Y'shua's Last Yom Kippur:
His Teachings from the Seventh Month
There are no "coincidences" in the Bible!
Shalom Chaverim (Friends!)
As I reflected on our Master's example for this Set-Apart time of year, I found myself on erev Yom Kippur studying something very special: I found his last discourse specifically timed for the Day of Atonement, and by looking at the timing clues in the Gospel record, these teachings gained an even greater spiritual resonance for me this year. As we move then out of the Days of Awe and into the Sukkot celebrations, I thought I might share these new insights with all of you. First, a little background I think will be helpful.
Calendar research has been part of my process for a very long time. In 1997 I began research that would eventually become my first book "Signs". At that time, I endeavored to develop a methodology for getting close to the actual dates of the events in the Gospels as was humanly possible, and all these years later my basic chronology has held up well. Naturally though, when I began writing out what would become Wheel of Stars four years ago, I bore in mind the possibility that the original chronology would at a minimum need looking at again, if only to verify my previous calculations. Many of the newer innovations though from the Wheel of Stars process will be further delved into the next book, Y'shua Year by Year, but before that happens, I wanted to give a preview of how this dating process works on a smaller scale, with the best of the old and new research working together.
The Two Rules
Specifically, I came up with two overriding guidelines/processes:
(1) With an event that has multiple attestation (3-4 Gospels mention it), a singular specific clue in one account trumps multiple unclear references in the others.
So to give just one example, the Feeding of the 5,000 has vague time references in Matthew, Mark and Luke but John tells us it was "near Passover" (6:4). Now, since Matthew, Mark and Luke also don't have any information that would appear to contradict that timing in a general sense either, John's reference must be accepted so that all four accounts harmonize historically speaking.
(2) When such agreement on the timing of an event is found, the quadruple witness qualifies as a "Universal Dividing Line".
Here again the best example is the Feeding of the 5,000, and what I mean by Universal Dividing Line is that 99% of the Gospel materials can be classified as either having happened before or after this event.
Using the Rest of Scripture to Set the Time
While I will not be extensively revisiting my timing research here, there are a few highlights I can provide that may prove useful to explaining my process. As explained in Wheel of Stars and AENT, Daniel 9:24-27 gives us 483 years from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild-not just the Temple-but all of Jerusalem, until the time of Mashiyach's public debut. The Gospels also give us the right year in two clear places: The 15th year of Tiberius (Luke) and the 46th year since Herod the Great began expanding the Second Temple (John).
Plugging all these dates in, we find 100% agreement on the year: 27 CE. Tiberius' reign was counted from his co-regency with Augustus in the year 12 and Herod began expanding the Temple in the fall of 19 BCE according to the historian Josephus. Accounting for there being no year 0, this means John and Luke are referencing the exact same year. As for Daniel, he puts the start of his clock from the 7th year of Artaxerxes for that one decree allowing the entire city to be rebuilt, or 457 BCE (Ezra 7:11-26), so it parses out briefly like this:
- 12 (Tiberius' co-regency) + 15 (Luke) = 27 CE
- 20 BCE (Josephus: Herod begins construction in fall of 18th year) - 1 (no year 0 crossing timeline) + 27 (John) = 46 (as of spring)
- 457 (Daniel: Artaxerxes' 7th year) + 483 years (69 x 7; e.g. Ezekiel 2:4-6) = 27 (Luke)
From there, John's Gospel gives us the following:
- 3 Passovers (2:13, 23; 6:4, 12:1).
- 1 Purim or "Feast of the Jews" between 2:23 and 6:4.
- 1 Sukkot (7:1-52).
- 1 Hanukkah (10:22-42).
We also need to look at John 4:35, where Y'shua times his comments as "four months and then comes the harvest, but behold the fields are ripe with harvest". This bit of irony, contrasting the barren fields with the bounty of souls that YHWH can use for His Kingdom, only makes sense in winter time. The harvest would be in mid April, as Pesach began April 15th that year.
In any case, the timing clearly runs lockstep from John 6 (spring) until the end of his life the following spring. Therefore, this has been squarely dated to the year 29.
