What happened to the stuff stolen from the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans?

What happened to the stuff stolen from the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans?

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In the year 66 CE, the Jews in Roman Palestine rose up in revolt against the Roman occupation. Four years later , the Romans sacked Jerusalem, leveled the city, killed everyone inside, razed the Temple to the ground, and carted off the holy relics as spoils of war.

As demonstrated in a BAR article by Louis H. Feldman, a hidden inscription on the Colosseum itself suggests that the construction of the amphitheater was financed by the plundered booty from the Jewish Revolt.b Vespasian faced a serious deficit when he became emperor, but the spoils of war from Judea-the riches of the Temple treasury, the golden vessels from the Temple, the seized personal treasures of Jewish citizens and the sale of the Jewish captives themselves-provided enormous wealth for the emperor and the plundering army commanded by his son Titus. Thus did the conquest of Judea fund the most recognizable structure of imperial Rome.

These same plundered spoils of Judea are depicted prominently on another monument that still stands in Rome, which is the focus of exciting new research. The marble Arch of Titus was built in 81 C.E. by the emperor Domitian to commemorate the victory and triumphal parade of his brother Titus, the conquering army general, and Emperor Vespasian's son and successor.

In the most famous of the panels, Roman soldiers carry the Jerusalem Temple spoils on parade, including the menorah, the showbread table and trumpets, which were then deposited in Rome's Temple of Peace. This panel and the others were recently subjected to high-resolution three-dimensional scans, resulting in stunningly crisp, high-quality images of the relief that are accurate within less than a millimeter and are free from the distracting visual distortions of the marble's age and discoloration.

In the most famous of the panels, Roman soldiers carry the Jerusalem Temple spoils on parade, including the menorah, the showbread table and trumpets, which were then deposited in Rome's Temple of Peace. Courtesy Yeshiva University Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project.


Some people suggest that the relics were brought to the Vatican, where they still remain. I haven't seen any evidence for this claim, but it is at least possible.

Do we have any information about what happened to these relics?

Well, the Menorah was seen later (according to one testimony):

Most likely, the menorah was looted by the Vandals in the sacking of Rome in 455 CE, and taken to their capital, Carthage. The Byzantine army under General Belisarius might have removed it in 533 and brought it to Constantinople. According to Procopius, it was carried through the streets of Constantinople during Belisarius' triumphal procession. Procopius adds that the object was later sent back to Jerusalem where there is no record of it, although it could have been destroyed when Jerusalem was pillaged by the Persians in 614.


It isn’t hard to see why the Jews revolted against Rome. When the Romans occupied Israel in 63 B.C.E. life for the Jews became increasingly difficult for three major reasons: taxes, Roman control over the High Priest and the general treatment of Jews by the Romans. Ideological differences between the pagan Greco-Roman world and the Jewish belief in one God were also at the heart of political tensions that eventually led to the revolt.

No one likes being taxed, but under Roman rule, taxation became an even more vexing issue. Roman governors were responsible for collecting tax revenue in Israel, but they wouldn't merely collect the amount of money due to the Empire. Instead, they would hike up the amount and pocket the surplus money. This behavior was allowed by Roman law, so there was no one for the Jews to go to when tax dues were exorbitantly high.

Another upsetting aspect of the Roman occupation was the way it affected the High Priest, who served in the Temple and represented the Jewish people on their holiest of days. Although Jews had always selected their High Priest, under Roman rule the Romans decided who would hold the position. As a result, it was often people who conspired with Rome that was appointed the High Priest role, thereby giving those trusted least by the Jewish people the highest position in the community.

Then the Roman Emperor Caligula came to power and in the year 39 C.E. he declared himself a god and ordered that statues in his image be placed in every house of worship within his realm–including the Temple. Since idolatry is not aligned with Jewish beliefs, the Jews refused to place the statue of a pagan god in the Temple. In response, Caligula threatened to destroy the Temple altogether, but before the Emperor could carry out his threat members of the Praetorian Guard assassinated him.

By this time a faction of Jews known as the Zealots had become active. They believed that any action was justified if it made it possible for the Jews to gain their political and religious freedom. Caligula’s threats convinced more people to join the Zealots and when the Emperor was assassinated many took it as a sign that God would defend the Jews if they decided to revolt.

In addition to all these things—taxation, Roman control of the High Priest and Caligula’s idolatrous demands—there was the general treatment of Jews. Roman soldiers openly discriminated against them, even exposing themselves in the Temple and burning a Torah scroll at one point. In another incident, Greeks in Caesarea sacrificed birds in front of a synagogue while on looking Roman soldiers did nothing to stop them.

Eventually, when Nero became the emperor, a governor named Florus convinced him to revoke Jews’ status as citizens of the Empire. This change in their status left them unprotected should any non-Jewish citizens choose to harass them.

