Sisters of Lazarus
Useful Information, Glossary, & Research
Sisters of Lazarus
In writing the Sisters of Lazarus series, I have done much research in the history and culture of first century Palestine, as well as delving into the Holy Bible.
While this research would not be sufficient to earn a PhD, I was careful in selecting the books, websites, and experts I used as resources. I have a software program that contains over two dozen different translations of the Bible and over three dozen biblical resources. I used Christian and Jewish websites. I used secular as well as biblical archeology websites.
On a few of these sites, I found interesting information that I had never heard before, some because they had only recently been discovered. One thing I did learn; where there are six expert scholars, there can be seven different interpretations and opinions. As this is a work of fiction, ultimately, I chose the research that fits the story.
As some people have asked about different aspects of the story, I created this file of some of the items from my research.
29 or 30 days
29 or 30 days
29 or 30 days
March – April
April – May
May – June
June – July
July – August
August – September
September – October
October – November
November – December
December – January
January – February
February – March
March – April
Jewish Holy Days
Passover is celebrated on Nissan 15.
Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah—known in the Bible as the Day of Remembrance—occurs on the 1st and 2nd days of Tishri; the number of the year will increase.
Day of Atonement is celebrated on Tishri 10.
Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles—also known as the Feast of Ingathering–is celebrated on Tishri 15.
Alabastron: an elongated, narrow-necked flask carved from alabaster that was used as to hold perfume or unguents
Amphora: An amphora is a two-handled Grecian vase, generally with a swollen belly, narrow neck, and a large mouth. In antiquity, an amphora was often used to transport wine, oil, or other liquids. The plural of amphora is written as both amphoras and amphorae.
Bar/Ben: Hebrew word meaning, ‘son of’ and used to identify a son’s father, used in place of a modern last name
Bat: Hebrew word meaning ‘daughter of’ and used to identify a daughter’s father, used in place of a modern last name
Clean/Unclean: The Code of Holiness, primarily found in Leviticus 17-26, was assigned to people, animals, and even inanimate objects. This special emphasis upon ritual holiness acknowledged Israel’s symbolic status as a people holy and separated to God.
Mezuzah: the box on the doorposts of a house that contained portions of sacred scriptures
Mikvah: a bath used as part of religious ritual cleansing
Sicarii: A splinter group of the Zealots, the Jewish political party with religious underpinnings which did not hesitate to use intrigue, violence, force, and deception in achieving its liberating end. Sicarii meant “daggers,” because they carried knives and used them to assassinate Romans and those who opposed war with Rome.
Terra sigillata ware: bright-red, polished pottery used throughout the Roman Empire from the first century B.C. to the third century A.D.
Veil: The practice of a woman veiling her face except in the presence of male relatives comes from the teaching of the Koran. During Old Testament and New Testament times, the veil was used only in exceptional cases, such as when a woman was in the presence of her betrothed husband.
The Hebrews reckoned the day from evening to evening and divided it into the following six unequal parts: the break of day; the morning, or sunrise; the heat of the day (beginning about nine o’clock); midday; the cool of the day; and the evening. The cool of the day corresponded to our late afternoon, and was so called because in Eastern countries a wind begins to blow a few hours before sundown and continues till evening. It was during this time that much of the day’s business was transacted. See Genesis 3:8 and Judges 19:9.
The first hour = 6 A.M. to 7 A.M.
The second hour = 7 A.M. to 8 A.M.
The third hour = 8 A.M. to 9 A.M.
The fourth hour = 9 A.M. to 10 A.M.
The fifth hour = 10 A.M. to 11 A.M.
The sixth hour = 11 A.M. to 12 P.M.
The seventh hour = 12 P.M. to 1 P.M.
The eighth hour = 1 P.M. to 2 P.M.
The ninth hour = 2 P.M. to 3 P.M.
The tenth hour = 3 P.M. to 4 P.M.
The eleventh hour = 4 P.M. to 5 P.M.
The twelfth hour = 5 P.M. to 6 P.M.
Watches of night
The Jews—like the Greeks and Romans—divided the night into military watches instead of hours, each watch representing the period for which sentinels or pickets remained on duty. The proper Jewish reckoning recognized only three such watches, entitled the first or “beginning of the watches,” (Lamentations 2:19) the middle watch, (Judges 7:19) and the morning watch. (Exodus 14:24 ;1 Samuel 11:11) These would last respectively from sunset to 10 P.M.; from 10 P.M. to 2 A.M.; and from 2 A.M. to sunrise. After the establishment of the Roman supremacy, the number of watches was increased to four, which were described either according to their numerical order, as in the case of the fourth watch, (Matthew 14:25) or by the terms “even,” “midnight,” “cock-crowing” and “morning.” (Mark 13:35) These terminated respectively at 9 P.M., midnight, 3 A.M., and 6 A.M.
