Reading 4. Kingdom Warfare. Part One: Attack and Counterattack

➡ Average Reading Time: 6 minutes
Observing the Text!

The Kingdom and the Church
There is a war going on! Those living on earth are on the battlefield. The enemy does not understand that he has been defeated. God planted a cross on earth and announced that he ruled. The war has been decisively won! But there are still small battles that occur between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. We can illustrate this by observing how the battles are carried out in the form of attacks and counterattacks. We should understand that as we attack the citadels of Satan, his forces will counterattack. The life and ministry of Jesus serve as a model for the church to understand this strategy.

Interpreting the Text!

The Remnant is the Church
Jesus appointed his twelve disciples (Mark 3.13-15). Up to this point in Mark’s story, he had recorded the preaching and baptisms by John (Mark 1.1-8); the empowering presence of the Spirit in the life of Jesus (Mark 1.9-11); the battle of Satan and Jesus in the wilderness (Mark 1.12-13); and the proclamation of Jesus that the time for the kingdom had come (Mark 1.14-15). In the last two events, the wilderness and the proclamation of Jesus, the battle lines were drawn. Satan had attacked Jesus in the wilderness and the response of Jesus was the proclamation of the kingdom as an assault against Satan and his domain. The war was on!

Attack: Jesus in Combat

…Mark revealed the attack of the kingdom of God into this present evil age.

The continuing story of Mark revealed the attack of the kingdom of God into this present evil age. Jesus expelled a demon at Capernaum (Mark 1.21-28); healed the mother-in-law of Peter speaking to the fever as a demonic force (Mark 1.29-31); healed the sick and cast out many demons (1.32-34); went through Galilee preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons (Mark 1.39); cleansed a leper (Mark 1.40-45). At the conclusion of the first chapter of Mark, Jesus announced that the kingdom had arrived in his works.

In the second chapter of Mark, Jesus continued the assault on Satan. Mark records two attacks: the healing of the paralytic and the healing of the man with a withered hand. Mark points out how the religious community responded to Jesus. When Jesus healed the paralytic, the Scribes are amazed and give glory to God (Mark 2.1-12). By the conclusion of the section, the religious community has become antagonistic and its leaders met to decide how they should kill Jesus (Mark 3.6). The summary of this warfare is given in Mark 3.7-12. Mark says that many were healed and that many demons were expelled. The first three chapters of the Gospel of Mark show Jesus counterattacking the enemy after he was attacked by Satan in the wilderness.

Counterattack: Satan in Combat
Jesus began to multiply his efforts in the war by his choice of twelve disciples for a special purpose (Mark 3.13-15). These disciples were to have a relationship with him and enter into combat with him (sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons). At home alone, Jesus is attacked again by the enemy. The first attack came from his family: they thought he was crazy (Mark 3.21). The second attack came from the religious leaders: they accused him of being demonized (Mark 3.30, see John 10.20). These attacks were in-your-face attacks, designed to prevent Jesus from continuing his attack on the kingdom of Satan.

Attack and Counterattack in the Teaching of Jesus
Jesus understood the ability of Satan to counterattack. In Luke (11.24-26), he taught that a demonic power would strike back when he told his listeners that one demon could be expelled only to return with seven others more evil to take up residence.Jesus understood the ability of Satan to counterattack. Click To Tweet

The counterattacking ability of the enemy is suggested in the teaching of Jesus about the greatness of John the Baptist (Matt. 11.11-15). John was the first to announce that the kingdom of God had arrived (Matt. 3.2). His announcement was a declaration of war on Satan! Jesus states in Matthew 11.2, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” The kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God are the same (see Luke 16.16). Another translation could be: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is being violently treated, and violent ones are trying to plunder it.” The word translated by NIV as violent men can simply be violent ones; there is no word here in the Greek text for men.

The text means that from the time John the Baptist proclaimed that the kingdom was coming, declaring war on Satan, until now, at the point, Jesus was teaching and continuing, the sons of the kingdom were suffering violence; violent ones, the demonic forces which were resisting the advance of the kingdom by the words and works of Jesus, were plundering members of the kingdom. In short, the violent ones are trying to reclaim what they have lost: they would fight back, they would counterattack (Kallas. The Significance of the Synoptic Miracles. 1961. 73-74).

The late Dr. George Ladd argued that “We do not discover (in the New Testament) the idea of Satan attacking the kingdom of God or exercising his power against the kingdom itself. He can only wage his war against the sons of the kingdom…God is the aggressor; Satan is on the defensive” (Ladd. A Theology of the Kingdom. 1974a. 160-166). By saying that Satan does not war directly on the kingdom, (he cannot ascend to heaven and attack God directly) this does not imply that Satan does not attack the people of the kingdom. He does attack and with great effectiveness when we are unaware of his methods. Dr. Ladd also stated, “God’s rule makes its way with great force and keen enthusiasts lay hold on it, that is, want to share in it…. God was acting mightily in his own mission and became the dynamic power of the kingdom which has invaded the world, men are to respond with a radical reaction.” Jesus used violent language to demonstrate that the presence of the kingdom demands radical reaction (Matt. 10.34; Mark 9.43; Luke 14.26; Ladd. 1993. 69-70).

Satan does strike back when his kingdom is attacked by the kingdom of God.

Satan does strike back when his kingdom is attacked by the kingdom of God. Jesus taught such in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13.18-23; Mark 4.19). When asked what he meant by this parable, he replied that Satan comes and takes away the word (he fights back when God is advancing his kingdom). In the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matt. 13.24-30) he explains that the weeds were the sons of Satan and the enemy who had sown them was the devil.

Satan does strike back when his kingdom is attacked by the kingdom of God. Click To Tweet

As we attack the strongholds of Satan’s kingdom with the rule of God, we can expect him to forge a counterattack. He will always try to undo the work of Jesus in lives. Paul uses the metaphor of soldiers in an army in pleading with the Ephesians to “put on the whole armor of God.” After putting on the armor, Paul exhorts the believers “to stand and fight” (Eph. 6.10-18). God has provided offensive and defensive weapons. With them, we can attack as well as sustain the counterattack of Satan’s kingdom.

Living into the Text!
It is always important to apply what you have learned. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.

  • In what areas of the stronghold of the enemy have you been attacked?
  • How are you a part of the remnant?
  • Where is the devil trying to gain back what he lost in the life of your community of faith and in your life?
  • How does Satan take away the word of the kingdom/rule in your life, your family life, your business life, your marriage, and your church life?