The Maccabean Revolt

Mattathias, the man who is creditted with starting the Maccabean revolt, can trace his lineage back to Aaron's grandson Phinehas (1 Maccabees). He served as a priest during a tumultuous time when an aggressive campaign was launched in order to Hellenize (bring the Greek culture into) Judea. This effort was spearheaded by the Seleucids beginning around 175 B.C.

Antiochus, king of the Selecuids, soon after his Hellenizing campaign begins, outlaws Jewish religious practices. Around 170 B.C. he plunders Jerusalem's Temple. Around 168 the Jews are ordered to substitute their religious observances with pagan rituals.

Antiochus, in about 167, orders a pagan altar be set up inside the Temple and unclean meat offered on it (a shadow of the prophetic "abomination of desolation" referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24:15). Mattathias rejects the new worship and begins a revolt. When he dies in 166 his son Judas takes over the leadership of the revolt.

Judas, as the new military commander of the revolt, immediately employs his military genius. In quick succession, he wins stunning victories against Syrian generals Apollonius, Seron, Gorgias and Lysias. He then enters Jerusalem in 164 B.C. and has the pagan altar erected by the Seleucids removed from the temple. He then has it religiously purified and restores the worship of the true God.

Tradition states that when the Maccabees retook Jerusalem's temple it had only a single day's worth of oil for the Temple's menorah. The oil lasts, however, for a total of eight days until more can be produced. This "miracle" is commemorated yearly in the Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah.

In 160 B.C., Judas Maccabee dies in battle. Jonathan Apphus, one of Judas' brothers, is the first of the Maccabees to assume the office of High Priest when he is elevated to this position during the Feast of Tabernacles in 153. Simon Thassi (Maccabee), the second son of Mattathias, assumes the office when Jonathan is captured and killed by the Seleucid King Diodotus Tryphon.

Upon Simon's murder by a son-in-law, his son John Hyrcanus I replaces him in the priestly office. The oldest son of Hyrcanus, Aristobulus I, then succeeds his father as High Priest. He is followed by Alexander Jannaeus, John Hyrcanus II, Aristobulus II and John Hyrcanus II again.

Christ's Followers

Likewise, is highly unlikely that Jesus' followers could have removed the body with a Roman guard protecting the tomb, plus a large stone door. And it won't work to charge them with inventing the account of the sleeping guards in Matthew. 28:11f. That story would only have served as apologetic propaganda had the guards stayed awake.

Why would the disciples (or anyone else) want to risk their lives to steal Christ's body? The biblical record shows the disciples were scared, discouraged and disheartened. Their only motive could have been to deceive. But everything we read about these men indicates they were good and honest. How could they have gone out the rest of their lives and daily preached that Christ had risen from the dead when they knew all along it was a lie? Would they have sacrificed and suffered so greatly for something that they know was an outright deception?

It would have been foolish to hide the corpse and fake a resurrection. The consequences of their loyalty to Jesus included beatings, imprisonments, and even death. No sane person chooses these for what they know is false. Under such pressures, liars confess their deceptions and betray their cohorts.

The explosive growth of the Church is strong evidence for Jesus' resurrection. Significantly, it wasn't the powerful, but commoners, burdened with every cultural strike against them (1 Corinthians 1:26f), whose Resurrection message peaceably transformed the Roman Empire. Who would ever have predicted such an “impossible” feat? Yet it actually did happen! [5]

That Christianity originated in Judaism [6] is further evidence for his resurrection. Renowned archaeologist William F. Albright observed, “In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D.” [7] Jewish bias against the Jesus of the New Testament was massive. What else would have led Jews to accept a shamefully hung (Galatians 3:13) “criminal”, as their promised Messiah when they had longed for a military deliverer? And what else would have moved Jews to break their monotheistic convictions [8] to worship Jesus as God the Son (John 1:18), or change their worship day from Saturday to Sunday (Acts 20:7)? A mere invented myth would have been powerless to overthrow such hopes and traditions.

“Jesus was so unlike what all Jews expected the Son of David to be that His own disciples found it almost impossible to connect the idea of the Messiah with Him.” [9]
-Millar Burrows

It is, as the New Testament states, Jesus' resurrection that singly overcame that “impossibility” (Acts 2:24).

History Crash Course #31: Herod the Great

A madman who murdered his own family and many rabbis, Herod was also the greatest builder in Jewish history.

Herod, the Great (not to be confused with Herod Antipas who came later) is one of the most important characters in Jewish history. He was ambitious, cruel and paranoid to be sure, but, nevertheless, he remains a very significant person in the terms of understanding this period of Roman domination of the Jewish people.

Herod first leadership role was as governor of the Galilee, a position granted to him by his father, Antipater. Early on in his career he demonstrates his brutality by ruthlessly crushing a revolt in the Galilee.

The background to Herod's rise to power is the Roman civil war that will transform Rome from a republic into and empire ruled by the Caesars or emperors. In 44 BCE Julius Caesar is murdered by Brutus and Cassius who are in turn defeated by Anthony and Octavian in 42 BCE. The Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, is the final showdown between Octaviun and Anthony. Octaviun emerged as the unrivaled victor, changing his name to Augustus and becoming the first Roman emperor.