“Real vs. Hollywood”
Author’s comment: My husband is an Army veteran. When he was stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, he was part of the 3rd battalion /5th Special Forces Group; for those who don’t know military lingo, that means he was a Green Beret.
His military experience still has benefits for me. Whenever we are watching a movie or television show, if there are espionage or military scenes, I will often ask him, “Is it real or Hollywood?” Real are the scenes where the filmmakers did their homework and used tactics, weapons, ordnance, combat, etc. that was real or could really happen. Hollywood means the filmmakers threw in things that could/would never happen in real life/combat; such as shooting a car with a pistol resulting in the gas tank exploding with the force of a bomb.
The following are some of the things I researched for the Sisters of Lazarus series. Those based upon research are noted as Real. The items added for creative license are noted as Hollywood.
Real or Hollywood, throughout the entire Sisters of Lazarus series, my intention was to remain historical, culturally, and biblically respectful.
Historically, this costly gift was given to a Jewish girl by her parents for her dowry. On her wedding night, at the time their marriage was consummated, the bride would pour the perfume over her husband’s feet, as a sign of submission and love. Mary’s giving part of her own dowry [pouring the spikenard on the feet of Jesus] was a statement of complete love, devotion, submission, and obedience.
Betrothal and marriage: Mostly Real
The betrothal and marriage traditions described in the series are Real, with the possible exception of the ring. In the Bible, Jesus told the parable of woman who lost a coin. Some scholars state this was the betrothal gift given by the groom to his perspective bride. Other scholars state that some grooms gave their brides a ring and the coins were part of the mohar or bridal gift; the money he gave to the bride’s father. This money would be kept in reserve and given to the woman should she become a widow.
Chronology of the biblical events: Mostly real.
It is not uncommon to come across debates about the order of events listed in the four Gospels. According to some biblical scholars, the people of that time period did not put as much emphasis on chronology as they did on content. I attempted to stay within the proper time frame for the first two books in the series; the chapters in those books are dated accordingly. The third book is based upon The Acts of the Apostles which, according to scholars, took place over a span of about 50-60 years. As the stories of the main characters were mostly fictional, I chose to scrunch the events I used from the Bible into a shorter time period.
Coins in the New Testament: Real
In New Testament times, the main coins in circulation in Palestine came from three different sources; Roman, Antioch, and Tyre. Coins made from silver, bronze, or brass were the most common; gold coins were rare.
The most common silver coin was the Roman denarius, also known as a ‘penny.’ This is what the common laborer earned each day.
The copper coin called an as was worth one-sixteenth of a denarius. It is mentioned in Matthew 10:29 and Luke 12:6, and has sometimes been translated as a ‘farthing’ or a ‘penny.’
The quadran was worth one sixty-fourth of a denarius. This was the coin Jesus referenced in Matthew 5:26.
The Greek ‘lepton’ was worth half of a quadran. Two of these coins were what was called the ‘widow’s mite’ in Mark 12:42
Distances between cities: Real
I found several websites that mentioned the distances between cities, the path people would have taken, and how long it would take to travel, whether by walking or on horseback.
Friend of Caesar, Pilate, and Sejanus: Real
After the reign of Caesar Augustus, Roman senators, legates, and prefects who had shown loyal service were given the rank and title of “friend” of the Emperor. These friends received the prestigious symbol of imperial favor in the form of a golden ring.
By the time Tiberius Caesar reached his later years, he had wearied of daily imperial duties. In 26 A.D., he entered semi-retirement on the Island of Capri, where he lived a life of unmentionable depravity and cruelty.
Tiberius left Lucius Aelius Sejanus—who had been Captain of the Pretorian Guard—as his regent. Although Sejanus had been considered loyal to the Emperor, during the five years of his regency, he used banishment, imprisonment, coerced suicide, and murder to pave a path to the throne.
A close friend of Sejanus was Pontius Pilate, who held the official title as Friend of Caesar. Sejanus hated the Jews; during Pilate’s early years of governing Palestine, he copied ’s Sejanus’ anti-Semitism. Pilate set up an idol in the Holy of Holies. He seized the offerings made to the Temple to pay for Roman work projects. He also killed Jewish worshippers and mingled their blood with the religious sacrifices.
Back in Rome, Sejanus might have succeeded in overthrowing the Emperor, had it not been for Tiberius’ trusted sister-in-law, Antonia. She reported Sejanus’ actions to the Emperor. On October 18, 31 A.D., Sejanus was condemned and executed. Tiberius threw out Sejanus’ orders and policies, including the anti-Semitic ones. The Emperor sent out a new mandate, “Let the Jews alone.”