The articles below come from various Bible Dictionaries and other sources. The posting of these brief articles are to introduce some readers to the vast amount of information that is provided to enhance your reading of the text of the Bible with a hope that it will lead to a better understanding of the text and will lead the reader to an improved praxis in his or her community of faith and personal life. You might read the articles offline in a number of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not own a Bible Dictionary, I would recommend New Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If you like lots of color pictures, try Revell Bible Dictionary. Revell Bible Dictionary is no longer in print but is available from Amazon. One of these should suit your personal needs.

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!



Guide Yourself into a Kingdom of God Mindset in 13 Readings, which covers a matrix through which you can view the writings of the New Testament about the subject matter of the kingdom of God. You can enjoy this material completely in just 13 readings. Of course, you can take all the time you want, say 13 Days or 13 Weeks. It's up to you. To get the most from your reading, it is important that you read the biblical text along with it. The New International Version (NIV: Electronic Version 2011) is the text on which the studies are built.

The first section of each reading is called Observing the Text, which is an introduction to the section that is being read. Next, you will encounter Interpreting the Text, which suggests an interpretation of the section your are reading. Then, there is Living into the Text, which suggests questions, which may help you live into the text. This final section BibleInfoResources!, provides you with some articles that may interest you. After all, the text of Scripture was originally written for a community of Yahweh or Jesus followers to help them in their pursuit of God. The text was never meant to be for the accumulation of personal knowledge. Of course, the Holy Spirit is the final word for living your life and for the life of a community of Jesus followers. Listen to what he may be saying to your community of faith and personally about what you are reading. But, on a personal level, don’t get a personal application for you mixed up with the meaning of the text in Scripture. Remember this easy rule of thumb: one meaning, many applications. NOTE: Throughout the text, you will see words that have a thin dashed underline. When you place your cursor over the word(s) a small tooltip box will appear with more information about the word(s).

Each reading may include some of the following icons and sections:

Observing the Text! What does the text say? Provides you with a quick overview of the passage.
Interpreting the Text! What does the text mean? Helps you gain an understanding of the meaning of the text as those who first heard or read it may have understood it.
Living into the Text! What does the text mean to my community of faith and to me? Some reflections to help assist your community of faith and you to live into the Story of God.
WordTreasures: Defining the Text! Definitions of key words and phrases.
Behind the Scenes: Historical Background of the Text! A look at the historical background of the text
BibleInfoResources! Helpful resources for further readings. The Resource Information appears at the end of each of the studies. Reading this material in the noted reference popup will enrich your comprehension of the material under consideration.





Capernaum  — Nahum's town, a Galilean city frequently mentioned in the history of our Lord. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament. After our Lord's expulsion from Nazareth (Matt. 4:13-16; Luke 4:16-31), Capernaum became his "own city." It was the scene of many acts and incidents of his life (Matt. 8:5, 14, 15; 9:2-6, 10-17; 15:1-20; Mark 1:32-34, etc.). The impenitence and unbelief of its inhabitants after the many evidences our Lord gave among them of the truth of his mission, brought down upon them a heavy denunciation of judgment (Matt. 11:23).

It stood on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The "land of Gennesaret," near, if not in, which it was situated, was one of the most prosperous and crowded districts of Palestine. This city lay on the great highway from Damascus to Acco and Tyre. It has been identified with Tell Hum, about two miles southwest of where the Jordan flows into the lake. Here are extensive ruins of walls and foundations, and also the remains of what must have been a beautiful synagogue, which it is conjectured may have been the one built by the centurion (Luke 7:5), in which our Lord frequently taught (John 6:59; Mark 1:21; Luke 4:33). Others have conjectured that the ruins of the city are to be found at Khan Minyeh, some three miles further to the south on the shore of the lake. "If Tell Hum be Capernaum, the remains spoken of are without doubt the ruins of the synagogue built by the Roman centurion, and one of the most sacred places on earth. It was in this building that our Lord gave the well-known discourse in John 6; and it was not without a certain strange feeling that on turning over a large block we found the pot of manna engraved on its face, and remembered the words, 'I am that bread of life: your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.'"

Easton's Bible Dictionary: Capernaum





Church (ἐκκλησία, ekklēsia). Followers of Christ who derived their identity and mission from Jesus and understood themselves to be the true eschatological community of God.

The church was a new movement that arose after Jesus’ resurrection. The members of the early church sought to adhere to the confession of Jesus as Lord in the midst of an idolatrous, pluralistic culture. As family members who had been included in the new “church of God,” early Christians strove for unity around the gospel, which was portrayed vividly in the Lord’s Supper.

An understanding of first-century Judaism and the eschatological perspective and expectations of unity in the early church writings are essential for discerning the formation of the early church’s identity in the decades following Jesus’ resurrection.

The early Christ followers were referred to by a variety of names and terms that suggests a development of identity (Twelftree, People of the Spirit, 64). The early followers of Jesus considered themselves “Christians” (Acts 11:26; 26:28) or members of “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). The Essenes also used the term “the Way” to describe their identity as a true and faithful representation of Israel’s traditions (e.g., 1QS VIII, 12–14; IX, 17–18). First-century Jews referred to the Church as a “sect” (Acts 24:5, 14; 28:22)—a term Josephus used in reference to the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes (Jewish War 2.118–19; Twelftree, People of the Spirit, 58–61). The most common term used in reference to the early church in the New Testament is “church” or “assembly” (ἐκκλησία, ekklēsia). While this term most often referred to local assemblies of believers (Acts 5:11; 8:1, 3; 11:22, 26; 13:1; 16:5; 20:17), it could also apply more broadly to a large body of Christians (Acts 9:31; 20:28; Eph 1:22–23; 5:23; Roloff, “ἐκκλησία, ekklēsia,” 413–14).

The Early Church and Judaism
The early church developed its identity against the backdrop of Judaism and was intricately linked to the Judaism of its day. Jesus called 12 disciples, which corresponds to the 12 tribes of Israel (Acts 1:15–26; Twelftree, People of the Spirit, 55). According to Dunn, Jesus’ forgiving sins (Mark 2:1–12) is no less “Jewish” than what was found at Qumran (Dunn, Partings of the Ways, 73–75; Gärtner, Temple and the Community).

Rather than rejecting the main concepts of Judaism (temple, Torah, and monotheism), the early church reworked them. The earliest believers in Jerusalem continued to visit the temple regularly, even after Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:3; 5:21, 42; 21:26). However, the early Christians reworked the temple concept around Christ. The temple of God no longer was to be seen as a physical building but was located in Christ and the church, His “body” (e.g., Acts 7; Dunn, Partings of the Ways, 92–95, 100–08). That Peter, James, and John could be called “pillars” of the church (Gal 2:9) may indicate that the church saw itself as the eschatological temple, with named pillars like Jachin and Boaz in Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs 7:15–22; 2 Chr 3:15–17; Dunn, Partings of the Ways, 80).

