We have been studying the first part of the Exodus story and the confrontation between Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron and actually God. One of the aspects of the story that is often bothersome is the idea that “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” and then went on to bring judgment on him and all of the Egyptian people. I am not a Hebrew scholar but with some of the tools available, various commentaries and concordances, I would like to share some of the things that I have gleaned from looking at this important part of the Exodus events.
I see it as a progressive process that reveals Pharaoh’s attitude and heart. Being considered as a god by the Egyptian people and having his wishes and instructions being seen as commands and immediately carried out, he probably does not take easily to someone refusing to do as he says and even less likely to be receptive to someone who comes and tells him he has to do something, particularly if that someone is from the people he has enslaved. I can just imagine him thinking, “Who does this guy Moses think he is coming and telling me what to do!” and who is this “God” he is talking about, for I am god. So I can easily see his reaction as being, “I’ll show him who he’s dealing with here and who’s in control!” So from the beginning it is a struggle to show who is the most powerful.
The first challenge comes in Exodus 5:1:
Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.'” (Ex 5:1)
and you can hear the disdain in Pharaoh’s voice when he responds:
But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” (Ex 5:2)
I believe that this shows the state of Pharaoh’s heart, his arrogance and pride, and sets the stage for the struggle that will ensue. From here on it is a downward spiral for Pharaoh as God continues to challenge him and with each challenge Pharaoh digs in his heels even more.
So did God actually cause Pharaoh’s heart to harden? Or did God present a challenge to show Pharaoh’s heart? Do we not see Pharaoh’s pride and arrogance when he chooses to reject God’s instructions and submit to His authority? By doing so he became more resolute in his rejection of God until he reached that point of no return. We can see the progression of Pharaoh’s downward slide in Ex 8:8-15 where we see that Pharaoh asks Moses to ask God to take away the frogs. It appears that he recognizes the struggle he is in and that he is not on the winning side. But when God took the pressure off and removed the frogs Pharaoh went back to his old obstinate ways and hardened his heart:
But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. (Ex 8:15)
I believe this should be a lesson to us for when problems and trials come our way. Could they not be sent to show us what is really in our hearts and what things we need to repent of and change? In the prayer of Moses recorded in Psalms 90 he prayed:
You bring frail mortals to the point of being crushed, then say, “People, repent!” (Ps 90:3)
But so often we ignore or reject what God wants to do in our lives and like Pharaoh refuse to submit to God, dig in our heels and go our own way. The writer of Proverbs warned us:
There can be a way which seems right to a person, but at its end are the ways of death. (Pro 16:25)
So often when trouble and trials come our way the enemy gets us to turn our eyes on ourselves and gets us crying “poor me” instead of turning our eyes on God where they belong and looking to Him for help. The Apostle James exhorts us to:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2-4)
and the Apostle Paul teaches us that:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:1-5)
I believe that from this we can learn that as God’s children everything that comes our way, whether good or bad, comes to us for the purpose of drawing us to Him, for the purpose of refining us and helping us to become more like Him. So rather than starting a big pity party for ourselves we should put our trust in God, believing that He is in control and knows what we need, and submit to Him, looking to see what He is trying to show us and teach us. We can of course be like Pharaoh and refuse but then we, like Pharaoh, will begin that path downward and each step down and away from God will make it more difficult for us to return to God and submit to Him. If our path downward continues unchecked we will one day find ourselves without recourse, our conscience will be seared to the point that we will no longer be able to recognize God reaching out to us. Then, like Pharaoh who continued on his path until all of Egypt was destroyed, the destruction of our lives will become complete. God didn’t force Pharaoh down that path, he chose it himself, and God doesn’t force us to submit to Him and follow Him, He leaves the choice up to us. He sets before us life and death, blessing and cursing and pleads with us to choose the path of life and blessing.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Mt 7:13-14)
Let’s be part of the few!
