Questions From Readers
● Which Zechariah was Jesus referring to when he spoke of “Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar”?—H. R., Canada.
Jesus was speaking against the religious leaders of his day when he said, “that there may come upon you all the righteous blood spilled 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.” (Matt. 23:35) In Luke’s account the words “son of Barachiah” are omitted. (Luke 11:50, 51) They are also not found in Matthew’s account in the Codex Sinaiticus. However, the weight of manuscript evidence is that Jesus did mention “Zechariah son of Barachiah.”
Understandably one might wonder which man Jesus meant, since more than twenty men are named Zechariah in the Hebrew Scriptures. While some commentators feel that Jesus meant the prophet “Zechariah the son of Berechiah,” who wrote the book of Zechariah, there is nothing to indicate that he was murdered.—Zech. 1:1; LXX; Dy.
The most common understanding is that Jesus referred to Zechariah “the son of Jehoiada the priest,” since this Zechariah was stoned to death during the days of King Jehoash. (2 Chron. 24:20-22) Supporting this conclusion is the fact that Chronicles is listed last in the traditional Jewish canon, thereby making Abel the first righteous man recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures as having been murdered and Zechariah the last. Also, the place of death of this Zechariah, “in the courtyard of Jehovah’s house,” corresponds with Jesus’ location of the incident “between the sanctuary and the altar.”
In the cases of both Abel and Zechariah a reckoning for shedding of blood was foretold. (Gen. 4:10; 2 Chron. 24:22) And there is a strong parallel between the circumstances and events in the days of Zechariah the son of Jehoiada and those of the generation living when Jesus spoke. Soon after priest Zechariah’s death, a Syrian force despoiled Judah and executed acts of judgment on Jehoash. (2 Chron. 24:23-25) After describing the bloodguilt of those to whom he was talking, Jesus said: “All these things will come upon this generation.” (Matt. 23:36) Those words were fulfilled on Jerusalem and Judea in 70-73 C.E.
Who, then, was the father of this Zechariah—Barachiah or Jehoiada? Some have thought that the aged priest Jehoiada (2 Chron. 24:15) was actually Zechariah’s grandfather and that his father (Barachiah) was not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, though his name may have been preserved in the genealogies of the priests. Another suggestion, and one that is quite reasonable, is that Jehoiada, the father of Zechariah, who was murdered, may have had two names, as is the case with other Biblical persons. (Compare Matthew 9:9 and Mark 2:14.) Interestingly, the meaning of Barachiah (Jah blesses) is much like that of Jehoiada (Jehovah knows or regards). In any event, Jesus could appropriately draw on the unrighteous murder of Zechariah in condemning persecutors of God’s servants in his day.
● Was the apostle Paul ever married?—L. B., U.S.A.
The Bible does not comment directly on this; though, from things Paul wrote, it seems possible that he was a widower during his years as a Christian.
One basis for this conclusion is the way he expressed himself in defending his apostleship when writing to the Corinthians. He pointed out that he had certain rights that he had not used. For one thing, he did not accept personal financial assistance from them, even though he had the right to eat at their expense. (1 Cor. 9:4, 11-15) Likewise, he wrote: “We have authority to lead about a sister as a wife, even as the rest of the apostles.” (1 Cor. 9:5) That he mentioned this while in the process of outlining things he had the right to do but did not do, indicates that he evidently did not have a wife at that time.
As for concluding that he was a widower, note his expression at 1 Corinthians 7:8: “I say to the unmarried persons and the widows, it is well for them that they remain even as I am.” He had just offered counsel to married persons. Then before going on to other matters involving married Christians, he directed comments to “the unmarried persons and the widows.” The Greek word here translated “unmarried persons” applies to all unmarried persons and can mean bachelors and formerly married persons who were then without living mates. The Greek word translated “widows” definitely means formerly married women. Since Paul recommended his own situation for such ones, it is quite possible that he was a widower himself.
Other arguments have also been offered to support the position that he had once been married. For example, some have reasoned that his insight into marital matters suggests that he experienced marriage himself. Possibly so, but, since he wrote under inspiration, that is not conclusive proof.—2 Pet. 3:15, 16.
Some have reasoned that Paul was formerly a member of the Sanhedrin, and that since being married was a requirement for membership in this high court of the Jews, that would prove he had been married. Proponents of this line of reasoning point to Acts 26:10 to establish that Paul had been a member of the Sanhedrin. That Ac 26 verse 10 reads: “When [some Christians] were to be executed, I cast my vote against them.” But whether he actually cast a vote as a member of the Sanhedrin or just expressed his personal support of the execution, we cannot be certain. Even if he was a member, the requirements for membership apparently were not always the same. At one time only a man with a wife and children was acceptable, and there is nothing to establish that Paul had any children. So the lack of complete details regarding the Sanhedrin membership requirements weakens arguments as to Paul’s marital state that are based on such possible membership.
Hence, if we hold to what can be learned from the Scriptures themselves, the most we can say is that Paul may have been married at one time, but was unmarried during the time of his missionary journeys.