The Final Three Books of the Third Division
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The last three books of the Third Division (Daniel, Ezra/Nehemiah, and Chronicles) are also Canonical books, but they are books that were not kept in the library rooms within the Temple that were associated with the three main compartments of the Temple. These three books were kept outside the confines of the Temple, but still in a sacred area on the Mount of Olives located just outside the camp of Israel as it existed in the time of Jesus.
These were kept at the walled village of Bethphage of which I spoke earlier. This was a priestly city reckoned in the time of the Second Temple to be an integral part of the city of Jerusalem in which the court of the Sanhedrin gave their official decisions on what the limits of the city of Jerusalem were to be, what the regulations were about the killing of the Red Heifer, the decisions to execute a rebellious elder, and (as we will see) where the census and genealogical records were kept to prove who was an Israelite, a Levite and Priest, etc. 1
In regard to this latter role for the Sanhedrin in Bethphage, it should be mentioned that the altar on which the Red Heifer and the sin offerings on the Day of Atonement were burnt to ashes was called the Miphkad Altar. The word Miphkad means “numbering” or “counting” (and in this case it meant counting the heads of persons who were Israelites, firstborn ones, Levites, or Priests). In Hebrew the word “head” is golgolet. Indeed, the place where these “heads” were counted (or numbered) was at the site of the Miphkad (Numbering) Altar just to the west of the village of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Because of this, this region on the Mount of Olives became known in New Testament times as Golgotha through the Greek (where heads or the skulls of people were counted in any numbering or census of Israel). 2
In Old Testament times, the Hebrews would have simply said to go to the Miphkad Altar region (the Golgolet Area) to count the heads of people, and in the New Testament period they would have said to go to Golgotba, the place where one gets his head (or, for a dead person, his skull) counted at the times of numbering (or censuses).
So, the village of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives was located just east of the region of Golgotha where people were counted or numbered at or near the Miphkad Altar (the “Numbering Altar”) and the place where the Red Heifer and the sin offerings of the Day of Atonement were burnt to ashes. It was in this very region on the Mount of Olives where Jesus was crucified after the Sanhedrin had given their final decision at Bethphage to have him executed for what they considered to be his blasphemy. 3
In a word, all matters involving genealogical or census records of the people of Israel were kept at the library at Bethphage (which was a village exclusively for priests and where the second court of the great Sanhedrin was located). Though Bethphage was reckoned to be an official part of the city of Jerusalem, it was actually situated outside the camp of just east of the summit of the Mount of Olives and a little further east of the Miphkad Altar. This eastern entrance to the camp was considered to be the eastern “gate” into the proper city limits of Jerusalem. There was no actual “gate” that we know of at this eastern entrance. 4
This, however, was where the official “counting” or the “numbering” of Israelites (either living or dead, in some instances) took place. The reasons that such things were done “at the gate” was to fulfill the biblical stipulation that the elders of the land were supposed to sit in the gates (or the entrance) to the cities of the Israelites at certain times of judgment. Recall Proverbs 31:23 which says “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders.” Also: “Execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates” (Zechariah 8:16). Thus, the Sanhedrin in the time of Jesus had a second court for decisions involving “counting” or “numbering” (and setting the limits of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, etc.). This was at the eastern entrance to the camp of Israel. This is why the priest village of Bethphage was built and why the Sanhedrin met in that locale.
The reason the official genealogical records of the nation (and those prime biblical records were the books of Ezra/Nehemiah and Chronicles) were kept in this village of Bethphage was because people who claimed to be Israelites could have their records checked in person at this official place “outside the camp” on the Mount of Olives to see if they were allowed to enter the camp itself or, especially, to enter the Temple. What are the books of Ezra/Nehemiah and Chronicles? These books are basically genealogical lists of Israelites (with appropriate historical events) to show who was an Israelite, a son of David, a Levite or a Priest. All the checking of these matters was accomplished outside the camp of Israel, that is, outside the city of Jerusalem proper and the Temple.
It would have been inappropriate, of course, to have these books available for inspection inside the Temple. How could one who was not sure of his pedigree or ritualistic status have the books which could prove his claim to be an Israelite (or priest, or Levite, or whatever) located within the restricted area itself? Reason demands that such books and records had to be available for inspection and evaluation outside the camp to determine the ritualistic status of the people.