Many of the early Jewish Christians still sought to keep the Torah (Acts 21:20). In Acts 15, the Jerusalem council—while deeming circumcision unnecessary for inclusion in the people of God—seemed to draw upon the Law of Moses in requiring Gentile believers to abstain from various foods and activities (Lev 17–18; compare Bauckham, “James and the Jerusalem Church,” 459–62). Paul frequently visited the synagogues and may have taken the Nazirite vow (Acts 18:4–8, 18; 19:8–9; Twelftree, People of the Spirit, 54–56). Dunn contends that Paul did not reject the law but only the boundary-marking function of the law, and that while he stood outside the pale of Pharisaical Judaism, he still had the viewpoint of and was an Israelite (Dunn, Partings of the Ways, 192–97). Kim argues it is more likely Paul saw a problem with the law itself when he met the crucified Christ, signifying that a new era in salvation history had arrived (see Rom 7:7–12; Gal 3:23–4:7; Kim, Paul and the New Perspective, 22–45; Meyer, End of the Law).

The early church also continued to affirm monotheism, even while holding that Jesus was Lord. Jesus Himself affirmed the Shema as the greatest commandment (Mark 12:29–30; Deut 6:4–5). Paul, John, and James attest to this central tenet of Judaism in their writings (John 17:3; Rom 3:30; 1 Cor 8:4; Gal 3:20; Eph 4:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Jas 2:19). In his trials, Paul sought to demonstrate that the early church faithfully worshiped the God of Israel (Acts 24:14–15; Twelftree, People of the Spirit, 60). Nevertheless, the early church reworked its confession of monotheism to include Jesus in the identity of God (1 Cor 8:4–6; Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 127–39, 210–18). Philippians 2 and Colossians 1 indicate that Christians worshiped Jesus as if He was God (Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, 121–23, 134–53; contra Dunn, Partings of the Ways, 266–70; see also Pliny the Younger, Letters 10.96.7). Romans 9:5 may be a doxology to Jesus as God (Metzger, “The Punctuation of Rom. 9:5,” 95–112; contra Dunn, Romans 9–16, 529).

The Early Church as the Eschatological Community
Although the early church was related to Judaism, it began to develop a separate identity early on (contra Dunn, Partings of the Ways, 343–46). In the ancient world, ethnic identity was constructed around lines of social characteristics, kinship, and religious affiliation (Sechrest, A Former Jew). Conversion to Christianity included a transformation that affected a person’s deepest commitments of kinship and social ties. This ecclesial self-conception explains why Paul viewed the church as a third constituent element of humanity (1 Cor 10:32; 1 Pet 2:9), which was why the early church preferred to address one another in familial language, and why later generations could conceive of the church as a “third race” (e.g., Letter to Diognetus 1.1; Martyrdom of Polycarp 3.2; 14.1; 17.1; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6.5.41).

Paul’s claims that, prior to his conversion, he persecuted “the church of God” (ἡ ἐκκλησία τοῦ θεοῦ, hē ekklēsia tou theou; Gal 1:13; 1 Cor 15:9; Phil 3:6; see also Gal 1:22) suggests that Christians in Jerusalem and Judaea adopted the designation “church” or “assembly” (ἐκκλησία, ekklēsia) rather early (Trebilco, “Why Did,” 442–43). If the term was first used by the Christians in Jerusalem, it likely was chosen for theological rather than political reasons (Trebilco, “Why Did,” 445; contra van Kooten, “Ἐκκλησία τοῦ θεοῦ, Ekklēsia tou theou,” 522–48). The Septuagint used the Greek term meaning “church” or “assembly” (ἐκκλησία, ekklēsia) to translate the Hebrew term “assembly” (קָהָל, qahal). Thus, the Greek term “assembly” (ἐκκλησία, ekklēsia) likely expressed the early church’s conviction that it was the fulfillment and culmination of the Old Testament people of God (Conzelmann, Outline, 254–55).

The early church understood itself to be the eschatological community, the recipient of God’s end-of-time saving promises (compare 1QM IV, 10; Beker, Paul the Apostle, 315–18). The Old Testament had promised that in the “last days” God would pour out His Spirit and make all things new (Isa 32:15; 44:3; Joel 2:28). At Pentecost, the early church interpreted the Spirit’s presence among them as the sign that God’s promises had arrived (Acts 2:14–40; Twelftree, People of the Spirit, 74–83). The early church conceived of itself as a new humanity in a new creation, for the old world had died along with its structures (1 Cor 10:32; 2 Cor 5:16–17; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:15; Martyn, Theological Issues, 87–140). This eschatological focus explains why the early church could refer to its era as the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) or the “last days” (Acts 2:17; 1 Cor 10:11; 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 1:2; 1 Pet 1:20; 1 John 2:18) in which the righteousness of God had been manifested ultimately in Christ (Rom 3:21–22).

The Early Church and Idolatry
As the true Israel and eschatological community, the early church was to flee idolatry. Idolatry was widespread in the Graeco-Roman world of the first century, and many believers (especially outside of Palestine) would have converted from lives of paganism. The conversion to Christianity could have had massive socioeconomic ramifications on believers, who may have found themselves shunned by their former communities. Paul and the other New Testament writers taught Christians to hold fast to their monotheistic confession of Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3; see also Phil 2:11). Paul reminds the Corinthians of their common confession that, despite there being “many gods and many lords,” there is but one God (1 Cor 8:4–5). In 1 Corinthians 8:6 he rewords Judaism’s confession of monotheism (Deut 6:4) to include Jesus: “for us there is one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 8:6; Eph 4:4–6; Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 210–18).

The New Testament writers also provided new believers with instructions on how to live within a polytheistic world (e.g., 1 Cor 8:1–11:1). Paul called believers to “flee idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14), and John advised his readers to “keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Christians were to refrain from eating meat offered to idols in the idols’ temples (1 Cor 8:1–13; 10:14–22). The presence of dining rooms in and around the sanctuary to Demeter and Kore on the Acrocorinth indicate that eating and religious ritual were often bound together in the ancient world (Gooch, Dangerous Food, 1–13). Gooch argues that “an objective separation between meals eaten ‘in an idol’s temple’ and meals involving idolatrous rites was highly improbable in Paul’s Corinth” (Gooch, Dangerous Food, 82). Hence, believers were to abstain from eating in an idol’s temple, although they were free to eat meat offered to idols, so long as they did not cause a weaker brother to stumble (1 Cor 8:9–13; 10:23–11:1; Fee, “Eidōlothyta Once Again,” 172–97; compare Fisk, “Eating Meat,” 49–70).