As we enter the fall season it is once again time to prepare for the fall “Appointed Times” that God set for His people. Why is this important when they have not been observed by believers since the time of the Early Church? I believe the most important reason is that God said that these are “My appointed times”, times He set aside for His people to reset their focus on Him:
“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.” (Lev 23:1-2)
The Hebrew word translated as “feasts” in most of our Bibles is “moed”, which actually means an “appointed place, time or meeting”. The foundation of our faith goes back to the instructions God gave His people at Mt Sinai and actually even before that. If God saw a need to give instructions to His people to set aside their normal routines to come together and worship Him, should we not at least be willing to take the time to study and find out what the purpose and meaning of these times are? God doesn’t give His people busywork, just to give them something to do, but has a specific purpose and reason for each instruction, whether we always understand what it is or not. God knew that we would tend to become busy with the activities of daily life and forget Him, so He gave numerous instructions for things that would remind us we are His people, to reveal Himself and His plan for us and our world.
If we look at the spring “appointed times” we will see how this works. In these events we can see how God used them to illustrate what He was going to do. When the time came that God was going to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt the Israelites were instructed to place the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their house so that the death angel would “passover” them and their firstborn would not die. In faith and obedience they did so, trusting that God would do as He said, and in effect they passed from death and were given new life. Jesus died on Passover to pay the penalty of our sin and as we, in faith, apply the “blood of the Lamb” to our lives we too pass from the sentence of death and are given new life.
The “Feast of Unleavened Bread” is closely tied with Passover showing us that the Israelites had been redeemed from slavery in Egypt and now they were to leave their Egyptian ways behind and walk with Him. Egypt is often used in Scripture as a symbol for sin and so in effect they were being told to leave their sinful ways behind and by faith walk according to the instructions God was giving them. Are we not also told that when we accept Jesus as our Savior we are redeemed from slavery to sin and the flesh and are to leave our sinful ways behind and in faith walk according to God’s instructions?
In the midst of Passover comes the “Feast of Firstfruits” and occurs when the first crop of the year, barley, had ripened and was ready for harvest. But before they harvested their fields of barley they were to bring an “omer”, which is about 2 quarts, as a firstfuit offering to the Lord. This feast pointed to the resurrection of Jesus from the grave and the fact that we too one day will be resurrected:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1Co 15:20, 22-23)
From there we count up the seven weeks plus one day to Pentecost. It was on this day that God came down on Mt Sinai and spoke to the Israelites giving them the 10 Commandments, the foundation of all the instructions He was going to give them. They were never intended to provide salvation to anyone but to provide a clear standard, a reference for living, for without a standard anything goes. Sin, the breaking of this standard, was now clearly defined and so could be dealt with. But God knew that no one would ever be able on their own to live up to this standard so God provided the Israelites with the sacrificial system. Through the sacrifices, a person who by faith believed that God would fulfill what He said He would do through their obedience, offered their sacrifice and was made right before God and drew near to Him. Many years later, after Jesus resurrection and ascension, on the day of Pentecost God sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in all those who by faith believed God’s Word and accepted Jesus as their Savior, to empower and enable them to live according to His instructions enabling them to draw near to Him.
The upcoming fall “Appointed Times” have not yet been fulfilled but point to still upcoming events that have been prophesied in Scripture. But, they also point us to things in this present day that should wake us up and we need to act upon, which is where I would like to focus my attention, for what we do in the here and now will determine our future.
The first one, coming up on October 3rd this year, is the “Feast of Trumpets”, “The Day of Judgment” and it also goes by several other names but I believe these two illustrate two important aspects of it. The Scriptures do not give much explanation about the Feast of Trumpets other than in Leviticus 23:24 where we are told it is to be “a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets”. This of course should bring to mind the blast of the trumpet at Mt Sinai when God came down and spoke the 10 Commandments to the Israelites. Is this Appointed Time God’s way of reminding us that He has given us instructions, His standard, for how we are to live and we need to make our choice to follow or not follow those instructions? But God leaves the choice up to us. Throughout Scripture we see God clearly showing the result of our decision. Through Moses it was, choose life or choose death, choose blessing or choose curses. In the Prophets we read time and time again how God pled with Israel to confess their sins, repent and return to Him so He can bring blessing and not judgment on them. In the New Testament the message also is to confess your sins, repent and turn to Him to inherit His promised blessings. This day should remind us that the day is coming for each one of us when we will have to stand before the Judge and give account for the choice we made. So, if we do nothing else, I believe that this day should give us pause and cause us to stop and consider our choice. If we have not yet made the choice to follow God’s instructions than we need to carefully consider the consequences that God has clearly stated will result from this decision. If we have already chosen to follow God and walk in His ways then let’s use this day to seek Him and ask Him to help us repent of those things in our lives that have come between us and Him as we prepare for the next Appointed Time.
