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Sneak Preview Of “The Marriage Supper Of The Lamb”


Marriage, as the Hebrews understood it, was not simply the signing of a certificate or a ceremony as we see it today. It was a complex process of courtship, mutual separation, betrothal and sacred ceremony, involving the extended families of both the bride and groom. There were duties and obligations each party had to fulfil, and ceremonies that ended one stage of the relationship and began another.

The Scriptures are Jewish texts through and through. To read the Bible is to enter the time of Abraham and the patriarchs; Moses and the exodus from Egypt; kings and mighty men fighting in battles long past, over lands long since changed; and empires risen and fallen. It is a step into the distant past, and its links to the present and future. The Bible records God’s universal precepts, but communicates them through the writings of a specific culture, time and place.

So every generation has had to wrestle with the text, not because it is unclear but because it uses terms, idioms and words that made sense to its original readers—which we need to know before we can truly understand and interpret the text for ourselves—and because we must apply what it says to our own lives and times.

For instance, consider the traditional scene of the Nativity. We Christians celebrate the birth of Christ on 25 December, and in the run-up to the holiday, scenes of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus appear everywhere. There are animals, shepherds and wise men, all in the same place.

It’s familiar. It’s ingrained in our traditional understanding and culture. But it doesn’t tally with Scripture, because Matthew reports that the wise men from the East entered the house where “they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). Clearly, this cannot be the same event as the shepherds’ visit to baby Jesus in the manger (Luke 2:16).

Another sign comes from Matthew’s account that King Herod was fearful of another Jewish king threatening his rule. To get rid of Him, Herod “sent and killed male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16). It is very likely that by the time of the wise men’s visit, Jesus was around two years old.

The early church, many of whom were Jews, also didn’t celebrate Christmas. The date of 25 December was only picked by the Roman Catholic Church centuries later, to extend the festivities of a pagan Roman festival called the Saturnalia.