ASK Commentary
July 7, 2004 

Signs at Christ's Crucifixion

Commentary for July 7, 2004 — The Significance of the Year 30 C.E.

This Commentary is somewhat of a follow-up to the Article for July 2004, “Signs of the Times in the First Century.” It gives further information about signs and wonders occurring for the period after the Crucifixion.

I would like to remind all that read this that Dr. Martin wrote other historical information about signs and wonders that occurred at the time of Christ’s crucifixion in 30 C.E. almost 40 years before the destruction of the Temple. The information is found in Dr. Martin’s book Secrets of Golgotha: The Lost History of Jesus’ Crucifixion, 2nd ed. (Portland, OR: Associates for Scriptural Knowledge, 1996) in Chapter 25 titled, “The Year of Jesus’ Crucifixion,” pages 358–370. In that chapter Dr. Martin relates how remarkable supernatural signs were recorded by standard Jewish works which became known as the Talmud.

The Talmuds

The Talmuds are collections of ancient rabbinic laws, commentaries and traditions that expand upon the Torah (which can variously mean the first 5 books of Moses, or the entire Jewish Law). Among the Jewish people, two main schools of commentators came into existence and the result was two Talmuds: one Talmud originated in Palestine and was called the Jerusalem Talmud, while the other, produced in Babylon, was the Babylonian Talmud.

The Talmuds comment on every aspect of Jewish life and even secular events are given a religious aspect. Each Talmud is comprised of two works, the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Mishnah is a compilation of straightforward, factual information about the Temple, its operation, and Jewish life during the period of Herod’s Temple. It generally reflects the beliefs of the Pharisees as interpreted by later Jewish interpreters. The Gemara is an extended theological commentary on the Mishnah (which is itself a factual commentary on the Torah).

While the Mishnah in both Talmuds (Jerusalem and Babylonian) remained basically the same, the comments in the two Gemaras often differed in content from one another. Those opinions often represented the regional differences of interpretation between the two rabbinical school systems. Below is a brief outline to aid your understanding of each Talmud:

Jerusalem Talmud (shorter, compiled and completed in the 5th century C.E.)
Torah text is its basis
Mishnah, the “oral Law” (2nd century C.E. rabbinic commentary on Torah)
Gemara, which means “learning,” is an extensive commentary on the Mishnah
Babylonian Talmud (longer, compiled and completed in the 6th century C.E.)
Torah text is its basis
Mishnah, the “oral Law” (2nd century C.E. rabbinic commentary on Torah)
Gemara, which means “learning,” is an extensive commentary on the Mishnah
Note that the Talmuds are not useful for biblical commentary and some Christians mistakenly rely on them for doctrinal teaching. The Talmuds clearly reject Jesus as the Messiah, reject Christian teaching, and consider the oral Law as written to be superior to the written canonical Old Testament.

Having said that, the Talmuds (particularly the Mishnah) are often useful in relating historical information about the Temple and its operations. When the comments on any given section of the Mishnah remained the same in both Talmuds, this shows that the opinions expressed by both divisions of Judaism were universally accepted by the Jewish people from about 200 to 400 C.E. This brings us back to the signs ...

The Signs After 30 C.E.

The signs begin to occur at the same time that the Sanhedrin was forced to move their meeting place from the Chamber of Hewn Stones in the Temple (rendered unfit due to an earthquake in 30 C.E.). That earthquake was very likely associated with Jesus’ crucifixion. See Chapter 11, “Where Was the Sanhedrin Located?” in Secrets of Golgotha, pp. 111–128.

Forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin was banished [from the Chamber of Hewn Stones] and sat in the Trading Station [in the Temple, but east of the Chamber].”

Talmud, Shabbath 15a, underlines and words in brackets are mine, See the full context at www.come-and-hear.com/shabbath/shabbath_15.html

This major event was accompanied by four other signs that were recognized by the rabbis (after 70 C.E.) as presaging the destruction of the Temple:
  1. The lottery of the goats on the Day of Atonement consistently came up black for the right hand of the High Priest for 40 years.
     
  2. A particular Menorah that was to be kept lit at all times went out every day for 40 years. Apparently nothing could keep the lamp lit.
     
  3. A Day of Atonement ritual from the 3rd century B.C.E. noted a particular thread turning color from red to white, or vice versa, depending on God’s apparent displeasure or approval of God’s people and leadership. For 40 years before the Temple’s destruction, the thread was consistently red.
     
  4. Finally the Temple doors (behind the curtain that tore in two) were opening of their own accord at night (when the people were not around). This also happened for 40 years, and relates back to the one sign mentioned by Josephus.

Secrets of Golgotha, pp. 358–370

These four signs together received near identical mention in both the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. It is not biblical information, nor is it what we would normally consider historical information. This is because the Talmuds were written as religious works, not intended as historical texts. Nevertheless, something or somethings happened for a long period of time that were so significant that both the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud recorded these incidents. This is even more significant because these literary compilations do not always agree on details to the extent they agree about these signs. As Dr. Martin writes in Secrets of Golgotha, p. 369,
“These miraculous events were not done in a corner. They were available for all the Jewish people at the time to witness and to appraise. They are also available for the Jewish people and Christians to appraise at the present time. These records have not been maintained by Christian sources, but they have come down in the Jewish records themselves. Every Jewish person ought to read them and be aware of the significance of these signs which God gave to them for 40 years from the crucifixion of Jesus to the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem.”

Secrets of Golgotha, p. 369

Feel free to make your own appraisal about these events. Consider them along with those other signs and wonders mentioned by Josephus for the 40 year period just before the destruction of the Temple and the city. The four signs are precisely the same in both Talmuds, and both state that the signs began in the year 30 C.E. (which is the very year in which Christ died on the tree of crucifixion). This coincided with the removal of the Sanhedrin meeting place likely happening immediately after the judgment of Jesus.

As Dr. Martin relates, the move of the official Sanhedrin from the Chamber of Hewn Stones (near the Altar of Burnt Offering in the Temple) could be accounted for by the falling stonework that was over the archway to the Holy Place [the Hekel] that supported the curtain torn in two at the time of the crucifixion. Something happened to the vaulted structure called the Chamber of Hewn Stones that rendered it unfit for the Sanhedrin to enter from 30 C.E. onward. The earthquake at the crucifixion could well have caused the damage. No other discernible explanation in the historical records makes sense.

Jesus prophesied two days before his crucifixion that Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed (Matthew 24:1–3). He told the authorities that He was the new Temple and that He (being that new Temple) would be raised from the dead after three days (John 2:19–21). All Jewish Christians who believed Jesus (and there were thousands in Jerusalem alone, Acts 21:20) were looking for the destruction of the physical Temple in Jerusalem. They also knew that God prophesied the destruction of the Temple by the four major signs that were given at the time.

God will not leave us — or any of His people — without a witness. When major events occur in the future, we will be notified. We should pray that we are allowed to correctly understand and communicate with each other how God signals us about major events. The signs will be public. The events will be public. We will know.

David Sielaff
david@askelm.com

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