Herod had originally sided with Anthony but switches allegiance at the last minute and backs Octavian. His last minute support for Octavian earns him Augustus's confirmation as King of Israel.

Herod will reigned as king of Judea from 37 BCE until his death in 4 BCE, a very long reign of 33 years, and in many ways a good period in terms of development of the country and social stability.

Part of the reason for the stability was that during this time, the Romans took a backseat role in the day-to-day life of the Jews.

The general Roman attitude was one of tolerance, meaning Jews were granted exemptions from the official Roman state religion. A very interesting point to remember is that religion and state went together in all empires in the ancient world, and more so in Rome than almost anywhere because Rome also practiced emperor worship ― that is, the Romans deified their emperors posthumously.

Linking state and religion gave the rulers added legitimacy, obviously. The connection between temporal power and spiritual power gave them complete control over the physical existence and spiritual existence of their subjects. (Later, we are going to see the Catholic Church doing the same thing in Medieval Europe.)

While accepting the state religion was a vital part of Roman identity and loyalty to the state, the Romans were also pragmatists. They had learned by the Greek experience that Jews could not be forced to worship idols. And they saw for themselves that the Jews were not like other pagan peoples ― they were not going to conform. So the Romans granted the Jews an official status of being exempt from Roman state religion.

On the one hand, it was a very smart and very tolerant policy. On the other hand, with that policy also went a punitive tax specifically for the Jews called fiscus Judaicus. You want to be exempt from the state religion? Okay, so long as you pay for the privilege.

So, it might have happened that the Jews simply paid the tax and did their own thing. But it didn't go as smoothly as that (as we shall see).

Trade, Devlopment and Contruction

Herod's rule was characterized by a period of unprecedented growth and construction, thanks in large part to Herod's amiable relationship with Rome and his obsession with massive and elaborate construction projects

Herod had Rome's complete support in administering a very important territory which included several major trade routes. Everything moved through Judea, which was sort of like the great way-station for the incense trade coming from Yemen up the Arabian Peninsula and going out to the Mediterranean.

Additionally, this was one of the most agriculturally productive pieces of land in the Middle East famous for its olive oil (which was used as a main source of light, and not just for cooking), for its dates (the chief sweetener in the times before sugar), and for its wine.

Herod used the huge profits from trade and money acquired through the crushing taxes he placed upon his subjects to undertake a series of mammoth building projects ― some of the most magnificent in the world.

As a matter of fact if they hadn't closed the list of the wonders of the ancient world before his time, Herod would probably have added three more to list. Almost all archeologists and students of architecture of the ancient world appreciate that he was one of the greatest builders of all human history.

He built relentlessly ― cities, palaces and fortresses, some of which still stand:

  • the fortresses at Masada, Antonia and Herodium
  • the port city of Caesarea
  • the huge edifice at the top of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron
  • the massive fortifications around Jerusalem as well as three towers at the entrance to the city (the remains of which are today erroneously named the Tower of David) and much more

At Herodium, in an incredible feat of engineering ― Herod built an artificial mountain and, on top of it, a huge palace. Unfortunately, this palace was destroyed in 70 CE during the Great Revolt.

He built another fortress, Masada, on top of a mesa, a rock plateau, in the desert. Complete with all the creature comforts in the desert, Masada had an incredible water supply system that fed gardens for growing agricultural staples and three bathhouses (Masada is open to tourists today and a sight to behold.)

The port city of Caesarea deserves special mention ― not only because it was a center of trade and the Roman administrative capitol of Judea and one of the largest ports in the Empire, but because it became a symbol in Jewish eyes of everything that was pagan, Roman, and antithetical to Judaism. Here Herod created an amazing artificial port (one of the two largest in the Empire), put in a beautiful amphitheater, a hippodrome for chariot races (like in the movie Ben Hur, bath houses, and a huge temple dedicated to the Roman god-emperor, Augustus Caesar. (You can visit today the excavations of Caesarea Maritina and they are most impressive.)

The most ambitious of Herod's projects was the re-building of the Temple, which was almost certainly an attempt to gain popularity among his subjects who, he knew, held him in contempt and also to make amends for his cruelty toward the rabbis.

It took 10,000 men ten years just to build the retaining walls around the Temple Mount (on top of which the Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, stands today). The Western Wall (formerly known as the Wailing Wall) is merely part of that 500-meter-long retaining wall that was designed to hold a huge man-made platform that could accommodate twenty four football fields. When it was completed, it was the world's largest functioning religious site and until today it remains the largest man-made platform in the world.

Why did he make the Temple Mount so large?

There's no question that Herod had a huge ego and liked to impress people with grandiose building projects. But there is also another more practical reason. Historians estimate that there were about 6-7 million Jews living in the Roman Empire (plus another 1 million in Persia), many of whom would come to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. So you had to have a huge space to accommodate such a huge number of people. Hence the size of the platform.