Acts 19:23–41 illustrates how dangerous the church’s rejection of idols was for its followers—especially new converts. Paul’s teaching in Ephesus that gods made with hands were not true gods threatened the livelihoods of idol-makers and silversmiths, who made their profit from selling idols. In response to Paul’s teaching, the silversmith Demetrius instigated a riot (see Acts 19:23–41).

The Unity of the Early Church
The early church sought to be unified around a common confession and practice. Jesus had described His family as those who did His Father’s will (Mark 3:34–35) and are “not ashamed to call [believers] brothers” (Heb 2:11 ESV). In Matthew 23:8 He instructed His disciples to call one another “brother” (Matt 23:8). The apostles thought of the church as a family and frequently spoke and wrote in familial terms (Acts 9:30; 15:13; Rom 12:1; 1 Cor 7:29; Gal 4:12; Heb 3:12; Jas 2:1; 2 Pet 1:10; 1 John 3:13). Such language portrays a deep unity in the church (Sechrest, A Former Jew, 118–33).

The early church demonstrated its unity in the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper. Following Pentecost, the early church partook of the Supper on a weekly or even daily basis (Acts 2:42–47; 20:7; 1 Cor 11:17–34; Didache 14.1; Van Neste, “Lord’s Supper,” 370–72). Their breaking of bread together in commemoration of Jesus’ death and resurrection was a sign of unity around the gospel. Paul makes this clear in 1 Cor 10:16–17 when he affirms that there is “one body” of Christians precisely because there is “one bread.” Hence, when believers do not act in patient and selfless unity, the Supper loses its unifying significance (1 Cor 11:17–34; Schreiner, New Testament Theology, 732–33).

Bauckham, Richard. “James and the Jerusalem Church.” Pages 415–80 in The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting. Edited by Richard Bauckham. Vol. 4 of The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting. Edited by Bruce W. Winter. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.
———. Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.
Beker, J. Christiaan. Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980.
Collins, R. F. “Did Jesus Found the Church: Which Church?” Louvain Studies 21 (1996): 356–64.
Conzelmann, Hans. An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament. Translated by John Bowden. New York: Harper & Row, 1969.
Denaux, Adelbert. “Did Jesus Found the Church?” Louvain Studies 21 (1996): 25–45.
Dunn, James D. G. The New Perspective on Paul. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.
———. The Partings of the Ways: Between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity. 2nd ed. London: SCM, 2006.
———. Romans 9–16. Word Biblical Commentary 38B. Dallas: Word, 1988.
Fee, Gordon D. “Eidōlothyta Once Again: An Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8–10.” Biblica 61 (1980): 172–97.
Fisk, Bruce N. “Eating Meat Offered to Idols: Corinthian Behavior and Pauline Response in 1 Corinthians 8–10 (A Response to Gordon Fee).” Trinity Journal 10 (1989): 49–70.
Gärtner, Bertil. The Temple and the Community in Qumran and the New Testament: A Comparative Study in the Temple Symbolism of the Qumran Texts and the New Testament. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965.
Gooch, Peter D. Dangerous Food: 1 Corinthians 8–10 in Its Context. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1993.
Hurtado, Larry W. Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.
Kim, Seyoon. Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.
Martyn, J. Louis. Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul. Nashville: Abingdon, 1997.
Metzger, Bruce M. “The Punctuation of Rom. 9:5.” Pages 95–112 in Christ and Spirit in the New Testament. Edited by Barnabas Lindars and Stephen S. Smalley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973.
Meyer, Jason C. The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology. NAC Studies in Bible and Theology 6. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2009.
Roloff, Jürgen. “ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia).” Pages 410–15 in vol. 1 of Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider. 3 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.
Schreiner, Thomas R. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.
Sechrest, Love L. A Former Jew: Paul and the Dialectics of Race. Library of New Testament Studies 410. London: T & T Clark, 2009.
Trebilco, Paul. “Why Did the Early Christians Call Themselves ἡ ἐκκλησία (hē ekklēsia)?” New Testament Studies 57 (2011): 440–60.
Twelftree, Graham H. People of the Spirit: Exploring Luke’s View of the Church. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009.
Van Kooten, George H. “Ἐκκλησία τοῦ θεοῦ (Ekklēsia tou theou): The ‘Church of God’ and the Civic Assemblies (ἐκκλησίαι, ekklēsiai) of the Greek Cities in the Roman Empire: A Response to Paul Trebilco and Richard A. Horsley.” New Testament Studies 58 (2012): 522–48.
Van Neste, Ray. “The Lord’s Supper in the Context of the Local Church.” Pages 364–90 in The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes. Edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford. NAC Studies in Bible and Theology 10. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2010.
Vos, Geerhardus. The Pauline Eschatology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952.


The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. 2016. Shared from Logos Bible Software




Galilee: The Lexham Bible Dictionary

Galilee (גְּלִיל, gelil). A region in the northern part of Israel. The site of many biblical events, especially in the life of Christ. Jesus grew up in Galilee.

Galilee in the Bible

The region of Galilee is referred to 69 times in the Bible. Joshua brought the region of Galilee under Israelite domination when he defeated the Canaanite league led by Jabin (Josh 11:1–11). Four of the Israelite tribes were assigned to this area (Asher, Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali; Josh 19). The Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III invaded Galilee in 733 bc and captured a number of the major cities (2 Kgs 15:29). Israelite dominion over Galilee ended in 722 bc when Sargon II captured the capital city (2 Kings 17) and exiled the inhabitants of the region to Assyria. Galilee is prominent in the Gospels as the scene of Jesus’ childhood and much of His public ministry (Matt 2:22–23; 4:12, 23). Most of the 12 apostles were from the region of Galilee (John 1:44; Matt 4:18–21).

Name and Location

The name “Galilee” literally means “circle” or “district,” the fuller expression of which is “district of the Gentiles” (Isa 9:1; Matt 4:15).

Galilee is located in the northern part of the land of Israel between the Jezreel Valley the Litani (Leontes) River. The region is bordered on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the east by the Sea of Galilee and Upper Jordan Valley. The political boundaries of the region of Galilee were vague and variable until defined by Roman administration after the death of Herod (4 bc), when Galilee became a part of the tetrarchy of Antipas (Hoehner, Herod Antipas, 43).


Galilee is the highest region of Israel, with elevations ranging from 3,962 feet at Mount Meron to 680 feet below sea level at the Sea of Galilee. Because of its altitude and proximity to the sea, it is also the coolest and most well-watered part of Israel. Josephus praised the fertility of Galilee, stating that no part of the land was left uncultivated (Josephus, Jewish War 3.42–43). The region was fertile in part because of its springs, heavy dew, and rainfall. The terrain is quite diverse and includes volcanic cones, limestone hills, and fertile alluvial plains.


