The Dust of Judgement Inside the Gate

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stonesconeThe dust to judge the woman accused of adultery was found inside the Nicanor gate. Jesus wrote the name of God in this dust. He was allowed to go get this dust. This is my discovery. This makes me a candidate for the Messiah. This does not make me the Messiah. God will be the judge.

Jon Presco

Copyright 2013

According to the Mishnah, the ritual of Sotah was formally abolished in the middle of the first century (20 years before the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem).[5]

The Second Temple was an important Jewish Holy Temple (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ‎: Bet HaMikdash; Arabic: بيت القدس‎: Beit al-Quds) which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon. Jewish eschatology includes a belief that the Second Temple will in turn be replaced by a future Third Temple.

The accession of Cyrus the Great of Persia in 538 BCE made the re-establishment of the city of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple possible.[1] According to the Bible, when the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem following a decree from Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4, 2 Chron 36:22-23), construction started at the original site of Solomon’s Temple, which had remained a devastated heap during the approximately 70 years of captivity (Dan. 9:1-2). After a relatively brief halt due to opposition from peoples who had filled the vacuum during the Jewish captivity (Ezra 4), work resumed c. 521 BCE under the Persian King Darius the Great (Ezra 5) and was completed during the sixth year of his reign (c. 518/517 BCE), with the temple dedication taking place the following year.

Flavius Josephus records that Herod the Great completely rebuilt the Temple, even going so far as to replace the foundation stones and to smooth off the surface of the Temple Mount. This Temple became known as Herod’s Temple.
The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 CE under Titus, decisively ending the Great Jewish Revolt that had begun four years earlier. The lower levels of the Western Wall form part of the few surviving remains of Herod’s complex.[2]
Traditional rabbinic sources state that the Second Temple stood for 420 years and based on the 2nd-century work Seder Olam Rabbah, placed construction in 350 BCE (3408 AM), 166 years later than secular estimates, and destruction in 70 CE (3829 AM).[3]

The regulations require that the ordeal take place when the woman is brought to an Israelite priest,[6] or when she is brought before God.[7] The Talmud reports that, for the latter situation, in the time of the Second Temple, this equated with the Nikanor gate.[8]

The woman is required by the Biblical passage to have loosened hair during the ritual;[9] this is often taken to be a symbol of the woman’s supposed shame,[4] but according to Josephus, it was merely the standard behaviour for anyone accused of any crime, when they appeared before the Sanhedrin.[10] The Mishnah, however, argues that the clothing on the woman’s upper body was also stripped away, leaving her bare-breasted.

[edit] The ordeal

This trial consisted of the wife having to drink a specific potion,[11] which was believed to cause “her belly [to] swell, and her thigh [to] fall away” if she was guilty, and to have no malign effect but to cause her to “conceive seed” if she were innocent.[12] The text does not specify the amount of time needed for the potion to take effect; the Mishnah argues for a period of two or three years[13] (despite pregnancies rarely taking more than 9 months), but 19th century scholars[who?] suspect it was probably intended to have a fairly immediate effect.[4]

The text specifies that the potion should be made from water and dust;[14] in the masoretic text, the water used for the potion must be holy water, and the Targum interpret it as water from the Molten Sea, but the Septuagint instead requires running water.[4] The passage argues that the curse (against adultery) was washed into the water;[15] it is thought that this idea derives from a belief that the words of a curse exist in their own right.[4]

The potion also had to be mixed in an earthenware vessel;[14] this may have been because the potion was regarded as a taboo which could be spread by contact, and therefore also made the vessel taboo, necessitating its subsequent destruction (as do the biblical rules concerning taboo animals, for any earthenware vessels into which such animals fall[16]).[4]

[edit] The offering

The husband was required to make a sacrifice to God, as part of the ritual, probably due to a general principle that no one should seek answers from God without giving something in return.[4] This offering is required to be placed in the wife’s hands,[9] and is literally described as her offering for her;[6] scholars think that it is the man’s offering, in relation to the ordeal of his wife, and that her holding of it is merely symbolic of this.[4]

The offering specified is one tenth of an ephah of barley meal, unaccompanied by oil or frankincense;[6] this is the cheaper type of flour, unlike the flour specified for all other biblical sacrifices.[4] The specification is now thought to a rare survival of an earlier period, in which there was no restriction on the types of flour which could be used for sacrifices,[4] although the Mishnah argues that it was a reference to the bestial nature of adultery, coarse flour being the food of beasts.[17]

[edit] Original form of ritual(s)

The text appears to suggest[4] first that the offering should occur before the ordeal,[18] and then that it should occur after it.[4][19]

Secular scholars claim that due of the awkwardness of the idea that the wife has to drink the potion twice, textual scholars argue that either the first drinking must be a later addition to the text, or that the whole account of the ordeal must be spliced together from two earlier descriptions.[4]

Noting that there are two descriptions of the location for the ritual (in the presence of a priest,[6] and before Yahweh,[7]) and two occasions on which the punishment for the woman is mentioned,[20] the division into two earlier documents, first suggested by Bernhard Stade[21] is typically as follows:
one account is the ordeal and sacrifice before God, in which the possible miscarriage/abortion results from drinking the potion[22]
the other is merely a condemnation by a priest, in which the women stands with hair loosened, her guilt is assumed, and divine intervention (due to the priest’s involvement) will cause a miscarriage/abortion as punishment.[22]

There is disagreement as to the meaning of the text describing the effect of the potion. Nothing in the text implies the woman might be pregnant, although future fertility is clearly an issue. One reading is that the text describes a prolapsed uterus.[23]

[edit] Origin and similar rituals elsewhere

Secular Biblical scholars think that the ordeal is itself a fusion of two earlier rituals (pre-dating the original priestly text), one using water, and the other dust.[4] The use of dust might be connected to necromancy.[4] In other historic semitic cultures there are many instances in which holy water was regarded as taboo, and therefore that contact with it, or its consumption, was dangerous.[24]

