Manners & Customs: Religious Customs
Religious Customs in Biblical Times
Altars in Homes
The altar. The religion in the homes of those early days largely centered about an altar upon which animal sacrifices were offered up to GOD. Thus when Abraham came into the land and had pitched his tent in the vicinity of Bethel, the Scriptural record says of him, "And there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord" (Genesis 12:8). Later on it is recorded that he built an altar at Hebron (Genesis 13:18). It is said that Jacob built one at Shechem (Genesis 33:1-20). And then in obedience to the command of the LORD, he went to Bethel, and like his grandfather, built an altar to the LORD there. Anticipating doing this, he said to his family, "Let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went" (Genesis 35:3).
The altar in the home life of those early days helped to produce a sense of sin, a realization of GOD's holiness, and a knowledge that the way of approach to GOD was through a sacrifice. The altar was the forerunner of the family prayer life in a Christian home today, which is based upon forgiveness of sin through the blood of CHRIST of which the animal sacrifice was a symbol.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Circumcised on the 8th Day
JEWISH RITES AND OFFERINGS AT BIRTH OF A CHILD
Jewish boys were circumcised eight days after birth. The one who Circumcised the child spoke the following words: "Blessed be the LORD our GOD, who has sanctified us by His precepts, and given us circumcision." Then the father of the boy would go on with these words: "Who has sanctified us by His precepts, and has granted us to introduce our child into the covenant of Abraham our father." Because it was said that GOD changed the names of Abraham and Sarah, at the time He gave the covenant of circumcision, therefore they would name the boy on the day he was circumcised. After doing this they had a family meal.5
The rite of circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. GOD had said to Abraham, "This is my covenant, which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee" (Genesis 17:10). JESUS was circumcised the eighth day after birth and he was named "JESUS" at that time (Luke 2:21).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Gathering Places for Christians
CHRISTIAN GATHERINGS IN THE HOME
The early gathering place for Christian worship was in the home. The earliest excavation of a church by archaeologists, where a date has been ascertained, is of a room within a house that was set apart for worship, and was thus furnished as a chapel. It dates back to the third century A.D.
It seems difficult for the twentieth-century Christians to realize that most, if not all, of the earliest churches met in homes. Dr. A. T. Robertson lists some of those early gathering places:
The church in Jerusalem met:
-in the house of Mary (Acts 12:12)
at Philippi in the house of Lydia (Acts 16:40)
at Ephesus in the house of Aquila and Priscilla (1 Cor. 16:19)
and later in Rome (Romans 16:5)
and likewise there was the church that met in the house of Philemon in Colossae apparently (Philemon 2).
The homes surely received a special blessing from that service. There was responsibility also. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Purification of the Mother
After childbirth, the Jewish mother passed through a period of purification of seven days for a boy and fourteen days for a girl, and then she still remained at home thirty-three days for a boy, and sixty-six days for a girl. Then she was to go up to the Temple to make her childbirth offerings. If she was rich she would bring a lamb to be offered, but if she was poor then she was allowed to present two young pigeons or a pair of turtledoves (Luke 2:21; cf. Leviticus 12). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Religion in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
RELIGIOUS. James 1:26-27, threeskos, threeskeia; distinct from
eulabees ("reverent"; from the Old Testament standpoint;
"cautious fear toward God"), "devout" (Luke 2:25); theosebees,
"godly"; eusebees, "pious." "If any man seem a diligent
observer of the offices of religion (threeskos) ... pure and
undefiled religion (not the sum total or inner essentials of
religion, but its outer manifestations) is to visit the
fatherless," etc. The Old Testament cult or "religious
service" (threeskeia) was ceremony and ritual; the New
Testament religious service consists in acts of mercy, love,
and holiness. "Religion" refers to the external service,
"godliness" being the soul. James as president of the
Jerusalem council (Acts 15:13-21) had decided against
ritualism; so he teaches, instead of Judaic ceremonialism,
true religious service is (1) active, (2) passive (Micah 6:7-
8; Matthew 23:23); compare Acts 26:5, "our religion";
Colossians 2:18, "worshipping," threeskeia.