Josephus indicated that Galilee was divided into two regions: Upper and Lower Galilee (Jewish War 3.35–40). The border between the two regions is marked by a slope which rises almost 1,500–2,000 feet vertically, the fault of Esh Shaghur, which cuts across the region between Acco and Ptolemais, and the north end of the Sea of Galilee.

Upper Galilee is a mountainous plateau which reaches elevations of more than 3,000 feet. Mount Meron, Upper Galilee’s highest peak, reaches an altitude of 3,962 feet. From the Litani River in the north, the mountains of Galilee rise to their highest point and then drop into the fault of Esh Shaghur, the border between the two Galilees. Upper Galilee is composed primarily of hard ridges of Cenomanian limestone and plateaus of softer Senonian (chalk) limestone. This windswept mountainous region is believed to have been densely forested in antiquity (Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, 25).

Because of its isolated and mountainous terrain, Upper Galilee was not a focal point of biblical history, although small villages and fortresses were located there in Roman times. Baly suggests that rugged Upper Galilee offered the northern Israelites a “region of escape” when resisting political domination by a foreign power (Baly, The Geography of the Bible, 152). The key characteristics of Upper Galilee are its mountainous terrain and isolation from surrounding regions.

Lower Galilee is less uniformly mountainous than Upper Galilee and is characterized by low mountain ranges (under 2,000 feet) with a series of small valleys and basins between them. The shallow valleys and basins bisect the mountains longitudinally from east to west and give the region a staircase-like topography descending from Upper to Lower Galilee. The valleys and basins of Lower Galilee provided a number of easy travel routes from Israel’s northern coast and the Jezreel Valley across the region to the Sea of Galilee, where the routes converge.


Because of its elevation and proximity to the sea, Galilee has the wettest (and coldest) winter weather in the land of Israel. During the rainy season (November—April), Lower Galilee receives between 15–20 inches of precipitation while Upper Galilee receives between 30–40 inches (May, Oxford Bible Atlas, 51).

Temperatures in Galilee vary considerably depending on elevation and distance from the Mediterranean Sea. The higher elevations of Upper Galilee make it cooler and more pleasant during the summer months, but it is also colder during the winter months when occasional freezing temperatures bring ice and snow. Lower Galilee is affected by the westerly Mediterranean Sea breeze which sweeps through the east-west valleys and basins during the afternoon. The valleys tend to funnel the winds down onto the Sea of Galilee causing violent storms (see Matt 8:24; Mark 4:37; Luke 8:23). Winter storm winds reaching velocities of 75 mph have been measured in the hills of Galilee.

While all of Israel is known for its copious dew, it is most plentiful in the region of Galilee (see Psa 133:3). Western Galilee is extremely rich in dew, with 200 to 250 dew nights annually (Orni and Efrat, Geography of Israel, 153). The dew precipitates from the moisture-laden Mediterranean air, which settles on the cool Galilean hills and valleys after sunset. Dew was important for Galilean agriculture during the long dry season between May and September. Condensation on rocks would seep into the soil and lightly irrigate thirsty plants.


The region of Galilee received its abundant water supply from the Jordan River and contained wide and fertile valleys covered with deep, rich soil. Additional agricultural characteristics included forests, rich soil, plentiful water, and an abundance of fish in the Sea of Galilee.

Galilee was known in ancient times as an excellent region for producing wheat. It was also known for its production of olive oil (Josephus, Jewish War 3.592); olive groves were planted on the lower slopes of the hills while grain grew on the fertile valley floors. According to Jewish tradition, it was easier to bring up a legion of olives in Galilee than one infant in Judaea (Avi-Yona, The Holy Land, 203). Galilee was also Israel’s largest and best producer of wine.

The abundance of fish in the Jordan River and Sea of Galilee resulted in the fishing industry being a primary source of income for Galileans. Salted and pickled fish from Galilee were sold throughout the land. Fishermen from Capernaum were among the first to become followers of Jesus (Matt 4:18–22; Mark 1:16–20). While the fertile fields of Galilee could have been used as grazing land for sheep and goats, Galilee’s ancient farmers realized that the land could be used more profitably for agriculture.

Galilee was also located on the international trade and travel route which passed through the land of Israel, joining Mesopotamia with Egypt. The route descended south from Damascus, crossing the Jordan River just east of the Hazor, and cutting through Lower Galilee and the Jezreel Valley to reach the coastal plain. The Galileans profited from the trade and the customs they levied on caravans and travelers who passed through their region. Levi was a customs collector in Capernaum, a toll station on the Via Maris (“way of the sea,” Isa 9:1), when Jesus called him to become His follower (Mark 2:14).

The Jordan Valley

The Jordan Valley—part of the Great Rift Valley—runs north and south along the eastern border of Galilee. The section of the valley north of the Sea of Galilee is called the Hula Valley. It extends south from the foot of Mount Hermon to a basalt flow from the Golan, which hindered the Jordan River’s advance to the Sea of Galilee, creating a shallow lake and a marshy region. The Hula Valley, about 300 feet below sea level, has been drained and is now used for agriculture (Baly, The Geography of the Bible, 191–96). The sources of the Jordan—the Dan, Hasbani, and Hermon Rivers—were located at the northern end of the valley.

The Jordan Valley extends south of the Sea of Galilee 65 miles to the Dead Sea. The valley is 2–12 miles wide and averages 1,000 feet below sea level. The Jordan Valley is cultivated at the foot of the hills that border the valley on the east and west. The region is dry and desolate toward the Jordan River, which is uncultivated. A narrow jungle called the zor is located along the banks of the Jordan. The Jordan River is a small, winding river and is not suitable for navigation or travel. Throughout history, the Jordan River served primarily as a border between Israel and the Transjordan territories to the east (Gilead, Ammon, and Moab). While the Jordan used to overflow its banks during the spring (Josh 3:15), much of the water is now pumped out of the river for irrigation and only a trickle actually reaches the Dead Sea. Ancient travelers could cross the Jordan in several places, including a location just east of Old Testament Jericho.

The Sea of Galilee

A fresh water lake known as Sea of Galilee is located between the Hula Valley and the Jordan Valley. This lake was known in ancient times as Chinnereth (“harp”) probably because of its harp-like shape (Num 34:11; Josh 13:27). It was also known as the Lake of Gennesareth based on its proximity to the plain of Gennesareth along its northwestern shore (Luke 5:1). In the Roman period, it was known as the Lake of Tiberius—a name taken from the new capital of Galilee which Herod Antipas had built and named for the emperor. Modern Israelis call it Lake Kinneret, or “the Kinneret.”