Two years later, the High Priest and Temple leaders brought Jesus to Pilate and demanded that He be killed. After questioning Him, Pilate announced that he could find no reason for Jesus’ execution and wanted to release Him. The Jewish leaders shouted, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.” (John 19:12) Pilate would have clearly understood their underlying threat of sending a report to Tiberius.
Gamaliel ben Simon: Real
The rabbi mentioned in Acts is known as Gamaliel ha-zaqen, “Gamaliel the Elder.” Because of his comments during the trial of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, it has been suggested that he became a Christian. However, there is nothing to substantiate that this happened. I added his questioning Nicodemus and Michael about Jesus to suggest what I believe any true scholar would wish to know.
Game of the Kings: Real
In first century, the Roman Army was stationed around the known world. While Palestine was a volatile area, it was boring for battle-hardened soldiers. To pass the time, they often gambled, using dice made from sheep’s knuckles. Archeologists have found the markings scratched into the floor of the Antonia Fortress for a dice game known as “The Game of the King.”
In this game, whoever won the first round would select one of their own—generally a new recruit—and declare him, “king.” As the game progressed, they would give the king a robe, a crown, a scepter, and would pay homage to him. Then the game took a sinister turn; with each round, the soldiers would gamble for the king’s possessions including his clothes, his horse, his wife, his home back in Rome. Whoever won the final round got the privilege of killing the king.
Word of this game got back to Caesar. He outlawed the use of soldiers as king in this game, stating that he was losing good troops and it hurt morale. Instead of giving up the game, the soldiers decided to use condemned prisoners.
When the soldiers declared Jesus ‘King of the Jews,” when they dressed Him in a royal robe, crowned Him, gave Him a scepter, and then began beating Him, casting lots for His garments, and ultimately killing Him, they were playing The Game of the King.
The greetings used in the series were real.
High Priest, a political appointment: Real
In the Old Testament, the High Priest was selected by God. That changed when the Romans took over the rule of Palestine; by the first century, the position of the High Priest was a political appointment from Caesar. There was no separation between church and state; the priests at the Temple not only officiated over the religious life of the Jews, they were also rulers and judges. As such, they wielded tremendous authority.
Infanticide in the Ancient World: Real
Sadly, this was quite true. Many ancient cultures, Roman included, saw nothing morally wrong with infanticide or with abandoning their newborns on the dung heaps or garbage dumps of cities. They ‘exposed’ children for being sickly, deformed, or simply the wrong gender.
Jacinth is a precious stone, reddish blue or deep purple in color, named after the flower jacinth or hyacinth. For centuries, flowers, herbs, and plants have been associated with a symbolic language, such as roses symbolizing love. In the language of flowers, the purple hyacinth is associated with sorrow, regret, and forgiveness.
Jesus, the Tamid, and the Five Levitical Sacrifices: Real
The sacrificial system ordained by God was at the center and heart of Jewish national life. Whatever the Jews may have thought of it at the time, the unceasing sacrifice of animals, and the never-ending glow of fire at the altar of sacrifice, there is no doubt that God was burning an awareness of their own sin into the hearts of every man.
The Pentateuch had many instructions for sacrifices, but Leviticus chapters 1-7 is dedicated to the five Levitical offerings which were the main sacrifices used in the rituals: The burnt offering, the meal offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering.
Each of the sacrifices were uniquely fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
One that is mentioned in “Glory Revealed: Sisters of Lazarus, Book Two” is the Tamid, or the ‘perpetual sacrifice.’
In Exodus 29:38-46, the Law stated that every day, two lambs were to be sacrificed for the Tamid. The sacrifice of a lamb without blemish began the daily sacrifices in the Temple. Throughout the day, other sacrifices—sin, grain, burnt, meal, and peace—would be placed on top of this sacrificial lamb. At the end of the day, a final lamb was sacrificed. These two lambs were the Tamid—or ‘perpetual’ sacrifice—acted as bookends for the day’s sacrifices.
According to Jewish scholars, the morning Tamid sacrifice took place at 9:00 A.M. The evening Tamid sacrifice took place at 3:00 P.M.
Jesus was nailed to the cross as the morning Tamid lamb was being sacrificed. He died as the evening Tamid lamb was being sacrificed.
John Mark as Peter’s Disciple: Real
Many biblical scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was comprised of Mark acting as Peter’s scribe and writing down the disciples’ remembrances of Jesus.
Joseph of Arimathea going to Gaul: Real
According to church history, Joseph of Arimathea spread the Gospel to the land of the Gauls.
