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In the Year of our LORD Jesus Christ
-- As of January 20, 2017
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Peace and Liberty. Semper Fidelis.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Understanding more on the Roman Centurion who was commended by Jesus

Luke 7  (King James Version)

1 Now when He had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.

2  And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.

3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.

4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:

5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.

6 Then Jesus went with them. And when He was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:

7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

9  When Jesus heard these things, He marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

10  And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

My Comments:
     In the First Century A.D., the primary training center for new recruits into the Roman Army was located on the island of Sardinia (cf. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.5).  There they drafted generally between the ages of 12-15 years of age.  Thereafter, the boot camp and combat training was for 5 years of unrelenting combat training and drilling.  That's 5 years.  Boys became molded in mind and body into fighting men like machines, until they could rigourously and daily endure 5 hours of non-stop combat exercises.  That is 5 hours of pretend battle practice every day, by men who came out of 5 years of training at the ages of 17-20 and then served a 5 year hitch at some location where they were sent, which made the average Roman soldier on first tour an age of 22-25 years of age when he finished, and 27-32 years of age when his second tour was over (after which most were released).  

     So in the case of the above passage in Luke, the Centuion is somewhere between 22 and no more than 32-37 years old (after which, even centurions were retired from service involuntarily) due to the extreme physical exertions, strength and cardio-vascular endurances required.  Josephus relates that those that call the Roman Army's every day "exercises as unbloody battles, and their battles as bloody exercises" (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 3.5.1) were NOT AT ALL mistaken in so saying.

    In this time in Israel's history, the Roman Centurion was usually placed in charge of outpost stations, such as having the charge of calvary and troop assignments as a sort of military sortie and policing action station, and would also have discretion and just enough autonomy to direct and order (under full Roman Military authority) an equal number of carpenters, masons and slaves, as the number of his troop assigned under him. 
The exception being when the officer of command of 400-600 Roman troops, such as a chiliarch, or higher would so direct...and these when they made their outpost rounds, or were of those chiliarch and higher permanently stationed 6 months at a time in Jerusalem or 6 months in Caesarea.

In other words, this Roman Centurion of Luke 7, who decided to join himself to the nation of Israel by faith, and be incorporated into the tribes of Israel by circumcision, profession, and good works toward the tribes of Israel...this one would likely have had as many as 20 Calvary, 60 foot-soldiers, 40-60 skilled workers and 20-40 slaves at his command and disposal.  By employing the 40-60 skilled carpenters and masons, skilled at building trenches and walled forts overnight, and then hewing out and making seige engines, etc., rapidly (cf., Josephus, WOJ, 3.5.1-2) to build a Temple for the Jewish Leaders, this Roman Centrion would have had even a great stone synagogue erected (from start to finish) in under 30 days, at Rome's own expense.  Indeed, this would have marveled the elders of the Jews, and made such a one as this -- even a Roman -- a righteous Gentile and one welcomed into the company of Jews as if one of the tribes of Israel.

In these times, Jews were careful to NOT associate with non-Jews, except by absolute necessity in business, government tax or plea requirements, and so forth.  Great prejudices of non-association were required toward outsiders...so much so, that preaching Judaism to non-Jews was considered a betrayal of the faith, regardless of that spoken by the prophets like Isaiah.

In Rome, a city of about 3 millions (at the time), there were only about 8,000 Jews living there Josephus, AOJ, 17.11.1 and WOJ 2.6.1)...most likely in one primary location near major commerce, being primarily in merchant and related trades.  Most of these 8,000 Rome located Jews also held Roman citizenship, a privilege not taken away from Jews until the administration of Florus in Judea in the 60s A.D.  Under Roman Law, Jews who were "Roman Citizens" and also closely observant to their faith as Jews, were grant royal exemptions from having their sons drafted into the Roman Army (Josephus, AOJ 14.10.11-19).