Historic Muslim Arabic culture similarly had an adultery ordeal, although in scientific terms, compared to the Israelite ritual it relied more on nausea, than on directly poisoning the woman. In this Arabic ritual, the woman simply took oaths at Mecca attesting to her innocence, and asking the divinity to cause her to have a miscarriage/abortion, should she be lying;[25] but, on the way to Mecca, she would be forced to travel on a camel, between two bags of dung.[25]

Ordeals involving the risk of harm, including potential injury resulting from the drinking of certain potions, were common in antiquity;[4] in parts of Europe, their judicial use even lasted until the late Middle Ages.[4] Such ordeals were once believed to result in a direct decision by a deity, about the guilt or innocence of the party/parties undertaking the ordeal;[4] typically divine intervention was believed to prevent the innocent being harmed, or to ensure that the guilty were, although in the case of some – witch ducking for example – the innocent were more likely to come to harm.

[edit] False accusations

If the woman was unharmed by the sotah drink, the rules regard her as innocent of the accusation. The Priestly Code states that the man shall be free from blame.[19] This is not to be confused with the Deuteronomic Code, which pertains to when a man accuses his wife of pre-marital sex; when accusation is disproven, the husband is to be whipped and fined, and is no longer to have the right of divorcing the wife.[26] There is more reason to fine and whip the man who accuses his wife of pre-marital sex than the husband of the sotah woman. The man who accuses his wife of pre-marital sex has no proof about his wife when he accuses her, whereas by a Sotah woman, the husband initially warned her not to seclude herself with a particular man, which she thereafter did. Therefore, whether she is innocent of the accusation of adultery or not, she still has caused reasonable suspicion in the eyes of her husband.

[edit] Later attitudes to the ordeal

The death penalty (for all crimes) was abolished in 40 AD,[27] meaning that confession to the crimes was no longer as dangerous. Thus, according to the Mishnah, it became the practice for women suspected of adultery to first be brought to the Sanhedrin, before being subjected to the ordeal.[28] Repeated attempts would be made to persuade the women to confess, including multiple suggestions to her of possible mitigating factors; if she confessed, the ordeal was not required.[28]

Regardless of whatever its original significance was, at the time the Talmud was compiled the ordeal was simply regarded as a method of pressuring the woman into a confession.[28] Eventually, in 70 AD,[29] under the leadership of Johanan ben Zakkai, the Sanhedrin abolished the ordeal completely,[28] on the basis that the men of that era were not above the suspicion of wickedness themselves.[29]

NICANOR’S GATE

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NICANOR’S GATE, one of the gates leading to the Temple courtyard during the period of the Second Temple. According to the Mishnah, “There were seven gates in the Temple courtyard.… In the east there was the gate of Nicanor, which had two rooms attached, one on its right and one on its left, one the room of Phinehas the dresser and one the room of the griddle cake makers” (Mid. 1:4). This gate was one of the best known of the gifts made to the Temple and “miracles were performed in connection with the gate of Nicanor and his memory was praised” (Yoma 3:10). Of these miracles the Talmud states: “What miracles were performed by his doors? When Nicanor went to Alexandria in Egypt to bring them, on his return a huge wave threatened to engulf him. Thereupon they took one of the doors and cast it into the sea but still the sea continued to rage. When they prepared to cast the other one into the sea, Nicanor rose and clung to it, saying ‘cast me in with it.'” The sea immediately became calm. He was, however, deeply grieved about the other door. As they reached the harbor of Acre it broke the surface and appeared from under the sides of the boat. Others say a sea monster swallowed it and ejected it out onto dry land. Subsequently all the gates of the Sanctuary were changed for golden ones, but the Nicanor gates, which were said to be of bronze, were left because of the miracles wrought with them. But some say that they were retained because the bronze of which they were made had a special golden hue. R. Eliezer b. Jacob said, “It was Corinthian copper which shone like gold” (Yoma 38a). Corinthian gold was the name given to a family of copper alloys with gold and silver which were depletion-gilded to give them a golden or silver luster (see Jacobson). An important production center for Corinthian gold was in Egypt, where, according to tradition, alchemy had its origins.

Scholars disagree over where the gates stood. Some claim that they were on the western side of the Court of Women which was to the east of the Court of Israelites; others maintain that they were on the eastern side of the Court of Women. The basis of this conflict is in the interpretation of a passage in Josephus (Wars, 5:204). Schalit’s discussion of the problem concludes that the words of Josephus are to be explained as meaning that the gates of Nicanor were “beyond” the entrance to the Sanctuary and facing “the gate that was larger,” i.e., that it was on the eastern side of the Court of Women. The gates were undoubtedly made after the time of Herod (the most reasonable date being about the middle of the first century, a generation before the destruction) and were the work of an Alexandrian craftsman. Nicanor is also recorded in a first century C.E. inscription on an ossuary found in October 1902 in a cave on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem (“the Cave of Nicanor”). The Greek inscription reads: “the remains of the children of Nicanor of Alexandria who made the doors.” Nicanor’s name also appears in a Hebrew inscription as well. Nicanor’s gift was so well known that no additional explanation was necessary. Nicanor was an Alexandrian, though he may have gone to live in Jerusalem. It seems more likely, however, that his remains were brought from Alexandria to Jerusalem, where he had a family tomb. The ossuary mentioning Nicanor is now in the collections of the British Museum. Klein (1920; see also Tal 2002) expressed certainty that the Nicanor of the ossuary was the same as the Nicanor who made the set of gates of the Temple according to rabbinic sources; Schwartz (1991), however, has expressed some doubts about this.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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