When it came to building the Temple itself on top of this platform, Herod truly outdid himself, and even the Talmud acknowledges that the end-result was spectacular. "He who has not seen Herod's building, has never in his life seen a truly grand building." (Talmud-Bava Basra 4a)

The Holy of Holies was covered in gold the walls and columns of the other buildings were of white marble the floors were of carrara marble, its blue tinge giving the impression of a moving sea of water the curtains were tapestries of blue, white, scarlet and purple thread, depicting, according to Josephus, "the whole vista of the heavens."

Josephus describes how incredible it looked:

Herod saw fit however, to place at the main entrance a huge Roman eagle, which the pious Jews saw as a sacrilege. A group of Torah students promptly smashed this emblem of idolatry and oppression, but Herod had them hunted down, dragged in chains to his residence in Jericho, where they were burned alive.

Having built the Temple, Herod took pains to make sure it would be run without future problems of this kind. He appointed his own High Priest, having by then put to death forty-six leading members of the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court.

Herod's persecutions were infamous and they even extended to his own family.

Herod, knowing that his Jewish credentials were suspect, had married Miriam ― the granddaughter of Hyrcanus and therefore a Hasmonean princess ― largely to gain legitimacy among the Jewish people. But he also loved her madly. As Josephus relates:

The problem was that Miriam hated him as much as he loved her, largely because of what he had done to her brother, Aristobulus.

Herod had made Aristobulus High Priest at the age of 17, and watched with trepidation as the young man became hugely popular. This was not surprising as Aristobulus was a Hasmonean with a legitimate right to be High Priest ― a genuine Jew and a genuine cohen.

But this threatened Herod too much and he had him drowned.

Indeed, Herod later became jealous of his own sons for the same reason and had them murdered as well.

And he even had his own wife murdered in a fit of jealousy. Josephus again:

Not a stable man to say the least. Even Augustus said of him: "It is better to be Herod's dog than one of his children."

Herod's paranoia, his interference with the Temple hierarchy, and his dedication to the Hellenization of the Jewish people all contributed to the growing discontent that would erupt in a revolt against Rome some 70 years after his death.

Beneath the surface events, there was a deeper spiritual battle raging ― between paganism and Judaism. Additionally, Jewish nationalistic feelings were rising to the surface.

It didn't help matters that Hellenism dominated Judea. A significant number of Greeks as well as other gentiles who adopted the Greek lifestyle had lived here since the days of the Greek Empire and now, encouraged by the Romans, more Hellenist outsiders came to settle the land.

Additionally, the Jewish upper-classes, though a minority, subscribed to this "higher" culture. And of course, the king was an avowed Hellenist.

Seeing himself as an enlightened leader who would bring his backward people into the modern world, Herod did what he saw necessary to accomplish his "idealistic" end. This included the persecution and murder of all rabbis whom he viewed not only as threats to his authority, but as obstacles to the mass Hellenization of the Jews.

As a result of Herod's interference and the ever-spreading Hellenistic influences among the Jewish upper classes, the Temple hierarchy became very corrupt. The Sadducees, a religious group of the wealthy, who collaborated with the Romans in order to keep their power base, now controlled the Temple, much to the chagrin of the mainstream Jewish majority, the Pharisees, and of the extreme religious minority, the Zealots.

Disciples Stole the Body

As mentioned previously, Justin Martyr and Tertullian reported that a common Jewish argument against the Resurrection was that the disciples stole the body of Jesus and then proclaimed He had risen from the dead. The Gospel of Matthew records this claim as well.

Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” ( Matthew 28:11–15 )

Before highlighting the problems with this hypothesis, we need to identify the soldiers at the tomb. Were they part of the Jewish temple guard or were they Roman soldiers? The confusion on this point stems from Pilate’s response to the request for the sealing of the tomb. He said to the chief priests and Pharisees, “ You have a guard go your way, make it as secure as you know how ” ( Matthew 27:65 ). At first glance, this would seem to indicate Jewish guards, however, the words here are “grammatically ambiguous. They could be translated as a command, have a guard, making it probable that Pilate was giving the Jews temporary use of a group of Roman soldiers, or as a statement, you have a guard, making it more likely that he was telling the Jews to use their own temple police.”14 So which view is correct?

David MacLeod, in agreement with the majority of commentators, pointed out four reasons for taking the Greek word for “guard” in these verses ( κουστωδὶα , koustōdia) as a reference to Roman soldiers.