The Sea of Galilee is approximately 12 miles north to south, and about seven and a half miles wide. It is situated in a basin about 680 feet below sea level with steep hillsides on the east and west. The shores of the Sea of Galilee are rich in agriculture, and the lake has been fished since ancient times. Along the shores of the lake, 15 ancient harbors have been located. One of the most important was at Tabgha, where warm springs attract schools of fish. Fishermen often came to this area; it could be the location where Jesus invited Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their nets and become “fishers of men” (Matt 4:18–22). There are 18 species of indigenous fish in the Sea of Galilee, including the Talapia Galilea (known as “St. Peter’s fish), which can reach about 16 inches in size (Nun, The Sea of Galilee and Its Fishermen, 6–11).

The Cities of Galilee

Excavation of many cities in Galilee has advanced modern understanding of the biblical background and history of the region.


Hazor is located 10 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. It was the largest city ever built in Palestine during the biblical period, with an upper city of 30 acres and a lower city of 170 acres. The city was located just west of the main ford of the Jordan (“Bridge of Jacob’s Daughter”). Thus, those who controlled Hazor also controlled the International Highway.

Hazor was the political and military hub of Palestine in the second millennium. Joshua fought against Jabin, king of Hazor and his coalition of kings at the Waters of Merom (Josh 11:1–11). Solomon rebuilt the city (circa 950 bc) as a fortress to protect the northern entrance into Palestine (1 Kgs 9:15). Hazor, Gezer, and Megiddo had similar gates which were designed by Solomon’s builders. The city was built and destroyed six different times between the division of the kingdom and the captivity of the northern kingdom (1 Kgs 15:20; 2 Kgs 15:29).

Hazor was first excavated by Garstang in 1926. Yadin led the project from 1955–1958, and returned for a final season in 1968 (Yadin, Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible). Amnon Ben-Tor has directed the work for Hebrew University since 1990.


During the period of the judges, the tribe of Dan abandoned their assigned territory on the coastal plain and migrated north. They found a suitable location at the foot of Mount Hermon, where a spring provideded plenty of water for drinking and agriculture. The Danites conquered the city of Laish and renamed it Dan. The city was idolatrous from its founding and became a center for golden calf worship during the rule of Jeroboam.

The city of Dan was the northernmost city of the land of Israel. The extent of the land was described as from “Dan to Beersheba.” Excavations at Tel Dan commenced in 1966 under the leadership of Biran. Biran discovered a ninth-century Aramaic inscription which refers to “Beit David,” the House of David—the first extrabiblical evidence of King David (Biran and Naveh, “An Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan,” 81–99).


Capernaum is located at the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus made his home at Capernaum after leaving Nazareth (Matt 4:12–13), performed some of His greatest miracles there (Mark 2:1–12; Luke 4:23; John 4:46–54), and ministered in its synagogue (John 6:16–59). The American explorer Edward Robinson first identified the site of Capernaum. Excavations began in 1905 by German archaeologists and continued in under the Franciscan Fathers (1905–1915; 1921–1926). Excavations on the western portion of the site began in 1968.

Franciscan excavators identified what they believed to be the house of Peter over which an octagonal church was built in the fifth century (Strange and Shanks, “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?” 26–36). A fourth-century synagogue made of limestone stands over the foundation of a first-century basalt synagogue, which may have been the location of Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse (John 6:35–59).


Chorazin is located in the basalt hills just two miles north of Capernaum. Jesus evidently taught there, since he reproached it for its unbelief (Matt 11:21). Chorazin has the remains of a fourth-century ad basalt synagogue. Excavation of the synagogue was done by the Germans in 1905–1907 and completed by Israel’s Department of Antiquities. Excavations in 1962–1963 were chiefly concerned with the structures of the central quarter surrounding the synagogue. One of the most interesting discoveries at Chorazin was a basalt “seat of Moses,” where the keynote speaker at a synagogue service would sit to teach. Jesus remarks in Matt 23:2 that the Pharisees have pridefully seated themselves in the “chair of Moses.”

Bethsaida Julias

It is debated whether Bethsaida Julias was located at the dominating site of et-Tell, a mile from the Sea of Galilee, or at El-’Araj, which lies right on the shore. Iron Age Bethsaida, located at et-Tel, appears to have been the capital of the kingdom of Geshur. The Bethsaida of the New Testament may have been a double site with a road connecting the fishing village of Bethsaida with the city (polis) Julias a mile inland from the shore. Rami Arav directed excavations at the prominent mound (et-Tell) that dominated the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee just east of the Jordan River. He argued et-Tell was the biblical site of Bethsaida.

Bethsaida (“House of the Fisher”) was a fishing village, and the home of Philip, Andrew, and Peter (John 1:44, 12:21). Jesus healed a blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22). The Bible refers to the city as Bethsaida, but it was named “Julius” in honor of the daughter of Augustus when Philip the Tetrarch rebuilt the town in ad 30. The Consortium of the Bethsaida Excavations Project continues to search for clues about the history and culture of ancient Bethsaida (Arav and Freund, Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee, 1–310).


Tiberias is located on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee. The city is not mentioned in the ministry of Jesus. Herod Antipas built Tiberias between ad 18–22 to serve as the capital of the tetrarchy of Galilee and Peraea. He named it for Emperor Tiberius. The city was a health spa for the Romans, who enjoyed its hot sulphur springs located south of the city. Because the city was built on an old Jewish cemetery, the Jews considered the place unclean until ad 145, when Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai cleansed the city, allowing Jews to settle there. Tiberias eventually became the location of the Sanhedrin and a center for Jewish scholarship. Several excavations conducted at Tiberias during the past 50 years have uncovered remains from Chalcholithic through the Ottoman periods. In 2009, a new project was begun at the city center under the direction of Cytryn-Silverman of the Hebrew University.


Nazareth is located on the hills along the northern border of the Valley of Jezreel, just 18 miles from Capernaum. The city is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, but it was the home of Joseph and Mary (Luke 1:26) and the city of Jesus’ childhood (Matt 2:23; Luke 2:39, 51). Nazareth is just four miles south of Sepphoris, the Roman capital of Galilee. In Nazareth, Jesus read from Isa 61:1–2 in the synagogue and was rejected by the people (Luke 4:16–30).

Nazareth is situated in a basin that centers at the Church of the Annunciation, property that the Catholic Church purchased in 1620. A Franciscan priest named Belarmino Bagatti excavated this area extensively in 1955–65. Occupation at the site ended around 720 bc with the Assyrian conquest, but a small village situated by the spring existed there in the Roman period. Today, Nazareth is the largest Arab city in Israel, and is the home of 23 monasteries and churches as well as mosques. The Church of the Annunciation, marking the site of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary (Luke 1:26–31), is the largest Christian building in the Middle East.