But why was the Book of Daniel placed in this outside library of the Sanhedrin and not with the other prophets inside the Temple? The answer is simple. In a later chapter I will show that in the Bible a person writing a book was considered a living person who always accompanied the book (whether the person was living or dead). Since Daniel, though of royal blood from David, was a eunuch (Daniel 1:3, 7), this prohibited him by ritualistic law from entering into the camp of Israel and certainly not into the Temple itself. 5
This rule of ritual, however, prevented the Book of Daniel from being positioned alongside the other prophetical books of the Old Testament. This is because the other prophetic books were placed in association with the six pieces of furniture in the priestly section of the Temple. On the other hand, prophecies principally centered on interpreting the dreams or visions of Gentile kings (who themselves could not enter the Temple) and related the fortunes of the Gentile kingdoms until the setting up of the Kingdom of God. And as mentioned before, Daniel was ritually forbidden to enter the Temple because of being a eunuch. Daniel’s book of prophecies (as important as they are) were associated by Ezra with the outside genealogical books at the village of the Sanhedrin (Bethphage) on the Mount of Olives, “outside the camp” of Israel.
What this shows is that the 22 books of the Old Testament have themes to them which demanded that they be kept (or associated) in libraries maintained by the priests that were appropriate for their contexts. The majority of the books were housed (for reference purposes) at the library associated with the Sanhedrin at the Chamber of Hewn Stones. The Sanhedrin (and any legal professionals) could consult them in an easy fashion. This was necessary to do on many occasions because there was a legal basis attached to all of them in helping to govern the nation of Israel.
This village of Bethphage was an important area of the Sanhedrin in the time of Jesus. Indeed, it was even recognized to be so by later Jews after the time of Islam. There are Jewish records showing this. The Encyclopaedia Judaica under the article “Mount of Olives” has an important survey about the significance of Olivet in these later times. Indeed, the encyclopaedia shows that by the end of the 8th century, when the Jews were no longer allowed to enter the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives became the place (like in the time Bethphage was in operation in the period of Jesus) for proclaiming the beginning of the calendar years.
This is the precise spot where the Jewish people raised up what the authorities called a “Great Sanhedrin” to regulate legal matters involving the people of Israel. The Jewish authorities stated they had the right to pick this spot on the Mount of Olives because the Shekinah moved to this spot after the fall of the Temple in 70 C.E. They even came to believe that this region on the Mount of Olives was actually “the footstool of God” because it stated in Zechariah 14 that God would certainly stand on the Mount of Olives. A stone was even shown on the summit which was supposed to represent “God’s footstool.” They reckoned that “the footstool of God” 6 meant that the Mount of Olives was the spot where God would teach His people His laws and directions. But it meant much more than that.
The symbol of the “footstool” for God’s feet meant nothing less than this spot was where God figuratively dwelt on earth and where people were to gather to worship him. In other words, the phrase “footstool” represented God’s holy residence on earth (his Tabernacle and later his Temple) the official place to worship God. Note what the scriptures teach.
“We will go into his tabernacles [the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies]: we will worship at his footstool.”
“Exalt you the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.”
“How has the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool [his Temple] in the day of his anger.”
“To beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.”
These scriptures show that “the footstool of God” was reckoned as the holiest place on earth and where people were officially required to worship God. It is no accident that the later Jewish authorities (when Islam began) returned to Jerusalem and went directly to the Mount of Olives and called that mount “God’s footstool.” They seemed to know that God had abandoned lower Mount Moriah as the place of his “footstool” and that God was now reckoning the Mount of Olives (upper Mount Moriah) as the proper “footstool of God.” This was the place where people could gather around “His feet” to worship God and to learn of his ways.
