The following content is adapted from The Story of Jesus: All Four Gospels In One (Study Bible)


Any raised structure used to offer sacrifices to a god was an altar, but they weren’t unique to Israel’s religion. 

Length: Very short, 162 words

The Bethesda pool was a public bath house north of the Temple in Jerusalem. Like many natural springs, legend held that Bethesda had supernatural healing properties 

Length: Short, 264 words

Roman legions were highly disciplined and trained, and they were considered the deadliest military force of their time. The centurion was the officer who commanded each basic unit.

Length: Very short, 192 words

Gates represented the power and glory of a city. Whoever controlled the gates – both in military and everyday matters – controlled the entire city. 

Length: Short, 530 words

Although modern-day covenants have spiritual undertones, in Bible times they were simply formal agreements between two parties. 

Length: Medium, 1434 words

No Roman citizen could be crucified, as it was considered too agonizing and disgraceful. In fact, the pain of crucifixion was so terrible that a new word – excruciating (“out of the cross”) – was used to describe it. 

Length: Short, 540 words

Cyrene was known for its export of silphium, which was worth its weight in silver and traded throughout the Mediterranean. 

Length: Short, 285 words

The Greek word daimon referred to a spiritual being, but without the negative connotation that the word carries today.  

Length: Very short, 172 words

In 70 AD, Jerusalem was leveled – walls, towers, Temple – by the embittered Roman soldiers who had endured such a hard-fought war. 

Length: Short, 493 words

A castrated man in the ancient world was called a eunuch. Even in adulthood, they would have looked more like large boys than men. 

Length: Very short, 235 words

Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus’ genealogy. The two are identical from Abraham to David, but differ from there. 

Length: Very short, 231 words

Golgotha is derived from the Hebrew or Aramaic term for “skull place.” The Latin equivalent is Calvaria, where the term “Calvary” comes from. 

Length: Very short, 159 words

Although "gospel" has come to refer to the story of Jesus’ life, its meaning during the first century was much broader, specifically it meant good news for a kingdom in various ways. 

Length: Very short, 194 words

The “third heaven” was the world beyond the physical realm. It was the spiritual realm of angels and demons, where non-physical beings like God himself were clearly seen and heard. 

Length: Short, 329 words

In New Testament theology, Hades came to refer to the place of the dead as a location, rather than a deity personified, like the Greeks believed.

Length: Very short, 116 words

Herod the Great was a harsh, violent ruler. He presumably suffered from depression and paranoia, which prompted him to have three of his sons – and the mother of two of them – killed. 

Length: Short, 346 words

Trinitarian theology developed after Jesus’ time, but the understanding during the first century was that the Holy Spirit was God’s breath or essence, not a separate being.  

Length: Short, 289 words

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet because of the extreme hardship he suffered throughout his life and ministry, and because of his many tears over Judah’s sin. 

Length: Very short, 246 words

Starting high in the Judean mountains, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a notoriously dangerous highway, with rocky terrain providing innumerable hideouts for armed robbers waiting to ambush any travelers that passed by. 

Length: Short, 528 words

The Jewish capital of Jerusalem was (and still is) a prominent city in the Middle East, but it has a tumultuous history of repeated conquest, glory, rebellion, war, destruction, and restoration. 

Length: Short, 738 words

The Jordan served as a formidable obstacle in ancient times and the shallow sections where crossing on foot was possible were important military strongholds. 

Length: Very short, 110 words

A stream ran through the Kidron Valley after heavy rains, typically in the winter months, but the ravine was otherwise dry. 

Length: Very short, 198 words

After ages of settling, invasion, exile, and resettling, numerous languages and dialects were known in Judea during the first century

Length: Very short, 194 words

These books served as the foundation for Jewish government, law, religion, and culture, as well as dictating what was clean and unclean. 

Length: Very short, 360 words

Infection with Mycobacterium leprae causes a chronic, disfiguring skin disease called leprosy. 

Length: Very short, 236 words

The Levirate law stated that a deceased man's next oldest brother was required to marry his widow so she could bear a son in the name of her dead husband. 