More Details Emerge for the Seventh Month
So, if we understand that the Feeding of the 5,000 is tied generally to Pesach time, it probably makes more sense that John's previous chapter ends with the "Bread of Life" discourse right at this time as well! Then we have loaves and fish multiplied of course which relate to the Ten Plagues and the ultimate redemption of Israel also at that time of year. After all, the original Israelites after being freed complained that they "remembered the fish" and pined for food in the wilderness, and here is Y'shua as the Bread of Heaven feeding this new generation loaves and fish right at this time as if to say, "remember this when you do your seder!" Also, and as I hope will become clear as we progress through this, such pre-holiday linkages and teachings will hardly be an isolated or coincidental affair with respect to Y'shua's teachings!
Our first clue however comes not from Y'shua's sermons themselves, but with something very regular that everyone can relate to: Annual taxes!
And when they came to Capurnakhum, those who were collecting two coins for each person for (the payment of) the head tax said to Keefa, "Your master did not give his two coins." He said "Yes" to them, and when Keefa entered into the house, Y'shua anticipated him and said to him, "What do you think, Shimon? The kings of the earth, from whom do they collect tribute and head tax? From their children or from strangers?" Shimon said to him, "From strangers." Y'shua said to him, "Then the children are free.. But or else this should offend them, go to the sea and cast a hook. And the first fish that comes up, open its mouth and you will find a coin. Take that and give it for me and for you." -Matthew 17:24-26 (AENT)
Now let's see when this tax was actually collected according to the Torah:
"This is what everyone who is counted will give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a offering unto YHWH. "Everyone who is counted, from twenty years old and over, will give the offering unto YHWH. "The rich will not pay more and the poor will not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the offering to YHWH to make atonement for yourselves. "You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before YHWH, to make atonement for yourselves." -Exodus 30:13-16 (Matara)
So this is literally "atonement money", meaning it could only be collected in close proximity to the start of the seventh month of Tishri! If so however, we should see other confirmations of this time frame both before and after this chapter in Matthew, like this one:
And after six days, Y'shua led Keefa and Ya'akov and Yochanan his brother and took them up high alone. And Y'shua was transformed before them and his face was bright like the sun, and his clothes became white like light. And Moshe and Eliyahu appeared to them speaking with him. And Keefa responded and said to Y'shua, "My Master. It is good for us that we are here. And if you desire, let us make you here three shelters, one for you and one for Moshe, and one for Eliyahu. And while he was speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And a voice came from the cloud saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am pleased. Listen to him." And when the disciples heard, they fell upon their faces and were very afraid. And Y'shua approached them and touched them and said, "Arise, do not be afraid." And they lifted up their eyes and they did not see anyone except Y'shua alone. And while they were descending from the mountain, Y'shua commanded them and said to them, "Do not speak about this vision in the presence of anyone until the Son of man arises from the dead." -Matthew 17:1-9 (AENT)
Now why would Keefa (Peter) think he should build temporary shelters for Y'shua, Moshe and Eliyahu unless it happened to be close to the actual Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot? The timing for doing so is very specific in Tanakh. Nehemiah 8 tells us (verses 1-12) that Ezra read from the Torah from morning to evening on the first day of the seventh month. Then, on the following day (verses 12-18) they began building the tabernacles for the feast and issued proclamations for the rest of Israel to join it. Therefore, if Keefa is thinking about building temporary structures it must be because it's the only time of year where such was required, the start of the seventh month! I guess he hoped Moshe and Eliyahu could stay awhile after the transfiguration! But perhaps the greatest concordance with the seventh month is found here:
And when they came, the crowds approached towards him. And a man bowed down on his knees. And he said to him, "My Master, have mercy upon me. My son, who has a demon, is badly afflicted. For many times he has fallen in the fire, and many times in the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they were not able to heal him. Y'shua answered and said, "Oh crooked and faithless generation! Until when must I be with you and until when must I endure you? Bring him here to me." And Y'shua rebuked it, and the demon went out from him. And the boy was healed from that moment. Then the disciples drew near to Y'shua while he was alone and said to him, "Why were we not able to heal him?" Y'shua said to them, "Because of your unbelief. For truly I say to you that if you had faith in you like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, move away from here, and it would move. And not a thing would be able to prevail over you. But this kind does not go out except by fasting and by prayer." -Matthew 17:14-21 (AENT)
Again, isn't this the precisely correct time of year for him to be talking about fasting and prayer, with the atonement tax itself literally happening three lines later? From here, let's check some of the atonement-related highlights in the next chapter, Matthew 18:
At that moment, the disciples drew near to Y'shua and said, "Who indeed is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? And Y'shua called a child and made him stand in their midst. And said, "Truly I say to you, that unless you change and become like children, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. He therefore who humbles himself like this child, he will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. And he who receives one like this child in my name receives me.