Because Zechariah 14:4 stated that God would one day stand on the Mount of Olives (it would become His “footstool”), this may have been a reason why the Jewish authorities in the time of the Second Temple placed the second site of the Sanhedrin at Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. They came to this area to worship at God’s “feet.” 7
So, long after the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., it was recognized by later Jewish authorities that the area of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives was also a proper place to have the “Great Sanhedrin” of later times. They reckoned it to be the actual place on earth where God had his footstool (Isaiah 66:1). These later Jewish authorities believed this was the area on earth where God would continue to teach his people his ways. And indeed, we will come to see that the New Testament Gospels and Acts were brought together at this very place on the Mount of Olives, along with the Book of Daniel, the Book of Ezra/Nehemiah and the Book of Chronicles. The Gospels and Acts (we will come to see) were centered for preservation and canonical purposes directly at this spot on the Mount of Olives.
This region on the Mount of Olives is where God’s “footstool” for teaching was reckoned to be centered by the later Jewish authorities after the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple. Note this next symbolic point carefully. The Holy of Holies in the Temple was analogous to the Throne of God in heaven. The Holy Place outside the Holy of Holies was reckoned as typical of the heavens where the Sun, Moon, the planets and stars had their abode. The Court of the Israelites (to the east of the Holy Place) was believed to be the symbolic place called heaven where the birds fly and all weather phenomena take place.
But the region of the Miphkad Altar on top of the Mount of Olives (located eastward and outside the camp of Israel) was where God had reckoned to be the place of his “footstool” on earth. It was at this “footstool” where God finally came personally in contact with the earth and people on the earth. Thus, to later Jews, to gather around God’s feet for instruction in righteousness meant to assemble on the Mount of Olives, and this was especially the case after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. Indeed, this is precisely what the Christian authorities did after 70 C.E. as attested by Eusebius, the first Christian historian (which I will later show in this book).
So influential did the Christian authorities become in this area on the Mount of Olives 8 that the Jewish authorities moved their Sanhedrin away from the region of Jerusalem right after 70 C.E. to the town of Jabneh (Jamnia) on the coast of Palestine. The Sanhedrin remained there until 135 C.E. Then it moved into certain regions of Galilee until 429 C.E. when the Romans had the Sanhedrin disbanded. Only with the arrival of Islam did the Jewish authorities finally raise up another Sanhedrin (which they began to call the “Great Sanhedrin”) and they did this by returning to the summit of the Mount of Olives (the place of “God’s footstool”) in order to be in intimate association with God. 9
There is even more. Without going too far ahead in our discussion, let me recount that the next 5 books of the canon are the 5 New Testament books (the Gospels and Acts). These books were never a part of the Temple apparatus in Jerusalem. The apostle Paul said Christians were to leave the old Jerusalem behind and go to the Altar where Christ carried his crosspiece at the time of his crucifixion (Hebrews 13:9–15). That place was at the summit of the Mount of Olives.
The Gospels and Acts are particularly connected with the life of Christ and his body (the ekklesia), and the Mount of Olives is predominantly a mountain associated with Christ and his ministry as we will see in later sections of this book. Indeed, the first four books of the New Testament (the Gospels) give the history of Jesus Christ while he taught on earth while the fifth (the Book of Acts) gives the historical teaching of and about Christ after he returned to heaven. These 5 New Testament books represent the New Testament Law just as the first 5 Old Testament books represent the Old Testament Law.
Since in Hebrew, 5 of the Hebrew alphabetic letters when they end a word (when they are the last alphabetic letter), they take on a different shape while they still retain their alphabetic value, so the 22 books of the Old Testament had a further 5 books (making 27 in all) that would give a different theological slant and a different canonical approach in the full canon. These 5 final forms of the Hebrew alphabetic letters were to show Israel that Israel should expect 5 more books to be attached to the first 22 books in order to make 27 books in all which would lead Israel up to the coming of the Messiah and include the basic teachings of their Messiah.
