worship on the Sabbath. During the week they were transformed into law courts and schools. But on Sabbaths and at festivals they were places of scriptural instruction. Each synagogue was supervised by a board of elders or rulers. One lesser official was called a chazzan, somewhat equivalent to a deacon in Christian churches. The Holy Land offered synagogues not only for native Jews but also for diaspora Jews (those Jews originally from outside the Holy Land). It is estimated there were 480 such synagogues in Jerusalem alone.

In the standard synagogue layout, the main room provided a reading desk upon which scrolls of the Hebrew Bible were unfolded for reading. It was customary to read a portion of the Law and then a portion of the Prophets while standing, out of respect for God’s word. Following that, someone was invited to expound upon the texts for the day, usually based on the reading from the Prophets. Qualified men of the congregation were called upon by the rulers to sit in an assigned seat called “Moses Seat.” I refer you to my recent Digging Deeper article by this same title. Jesus was popularly considered a rabbi, or teacher – John 1:38, 49; 3:2; 6:25. Visiting rabbis were often invited to address the assembly, as was common for the Apostles Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:13-16). Not only this, being a male member of this congregation entitled Jesus to be called upon to deliver the sermon for the day.

Order of service

Attendance was required for the Sabbaths and Feast days. The congregation faced the ark (chest or cabinet) housing the scripture scrolls in the front of the room. Men sat on one side of the room and women and children on the other or up in a balcony. Those who sat in the front near the reader’s desk were in the “chief seats,” mentioned by Jesus in the Gospels.  Following an opening prayer, the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5 reports a typical order of service as follows:

  1. Recitation of the shema – Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – known as “the creed of the Jews”. Part of this read: Deuteronomy 6:4-5 KJV  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD :  (5)  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
  2. The parashah, or reading of the appointed section of the Law – anyone making the least mistake was immediately replaced by someone else.
  3. The haphtarah, or reading of the Prophets.
  4. The derashah, or “investigation, study” – a homily, discourse, or sermon usually given by a member of the congregation, usually based on the Prophets but also could be from the Law.
  5. The bendiction (blessing) – offered by the priest, if one was present. Otherwise, a prayer was offered to conclude. In some places singing of psalms was introduced into the service (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980, pp. 57-58).

Luke 4:16 affirms that Sabbath attendance was Jesus’ regular habit. Jesus’ and His apostles and believers always observed the seventh-day Sabbath throughout the New Testament. Following their Master’s example, Christians today regularly attend Sabbath and festival services. Jesus’ example also provides evidence that the seven-day cycle since Creation has not been lost since Christians need only go back to Jesus’ day to verify this. He is the Creator and Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). Time has not been “lost,” as some assert, since the first century. Jews would not have lost the cycle of days since that time either. They have meticulously recorded their weeks, months, and years for millennia to faithfully observe God’s sacred times. 

He stood up to read

After the synagogue service began with prayer and a reading from the Law, Jesus was invited to read the Prophets portion for the day. The scroll he was handed was that of Isaiah. Possibly, He chose that scroll for this occasion. He stood to read it out of respect for God’s word. In the time of Ezra, not only did Ezra stand to read but the audience did as well (Nehemiah 8:5). The words “to read” in Luke 4:16 imply that Jesus read aloud. He preached in other synagogues, but read only here in Nazareth, showing He was considered a member of this synagogue. The lesson for the day was only read in Hebrew, indicating Jesus knew Hebrew as well as Aramaic (the common language of first-century Jews in the Holy Land), and possibly Greek (the common language of the eastern Roman Empire).

The chazzan would take the scrolls from a cabinet (chest) called “the ark,” to hand to the President of the synagogue who then handed it to the reader for the day. Scrolls were animal skins of parchment on which the sacred words were written in ink. These parchments were rolled on two rollers, or spindles, and were unraveled from the right roller to the left. Unlike many modern languages, Hebrew is read from right to left. As Jesus unrolled the scroll, He read a portion from two passages of Isaiah: Isaiah 61:1-2; Isaiah 58:6. This combining of texts was commonly done in that time to join together passages with a similar theme. This was called gezerah shava, a “comparison of equals”, creating a composite text.

What Jesus read at first brought keen interest, then curiosity, then alarm, and finally hostility. What did Jesus say that brought about a mob action that threatened His very life? Watch for a future Digging Deeper in which I will annotate Luke’s summary of Jesus’ message to that congregation. In the meantime, I encourage you to read and study this entire account in Luke 4:16-30.


Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: How Did Jesus Die?

In the Church of God, we have long understood, quite correctly, that most texts of Matthew’s Gospel now omit a key line depicting a soldier spearing the crucified Christ and thus killing Him violently. Yet, even what is present in the rest of the Gospel accounts may in fact reveal more than we might at first notice. Could some of the answer be lost in translation?

Course Spotlight From The Life, Ministry, and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 4) Passover to the Resurrection

Course Spotlight: Why We Say “Amen!”

Why do we use the word “Amen” at the end of each of our prayers? Find out the origin of this word and how it is used throughout Scripture!

Course Spotlight From Tools for Christian Growth: Prayer

Course Spotlight: Prophecies of Christ’s Crucifixion

Did you know that the Old Testament has multiple prophecies relating to Christ’s crucifixion? Check out how these prophecies were fulfilled in the New Testament!

Course Spotlight From God’s Feast Days: Passover