And anyone who harms one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for him that the millstone of a donkey would be hung on his neck and he be sunk into the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses. It is necessary for offenses that should come, but woe to the man by whose hand the offenses come. And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and cast it away from you. For it is better to enter into life lame, or while you are maimed, than while you have two hands or two feet to fall into the fire that is everlasting. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and cast it away from you, for it is better for you that with one eye you enter into life than while you have two eyes to fall into the Gehenna of fire.
For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think if a man had one hundred sheep, and one of them went astray. Does he not leave the ninety and nine, go on the mountain, and seek that which strayed? And if he finds it, truly I say to you that he rejoices at it more than the ninety and nine that did not stray. Likewise, your Father who is in heaven does not wish that any of these little ones should perish. And if your brother with you is at fault, go rebuke him, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. And if he does not listen to you, take with you one or two others, because of the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word is established. And if he will also not listen to them, tell the congregation. And if he will also not listen to the congregation, let him be to you like a tax collector and like a heathen.
Then, Keefa drew near to him and said, "My Master, how many times should I forgive my brother with me who is at fault. Should I forgive him up to seven times?" Y'shua said to him, "I do not say to you up to seven times, rather, up to seventy times seventy-seven.
Because of this the Kingdom of Heaven is likened to a king who desired to take an accounting from his servants. And when he began to take an accounting, they brought him one who owed ten thousand talents. And when he had no way to repay, his master commanded that he be sold, he and his wife, and his children and everything that he owns and he repay. And that servant fell down and worshipped him and said, 'My master, be patient with me and every thing I will repay to you.' And the master of that servant had compassion and released him and forgave him his debt.
Now that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred denarii, and he seized him and was choking him and said to him, 'Give to me that which you owe to me.'. And that fellow servant fell down upon his feet beseeching him and said to him, 'Be patient with me and I will repay you.' And he did not want to but went and cast him into prison until he paid him what he owed him. And when their fellow servants saw the thing that had happened, it saddened them very much, and they made known to their master all that happened.
Then his master called him and said to him, 'Evil servant! I forgave you all of that debt because you beseeched me. Was it not right for you to have mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you.. And his master was angry and delivered him to the scourgers until he repaid every thing that he owed him. Likewise, my Father who is in heaven will do to you unless you do forgive each man his brother his offenses from your heart."
Every Yom Kippur, every pious Jew in the world is warned to seek forgiveness from his fellow man first before entreating YHWH to forgive their sins to Him! If anything, this is as "Orthodox" a teaching on the matter as any Jew will ever hear at a Yom Kippur service! But even now, we are still not done with the parallels. In the next chapter, Matthew 19 opens with a discussion on marriage where Y'shua quotes from Genesis 1. To my mind this makes a lot of sense for one particular reason: Whether we are talking about the three year or one year Torah reading schedule, both systems began reading Genesis 1 again after the conclusion of Sukkot! No wonder it was on everyone's mind then to do the Torah portion that week!
We should also observe that this portion of text from Matthew 17-19 must also link up chronologically and thematically with the events in John 7, when Y'shua left a divided family home in Galilee to go up to Jerusalem for the last feast of the year. It is surely then also no coincidence that we see Y'shua give ever more increasing predictions about his death around this time, because he knows his Great Feasts are clearly numbered. Furthermore, Capernaum, where the Temple tax was collected, is right next door to Nazareth where Y'shua went home to his mother and brothers.
From there we see Y'shua use one more sacred event-Hanukkah-to make his case to the religious elite in Jerusalem though he knows it will end in failure. Even so, just to give that slim chance to his opponents, he walks 90+ miles in the rain and mud for at least 3 days just to get into an argument! That's a committed Torah observer if there ever was one!
Beyond these considerations though it is important to also note that we see clear references to Y'shua's observance to Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanna) and Yom Kippur in addition to an extra witness to Sukkot observance outside of the Gospel of John. Add to this the Purim observance in John 5:1 and there is not a single sacred occasion in the Hebrew year that the Gospels deny him keeping. If that is the case for our Master Y'shua, why not then for the vast majority of those who follow him? For those then who might feel they did wrong on that score, there could not be a better time for you to repent and be heard by YHWH Himself!