There is interesting teaching to the Jewish people if they reckon the final forms of the 5 terminal letters as a part of their alphabet. This was using a form of alphabetic interpretation known as Gematria (examples are found in both the Old and New Testaments). The teaching can be considered mystical, but so was the apostle John when he referred to a prophetic interpretation using Gematria. 10 Note that there are actually 27 forms to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet (counting the 5 terminal letters). If one reckons the Hebrew alphabet in this manner, the first letter is aleph and the last letter is tau; but the middle letter (in the 27 numbering) is mem. Now, these Hebrew letters put together are aleph, mem, tav which is the Hebrew word (EMeT) and it means “truth.” 11
I firmly believe that these different shapes to 5 of the Hebrew letters was an esoteric hint to the Jewish authorities that they should look for at least 5 more books to fill up the canon that Ezra had designed. These 5 books would be the terminal books to the Mosaic Law leading up to their Messiah. Since it has long been recognized that the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet answered to the 22 books of the Old Testament canon, adding the 5 terminal letters to that list (making 27 letters) would cause a person to include the further 5 books of the New Testament (the Gospels and Acts) to terminate the scriptures to the Hebrews up to the coming of their Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Interestingly, the letters showing the beginning, middle and end of these 27 letters (which represented books of the Holy Scriptures) record the word “truth” in Hebrew and that is precisely what those 27 books do for the final canon for the Jewish people up to the coming of their Messiah. As a matter of fact, when one adds the other 22 New Testament books (note that the addition is 22 more books), then one arrives at 49 books to the complete canon of God (7 times 7 books). These matters are not accidents. This is God’s way of showing his people Israel, and the whole world, what represents the “truth.”
In closing this chapter, let us look at one more important factor. Since the last 3 books of the Old Testament in the original canon of 22 books were kept in the library at the priestly village of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, the next 5 books (the Gospels and the Acts) would center their principal contexts upon the activities of Christ Jesus which occurred at his crucifixion and resurrection on the same Mount of Olives. Ezra placed the last 3 books of the original canon “outside the camp” of Israel. The New Testament begins with focusing on this axial geographical area of the Mount of Olives which was in the same place “outside the camp” of Israel. Where one part of the canon leaves off, the other part of the canon takes over.
This shows a connection between the two main divisions of the full canon (the Old and the New Testaments). Later Jews came to realize that the summit of the Mount of Olives was “God’s footstool.” This is where one would go to obtain the official teachings of God, just like the apostle Paul got his early teaching at “the feet of Gamaliel.” And we will come to see, that this is where the New Testament was brought together as a part of the divine canon. I will have more to say on this later.
This arrangement of the Old Testament books by Ezra the priest in accord with the divisions of the Temple (God’s own House) and ending up at the threshold area at Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, allowed all the 22 books to be given official sanction by the Sanhedrin and the Jewish authorities. It also positioned the Old Testament books according to ritualistic laws which governed the Israelite society from Moses to Christ Jesus. And most importantly, it directed the attention of the authorities in Israel to look for another set of books (27 more books — making 49 in all) which would complete the full canon of the Holy Scriptures for Israel and the world.
It is very needful to have the original arrangement of the biblical books in our modern Bibles. The proper order gives us some essential teachings from God that we could not otherwise observe. The next chapter will explain the importance of these Old Testament books being in their correct canonical arrangement.
1 See Sanhedrin 14a–b; Sotah 44b, 45a.
2 See Numbers 1:2, 18, 20, 22, 3:47; and 1 Chronicles 23:3, 24 where the King James Version translates the word golgolet (or, in the New Testament it is Golgotha) with the English word “poll.” Indeed, such a counting of people by their polls (their heads, or sometimes when the dead were counted, skulls) is not even of foreign usage to us moderns because we call the place where we elect our officials to government offices as “polling booths.”
3 See Dr. Martin’s book, Secrets of Golgotha (Portland, OR: ASK, 1996) where the issue of “the Camp of Israel” is discussed extensively in relation to the location of Jesus’ crucifixion.
4 Neither was there any actual “gate” into the camp in the time of Moses — see Exodus 32:26–27 — where Moses counted the dead people, 3000 in number, who died in judgment because they sinned regarding the calf that Aaron raised up — see Exodus 32:28.
5 I will have more to say on this principle that the writings of people were reckoned to represent the people themselves when I later discuss the writings of the apostle Paul.
6 as mentioned in Isaiah 60:13; 66:1; see Acts 7:49 and connecting Isaiah with Zechariah 14.
7 Recall that the apostle Paul gave a symbolic teaching of learning from an elder when he said he was trained at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).
8 They continued to be influential until Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the western side of Jerusalem.
9 Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol XII, 481–483)
10 See Revelation 13:18; and see Jeremiah 25:26; 51:41.
11 See Benjamin Blech’s The Secrets of Hebrew Words (Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson, 1991), p. 61.
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