The Temple Crier or Rooster

A common problem when reading the Scriptures is that many translators were ignorant of the Hebrew idioms, phrases, concepts and culture of the first century. This is illustrated by a common misconception found in Matt 26.34 where Yeshua tells Peter “that this very night, before the cock crows, you shall deny me three times.” We know that Yeshua was arrested in the garden and brought to the elders and Peter was in the courtyard of the High Priest (Matt 26.58). He denies the Lord and immediately the cock crowed. He remembered what the Lord had said previously and wept bitterly.

The word “gever” in Hebrew can mean “man” or “rooster” and the Greek word used here is “alektor” which means a rooster. It was erroneously decided by the translators to use “rooster” here but there is a problem. Roosters and chickens were not allowed in the city of Jerusalem while the Temple stood (Mishnah Bava Kama 7.7). Roosters and chickens are dirty and can find their way in and out of almost anything. As a result, there was a ruling that they were not allowed in the city for fear they would find their way into the Temple and the Holy of Holies.

So, how can this verse be rectified? The cock in this passage was not a rooster, but a man called “the Temple Crier” and it was his job to announce the morning Tamid service in the Temple by giving a three-fold cry for the priests to prepare for the service, for the Levites to go to their posts and for the Ma’amad (the standing men) to come for worship. Ignorance of the Temple practices by translators has caused a problem in understanding this verse. This “rooster” was actually a man and this has been confirmed by many historians and commentators such as Josephus; The Yom Kippur Machzor, p 196 by Artscroll; Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim, p 844; the Artscroll Mishnah Sukkot 5.4 and the Blackman Mishnah Sukkot 5.4.

As Yeshua was being led out of the courtyard very early in the morning on that Passover, the Temple Crier’s voice was heard by Yeshua and Peter, telling the people that the sacrifice was getting ready to be offered. We know from archeology that priestly housing was very near to the southwestern wall of the Temple. There are some who think they have found the very house where Yeshua’s hearing took place, and the very courtyard has been found.

In the literal fulfillment of this, Yeshua is being led away to be offered as the Passover lamb and the Tamid offering. The Tamid (meaning “continuous”) was offered every morning and evening and it remained on the altar as a continual burnt offering (Exo 29.38-42; Num 28.1-8) and was a picture of Yeshua who “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7.25). Knowing that the rooster was a man called the Temple Crier and not a rooster gives deeper meaning to this passage.

Posted in Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, The Temple, Understanding the New Testament

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