        By the wording of the above passage in Luke, we can clearly see that this Centurion was not originally Jewish by blood,
-- remember Jesus said: "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24)  --
nor was this Centurion represented as having anything other than a profession of faith with works, and was being accepted by a group of at least 7 Jewish judges or elders as ritually clean and accepted into and/or among the tribes of Israel as a righteous Gentile convert; hence, now part of the House of Israel with an official proclamation by at least 2 or 3 of those Jewish elders of a Sanhedrinal support ruling stating the above was so factually correct.  

By such a proclamation, we would have confirm that this Centurion is a "Ger", a "convert"...though the King James Version often translates this as "stranger" in the Torah (the 5 Books of Moses: Genesis to Deuteronomy).

Being sanctioned, this Centurion likely ordered his Command-post to be free of leaven during Israels annual 8 days of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:19); commanded that they observe Shabbat/Sabbath (Exodus 20:10, 23:12); that he personally attended Jewish services on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29); that he personally had gone to Jerusalem and as a Ger offered sacrifices to be made on his behalf (Leviticus 17:8); that he did not offer or allow idols or those things which ascended oneself in puffy pride or vanity within his own personal household or living space within his command (Leviticus 20:2, and the wordplay on the spelling of Mem-Lamed-Kaf).

As a result, as a As I stated previously, the Ger who loved Israel, he had the following rights:

1) To not be driven away or mistreated, nor oppressed by those of the 13 tribes of Israel (Exodus 22:21).

2) To be able to eat of the corners of farmer field's in Israel without harassment or accusation of theft (Leviticus 19:10, 23:22)

3) The right to be judged fairly and as equally with that of natural borns of the tribes of Israel of lineage through the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 1:16).

4) The right to be loved by G-D -- the G-D of Israel -- (as though a child by adoption in inference);

and when in Israel, to be clothed and fed by the charity of the sons of Israel (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

5) The right to be given any ritually clean animal possessed by the sons of Israel, who were forbidden to eat such, for food. It was not traif (i.e., not ritual unclean) for the Ger to eat such an animal (Deuteronomy 14:29).

6) The right to personally partake of the food tithes offered for the priest, the widow, fatherless, when offered once every 3 years (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

So indeed, this Centurion was adopted into the companionship of Israel in a way that no non-convert Roman soldier ever would.

The statement of faith made by the Centurion that he also believed into Christ as the Son of G-D by revelation (preceding the revelation given to Peter from G-D the Father) is found in this passage as

"...say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.   For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it."

-- comes from an exposure to Genesis Chapter 1, and an acceptance that Jesus is the Son of G-D from Heaven. 

Genesis 1:3  And G-D said,
                    Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis 1:9  And G-D said,
                     Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and
                     let the dry land appear:
                     and it was so.

And repeatedly, throughout Genesis's opening verses, "And G-D said" and then it is followed by how that the very words were so (instantly, immediately, by mere thought and command).

This resonated with the Centurion who identified Jesus, the very one who could speak a word of command, and it was so that someone was healed of blindness, deafness, being maimed, or even of being dead.  A simple word of command that only a Son of G-D would have the direct authority to do, even as the Roman centurion himself had the command and authority received in himself by rank to say to one of his soldiers "go" and he goes, or to a servant, "come" and that servant comes. 

In fact, the Roman Centurion knew that where  Jesus was, because He is the Son of G-D, he neeeded only to utter the word of Command into the air, and the Creation (including all spirits) made by G-D would have to obediently carry out His command and His will.  Like in Genesis 1, all the Son of G-D needs do -- and by this he means Jesus -- is speak the word only, and like Genesis 1, it will be as "and it was so."

It is a Faith that is so obvious and so simply apparent from Jesus miracles, that no one in Israel "got it"...no one else YET understood, but this righteous Gentile who joined himself, by faith, to G-D and the House of Israel.

The message for us is to also believe into Christ Jesus simply and fully, understanding mature that the simplicity of Great Faith is often like that most revealed in understanding like that of a child, instead of making it so complicated and laden with something we so often (and wrongly) feel we must add to it.

Jesus is much more that an historical figure, back there, for those who are genuine Christians...born-again.  Jesus is the ETERNAL Living G-D (cf. John 1:18, 14),  who was with the Father before anything that was ever created was created, and spoke the Universe into existence by the thought and words of command (John 1:1-3).

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