History of Palm Sunday: How it starts Holy Week

Triumphal Entry

HISTORY OF PALM SUNDAY The week we now call Holy Week or Passion Week started with Palm Sunday. Why was this week so important that three of the gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) devote a full third of their contents to reporting this week, and The Fourth Gospel (John) dedicates its entire last half? Jerusalem, which had a normal…

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History of Easter: The Sanhedrin — Who was this Council?

Sanhedrin

HISTORY OF THE SANHEDRIN The Greek word Συνέδριον, sunedrion, means literally “sitting together” and is usually translated as “council.” It is referred to in the New Testament alternately as “the Great Law-Court,” “the Court of Seventy-One,” and “the rulers and elders and scribes.” It was the supreme theocratic court of the Jews and reflected the local…

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History of Herod Antipas: Why Jesus called him That Fox

Herod Antipas

HISTORY OF HEROD ANTIPAS Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great (whom we met in the Christmas story) and Malthake. After his father’s death in 4 B.C., he was made tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea in the Trans-Jordan area of Palestine which he ruled as a client state of the Roman Empire. Like…

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History of Pontius Pilate: his Background Before Good Friday

Pontius Pilate

HISTORY OF PONTIUS PILATE The Roman governor who presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his crucifixion had a complex background. The name Pontius Pilate provides two valuable clues to his background and ancestry. The family name, Pontius, was that of a prominent clan among the Samnites, hill cousins of the Latin Romans. They had…

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History of Easter: Historical Climate

HISTORICAL CLIMATE OF EASTER As we begin Passion Week next weekend, what was the historical climate of Easter Week almost 2,000 years ago surrounding the last week of the life of Jesus of Nazareth? This was a man born to die, not just in the normal sense but also in some special sense. Jesus entered…

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History of St Joseph’s Day: Why not more popular?

HISTORY OF ST JOSEPH Today, March 19, is Saint Joseph’s Day, or the Feast of St Joseph. It is celebrated by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches worldwide. The terms feast and festival are often used interchangeably and often refer to a religious holiday. What is the history of the holiday and of Joseph…

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History of St. Patrick: Was he British?

St Patrick

HISTORY OF ST PATRICK’S DAY Although much of the life of the patron saint and Apostle of Ireland is shrouded in legend, St. Patrick was probably born around the year AD 389. Stories are told of the many contests Patrick had with Druids, pagans, and polytheists, as well as the well-known but unlikely story of…

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History of the Ides of March: Who should Beware?

Ides of March

HISTORY OF THE IDES OF MARCH According to the ancient Roman calendar, the ides fell on the 13th of the month with the exception of the months March, May, July, and October, when it fell on the 15th of the month. Something epochal occurred in 44 B.C. Et tu, Brute? It was on March 15,…

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History of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste: Roman Empire vs. Christian Soldiers

40 Martyrs

HISTORY OF THE 40 MARTYRS OF SEBASTE A curious occurrence happened in the early 4th century Roman Empire. The early church historian Bishop Eusebius tells the story of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who, before a battle against his rival Emperor Maxentius in 312 AD at the Milvian Bridge outside of Rome, had either a dream…

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History of March

March

HISTORY OF MARCH The month that can come in “like a lion and out like a lamb” is named after Mars, the Roman god of war (and agriculture). Indeed, in French, the month is called Mars. March, or Martius as it was known in ancient Rome, is the first month of Spring and was considered…

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History of Erasing Unpopular Leaders: Damnatio Memoriae

HeadlessNero

HISTORY OF ERASING UNPOPULAR LEADERS: DAMNATIO MEMORIAE During the early Roman Empire two millennia ago, an emperor might be deified after he died if he was popular and good. (Think: the Divine Augustus.) Alternatively, if he was unpopular and wicked, he was "erased" from society’s memory. The Latin term Damnatio Memoriae means the condemnation of…

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History of St. Valentine’s Day

HISTORY OF ST. VALENTINE’S DAY St. Valentine was martyred on February 14. However, Valentine or Valentinus is the name of at least three martyred saints. The most celebrated are the two martyrs whose festivals fall on February 14. One was a Roman priest, the other, bishop of Terni.   Context It would appear from legend that…

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