Judas Iscariot a member of the Sicarii: Possibly real
Some scholars believe that Judas’ last name was taken from the town of Kerioth. Other scholars think he might have been a member of the Zealot splinter sect, ‘Sicarii’ and that the biblical reference to him would have meant Judas ‘the’ Sicarii. I used both in this series.
Lazarus going to Cyprus: Real
According to church history, Lazarus took the Gospel to Cyprus, where he became the first bishop of the church founded there.
Lepers and the Valley of Hinnom: Real
According to the Jewish Law, lepers had to live away from other people. Lepers in Jerusalem were sent to live in Valley of Hinnom.
Channels were built in the city of Jerusalem; residents would dump trash and sewage into them. Rainwater would wash the channels, emptying them into the Valley Hinnom, where the trash and sewage would be burnt by slaves.
Several scholars state that, in biblical times, many skin diseases were considered leprosy.
Leprosy was greatly feared by the Israelites, not only because of the physical damage done as a result of the disease, but also because of the strict isolation laws applying to leprosy. Lepers were considered outcasts of society.
In 1873, a Norwegian researcher, G. Armauer Hansen, discovered a bacillus he called “Myobacterium leprae,” which he found in nearly all cases of leprosy, and abundantly so in severe cases. The more term “Hansen’s disease” is now commonly used instead of leprosy.
Leprosy appears in two principal forms. The first—and far more dangerous—is called “lepromatous”; and the other—and more benign type—is called “tuberculoid.”
Both start with discoloration of a patch of skin; the patch may be white or pink. It is most likely to appear on the brow, nose, ear, cheek or chin, although rare cases begin with a whitish spot elsewhere on the body. The patient feels no pain on these spots, even if it is pierced with needles.
The lepromatous type of leprosy the patch may spread widely in all directions. Portions of the eyebrows may disappear. Spongy, tumorlike swellings grow on the face and body. The disease becomes systemic and involves the internal organs as well as the skin. Marked deformity of hands and feet occur when the tissues between the bones deteriorate and disappear. Often the sensory nerve endings no longer respond to heat or injury and the unwary patient may be subject to further destruction of his body before he realizes his danger.
Leprosy is a long-lasting disease. Untreated cases may be sick with lepromatous leprosy from ten to twenty years, death occurring from the disease itself or from an intercurrent invasion of the weakened body by tuberculosis or some other disease.
Scholars believe that the Hebrews had no cure for leprosy other than divine intervention.
Paul/Saul and his Roman citizenship: Real
It is often thought that—like Simon bar Jonah—Saul’s name was changed by the Lord at his conversion. However, there is nothing in the Scripture to support this. His Jewish name was “Saul.” According to the Book of Acts, he inherited Roman citizenship from his father. Some scholars state that, as a Roman citizen, he also bore the Latin name of “Paul,” or “Paulus” which in biblical Greek is “Paulous.” It was common for New Testament Jews to have two names, one Hebrew, the other Latin or Greek.
Quotes: Real and Hollywood
Throughout the Sisters of Lazarus series, different characters would quote a relative or reference a common saying. Many of these I found on a website of ancient Jewish sayings. I used the flavor and wordage of the authentic sayings to create a few sayings to fit a character or scene.
Thirty Pieces of Silver: Real
Exodus 21:32 stated that the compensation for the death of a slave was thirty pieces of silver. That amount was what the average worker earned in four months.
Veil: Mostly Real.
The practice of a woman veiling her face except in the presence of male relatives comes from the teaching of the Koran. During Old Testament and New Testament times, the veil was used only in exceptional cases, such as when a woman was in the presence of her betrothed husband. Hollywood: I added women wearing veils as a sign of mourning for their husbands.
Wealth of the rich: Real
According to scholars, there were some people in biblical times whose wealth would astound us. The description of the High Priest’s home was as historians have described it. The description of Nicodemus’ home being ‘more palace than residence’ was based upon historical descriptions of homes of the wealthy in that time period.
Part of the story ideas for Grace Extended came from a book, The Way Back; How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get it Back, written by Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock. I highly recommend this book. I have included a snippet below.
“Why did the Early Church succeed where we are failing? How did they transform the Western World in such a relatively short time? They did things that baffled the Romans. The Early Church didn’t picket, they didn’t boycott, and they didn’t gripe about what was going on in their culture. They just did things that astonished the Romans. They took in abandoned babies. They helped the sick and wounded. They restored dignity to the slaves. They were willing to die for what they believed. After a while, their actions so softened the hearts of the Romans that the Romans wanted to know more about who these Christians were and who was the God they represented.
The question is – what could our Christian community do today that would so astonished nonbelievers that they would be forced to reexamine what we believe and why we believe it?”