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UCG-A Bible Insights Thursday, November 25 2021

Sauerkraut more than cabbage

The process for making sauerkraut was developed to preserve cabbage when refrigeration was not available. The procedure can be varied somewhat, resulting in some differences in flavour, but there is an unmistakable taste and smell that sets it apart from all other foods.

by Robert H Berendt

The author of the article relates how he has always loved sauerkraut and, after acquiring a recipe, decided to make his own.

“I got a good deal on cabbage, bought some pickling spices, salt, onions, real garlic and then I was ready... I cut up the cabbage into narrow strips and...I then cut up the garlic and onions and kept adding a little now and again as I beat the daylights out of the shredded cabbage... until it began to release some of the water content. The idea was to beat much of the fluid out of the cabbage and bruise the cells. The rest of the job of fermenting... would (take) some time…”

The author then goes on to compare the making of sauerkraut with the process of conversion we go through when God calls us. Our calling and response is the beginning of a wonderful process resulting in eternal life, a condition that will never see corruption.

John 6:44 tells us only the Father can draw a person to Himself, and Acts 2:38 reveals the first step is to repent. That process, along with the self knowledge and realisations that it brings humbles us, but can also beat us up a bit -- like the cabbage being prepared for sauerkraut. Psalms 51:1-4 gives a good description of the inner emotions and insights we arrive at during repentance. Job also expressed a similar understanding when he stated he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:6).

The next step is to be baptized (Acts 2:38) --- fully immersed under water which again parallels the process of making sauerkraut as the battered cabbage is also immersed in its juices. Baptism removes the guilt for our sinful life as Jesus Christ pays the penalty (1 John 1:7) and God’s Holy Spirit, given at baptism, preserves us and allows us to come to God through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:16).

Just as it takes a while for the beaten cabbage to ferment into sauerkraut, it takes time for someone who embraces Christ as his or her personal Saviour to develop into a converted child of God. Also, as sauerkraut differs according to the spices added to it, Christians also differ according to their personalities, backgrounds and experiences with God assigning different responsibilities and gifts according to our abilities.

The lessons learned in loving one another is the real work that goes on inside of God’s sauerkraut barrel. Paul acknowledges “it is God who works in [us] both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13), and 1 Corinthians 13 outlines a description of the final product we are meant to become.

Although we have a large part to play in learning to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, God the Father is the superior “sauerkraut” maker of all time. He is faithful to complete and finish the work He has begun in you and me (Philippians 1:6). To Him alone belongs the glory and honour for the completion of His Creation. God wants us all to be saved and to gain the gift of eternal life.

Herod the Great

Herod had ruled the province of Judea, which encompassed most of the geographical areas of the former kingdoms of Israel and Judah, for almost 40 years at the time Jesus Christ was born, with secular history and archaeology confirming his reign (Matthew 2:1-3, 7-8).

He was a great builder, initiating construction projects in at least 20 cities or towns in Israel and more than 10 in foreign cities: "Archaeological excavations have uncovered a surprisingly large amount of evidence pertaining to Herod the Great Idumean who, in 41 B.C., was granted provisional rule of Galilee by Mark Antony [the friend of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra´s last lover] .... In 30 B.C. Octavian (Caesar Augustus) affirmed Herod's rule over Judea, Samaria, and Galilee .... Herod remained in power until his death in 4 B.C…." (Archaeology and the New Testament, 1997, p. 91).

But Herod was not just known for his great building, political and military skills, but also for his great cruelty. The Bible records his utter disregard for human life by describing his reaction to the birth of Jesus. When his scheme to identify the newborn Messiah failed (verses 7-8, 12), Herod lashed out with great violence: "Then Herod … sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under [the approximate age of Jesus], according to the time which he had determined from the wise men" (verse 16).

This massacre in Bethlehem was not out of character for Herod, who also had many members of his family put to death: “Herod in his rage over his family rivalries and jealousies put to death the two sons of Mariamne [his wife] (Aristobulus and Alexander), Mariamne herself, and Antipater, another son and once his heir, besides the brother and mother of Mariamne (Aristobulus, Alexandra) and her grandfather John Hyrcanus." (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Bible Explorer Software, 1997).

The New Testament description of Herod the Great is thus confirmed by what historians and archaeologists have found concerning his rulership, building projects, political strength and uncontrollable wrath toward anyone threatening his kingship.

The Census of Caesar Augustus

Luke, a meticulous historian, introduces other famous personages in his account of the birth of Christ. "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered … So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city" (Luke 2:1-3).

Ancient papyrus census decrees have been found for the years 20, 34, 48, 62 and 104. These show a wide-ranging census normally took place every 14 years, although local counts were, at times, taken more frequently. A papyrus in the British Museum describes a census similar to Luke's account, taken in 104, in which people were ordered to return to their birthplaces: "Gaius Vibius Mazimus, Prefect of Egypt: Seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those ... to return to their own homes, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census and may also attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments" (Frederick G. Kenyon, Greek Papyri in the British Museum, 1907, plate 30).

Joseph's Occupation in Nazareth

Joseph was a skilled craftsman who worked not only with wood, but with stone masonry. The usual term translated as "carpenter" in the Bible (Mark 6:3) is from the Greek term ‘tekton’, which has the broader meaning of 'artisan,' referring to a skilled worker who works on hard material such as wood or stone or even horn or ivory. “In Jesus' day construction workers were not as highly specialized as in today's workforce. For example, the tasks performed by carpenters and masons could easily overlap" (Richard A. Batey, Jesus & the Forgotten City: New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus, p. 76).

Although Nazareth was a small village in Galilee of no more than a few hundred inhabitants, Joseph and Jesus likely found steady work in the city of Sepphoris four miles away, where huge construction projects were transforming the city into a large, regional centre.

Recent archaeological excavations in Sepphoris show it to have been a bustling, prosperous city during the years Jesus grew up in nearby Nazareth. Shirley Jackson Case, professor of New Testament at the University of Chicago, remarks “.... It requires no very daring flight of the imagination to picture the youthful Jesus seeking and finding employment in the neighboring city of Sepphoris. But whether or not he actually labored there, his presence in the city on various occasions can scarcely be doubted..." (Batey, pp. 70-71).

These historical records help us better understand the background of Christ's teachings, which included illustrations drawn not just from farming and animal husbandry, but also construction, rulers and nobility, the theater, government, finance and other aspects of city life.