I don’t believe that it is by accident or coincidence that the ten days leading up to the next “Appointed Time”, the “Day of Atonement”, are traditionally called the Ten Days of Awe. Awe in the sense of respect or fear of God who is the Righteous Judge and who has said that He will judge all people and reward the righteous and punish the wicked. Our recognition of that fact should lead us to spend these days in searching our hearts as we began to do on the Feast of Trumpets and repent of any sin or other thing that God might show us so that we are right with Him on the Day of Atonement.
The Day of Atonement was the only day of the year that the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies. There he sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the “Mercy Seat” of the Ark of the Covenant, seeking God’s mercy for the forgiveness of his own sins and the sins of the people. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus who offered up Himself on our behalf is our High priest and that:
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)
True repentance requires three things, blood, confession and repentance. The Scripture says:
…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Heb 9:22)
Jesus shed His blood to pay the penalty for our sins:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. (Eph 1:7)
But we must acknowledge our sins and shortcomings and confess them if we are receive God’s forgiveness. But a simple confession is not enough. We can admit that we have sinned and done wrong but that does not mean we are sorry for what we have done or that we don’t intend to do it again, so repentance is required. Repentance, teshuvah in Hebrew, means to turn around or to turn away from. It is only after we acknowledge our sin and determine to turn away from that sin that God willingly forgives us and puts us back in right standing with Him.
So while our sins, as believers, have already been atoned for through the blood of Jesus, the Day of Atonement reminds us that we are still living in these fleshly bodies and prone to sin and in need of the continual cleansing by the blood of Jesus. However, one day Jesus will return and we will experience the fullness of His atoning work when our transformation into His image is complete. But until then we should use this time period to seek God’s help in revealing those things in our lives that hinder us in our walk with Him.
The last of the fall “Appointed Times” is the Feast of Tabernacles. While it reminds us of the years that Israel spent dwelling in tents as they wandered through the wilderness, it also reminds us that God dwelt in their midst in a very real sense. For His presence could be seen in the “pillar of fire” at night and the “pillar of cloud” in the day as it stood over the Tabernacle or as it led them through the wilderness. Following the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement it represents our restored relationship with God. As believers, it should remind us that God dwells in our hearts and we experience His presence through His Holy Spirit, which He has given us. But it should also cause us to look forward to that day when Jesus will return and dwell in the midst of His people during the millennial kingdom.
In this very brief explanation I have just barely touched the surface of the meanings and pictures that can be found in “God’s Appointed Times”. But we can see how God has already used the spring appointed times to reveal His plan, how these fall appointed times can help us to focus on our daily relationship with God and we can anticipate that He will also reveal His future plans through them. But it will require time and effort on our part to study these out so we can see the patterns and pictures throughout the Scriptures that reveal His plan and prepare ourselves. With the situation in our world today I think it is even more important that we become familiar with and understand God’s appointed times. It is very possible that the time of God’s fulfillment of these fall appointed times is at hand and we should be doing everything possible to prepare for that possibility. But even if that time is still a long way off yet we must be very careful not to fall asleep and become complacent:
For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1Th 5:2-6)
God loves us so much that He has given us these times and many other means to remind us to draw near to Him. Just as through the prophets He pled with Israel to repent and turn to Him so too does He plead with us to repent and turn to Him. It is time that we wake up and begin to utilize these times to prepare our lives for the days ahead.
The following statements come from the Didache, an early church manual of instructions for practical living for new Gentile believers: (NOTE: This revision of the Didache into modern English is based on the translation of J.B. Lightfoot)
1:1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways.
1:2 The way of life is this.
