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Where Two or Three are Gathered…

I recently received a question about Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” as they relate to the importance of studying together rather than alone. In my book Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, on page 72, I read this line about the importance of community in general.

 

One reader pointed out that the context of this verse is within Jesus’ teaching about making a decision regarding a sinner. Is it OK to apply it more broadly, or should we stick to a narrow interpretation?

My answer was that several Jewish sayings of this type apply to study, and sometimes when judicial verdicts are given. Rendering judgment requires a type of study, because rabbis were often asked to interpret the Torah in order to decide whether it had been broken or not.

“When two sit together and words of Torah pass between them, the Divine Presence rests between them” Mishnah Avot 3:3

“When three eat at one table and speak the words of Torah there, it is as though they have eaten from the table of God.” Mishnah Avot 3:4

“When three sit as judges, the Shekinah is with them,” Talmud Berachot 6

“Whenever ten are gathered for prayer, there the Shekinah rests.” Talmud Sanhedrin 39

There’s also a teaching about how many people it takes for God’s presence…

Why was Resurrection on “the Third Day”? Two Insights

Every year during Holy Week, Christians scratch their heads over questions about Jesus’ being raised “on the third day.” We look at our calendars and see that Sunday comes only two days after Friday.

A lot of folks have proposed schemes to make the timing make more sense. These create problems, however, with reading the gospel accounts and with what is known from Jewish practice of the Second Temple Period.

 

One neglected cultural detail suggests a simpler answer to this issue. Throughout the Bible, Jews counted time this way:

– Today

– Tomorrow

– Third day

What they call the “third day” we would call “the day after tomorrow.” It sounds surprising, but here are a couple examples:

When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. (Leviticus 19:5-6)

The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day.” (Exodus 19:10-11)

The idea is not to count 24-hour time spans but to name successive days, including the day of an announcement, which was understood as the “first day.” Seen in this light, if…