That it was Roman soldiers and not temple police who guarded the tomb is more likely for four reasons: First, they would not have needed Pilate’s permission to use the temple police. Second, in [Matthew] 28:12 the soldiers are identified with the same word ( στρατιώτης ) used in [Matthew] 27:27, where the soldiers are undoubtedly Roman. Third, [Matthew] chapter 28 (v. 14) implies that the soldiers are answerable to Pilate. Fourth, the Greek can be understood to mean this.15

Let’s look now at the multiple problems with the claim that the disciples stole the body. First, why would these men even attempt such a feat? They were on the run or in hiding ( Mark 14:50 ) and did not expect Jesus to rise from the dead, “ for as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead ” ( John 20:9 cf. Matthew 16:21–22 Luke 24:6–8 John 2:22 ). Although Jesus had told them on multiple occasions that He would die and rise again, the disciples did not understand His words because they, like their fellow Jews in those days, expected the Messiah to usher in an unending Jewish political kingdom. That the Messiah would die was far from their expectations. So when Jesus was crucified, the disciples were distraught and fearful.

Second, if the disciples were guilty of stealing the body of Jesus, why did they suddenly become fearless gospel preachers? If they knew their message was a sham, why would they be willing to endure continual persecution, imprisonments, and eventually martyrdom? As explained in the third article in the series, liars don’t make good martyrs. Some people may be willing to die for a lie, but only if they believe it to be true. However, to think that a group of men, with nothing to gain and likely everything to lose from an earthly perspective, would be willing to suffer and die for what they knew to be false strains credulity to the breaking point.

Third, how would a group of fishermen, a tax collector, and other members of the general public overpower or sneak past highly trained soldiers? A couple of possible answers come to mind. Like Carrier proposed, they stole the body before the guard was set the day after the Crucifixion. But this raises the exact same objections mentioned above and seriously calls into question the competency of a koustōdia of Roman soldiers.

Fourth, the other possible answer to the above question is precisely what the Jewish leaders bribed the soldiers to say: “ His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept ” ( Matthew 28:13 ). Since the guards were sleeping, the disciples just needed to be very quiet as they stole the body. Besides the fact that Roman soldiers would either be severely beaten or killed for falling asleep on the job,16 we would have to assume that the disciples somehow quietly broke the Roman seal and silently rolled a massive stone away from the mouth of the tomb. Next, we must assume that the disciples took enough time in the tomb to unwrap the Lord’s body and fold the face cloth ( John 20:7 ). Then they must have carried the body out of the tomb without waking a single soldier.

Of course this entire scenario is absurd, but it gets worse (or better if you are a Christian). Keep in mind that this was the leading view of unbelievers in those days. It was the best explanation Christ’s enemies could come up with. “ His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept ” ( Matthew 28:13 ). Read it again. Did you catch the glaring contradiction in this theory? How would sleeping soldiers know who stole the body if their eyes were shut? The best skeptical view of the day refutes itself.

As Joseph informed his brothers, God often uses for good what men intend for evil ( Genesis 50:20 ). Ironically, as David Turner noted, the posting and bribing of the Roman soldiers turned them into evangelists for the risen Savior.

In this passage the soldiers who were guarding Jesus’ tomb became evangelists of Jesus’ resurrection! Previously the leaders purported to need guards for fear that a resurrection hoax might occur, but those very guards later reported that a genuine resurrection had occurred. The leaders had outsmarted themselves: the very guards they secured to prevent a potential problem could not testify to an actual problem. So a “cover up” had to be concocted, and money must change hands to ensure that everyone had their story straight.17

Paul's Collection for the Poor in the Church at Jerusalem

Paul B. Duff
The George Washington University

Surprisingly, the practice of collecting money at Christian worship services is almost as old as Christianity itself. Within a few decades of Jesus' death, the apostle Paul initiated a collection of money from communities he visited to support impoverished Christians in Jerusalem. Paul attached great significance to this project so important was the collection to him that he even risked alienating those churches that he had founded in order to complete it. But, considering how vital the project was for Paul, it is remarkable that he mentions the collection directly in only a few places, primarily in the Corinthian correspondence (1 Cor 16:1–4 2 Cor 8:1–9:15 cf. Gal 2:10 Rom 15:25–31). Furthermore, the book of Acts nowhere unambiguously refers to it, although a few passages may point to it indirectly (Acts 11:27–30 24:17) 1 . Thus, due to the paucity of evidence provided by the New Testament, a detailed picture of the collection is beyond our grasp. We can, however, sketch the broad outlines of the project with some confidence.

The beginnings of the collection go back to a meeting held between Paul, Barnabas, and the leaders of the Jerusalem church. The meeting took place in Jerusalem in the mid–first century (ca. 48 CE). Prior to the meeting, Paul and Barnabas had been working in the area of Antioch and they journeyed to Jerusalem as representatives of the Antiochene church. Accounts appear in Gal 2:1–10 and Acts 15:1–29. Since the two accounts do not match precisely, Paul's account should be accepted as more historically reliable.

The meeting in Jerusalem occurred due to a debate over the status of non–Jews in the Antioch church. Some believed that non–Jews 1 should be welcomed into the church only if they converted to Judaism others, however, were content to allow them to be incorporated into the community as non–Jews. In order to settle the matter, Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to consult with the leaders of that church. Those leaders, described by Paul with the honorific title "Pillars" (Gal 2:9), consisted of Peter, a disciple of Jesus James, Jesus's brother and John, probably John, the son of Zebedee, another of Jesus's followers.

