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Which Zechariah was murdered in the temple?

Biblical Confusion # 1

Which Zechariah was murdered in the temple?

Jesus frequently rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. In one of his more vehement attacks, he refers to the death of the martyr Zechariah, who was stoned in the temple having delivered a rebuke from God against idolatry. Jesus, though, seems to confuse his Zechariahs; he says that this happened to Zechariah son of Berachiah, when it actually happened to Zechariah son of Jehoiada.

Jesus’ rebuke is recorded by Matthew:

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.’ [Matthew 23:29-36 (NRSV)]

The death of Zechariah Son Of Jehoiada.  is recorded in 2 Chronicles:

Then the spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, ‘Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you.’ But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the Lord. [2 Chronicles 24:20-21 (NRSV)]

The Zechariah to whom Jesus refers, Zechariah son of Barachiah, is the author of the book bearing his name:

In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah… [Zechariah 1:1a (NRSV)]

So which Zechariah was murdered in the temple, the son of Jehoiada or the son of Barachiah?

Generations, century past… inspite of laborious attempt by the Christian’s missionaries to 1.) Prove that Quran is wrong in labelling the Bible as a corrupt book, 2.) Prove that Bible is an inspired word Of God, the Truth of The Quran still remain unchallenged.

[Shakir 2:79] Woe, then, to those who write the book with their hands and then say: This is from Allah, so that they may take for it a small price; therefore woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn


One of the most controversial issue in the Bible is the utterance attributed to Jesus in Matthew 23:35…

Matthew 23:35 KJV That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

The main problem with this verse was;

1. It appears that Jesus was confused as to who is the Zecharia he is referencing here…. Obviously Zecharia The Son Of Berechia – The Minor prophet and the author of the Book Of Zecharia was NOT recorded in anny annals that he was slay between the temple and the altar!!!!

2. What appear to be factual was that there was indeed Zecharias who was slew between the temple and the altar. But Jesus is NOT referrencing to this Zecharia when he said ‘Son Of Berechia in Matthew 23:35!!!  This Zecharia is the high priest of 9th century BC …. Zecharia Son Of Jehoiada.

There were actually Four Zechariahs each seem to fit a little. Here are the four we’re considering, stepping backward in time:

1.  A man killed in the Zealot uprising of 66-70 AD.

Josephus, a Jewish historian, describes the death of a man named Zechariah, son of Baruch, who died during the uprising of the Zealots. Baruch is, essentially, the same name as Berechiah. Only the -YH suffix makes a difference.

This Zechariah was brought before the court on trumped-up charges, and was declared not guilty. The Zealots executed him anyway, at the temple: “Two of the boldest of them fell upon Zacharias in the middle of the temple, and slew him, and said, Thou hast also our verdict, and this will prove a more sure acquittal to thee than the other. They also threw him down out of the temple immediately into the valley beneath it.” Zechariah’s blood spilled “in the holy place,” and dead bodies were heaped around the altar, until it ran with blood.

This would have happened about 35 years after Jesus died, but before Matthew’s Gospel was penned. Early Christians, of course, recognized the great war (in which the Temple was destroyed) as sort of a necessary tribulation ending the prior age and preceding the age of God’s rule; thus, Jesus’ message in today’s verse described all of mankind’s history from beginning (Abel) to end (Zechariah).

But is this the Zechariah Matthew refers to? How strange would it be for Jesus to predict the death of a man in this fashion?

2.  The father of John the Baptist.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias

That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. –Matthew 23:35

So who is this mysterious Zechariah? One possibility, discussed yesterday, is that this Zacharias/Zechariah was a man who died in the war of 66-70 AD. Today’s verse provides another Zechariah: the father of John the Baptist.

