John the Baptist 27 AD "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2) 27 AD "Who warned you to flee from the wrath about to come?" (Matthew 3:7) 27 AD "The axe is already laid at the root of the trees." (Matthew 3:10) 27 AD "His winnowing fork is in His hand." (Matthew 3:12) 27 AD "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17) 27 AD "The kingdom of God is at hand." (Mark 1:15) 27 AD “Who warned you to flee from the wrath about to come?” (Luke 3:7) 27 AD “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees. " (Luke 3:9) 27 AD "His winnowing fork is in His hand…." (Luke 3:17) Jesus the Christ 28 AD "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 10:7) 28 AD "You shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes." (Matthew 10:23) 28 AD "....the age about to come." (Matthew 12:32) 28 AD “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9) 28 AD “The kingdom of God has come near.” (Luke 10:11) 30 AD "The Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds." (Matthew 16:27) 30 AD "There are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (Matthew 16:28; cf. Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27) 30 AD "'When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?' '....He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.' '....Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.' ....When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them." (Matthew 21:40-41,43,45) 30 AD "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place." (Matthew 24:34) 30 AD "From now on, you [Caiaphas, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, the whole Sanhedrin] shall be seeing the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69) 30 AD "What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. ....They [the chief priests, scribes and elders] understood that He spoke the parable against them." (Mark 12:9,12) 30 AD "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Mark 13:30) 30 AD “What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others." …The scribes and the chief priests …understood that He spoke this parable against them.” (Luke 20:15-16,19) 30 AD “These are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:22) 30 AD "This generation will not pass away until all things take place.” (Luke 21:32) 30 AD "Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.'” (Luke 23:28-30; Compare Revelation 6:14-17) 30 AD "I will come to you. …In that Day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.' …'Lord, what then has happened that You are about to disclose Yourself to us, and not to the world?'" (John 14:18,20,22) 30 AD "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?" (John 21:22) The Disciples 30 AD "We were hoping that He was the One who is about to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles 52 AD “…we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord… …We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds… …You, brethren, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15,17; 5:4) 52 AD “May your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) 52 AD “It is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.” (2 Thessaloniams 1:6-7) 56 AD “The time has been shortened.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) 56 AD “The form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) 56 AD “Now these things …were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) 56 AD “We shall not all fall sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) 56 AD "Maranatha!" [The Lord comes!] (1 Corinthians 16:22) 56 AD “Godliness …holds promise for the present life and that which is about to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8) 56 AD “I charge you …that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 6:14) 56 AD “…storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for that which is about to come, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Timothy 6:19) 57 AD “He has fixed a day in which He is about to judge the world in righteousness…” (Acts 17:31) 58 AD “Not for [Abraham's] sake only was it written, that [faith] was reckoned to him [as righteousness], but for our sake also, to whom it is about to be reckoned.” (Romans 4:23-24) 58 AD “If you are living according to the flesh, you are about to die.” (Romans 8:13) 58 AD “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) 58 AD "It is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand." (Romans 13:11-12) 58 AD “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20) 60 AD “There is about to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” (Acts 24:15) 60 AD “As he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment about to come…" (Acts 24:25) 61 AD "...not only in this age, but also in the one about to come.” (Ephesians 1:21) 61 AD “In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self… …Avoid these men. For of these are those who enter into households and captivate weak women… …These also oppose the truth… …But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all…” (2 Timothy 3:1-2,5-6,8-9) 61 AD “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is about to judge the living and the dead…” (2 Timothy 4:1) 62 AD “The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5) 62 AD "The gospel …was proclaimed in all creation under heaven." (Colossians 1:23; Compare Matthew 24:14; Romans 10:18; 16:26; Colossians 1:5-6; 2 Timothy 4:17; Revelation 14:6-7; cf. I Clement 5,7) 62 AD “…things which are a shadow of what is about to come.” (Colossians 2:16-17) 63 AD “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) 63 AD “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who are about to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14) 63 AD “He did not subject to angels the world about to come.” (Hebrews 2:5) 63 AD “…and have tasted …the powers of the age about to come.” (Hebrews 6:5) 63 AD "For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near a curse, and it's end is for burning.” (Hebrews 6:7-8) 63 AD “When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13) 63 AD “The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way of the [heavenly] Holy Places has not yet been revealed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.” (Hebrews 9:8-10; Compare Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 2:21-22; 3:17; 4:13) 63 AD “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things about to come…” (Hebrews 9:11) 63 AD “Now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin.” (Hebrews 9:26) 63 AD “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things about to come…” (Hebrews 10:1) 63 AD “…as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25) 63 AD “…the fury of a fire which is about to consume the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:27) 63 AD “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay.” (Hebrews 10:37) 63 AD “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the one that is about to come.” (Hebrews 13:14) Peter the Apostle to the Circumcision 30 AD “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 'And it shall be in the last days…'” (Acts 2:16-17) 62 AD “…salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5) 62 AD “He …has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.” (1 Peter 1:20) 62 AD “In the last days mockers will come. …For this they willingly are ignorant of…” (1 Peter 3:3,5) 62 AD “They shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:5) 62 AD “The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” (1 Peter 4:7) 62 AD "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” (1 Peter 4:17) 62 AD “…as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is about to be revealed.” (1 Peter 5:1) 62 AD “We have the prophetic word …which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the Day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19) 62 AD “Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:3) 62 AD “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:10-12) James 62 AD "Speak and so act, as those who are about to be judged by the law of liberty." (James 2:12) 62 AD “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. …It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” (James 5:1,3) 62 AD “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.” (James. 5:7) 62 AD “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James. 5:8) Jude the brother of James 62 AD “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation. …About these also Enoch …prophesied, saying, 'Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly…'” (Jude 1:4,14-15) 62 AD “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, 'In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.' These are the ones who cause divisions…” (Jude 1:17-19) John the Apostle whom Jesus loved 62 AD “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8) 62 AD “The world is passing away, and its desires.” (1 John 2:17) 62 AD “It is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18) 62 AD “Even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18; Compare Matthew 24:23-34) 62 AD “This is that of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” (1 John 4:3; Compare 2 Thessaloniams 2:7) 63 AD “…to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 1:1) 63 AD “The time is near.” (Revelation 1:3) 63 AD “Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.” (Revelation 2:25) 63 AD “I also will keep you from the hour of testing which is about to come upon the whole world.” (Revelation 3:10) 63 AD “I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 3:11) 63 AD “And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is about to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” (Revelation 12:5) 63 AD "And in her [the Great City Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth." (Revelation 18:24; Compare Matthew 23:35-36; Luke 11:50-51) 63 AD “…to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 22:6) 63 AD "Behold, I am coming quickly. " (Revelation 22:7) 63 AD "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near." (Revelation 22:10; Compare Daniel 8:26) 63 AD "Behold, I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 22:12) 63 AD "Yes, I am coming quickly." (Revelation 22:20)