According to Paul's account of the meeting, the Pillars essentially agreed with Paul that non–Jews could remain as such when they joined the church in Paul's words, the Jerusalem leaders "added nothing" to his gospel message (Gal 2:6). But Paul's account also suggests that two conditions accompanied the Pillars' approval of Paul's message. The first is described in Gal 2:9: "[Barnabas and Paul would henceforth] go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised." That is to say, Paul (and Barnabas) were probably restricted to evangelizing among non–Jews while the "Pillars" would lead the missionary efforts aimed at the Jews. In effect, the problem of Torah–observant Jews and non–Jews in the same movement was solved by splitting the community of believers into two camps, one Jewish and the other not.

The second condition is expressed in the final verse describing the meeting: "[The Pillars] asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do" (Gal 2:10). It is broadly agreed that Paul's phrase "remember the poor" refers to a one–time collection of money raised among the believers in Antioch to be given to "the poor" in Jerusalem 3 . While it has been suggested that the label "poor" may have been an honorific title for the members of the church in Jerusalem, it more likely represents an accurate descriptor of their situation 4 . The collection was intended not merely as a symbolic effort meant to demonstrate unity among the different churches it also addressed a genuine need in the Jerusalem community. 5

Sometime after the Jerusalem meeting, an incident took place in Antioch that was to have significant consequences for the collection's future. This incident is narrated by Paul in Galatians: "But when Cephas [i. e., Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self–condemned for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?'" (Gal 2:11–14). As this narrative demonstrates, sometime after the Jerusalem meeting, Peter–contrary to his former practice–refused to eat with the non–Jewish members of the Antioch community.

While the issue of dining may seem somewhat insignificant to us, to the members of the church in Antioch, it carried considerable consequences. This is because the community's worship service took place over a meal. In short, while the people from James were in Antioch, Peter refused to worship with the non–Jews in the community. Paul apparently viewed Peter's action as a violation of the previous agreement and consequently accused Peter of hypocrisy. Unfortunately for Paul, the Antiochene community seems to have sided with Peter. 6

In response, Paul broke with Barnabas (cf. Acts 15:39), left the Antiochene community, and headed west to pursue his own independent missionary agenda from that point on 7 . The Antioch incident seems to have spelled the demise of the agreement between Paul, Barnabas, and the "Pillars" that had been established in Jerusalem. Obviously, Paul considered Peter to have reneged on the agreement. But, Peter certainly must have believed his own actions to be justified. After Paul's confrontation with Peter, the latter likely viewed him as a liability, an uncontrolled and uncontrollable renegade who could not be trusted to put the interests of the gospel before his own.

While the demise of the Jerusalem agreement likely signaled the end of the collection at least from the standpoint of the Jerusalem church, Paul's collection efforts did not come to an end 8 . Evidence from his letters–in particular, the Corinthian correspondence—suggests that after he left Antioch, the collection took on more significance in his eyes. But the collection project also changed 9 . For Paul, the effort no longer represented the simple transfer of money from the Antioch community to Jerusalem. Instead, Paul attempted to involve all of the non–Jewish churches that he founded in the effort 10 . He believed that non–Jewish believers in those churches owed the Jews a debt of gratitude. In his words: "Indeed [the non–Jews] owe it to [the members of the Jewish church in Jerusalem] for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things" (Rom 15:27).

Unfortunately the progress of the collection in Paul's churches prior to the Corinthian correspondence is unclear. Paul makes no mention of it in 1 Thessalonians, his earliest extent letter, although in other letters he tells of a collection in Macedonia–a collection that no doubt included the Thessalonian church (2 Cor 8:1–5 2 Cor 9:2 Rom 15:16, 26). We do know that Paul's efforts in Macedonia were ultimately successful and, as he tells us in 2 Corinthians, they exceeded his expectations (2 Cor 8:5).

Curiously, Paul makes no mention of a collection among the Galatian churches in his letter to them, despite his reference to the collection's origin at the Jerusalem meeting earlier in that same letter (Gal 2:10). He does mention in 1 Corinthians that he had given instructions for a Galatian collection (1 Cor 16:1), but those instructions appeared either in a letter that no longer exists or they were delivered orally. While we cannot be sure of the results of Paul's efforts to collect money in Galatia, it is probable that the Galatians ultimately failed to contribute 11 . In all likelihood, the Judaizing conflict in Galatia took its toll on Paul's relationship with those churches and consequently those communities withdrew their support for the project 12 .

We learn about the start of the collection effort in another of Paul's communities, in Corinth, at the end of 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 16:1–4). There Paul instructs the community–most of whom must have had little money to spare—to set aside for the project whatever money they could afford on a weekly basis. In this way, they would be able to raise more money than by relying on a one–time collection, an option rejected by the apostle (1 Cor 16:2). Further information about the collection in Corinth appears in several places in 2 Corinthians. That document attests to the difficulty that Paul had in his collection efforts. We learn, for example, that the Corinthian collection proceeded by fits and starts at one point, it seems to have been put on hold 13 . Unfortunately, discerning the progress of the Corinthian collection is complicated by the likelihood that 2 Corinthians is made up of more than one letter 14 .