This makes a lot of sense, as this Zechariah lived in Jesus’ time. It thus makes sense for Jesus to say “from Abel to Zechariah.” We have no Biblical record of how John’s father died, but we do have this story in the Infancy Gospel of James:

And Herod searched for John, and sent officers to Zacharias, saying: Where has thou hid thy son? And he, answering, said to them: I am the servant of God in holy things, and I sit constantly in the temple of the Lord: I do not know where my son is. And the officers went away, and reported all these things to Herod. And Herod was enraged, and said: His son is destined to be king over Israel. And he sent to him again, saying: Tell the truth; where is thy son? for thou knowest that thy life is in my hand. And Zacharias said: I am God’s martyr, if thou sheddest my blood; for the Lord will receive my spirit, because thou sheddest innocent blood at the vestibule of the temple of the Lord. And Zacharias was murdered about daybreak. And the sons of Israel did not know that he had been murdered.

So was the father of John the Baptist murdered? The Infancy Gospel of James is considered pseudepigraphical (not written by the person it is attributed to) and dated to about the mid-2nd century, so it’s hard to fully trust. However, no less a respected church father than Origen suggests that the Zechariah mentioned by Jesus was indeed John the Baptist’s father.

3. The prophet Zechariah, of the Bible book of Zechariah

In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet.

In trying to decide which Zechariah was murdered in the Temple, we now reach back to a very well-known figure: the prophet Zechariah, as identified with the Bible book of Zechariah. He is said to be the son of Berechiah, matching what Jesus said in Matthew 23:35:

That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Thus, on the surface this Zechariah seems to be the most logical candidate. While Zechariah was a popular name in Jewish culture, this Zechariah was by far the most well-known. But we know absolutely nothing about how he died.

Was Jesus (and presumably his listeners) privy to writings or stories that we do not have today? Might there have been a popular understanding that Zechariah the prophet did indeed die just this way? We just don’t know.

4.  A priest from the 8th century BC.

Let me give you the words of Jesus from Matthew one more time:

That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. –Matthew 23:35

Zechariah #4, seems to describe just such an incident. An Aramaic commentary on the Book of Lamentations (called the Targum Lamentations) also mentions a murder in the temple, of a high priest named Zechariah son of Iddo. This murder occurred on the Day of Atonement … the one day of the year that a man would be precisely where Jesus indicates: between the altar and the holy of holies. (We’re assuming Jesus means the alter of incense, not the big altar of sacrifice).

Recall that Zechariah #3 had a grandfather named Iddo (see yesterday’s post), so it’s possible the Targum is confused between the two. Lamentations was written before Zechariah  #3 came on the scene, so it would be a bit odd that a commentary about Lamentations would mention Zechariah #3.

The event described in today’s verse happened in the first temple period. That’s long before Jesus, making it strange that he would refer to this incident, and where Zechariah #4 died in “the court of the house of the Lord” doesn’t quite match “between the temple and the altar,” and Zechariah #4 isn’t killed by priests as Jesus insinuates (for one thing, only a priest was allowed “between the temple and the altar”) but by officials of Judah who wanted to worship pagan deities. But there is one good reason for imagining that #4 is the right Zechariah. It’s that in the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles was the last book of the Old Testament. Thus, when Jesus says “from Abel to Zechariah,” he is saying “from the first book of the Bible to the last.”

The biggest problem with this conjecture, of course, is that Zechariah in #4 is the son of Jehoiada, whereas Matthew writes that he is the son of Berechiah.

Oops! Well, it may have been a simple error on Jesus’ or Matthew’s part. Or on the part of a later copyist: some evidence exists that the verse may have originally not specified any “son of”, but merely said “Zechariah.” (The Codex Sinaiticus from the 4th century, considered the oldest complete Bible in existence, does not contain the phrase “son of Berechiah.”)

Please visit the Online Codex Of Sinaticus on the link below.

[[ http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx?book=33&chapter=23&lid=en&side=r&verse=35&zoomSlider=0#33-23-34-26 ]]

In the end, the majority of Bible scholars tend to lean toward Zechariah #4. My own opinion was that copyist has again erroneously put some words on the mouth of Jesus. Thus in effect of this adding of words into the scriptures, Christians unknowingly put Jesus in a serious predicaments – CONFUSION or IGNORANCE.

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