Religion in Naves Topical Bible
See TEACHERS, FALSE
Supported by taxes
Ex 30:11-16; 38:26
Priests supported by the State
1Ki 18:19; 2Ch 11:13-15
Subverted by Jeroboam
1Ki 12:26-33; 2Ch 11:13-15
Established by Jeroboam
Job 12:7-16; 35:10-12; 37:1-24; Ps 8:1-9; 19:1-6; Ac
17:23-28; Ro 1:18-20; 10:16-18
Mt 5:1-48; 6:1-34; 7:1-29; 22:36-40; Ac 10:34,35; Ro
8:1-18; 10:1-13; 12:1-21; 1Co 13:1-13; Ga 5:22-25;
5:15-23; Jas 1:27; 2:8-26; 2Pe 1:5-9; Jude 1:20,21
See BLESSINGS, SPIRITUAL
See SIN, FORGIVENESS OF
-INSTANCES OF OUTSTANDING RELIGIOUS PERSONS
Ge 4:4-8; Heb 11:4
Ge 6; 7; 8; 9
Ge 12:1-8; 15; 17; 18:22-33
Ge 28:10-22; 32:24-32
Ex 3:2-22; De 32; 33
Jud 6; 7
See PSALMS OF DAVID
1Ki 5:3-5; 2Ch 6
2Ki 18:3-7; 19:14-19
2Ch 17:3-9; 19; 20
2Ch 14; 15
2Ki 22; 23
The three Hebrews (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego)
Anna, the prophetess
The Roman centurion
Cornelius, another centurion
Eunice and Lois
Religion in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
re-lij'-un: "Religion" and "religious" in Elizabethan English
were used frequently to denote the outward expression of
worship. This is the force of threskeia, translated "religion"
in Acts 26:5; Jas 1:26,27 (with adjective threskos,
"religious"), while the same noun in Col 2:18 is rendered
"worshipping" ("cult" would give the exact meaning). And in
the same external sense "religion" is used by the King James
Version for latreia, "worship" (so the Revised Version
(British and American)), in I Macc 1:43; 2:19,22. Otherwise
"Jews' religion" (or "religion of the Jews") appears in 2 Macc
8:1; 14:38 (the Revised Version (British and American) bis);
Gal 1:13,14 (Ioudaismos, "Judaism"); and "an alien religion"
in 2 Macc 6:24 (allophulismos, "that belonging to another
tribe"). The neglect of the external force of "religion" has
led to much reckless misquoting of Jas 1:26,27. Compare Acts
Religious Education Under the Mosaic Law
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION UNDER THE LAW
The law of Moses was very definite in its requirement that parents must train their children in the knowledge of GOD and His laws. Concerning these divine precepts it said:
"Teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons" (Deuteronomy 4:9). Concerning the carrying out of this commandment, one writer has said: "Religious education in the family, as it has continued, is a special mark Judaism"
It became the very solemn duty of Hebrew parents to teach their children the commandments of the law, and also to explain to them the real meaning of the religious observances. No doubt it has been this emphasis upon religious education in the family which has contributed so largely to the permanence of the Jew in history.
And it is also true that any failure of the Jews to fulfill their God-given mission in the world may be traced in part at least to their failure in family religious training.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Seasonal Journeys to the Temple
FAMILY PILGRIMAGES TO THE SANCTUARY
A very important part of Hebrew family life was the pilgrimage made to the place of the sanctuary. "Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel" (Exodus 34:23). The whole family could go, but the male members were required to go on this pilgrimage. The feasts of the LORD came at these three seasons of the year. The element of thanksgiving was largely emphasized in most of them. the LORD made a special promise to those going on such a pilgrimage to GOD's house. "Neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD" (Exodus 34:24). With so many of the menfolks gone from their homes, GOD promised to look after these homes against any possible attack from an enemy while the family was away on this pilgrimage.
The family of Elkanah was in the habit of making such pilgrimages. "And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord God of hosts in Shiloh" (I Samuel 1:3). It was while on such a pilgrimage that Hannah prayed for a baby boy, and in due time Samuel was born.
The most famous example of a family pilgrimage to Jerusalem is of course that of Joseph, Mary, and JESUS. Luke reports it: "Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast" (Luke 2:41-42). We can scarcely imagine how much that trip to the Holy City must have meant to the boy Jesus. The journey alone would be thrilling to any child, but to JESUS it was being in his Father's House that gave him the biggest thrill of all (Luke 2:49).