However, one thing that seems clear in 2 Corinthians is that the collection effort in Corinth raised doubts about Paul's integrity among some members of that community. In several places, we see evidence that a number of Corinthians believed that the apostle was using the collection as a pretext to steal their hard–earned cash. We see such in Paul's insistence that he was not a "peddler of God's word" (2 Cor 2:17) in his denial that he practiced "cunning" (2 Cor 4:2) in his claim in one place that he "did not defraud anyone" (2 Cor 7:2) and in another that neither he nor those that he sent to Corinth were intent on swindling the community (2 Cor 12:16–18) 15 .

Although it is difficult to understand precisely the ins and outs of the controversy in Corinth, we can nevertheless be confident that the problems were eventually worked out and that the Corinthian collection was completed. We know this because, in his letter to the Romans, Paul tell us that he was about to travel to Jerusalem with the money that had been collected in Achaia, the province whose major city was Corinth (Rom 15:25–26). But in that same letter, Paul exhibits anxiety that the collection money from Achaia (and Macedonia, the province of Thessaloniki and Philippi) might not be accepted upon its arrival in Jerusalem. He therefore asks the Roman church to pray that his "ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints"(Rom 15:31).

What became of the collection? Was it accepted by the Jerusalem church? Or was it rejected by the Pillars, as Paul feared it might be? Unfortunately, no ancient source provides us with a reliable account of Paul's encounter with the Jerusalem leadership when he arrived with the collection. Consequently, scholars are divided in their opinions. Some think that the collection money was not accepted by the Jerusalem leadership others think that it was still others suggest that a compromise was worked out.

The book of Acts claims that when Paul reached Jerusalem, he was persuaded to pay for the release of four Jews from their vows. As Acts tells the story, Paul's payment was intended to prove to the members of the Jerusalem church that Paul still respected the Law of Moses (Acts 21:21–26). Although Acts says nothing about the collection here, some scholars see a compromise over its fate lurking behind this story, a compromise that would have enabled Paul to save face while, at the same time, relieving the Jerusalem leadership of the burden of deciding whether or not to accept money from Paul. While the possibility that such a compromise actually occurred should not be ruled out, it is also conceivable that the author of Acts created this narrative to cover up an ugly event involving those who had by his time become the heroes of the early Church.

Homepage image credit: St. Paul the Apostle (oil on canvas), Vignon, Claude (1593–1670) / Galleria Sabauda, Turin, Italy / Bridgeman Images.

Where Did The Treasure Of King Solomon Go?

According to the Bible, King Solomon obtained 666 talents of gold (22,679 kilograms or 25 U.S tons) in one year! The Bible account says that the famously wise king, “…made the silver and in Jerusalem as plentiful as the stones.” (2 Chronicles 1:15) King Solomon was famous for his wealth in a way that his successors were not. Where did the immense wealth and treasure of King Solomon go? To Egypt! After the death of Solomon, his feckless and reckless son Rehoboam took the throne. Towards the end of his life, King Solomon became a shadow of the man he once. King Solomon the wise was a distant memory, what he had become was a king corrupted in heart and casually cruel and oppressive to his people. The people cried out for relief to their new king but rather than reduce their load, Rehoboam took the counsel of young, hot-headed agitators and decided to double-down on the cruelty declaring, “I will make your yoke heavier, and I will add to it. My father punished you with whips, but I will do so with scourges.” (2 Chronicles 10:11) The enraged people revolted causing the united kingdom to rupture, a division that would never heal. Thus Rehoboam lost 10 of the 12 tribes once ruled by the House of David.

Pharaoh Shishak

Shortly after the division of the kingdom, the new 2 tribe kingdom of Judah was invaded by the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak. The much reduced kingdom had lost God’s protection and was unable to resist the Egyptian army. Pharaoh Shishak “…took the treasures of the house of Jehovah and the treasure of the king’s house. He took everything…” (2 Chronicles 12: 9). Shishak’s military campaign seems to be memorialized on a wall of the temple of

Fig. 1- From the Bubastite Portal. Notice that unlike the Egyptians, Hebrew males are depicted wearing a beard.

Amon-Ra in Karnak Egypt. The relief on the temple wall surrounding a gate (called the Bubastite Portal) records a series of cities in both Judah and Israel that were conquered by the Pharoah “Shoshenq”. This Pharoah is recognised by most historians as the Biblical Shishak. Every Judean or Israelite city is represented as a Hebrew slave with his arms bound behind him (Fig. 1). Although the Bible does not record the invasion of the northern ten-tribe kingdom it is evident from the temple wall that it occurred. A considerable number of the places on the temple wall can be identified with Biblical sites were located within the territory of the northern ten-tribe kingdom. This demonstrates that the purpose of Shishak’s campaign was, not to assist the ten-tribe kingdom to gain dominance over the southern two-tribe kingdom of Judah, but rather to regain control over important trade routes and thereby extend Egypt’s power and influence over both kingdoms.