Length: Short, 649 words

The western slope of the Mount of Olives faces Jerusalem, while its eastern slope is the edge of the arid Judean Desert that extends to the Dead Sea. 

Length: Very short, 203 words

In the Old Testament, the most common name of God was designated by four Hebrew letters (ההוי), commonly transliterated into Latin letters as “YHWH.” 

Length: Very short, 223 words

Palm branches were symbols of Jewish nationalism, similar to how the maple leaf symbolizes Canada and the silver fern symbolizes New Zealand. 

Length: Very short, 158 words

In their haste to leave Egypt centuries prior, Israel had no time to include yeast in their bread and wait for it to rise. The Passover was therefore also called the Feast of the Unleavened. 

Length: Short, 301 words

Scribes and lawyers were names for essentially the same occupation: professional experts in Jewish law. 

Length: Short, 392 words

Pontius Pilate was the fifth ruler of Judea under Rome. He was insensitive towards Jewish religion and customs, which led to various conflicts with the Jews. 

Length: Short, 504 words

A priest is a mediator between God and man. Jewish priests were set apart for service in all things, from appearance to family life. 

Length: Short, 251 words

The role of being a prophet was not particularly pleasant in ancient times – many of the prophets in the Bible faced abuse when their messages were not well-received. 

Length: Short, 258 words

In Jewish theology, repentance was turning one's heart away from immorality and submitting to God’s sovereignty. 

Length: Very short, 182 words

The Greek anastasis is the act of rising up. It could refer to simply rising from a seat, or, more profoundly, coming back to life after death. 

Length: Short, 359 words

Genesis records that God created the world in six consecutive days, then rested from his work on the seventh. Thus the Sabbath (meaning “cease”) became a Jewish day of rest and worship every seventh day. 

Length: Short, 369 words

Sadducees were among the most wealthy and prestigious of Judean society. They filled many roles in elite Jewish circles, primarily associated with Temple affairs. 

Length: Very short, 178 words

Salt has always been a valuable commodity. The English word “salary” comes from the Latin word salarium, which was money paid to Roman soldiers to purchase salt. 

Length: Very short, 187 words

During Jesus’ lifetime, Jews despised the pagan practices and mixed race of the Samaritans and wouldn’t associate with them. 

Length: Short, 503 words

The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, fed primarily by the Jordan River and underground springs. 

Length: Very short, 315 words

This sea silk was light, warm, and strong, with a golden color that was said to never fade. It was very costly among ancient Mediterranean civilizations and therefore was worn only by the wealthy. 

Length: Very short, 315 words

Sheep were essential to life in the ancient Middle East, providing families with both food and clothing. 

Length: Short, 601 words

Up to a third of the Roman Empire’s vast population was enslaved, especially in Italy itself. The entire Roman economy depended on them.

Length: Very short, 420 words

the phrase “son of man” comes from being a descendant of Adam, the first man, whose name serves as the Hebrew word for “man” or “mankind”. 

Length: Very short, 164 words

After the fall of Judah, and subsequent destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC, the Jewish exiles faced extinction of their culture. Thus, the synagogue arose as the center of Jewish religion and social life. 

Length: Very short, 218 words

The Roman Empire levied various taxes against its subjects throughout its many provinces, specifically a poll or head tax, a land tax, tolls, and a temple tax. 

Length: Very short, 162 words

The Temple in Jerusalem was the central place of corporate worship for all Jews and the focus of Jewish religion and culture. 

Length: Short, 659 words

In addition to their obvious physical discomfort, thorns represented the curse of sin to Jews. 

Length: Very short, 142 words

Moses’ Law dictated that a tenth of all income was holy and dedicated to God, to be given as an act of worship. 

Length: Very short, 387 words

Jewish weddings were important affairs. In a culture with a strong sense of hospitality, declining an invitation to a wedding reception was very insulting. 

Length: Very short, 166  words

Besides his mother Mary, four women are mentioned in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. They each have a unique story.

Length: Very short, 379 words

Logos is the Greek word for "speech" or "word,” but John uses this term to refer specifically to God's word personified as Jesus. 

Length: Very short, 115 words