Jesus performed His first miracle in the city of Cana (John 2). Traditional Cana is located four miles northeast of Nazareth at Kefr Kenna. However, the actual site is probably at Khirbet Kana, nine miles north of Nazareth along the north edge of the Bet Netofa Valley, a place which Arabs call “Cana of Galilee.” Cana was the home of Nathanael (John 21:2) and the place where Jesus healed the nobleman’s son who lay sick in Capernaum (John 4:46–50). Douglas Edwards, in association with the University of Puget Sound, conducted excavations at Khirbet Kana in 1998–1999. He discovered Hellenistic and Roman houses and a large complex with monumental columns, apparently a Byzantine synagogue or church.


Sepphoris was a strongly fortified city four miles north of Nazareth. Josephus records that at the beginning of his reign, Herod conquered the city during a snow storm. It was an important military and cultural center, as well as the capital of Galilee during the early reign of Herod Antipas (4 bc—ad 39) until he built Tiberias. Since Sepphoris was only an hour’s walk from Nazareth, this may have been one of the work sites of Mary’s husband, Joseph.

After the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in ad 70, Sepphoris became an important Jewish center. It was the seat of the Sanhedrin for some time. Judah the Patriarch, who recorded the Jewish oral tradition in the Mishnah, lived in Sepphoris for 17 years, and, according to Jewish tradition, was buried there.

Sepphoris was first excavated in 1931 by the University of Michigan. Excavation commenced again in 1983 under the direction of J.F. Strange of the University of South Florida. Since 1985, work at Sepphoris has been conducted by the Joint Expedition to Sepphoris. Excavations have revealed a Jewish residential district, a Roman Villa featuring a triclinium table mosaic, a Byzantine Cardo, a theater, a bath, and a Jewish synagogue featuring Jewish motifs as well as the signs of the Zodiac (Chancey and Meyers, “How Jewish Was Sepphoris In Jesus Time?” 18–33).

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi is located about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, near the foot of Mount Hermon. Philip built the city in honor of Caesar at an ancient worship center for the god Pan, a nature god associated with shepherds, flocks, hunting, and rustic music. A sacred grotto dedicated to Pan was uncovered at the mouth of a cave which is the headwaters for the Banias River, one of the main sources of the Jordan. The cave became a center for Pan worship during the Hellenistic period. The sanctuary received a greater recognition when King Herod constructed a temple there in honor of Augustus (16 bc). Here, by this pagan worship center, Peter made his confession of faith in Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God” (Matt 16:13–16).

Although an initial excavation took place in 1967, a full scale 10-year project was initiated by the Israel Antiquities Authority in 1988. The Institute for the Study of Archaeology and Religion of Pepperdine University joined the project in 1993. Discoveries at the site included a royal palace, believed to be the residence of Agrippa II (Wilson and Tzaferis, “Banias Dig Reveals King’s Palace”, 54–61). Other structures include aqueducts, courtyards, a bath house, a synagogue, and a church. Crusader remains can also be found in the vicinity.

Transition of Galilee to Complete Roman Control

Galilee participated in the revolt against Roman rule in ad 70. After a fierce battle, the key Galilean stronghold of Jotapata fell to the Romans. Other battles took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and on the surrounding hills. After the Jewish revolt against Rome ended in ad 73, Jewish self-rule in Galilee also came to an end.


Aharoni, Yohanan. The Land of the Bible. London: Burns and Oates, 1967.

Arav, Rami, and Richard Freund. Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee. Truman State University Press, 2004.

Avi-Yona, Michael. The Holy Land: From the Persian to the Arab Conquests. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966.

Baly, Dennis. The Geography of the Bible. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1974.

Beck, John A. The Land of Milk and Honey. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Biram, Avraham, and Joseph Naveh. “An Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan.” Israel Exploration Journal 43 (1993): 81–98.

Chancey, Mark, and Eric M. Meyers. “How Jewish Was Sepphoris in Jesus’ Time?” Biblical Archaeology Review (July—Aug 2000): 18–33.

Hoehner, Harold. Herod Antipas. Cambridge: At the University Press, 1972.

Horsley, Richard. Archaeology, History and Society in Galilee. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996.

Laney, J. Carl. Concise Bible Atlas. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

May, Herbert G., ed. Oxford Bible Atlas. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Nun, Mendal. The Sea of Galilee and Its Fishermen. En Gev: Kinnereth Sailing Co., 1989.

Orni, Ephraim, and Elisha Efrat. The Geography of Israel. Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1973.

Strange, James F., and Hershel Shanks. “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?” Biblical Archaeology Review (Nov—Dec 1982): 26–36.

Wilson, John F., and Vassilios Tzaferis. “Banias Dig Reveals King’s Palace.” Biblical Archaeology Review (Jan—Feb 1998): 54–61.

Wright, Paul. Understanding the New Testament: An Introductory Atlas. Jerusalem: Carta, 2004.

Yadin, Yigael. Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible. New York: Random House, 1975.

Carl Laney

The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. 2016. Shared from Logos Bible Software




God's EPIC Adventure: Synoptic Gospels

The first three Gospels are called Synoptic Gospels. The word synoptic means to see together. These three Gospels are similar in order, subject, and language. The Gospels were created with an interchange of materials between their authors. About ninety percent of Mark appears in Matthew and fifty-one percent in Luke. New Testament specialists suggest that Mark was the first of the Gospels written and that Matthew and Luke used Mark as an outline for the writing of their Gospels. There are three reasons for this conclusion:

  1. When the order of the material varies, Luke agrees with Mark, if Matthew and Mark differ. Matthew agrees with Mark when Luke and Mark differ.
  2. Matthew and Luke never depart from the outline of Mark's presentation.
  3. From the 661 verses in Mark, 606 appear in Matthew and 380 appear in Luke without change. There are only thirty-one verses that are found in Mark, which do not appear in Matthew or Luke.

Materials that are common in Matthew and Luke, but not found in Mark, are believed to originate from a document called "Q" (from the German word Quelle, which means source). The "Q" document has never been discovered in a manuscript. It is a convenient way of indicating a common source for this information and there is disagreement among New Testament specialists about its existence.

There is a third kind of material found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. The material in Matthew does not appear in Luke nor does the Luke material appear in Matthew. This set of material is unique to each author and book. Matthew and Luke selected this material to tell their stories for their specific audiences.70 The Synoptic Gospels show the redemptive history of God. They have sometimes been called lopsided biographies, spending most of their time telling the story of the last week of the life of Jesus. Each has a different purpose. Matthew tells his audience of new believers that Jesus is the New Moses for the New Israel, the church. Mark demonstrates how the power of Jesus is stronger than the power of Satan in an evangelistic tract form. Luke portrays the universal appeal of Jesus, a man for all times and places. With the propensity of the Enlightenment to reductionism, the Gospels have found their way into harmonies where they are combined as one written piece. The real difficulty with this approach is that it takes away from the author's intent to write his story to a specific audience for a specific reason, for telling a combined story of the life of Jesus. I often wonder why God didn't think of presenting us with a harmony in the canon of Scripture instead of three Synoptic Gospels plus the Gospel of John and their different stories about Jesus.