Pharaoh Osorkon I

Shishak seems to have died shortly after his conquest and was replaced on the throne by his son Osorkon I (Upper right. Statuette of Osorkon at the Brooklyn Museum). Osorkon I’s reign is known for being both long and prosperous as evidenced by his many temple building or rebuilding projects. Less than a decade after Solomon’s death, Osorkon proudly recorded on a granite pillar in the Temple of Bubastis (not to be confused with the Bubastite Portal at the Temple of Amon-Ra in Karnak) that he had gifted to the many and various temples of Egypt at least 383 tons of silver and gold!

Where could Osorkon obtain such treasure so early into his reign? World renowned Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen says that the most logical source was the treasure his father had looted from Jerusalem. Says Kitchen, “Barely five years earlier, Osorkon’s father Shishak had looted the wealth of Jerusalem. It seems unlikely to be a mere coincidence that almost immediately after that event Osorkon could dispose so freely of so much gold and silver. The vast amounts of Solomon’s golden wealth may have ended up, at least in part, as Osorkon’s gift to the gods and goddesses of Egypt.”*

This provides further corroboration that the Bible is not exaggerating the wealth of Solomon!

*”Where Did Solomon’s Gold Go?'” by Kenneth Kitchen (May/June 1989) Biblical Archaeology Review.

Photo Credits:

Statuette photo credit Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, Brooklyn Museum

Painting by David Roberts, c.1838 <> Wikimedia Commons

Egyptian Cartouche from the Bubastite Portal. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Babylonian Captivity

the Avignon captivity of the papacy, the forced stay of the Roman popes at Avignon from March 1309 until January 1377 (with an interval in 1367&ndash70). The captivity was preceded by the victory of King Philip IV of France over Pope Boniface VIII in the conflict over the prerogatives of the ecclesiastical and secular powers. Under pressure from Philip IV the Frenchprotégé, Pope Clement V (1305&ndash14), in 1309 moved his residence to Avignon, which belonged to the king of Naples but was situated on French territory in 1348, Avignon was bought by the pope.

The Babylonian Captivity was a manifestation of the decline of the power of the papacy, which was being undermined by the growing strength of the feudal monarchies. During the time of the Babylonian Captivity the papacy was fully dependent on the king of France (thus Clement V, bowing to the will of Philip IV, in 1312 disbanded the Knights Templars). Of the eight Avignon popes, seven were French. Under the Avignon popes the fiscal oppression of the Roman curia became even greater (such as sale of church offices and indulgences, collection of crusader tithes, annates, and so on). Vast sums were spent on the maintenance of the papal court. While residing in France, the popes did not discontinue their struggle for the subjugation of Italy (they unsuccessfully attempted to use the 1347 uprising of Cola di Rienzi toward that end) and continued to maintain close economic ties with her. Taking advantage of France&rsquos difficulties during the Hundred Years&rsquo War (1337&ndash1453), Pope Gregory XI (1370&ndash78) moved the papal residence back to Rome. This, however, did not improve the situation of the papacy, for the Great Schism soon began.


1.) Wasserman, James. "Secret Societies: The Knight Templars and the Assassins." Secret Societies: The Knight Templars and the Assassins . N.p., 8 Dec. 2006. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. < http://jameswassermanbooks.com/templar-lecture.html>.

3.) The Templar code . Dir. Marcy Marzuki. Perf. Various. A & E Television Networks :, 2009. DVD.

4.) The Bible's buried secrets . Dir. Gary Glassman. Perf. Various. WGBH Boston Video, 2009. DVD.

5.) The Knights Templar . Dir. Steven R. Talley. Perf. various. A & E Television Networks :, 2005. DVD.

6.) Ralls, Karen. Knights Templar encyclopedia: the essential guide to the people, places, events, and symbols of the Order of the Temple . Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books, 2007. Print.

7.) "Templarhistory.com » Blog Archive » Philip IV – 1268 – 1314." Templarhistory.com » Blog Archive » Philip IV – 1268 – 1314 . N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. < http://blog.templarhistory.com/2010/03/philip-iv-1268-1314/>.

8.) "Who Were the Knights Templar?." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 26 July 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. < http://www.history.com/news/who-were-the-knights-templar>.

9.) The Templar code . Dir. Marcy Marzuki. Perf. Various. A & E Television Networks :, 2009. DVD.

12.) Ralls, Karen. Knights Templar encyclopedia: the essential guide to the people, places, events, and symbols of the Order of the Temple . Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books, 2007. Print.

13.) The Templar code . Dir. Marcy Marzuki. Perf. Various. A & E Television Networks :, 2009. DVD.

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