1:3 First of all, Love God who made you;
1:4 Secondly, Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
5:1 But the way of death is this:
5:2 First of all, it is evil and full of a curse…
They are also part of the final instructions that Moses gave the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land and take possession of it. “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.” (Dt 11:26-28)
These verses come from the beginning of our Torah portion for this week. Later the instructions that are given detail the utter destruction of the pagan worship sites and paraphernalia used by the Canaanites in the worship of their idols and gods. The purpose for this destruction is to eliminate every trace of what and how the pagans worshipped so as not to tempt the Israelites to worship their gods or incorporate the pagan manner of worship into their own worship of God. But the instructions go even farther and command the annihilation of every man, woman, child and animal of the Canaanites. To us that may seem to be an extremely harsh judgment and an abhorrent command, but is it not a physical picture of a spiritual reality? Is that not what the Scriptures teach will happen to anyone who does not believe in the atoning work of Jesus, the only begotten Son of God? For did not the Psalmist say, “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalms 1:6) The Apostle Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) and Jesus Himself told Nicodemus that “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)
The picture continues in the next chapter when Moses tells them, “But you shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.” (Dt 12:5-6) God is again setting His people apart from the rest of the nations. Contrary to the rest of the nations who worshipped their gods anywhere, Moses tells the Israelites that God would choose one place among them where He would place His name and sanctify it as the only place they were to come and offer their sacrifices and offerings to Him. God had specific things they were to do and ways for them to worship Him. But even so it was not through their action of offering the sacrifices that they were saved, rather it was through their faith in God to forgive their sins and redeem them that they, in faith, performed the sacrifices and gave their offerings to show their love for Him and His salvation.
Salvation has always been by faith. It is written of Abraham, “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6) The Lord told the Prophet Habakkuk to write “… but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Hab 2:4), and the Apostle Paul taught, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
So in His instructions God presented His people with one way only that was acceptable to Him and they were not to deviate from those instructions or God would not accept them. The same is still true today, for there is still only one way to find salvation and that is through faith in Jesus who died to pay the price for our sins.
But the Israelites did not follow through with God’s instructions and eliminate anything and anyone associated with the pagan worship in the land they were to possess. As a result, just as God warned, those things they did not eliminate became a snare to them and over time they were enticed to incorporate within their worship of God some of the pagan practices. They knew what God expected and faithfully went through the actions of offering the prescribed sacrifices and observing the festivals, but their hearts were far from God as they also went about offering sacrifices to pagan idols and gods. As a result God brought the judgment He said would come if they did these things.
But we too have not been careful and over time we have been enticed by the enemy to adopt the world’s ways in our worship of God. God has not changed nor have His warnings of judgment on those who do not follow His instructions. He clearly states in many places and ways that it is His desire that NONE should perish but leaves the decision up to us. He has not hidden anything, but through His Word clearly lays before us the options that we have. God freely offers us blessing but we choose curses if we don’t follow His instructions. He freely offers us life but we choose death if we try to do it our way. If we desire God’s blessing and the eternal life He offers than it is time we recognized God’s call to be a set apart people. God is a God of love and mercy but He is also a Judge and He has openly laid out the rules by which His righteous judgments will be made. The day will come when we will have to answer for what we did with our lives, now we can go through the motions and make it look good but God looks on the heart and knows the truth. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Gal 6:7) The Scripture also warns us that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Pro 14:12) Now is time for us to evaluate what we do. Is our worship really from a heart of love for God? Are we truly seeking God with our whole heart so we can walk on the path He shows us in His Word? These are serious questions with eternal consequences that we dare not ignore. May God in His love and mercy help us to choose the path of life and blessing that He freely offers us.
Our Scripture portion for last week was Numbers 25:10 – 30:1. When I started looking it over my first thought was “Oh boy, another list of names and numbers for a census and a repetition of the sacrifices, what can I learn from it this time?” But, when I started studying, something jumped out at me that I would like to share with you. Something that by itself may not be all that remarkable, but when seen in relation to other Scriptures begins to paint a picture that helps us see God’s plan.
The Israelites have arrived at the Jordan River across from Jericho and have setup camp. The first thing I should have realized was that they were again at the border of the Promised Land and this time they are going in, so this passage is probably going to be about their preparation to enter into the Land. But I didn’t, all I could see was all the names and numbers and sacrifices and I let it cloud my mind and color my thinking. But after wading through all the names and numbers in Chapter 26 we come to the selection of Joshua as the next leader of Israel in verses 12 – 23 of Chapter 27.