Winn Griffin. God's EPIC Adventure. The Reader's Edition. 2007-2014. 298-299



John the Baptist

John the Baptist was the “forerunner of our Lord.” We have but fragmentary and imperfect accounts of him in the Gospels. He was of priestly descent. His father, Zacharias, was a priest of the course of Abia (1 Chr. 24:10), and his mother, Elisabeth, was of the daughters of Aaron (Luke 1:5). The mission of John was the subject of prophecy (Matt. 3:3; Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1). His birth, which took place six months before that of Jesus, was foretold by an angel. Zacharias, deprived of the power of speech as a token of God’s truth and a reproof of his own incredulity with reference to the birth of his son, had the power of speech restored to him on the occasion of his circumcision (Luke 1:64). After this no more is recorded of him for thirty years than what is mentioned in Luke 1:80. John was a Nazarite from his birth (Luke 1:15; Num. 6:1–12). He spent his early years in the mountainous tract of Judah lying between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea (Matt. 3:1–12).

At length he came forth into public life, and great multitudes from “every quarter” were attracted to him. The sum of his preaching was the necessity of repentance. He denounced the Sadducees and Pharisees as a “generation of vipers,” and warned them of the folly of trusting to external privileges (Luke 3:8). “As a preacher, John was eminently practical and discriminating. Self-love and covetousness were the prevalent sins of the people at large. On them, therefore, he enjoined charity and consideration for others. The publicans he cautioned against extortion, the soldiers against crime and plunder.” His doctrine and manner of life roused the entire south of Palestine, and the people from all parts flocked to the place where he was, on the banks of the Jordan. There he baptized thousands unto repentance.

The fame of John reached the ears of Jesus in Nazareth (Matt. 3:5), and he came from Galilee to Jordan to be baptized of John, on the special ground that it became him to “fulfil all righteousness” (3:15). John’s special office ceased with the baptism of Jesus, who must now “increase” as the King come to his kingdom. He continued, however, for a while to bear testimony to the Messiahship of Jesus. He pointed him out to his disciples, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.” His public ministry was suddenly (after about six months probably) brought to a close by his being cast into prison by Herod, whom he had reproved for the sin of having taken to himself the wife of his brother Philip (Luke 3:19). He was shut up in the castle of Machaerus (q.v.), a fortress on the southern extremity of Peraea, 9 miles east of the Dead Sea, and here he was beheaded. His disciples, having consigned the headless body to the grave, went and told Jesus all that had occurred (Matt. 14:3–12). John’s death occurred apparently just before the third Passover of our Lord’s ministry. Our Lord himself testified regarding him that he was a “burning and a shining light” (John 5:35).

Easton Bible Dictionary: John the Baptist





Satan, also called the adversary and accuser. When used as a proper name, the Hebrew word so rendered has the article “the adversary” (Job 1:6–12; 2:1–7). In the New Testament it is used as interchangeable with diabolos, or the devil, and is so used more than thirty times. He is also called “the dragon,” “the old serpent” (Rev. 12:9; 20:2); “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30); “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2); “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4); “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). The distinct personality of Satan and his activity among men are thus obviously recognized. He tempted our Lord in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–11). He is “Beelzebub, the prince of the devils” (12:24). He is “the constant enemy of God, of Christ, of the divine kingdom, of the followers of Christ, and of all truth; full of falsehood and all malice, and exciting and seducing to evil in every possible way.” His power is very great in the world. He is a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Men are said to be “taken captive by him” (2 Tim. 2:26). Christians are warned against his “devices” (2 Cor. 2:11), and called on to “resist” him (James 4:7). Christ redeems his people from “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Satan has the “power of death,” not as lord, but simply as executioner.

Devil (Gr. diabolos), a slanderer, the arch-enemy of man’s spiritual interest (Job 1:6; Rev. 2:10; Zech. 3:1). He is called also “the accuser of the brethen” (Rev. 12:10). In Lev. 17:7 the word “devil” is the translation of the Hebrew sair, meaning a “goat” or “satyr” (Isa. 13:21; 34:14), alluding to the wood-daemons, the objects of idolatrous worship among the heathen. In Deut. 32:17 and Ps. 106:37 it is the translation of Hebrew shed, meaning lord, and idol, regarded by the Jews as a “demon,” as the word is rendered in the Revised Version. In the narratives of the Gospels regarding the “casting out of devils” a different Greek word (daimon) is used. In the time of our Lord there were frequent cases of demoniacal possession (Matt. 12:25–30; Mark 5:1–20; Luke 4:35; 10:18, etc.).

Easton Bible Dictionary: Satan





Anciently held various important offices in the public affairs of the nation. The Hebrew word so rendered (sopher) is first used to designate the holder of some military office ((Jdg 5:14); A.V., "pen of the writer;" R.V., "the marshal's staff;" marg., "the staff of the scribe"). The scribes acted as secretaries of state, whose business it was to prepare and issue decrees in the name of the king (2Sa 8:17; 2Sa 20:25; 1Ch 18:16; 1Ch 24:6; 1Ki 4:3; 2Ki 12:9-11; 2Ki 18:18-37). They discharged various other important public duties as men of high authority and influence in the affairs of state.

There was also a subordinate class of scribes, most of whom were Levites. They were engaged in various ways as writers. Such, for example, was Baruch, who "wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord" (Jer 36:4, 32)

In later times, after the Captivity, when the nation lost its independence, the scribes turned their attention to the law, gaining for themselves distinction by their intimate acquaintance with its contents. On them devolved the duty of multiplying copies of the law and of teaching it to others (Ezra 7:6, 10-12; Neh 8:1, 4, 9, 13). It is evident that in New Testament times the scribes belonged to the sect of the Pharisees, who supplemented the ancient written law by their traditions (Mat 23), thereby obscuring it and rendering it of none effect. The titles "scribes" and "lawyers" (q.v.) are in the Gospels interchangeable (Mat 22:35; Mark 12:28; Luke 20:39). They were in the time of our Lord the public teachers of the people, and frequently came into collision with him. They afterwards showed themselves greatly hostile to the apostles (Acts 4:5; Acts 6:12).

Some of the scribes, however, were men of a different spirit, and showed themselves friendly to the gospel and its preachers. Thus Gamaliel advised the Sanhedrin, when the apostles were before them charged with "teaching in this name," to "refrain from these men and let them alone" (Acts 5:34-39; Compare Acts 23:9).

Easton's Bible Dictionary: Scribes


Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)