500BC Hebrew Temple in Egypt


The papyrus path

It is not well known that there were two Jewish temples in ancient Egypt. They do not form part of our traditional history, which concentrates on the going down into Egypt and the coming out of it, as based on the Torah accounts, for which there is little or no contemporary corroboration. But the two temples, though well attested by contemporary sources, have received little attention from our tradition.

Ruins of the Aramaic (Jewish) Village of the fifth century BCE on Elephantine Island.
Photo: Courtesy

One of these temples has been known about for nearly 2,000 years from Josephus Flavius and the Talmud, and its site was claimed to have been found just 100 years ago, but it has now been lost again. The other was never known of till just a hundred years ago and its site has only recently been discovered. The first is the Temple of Onias at Leontopolis dating to about 200 BCE, and the second is the Temple of Elephantine dating to 300 years earlier, to about 500 BCE.

Josephus describes the Temple of Onias as being both like and unlike that of Jerusalem. In his Antiquities, he says it is like Jerusalem, but in his Wars of the Jews he says that Onias built it like a fortress with a tower 60 cubits (30 meters) high. Who was this Onias? In Hebrew his name is Honiah and this name was carried by several high priests descended from the famous Shimon Hatzaddik. Our Onias was probably Honiah IV, who was prevented from following in the footsteps of his father, who had been supplanted by Jason, the high priest who started the process of Hellenizing Jerusalem that led eventually to the Maccabean revolt.

Honiah IV went off to Egypt and started the Temple at Leontopolis, with the agreement of Pharaoh Ptolemy IV and his queen Cleopatra I (not the famous Cleopatra VII), in an area somewhat north of today's Cairo. That would have been in about the year 170 BCE. Ptolemy IV was keen to have the support of Honiah, who brought with him a military force to reinforce Egyptian rule in southern Palestine, and was happy to allow him to erect a Jewish temple.

This temple had legitimacy in the eyes of the Talmud, as it was set up by the son of a traditional high priest and it fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt..." (19:19). The Mishna tells us that a sacrifice vowed in Egypt could be redeemed at Leontopolis, but a kohen (priest) who had served in Egypt could not officiate in Jerusalem, though he was allowed to eat the truma (priestly food) there (Menahot 13:10). This temple stood for more than 200 years and was destroyed by the Romans in 73 CE, shortly after their destruction of Jerusalem.

In early 1906 the famous Egyptologist Sir William Flinders Petrie spent six weeks at a site called Tel el-Yehudiyeh (Hill of the Jewess) and claimed he had found the Temple of Onias, on a sandy mound attached to the city of Rameses III. Because of the great Jewish interest, he gave a lecture on it at King's College in London, which was reported in the Jewish Chronicle of May 18, 1906. He had made a model of the temple, which was like the towered fortress described by Josephus, and he invited all present to view it at University College. The British chief rabbi of the time, Hermann Adler, thanked Petrie for his great discovery and service to the Jewish community.