While those verses did get my attention, it was the first 11 verses of Chapter 27 dealing with the “Laws of Inheritance”, sandwiched in between the census and Joshua’s inauguration as leader, which got me thinking. The purpose of the census was to get a list of names and the sizes of the families so they could properly divide up the Land. So this particular event fits in with the verses that go before it but there just seemed to be something special about it. Whatever it was I felt there was more to it than meets the eye and that it needed some special attention.
A descendent of Joseph, Zelophehad, had five daughters but no sons. Now, since the usual practice at the time was to pass an inheritance on to the eldest son, this meant that he would not be included in the division of the Land. This meant that his family inheritance would be lost and in time so would his name. So his daughters, desiring that they be given their fathers inheritance so their fathers name not be lost, come to Moses and tell him “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons.” (Num 27:3) They go on to ask him, “Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.” (Num 27:4) It was a legitimate question, but a bit out of the ordinary since in that society women generally were not eligible to receive an inheritance. So Moses went to God to ask what should be done. God told Moses that the daughters were right and gave Moses instructions on what is to be done in these kinds of cases so that a man’s inheritance is passed on within the family line, so that his inheritance is not lost and that his name will not be forgotten.
On the surface this appears to be just taking care of some housekeeping chores and tying up some loose ends so the division of the Land can go smoothly. But as I read this a Scripture came to mind, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) As I thought about the connection between the two I realized that through these few verses God was revealing another aspect of Himself. Using these events in the lives of His people He is painting a picture for those of us coming many thousands of years later. It starts out with the census, yes, all those names and numbers are important and have eternal value, for each one of them reveals a family and individuals whom God has created and dearly loves. Not just the big names or the important people were listed, for God was concerned and wanted to make sure that down to the last individual they received their promised inheritance, their part of the Land flowing with Milk and Honey. He didn’t want anyone to be left out, no one to be lost.
We should take comfort in this and be encouraged for through the Prophet Malachi God said, “For I the LORD do not change…” (Mal 3:6), and the writer of Hebrews wrote, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God does not change, what is true in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, is true in the New Testament, the Apostolic Scriptures. The Apostle Paul wrote, “But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.” (1 Cor 15:46) So if there is any difference it is that in the Old Testament the principle or concept is often taught through a physical example, while the New Testament teaches the spiritual application of the same principle or concept. For a complete picture and a clear understanding we need both, the Old and the New Testaments, the physical picture and spiritual application. Jesus reminded us of God’s care and concern for each of us as individuals when He taught in the Sermon on the Mount that, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Mt 10:29-30)
God’s desire is so strong that no one misses out on their eternal inheritance and their place in that eternal Promised Land that He gave His best to make it possible. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”. (John 3:16-17) Jesus clearly stated His purpose for coming to earth when He told Zacchaeus, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) Now the choice is up to us. How will we respond to what God has done to make sure we don’t miss out on our eternal inheritance? Will we have the courage like Zelophehad’s daughters had, who were willing to go to great lengths and go against the norms of the day in order to make sure they got their share of the promised inheritance, their piece of Land flowing with Milk and Honey?
“Tiberius Nero…sent Valerius Gratus to be procurator of Judea, and to succeed Annius Rufus. This man deprived Ananus of the high priesthood, and appointed Ismael, the son of Phabi, to be high priest. He also deprived him in a little time, and ordained Eleazar, the son of Ananus, who had been high priest before, to be high priest; which office, when he had held for a year, Gratus deprived him of it, and gave the high priesthood to Simon, the son of Camithus; and when he had possessed that dignity no longer than a year, Joseph Caiaphas was made his successor. When Gratus had done those things, he went back to Rome, after he had tarried in Judea eleven years, when Pontius Pilate came as his successor.”
Josephus, Antiquities 18.2.2
“As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”
Saturday Evening Post, Oct 26, 1929
FOR FURTHER REFERENCE
- What Life Means to Einstein – Original Saturday Evening Post Article
“Consequently, to get rid fof the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.”
Tacitus, the Annals of Imperial Rome, Barnes & Noble, pg 330