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How did the Ancient Israelites make bread?

As a woman in ancient Israel, it was her duty to prepare the meals. Bread was such a common part of their diet that it was often referred to as food in general. Thus milling and preparing the wheat or flour was also a major responsibility. Each house made their own, and it took possibly 2-3 hours of hard labor every day to make enough to feed a family with five. The first recorded milling was done with a pestle and mortar (stone quern). This usually left tiny bits of grit inside the flour.  On occasion, the dough was made with the flour from legumes (Ezekiel 4:9). In The Mishna (Hallah 2:2) talks about dough formed with fruit juice in place of water. The sugar from the juice worked with the flour and water to add leavening and made it taste sweeter. The Israelites at times included fennel and cumin in the dough, then dipped it in vinegar, olive or sesame oil for more taste (Ruth 2:14).

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After the flour was ready, it was combined with water and kneaded inside a large trough. With dough made out of wheat flour, starter (seor) was added. The starter was made by setting aside a tiny amount of dough from the last batch to soak up the yeasts in the air and contribute to leavening the current dough. That is where the sourdough flavor comes from. This can be referred to as wild yeast. Here is a link that has more information on how to catch it.

Once the dough was made, it was cooked in different ways: At first it was put right on the hot stones of a cooking fire or in a griddle or pan formed from clay or iron (Leviticus 7:9). During the time of the First Temple, there were 2 ways the oven was used for baking bread: the ‘jar oven’ and the ‘pit oven’. The jar-oven was a huge clay pot that was smaller at the opening in the top; a fire was started on the inside to get it hot, and the dough was put against the outer part to cook. The pit-oven was a pottery lined hole in the ground that was heated with a fire that was put aside, and the dough was baked on top of the hot clay. Others started a ‘convex dome’ that began as earthenware and afterward metal, above the pit-oven and baking the flatbreads on top of the dome instead of on the clay covered in ash; which was most likely the machabat referred to in the Bible. It is usually interpreted to mean “griddle”.

Persians brought about a clay oven known as ‘tanur’ (much like the Native American word ‘tandoor’), that had an opening in the bottom for heat. Then the dough was put there to be cooked in the inside wall of the top section from the fire of the oven and ashes when the fire had gone out. This was used until the Yemenite Jews cooked bread in today’s day. Remnants of the ovens and pieces of cooking trays have been discovered in many places.

The Romans came up with a stove referred to as a ‘furn’ (Talmudic Aramaic – ‘purni’).  This was a big wood-burning oven lined with stone and the baking pan was placed on the bottom to cook. This was a key upgrade in baking and made it possible to form thicker loaves of bread.

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Was Christmas a Pagan Holiday and Is It Again?

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?  Should Christians celebrate Christmas? As always, the heart of the matter is the heart. Why do you celebrate it? Is it to celebrate with fellow Christians the birth of our Savior? If so, what does it matter why other people do it or what other peoples and cultures might have – or did have- a celebration on that date?

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Why talk about it? Not Biblical history but just an interesting thought to this author.  What is being said is that Christmas is not a legitimate Christian holiday because
(a)there  was a pagan holiday on that date, in fact, multiple pagan holidays around the world on that date, so it wasn’t about Christ and
(b) non-Christians also celebrate the holiday today so that today it still isn’t about Christ.

What’s a Christian to do?  Should a Christian celebrate Christmas?  Let’s look at some history now.
While Christmas has become a major celebration, for most Christians in the beginning it was only one of a number of masses celebrated for Christ and not necessarily the most important.  It was a mass for Christ’s birth or Christ-mass.  It is the recognition of God becoming as a man in all ways except sin.  It is not a birth date but a birth that is celebrated.  (There is no month or day date given in the Bible but enough clues are given to place it to within a year or two on the Bible timeline.) The date was chosen for symbolic reasons.

The December 25 date may have been selected by the church in Rome in the early 4th century. At this time, a church calendar was created and other holidays were also placed on solar dates:

“It is cosmic symbolism…which inspired the Church leadership in Rome to elect the winter solstice, December 25, as the birthday of Christ, and the summer solstice as that of John the Baptist, supplemented by the equinoxes as their respective dates of conception. While they were aware that pagans called this day the ‘birthday’ of Sol Invictus, this did not concern them and it did not play any role in their choice of date for Christmas,”

S.E. Hijmans author of Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome, 2009, pp. 587–588

Was it to convert pagans to Christianity, to allow them to keep celebrating pagan holidays if they would convert?

There are many theories surrounding Christmas, such as the belief that it was created simply to convert pagans and/or replace the pagan celebrations around the winter solstice. The problem with these theories is two-fold. First, there is a lack of evidence. There was no big push in the early church to create a birthday celebration for Christ. Of course, the church was and is “in the business” of spreading Christianity, so there is no doubt that the early church fathers wanted pagans to convert and wanted celebrations to honor God.

Second, pagan worship practices were seasonal and on-going. That is, almost any date or time frame could be said to be a pagan “Holy day. That Christian Holy Days would clash with and even replace pagan days was inevitable.2

Christmas today.  Christmas is being celebrated around the world by people and cultures with no belief in Christ, people who retain the gift-giving and family get-together traditions but do not bring Christ into it.  The US federal government closes for a paid holiday on both Thanksgiving and Christmas holding that to do so is not necessarily an endorsement of the Christian religion.

Should Christians celebrate Christmas?  As always, the heart of the matter is the heart.  Why do you celebrate it? Is it to celebrate a birth rather than a birthday?  If so, what does it matter why other people do it or what other peoples and cultures might have – or did have- a celebration on that date?

Christmas article accessed 12/22/2010
Where and how did Christmas start? Accessed 12/22/2010

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How Many Wise Men?

Saint Nicholas – the Saint Behind Santa Claus

photo used with permission of photographer Michael Hunter

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Bible Timeline As a Gift

The darling Ashley (we don’t know her but we think she’s adorable) is not showing our Bible World History Timeline but we still like her video.

This is a great gift for Father’s Day and birthdays as well as Christmas – and for dads, husbands and good friends not just grandfathers.

The advantages of the Bible Timeline Chart over a book:

  • You can see it all in one view – without opening page after page
  • It’s compact – you don’t need a 20 foot wall to see it all
  • It has world history too – Find out what’s happening all over the world (China, Europe, The Americas) during any Biblical time period on up to 2000 AD
  • You can frame it and hang it on a wall – makes a great conversation piece.

Order the Amazing Bible World History Timeline Today- and get Interactive Maps of the Holy Land FREE! (limited time offer)

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