Unfortunately Petrie's model has disappeared and so has the original site. On a recent visit, I was unable to confirm Petrie's discovery and it has to be admitted that all traces of the temple have disappeared, though an identifiable ancient Jewish cemetery does lie nearby. Or perhaps Petrie had never found the real location, as he had claimed.

BUT NOT SO Elephantine, 700 km. further south. It is on the island that guards the southern boundary of ancient Egypt and lies opposite the town of Aswan, mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel as Syene (29:10). Aramaic papyri discovered there from 1893 onward have revealed the existence of a military colony of Jews that acted as mercenaries for the Egyptians and after them to the Persians by guarding their southern border. These soldiers established a township and built their own shrine or temple before the coming of the Persians in 525 BCE, when Cambyses, son of Cyrus II, conquered Egypt.

As more papyri were found at Elephantine and at Aswan, they were soon deciphered by British and German scholars, and before World War I it was known that the Jewish military colony had lived there with its little temple for well over 100 years. They had good relations on the island and had married some of the local women. But the search for the temple by German, French and Italian expeditions failed to find any trace of it. It was only 10 years ago that its existence was confirmed.

In 1969 a German archeological team started work on the island to classify and restore the many Egyptian temples, mainly to the god Khnum, that lay there in ruins. Khnum, the ram-headed god, was worshiped here as he was considered to have control of the Nile, and this island was the site of the first cataract, which was thought to influence the rise and fall of this river, the lifeline of Egypt.

Over the next 40 years, the German team, later joined by a Swiss one, started to uncover the remains of many temples and what they called the Aramaic village of the 27th Dynasty, the Persian period of the fifth century BCE. In fact they were excavating the ruins of the Jewish houses that had been identified by Bezalel Porten, of the Hebrew University, based on the Aramaic papyri and, some 10 years ago, in the location suggested by the documents, they found the remains of the Jewish temple.

The evidence was only a few sections of wall and a fine paved floor, but it was exactly in the position suggested by the papyri, and it was of a quality higher than that of the adjoining houses. It had a chamber of two rooms surrounded by a courtyard of fine plaster paving, its dimensions quite unlike the Temple of Jerusalem but much smaller and similar to the size and proportions of the mishkan or Tabernacle of the Bible.

The temple had been described in the contemporary papyri, as at one stage the Egyptian priests of Khnum had had it partly destroyed and the documents contained an appeal to the Persian governor, then in Jerusalem, to have it restored. It was rebuilt three years later, though the courtyard had to be reduced to allow the temple of Khnum to expand, and the Jews had to agree to offer no more animal sacrifices.

Ruins of the Aramaic (Jewish) Village of the fifth century BCE on Elephantine Island.
Photo: Courtesy

It was clear therefore that they had offered such sacrifices in the past, but that must have been anathema to the priests of the ram-headed Khnum, especially the Passover sacrifice of sheep. We know that the Jewish troops kept Pessah as they were specifically commanded by the Persian emperor, in one papyrus dated to 419 BCE, to keep it for seven days from 14 Nisan and to eat no leaven and drink no beer, Egypt's favorite tipple.

Though the temple was rebuilt, it would not have been for long, as that would have been shortly before 400 BCE and it was soon afterward that the Persians were driven out of Egypt and the Jews, who had served them, would have had to follow shortly thereafter.

Two major questions remain. Where had the Jews come from in the sixth century and where did they go after 400 BCE? The simple answer to the first question is that they would have come after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and gone down to Egypt with Jeremiah after the murder of the governor Gedaliah. But Porten thinks they must have come much earlier, at the time when King Manasseh defiled the Jerusalem temple, to be able to find the resources to settle and build a temple well before 525 BCE. We know the shrine existed before the invasion by Cambyses, as the papyri claim that he destroyed many Egyptian temples but not the Jewish one.

I think the Jews came from the Northern Kingdom after the fall of Samaria in 722 BCE. They were first deported to Assyria and then to Babylon, where they were used as mercenaries and later deployed to Egypt. This is supported by the fact that the shrine at Elephantine has strong similarities in layout and dimensions to the Tabernacle that may have stood at Shiloh, and which would have been retained in the folk memory of the Northern Israelites more than the image of the Temple of Jerusalem.

And to where did they go? It would have been impossible for them to return to Israel, trekking 700 km. and more to the north through what was now enemy territory. It is more likely they went south and here a romantic idea presents itself. They journeyed south through the Sudan to Ethiopia and formed the nucleus of a Jewish community there, perhaps even starting to convert their neighbors to Judaism.

That would be a nice idea, but an unlikely one. It is more probable that the Jewish military community, which came to an end 2,400 years ago, was either eliminated by the Egyptians or, more likely, abandoned its separate faith and customs and became absorbed by its Egyptian neighbors, which would not have been so strange, as many had already married local girls in earlier times.

The writer is a fellow of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archeological Research in Jerusalem.