Some Bible readers have been perplexed because Luke says that Joseph and Mary went a day's journey before discovering that JESUS was absent from them. But the present-day Syrian customs of family religious pilgrimages throw light on what actually took place. Luke says: "They sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance" (Luke 2:44). On such pilgrimages, kinsfolk and acquaintances travel together in large groups, and the young people of the party are considered to be perfectly safe as long as they are with this group. On these trips parents often go for hours at a time without seeing their sons. It is quite probable that JESUS was with the caravan when it started out, and then was detached from his kinsfolk and returned to the city and to the temple. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
The teraphim. In the land of Babylonia, from which Abraham had originally come, there was family worship of household gods, and the home had its altar along with clay figurines of these gods, which were called "teraphim." These family gods served as guardian angels of the home. At the death of a father, these household gods, or teraphim, would often be left to the oldest son, with the understanding that others' of the family would have the right to worship them.
When Jacob left the home of Laban in Haran, Genesis says, "Rachel had stolen the images (Teraphim] that were her father's" (Genesis 31:19). Laban was very much agitated over this theft. He pursued Jacob's party and said to him, "Wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?" (Genesis 31:30). But why was Laban so concerned about discovering those lost teraphim? Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, in charge of excavations at Ur of the Chaldees, tells of a tablet of that region which reveals a law that throws light on Rachel's theft. Dr. Woolley puts the law thus: "The possession of the household gods conferred the privilege of primogeniture."
Thus Rachel must have stolen her brother's birthright when she took her father's teraphim, and she was thereby seeking to make Jacob the legal heir to the wealth of Laban.
This ancient form of idolatry was vitally linked to family affairs. It would seem that Rachel brought forth those stolen teraphim when the family was about to move from Shechem to Bethel. Jacob said to his family at that time, "Put away the strange gods that are among you and be clean" (Genesis 35:2). The presence of these relics of former days would indicate an effort to combine the superstitions and heathen charms of an idolatrous worship along with the worship of the true and living GOD. The teraphim appeared on several occasions in later history of the Israelites.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
The Father as Priest of the Household
THE FATHER AS PRIEST IN PATRIARCHAL TIMES
IN THE DAYS of the early patriarchs, the father was the priest for the whole family, and this honor and responsibility of exercising the priesthood usually was bestowed upon the first-born son upon the death of the father. This practice continued until the law of Moses transferred this right to the tribe of Levi, which tribe then furnished the priests to Israel as a nation. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
The Torah in Ancient Jewish Life
THE BIBLE IN THE JEWISH HOME OF CHRIST'S TIME
In the days when JESUS grew up as a boy in his Nazareth home, whatever else of the Hebrew Scriptures the youth may have been acquainted with, they grew up to hear recited a prayer called "The Shema." This prayer was in reality the quotation of three passages from the Pentateuch. It was repeated morning and evening by the men. And Jewish boys when they became twelve years of age had to be able to repeat this prayer. The three Scriptures that made up the Shema were: Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-41. It is quite likely that after JESUS returned from that pilgrimage to Jerusalem, He would borrow the manuscript from the synagogue of Nazareth (if He did not have a copy of the Scriptures in His own home) and study in it, especially the books of Moses and the prophets. In His teachings He often referred to these writers, and was especially fond of Isaiah and Jeremiah.8
The widespread use of the Shema in CHRIST's time became with many a mere form with little or no meaning. It was possible for this prayer to become as vain as a heathen prayer. Doubtless CHRIST was protesting such use of it when He said, "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [Gentiles] do" (Matthew 6:7).
The practice of the phylactery, which the Pharisees made such wide use of, was based on some of the Scripture in the Shema, and as used by them, was condemned by JESUS. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Welcoming Fellow Believers
ENTERTAINING FELLOW-BELIEVERS IN NEW TESTAMENT TIMES
In the days of the apostles, great importance was attached to the religious duty of believers entertaining fellow believers who came to their town. In time of persecution, such hospitality would be of great value.
Luke tells of one such time of persecution thus: "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). How welcome a Christian home of refuge would be to one who had to flee from his home because of his testimony for CHRIST!
The Apostle Paul stayed in the home of Aquila and Priscilla, while he carried on his missionary work in Corinth (Acts 18:1-3). One of the qualifications of a good bishop Paul gave in the words "given to hospitality" (I Timothy 3:2). And to laymen he stressed the importance of being "given to hospitality" (Romans 12:13). Peter told the saints, "Use hospitality one to another without grudging." (I Peter 4:9).
The word translated "hospitality" means "friendly to strangers." Peter was not thinking of believers entertaining their Christian friends, but rather of their entertaining traveling Christians who were in need of food and shelter.
The hospitality among the early Christians promoted Christian fellowship, and thus strengthened growth in the faith. It must have exerted a great influence upon the youth growing up in the homes where it was practiced. (See also Chapter Seven, "The Sacred Duty of Hospitality.")
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
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