Amazing Example of Messianic / Hebraic Roots Studies

A common problem that exists in our English Bibles is mistranslation of the original text. Sometimes this seems to be the direct result of translators who were attempting to remove all hint of ‘Jewishness’ from the New Covenant (Testament) in order to support their particular theology. At other times, it appears to be caused by ignorance of the Hebrew idioms or expressions. A classic example of the latter can be found in the story concerning Peter's denial of Y’shua on the night of the Covenant Meal (Last Supper):

“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren’. But he said to Him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death’. Then He said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster ('cock' in KJV) will not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me’”. (Luke 22:31-34)

Later that night, the Temple Guards arrested Y’shua and took Him to the house of the High Priest. There, Simon Peter was allowed admission to the courtyard in view of where they were questioning Y’shua:

“And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, ‘This man was also with Him’. But he denied Him, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him’. And after a little while another saw him and said, ‘You also are of them’. But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed saying, ‘Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean’. But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are saying!’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster (cock) crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster (cock) crows, you will deny Me three times. Then Peter went out and wept bitterly”. (Luke 22:56-62).

This is one of the more famous stories in the Gospel accounts -- repeated in both Matthew and Mark as well. However, there is one problem with the translation: chickens were not allowed in Jerusalem during Temple times. The reason for this prohibition was because chickens are very dirty birds and they have the obnoxious habit of finding their way into places where they do not belong. Therefore, to assure that chickens could not gain access to the Temple and desecrate the Holy Place or, worse yet, the Holy of Holies, the Priests simply forbade everyone in Jerusalem from having chickens.

So, what about this famous passage of Scripture? It clearly says in the New King James Version, just quoted, that a ‘rooster’ crowed and it was heard in the courtyard of the palace of the High Priest.

The proper translation is really quite evident when the practices of that time are understood. The ‘rooster’ or ‘cock’ that Peter and Y’shua heard was not a bird at all, but a man. That man was a priest at the Temple. He was the one who had the responsibility of unlocking the Temple doors each and every morning before dawn. Every night this priest would lock the doors to the Temple and place the key in an opening in the floor of one of the Temple side rooms. Then he would place a flat stone over the opening and place his sleeping mat over the stone. He would literally sleep over the key to the Temple. In the morning this priest would arise at first light and retrieve the key. He would then proceed to unlock the doors to the Temple and cry out three statements in a loud voice: "All the cohanim (priests) prepare to sacrifice”. "All the Leviim (Levites) to their stations”. "All the Israelites come to worship”. Then he would repeat these statements two more times.

The priest in question was known as the Temple Crier, and he was called ‘alektor’ in Greek, which can either be a ‘cock’ or ‘man’ (cock is Gever in Hebrew). ‘Alektor’ here was incorrectly assumed to be the ‘cock’ or ‘rooster’ instead of the Priestly Temple Crier. It was his obligation to rouse all the Priests, Levites, and worshippers and call them to begin their preparations for the morning sacrifice service. In the stillness of the early morning, sound carries well and since the palace of the High Priest was within a very short walk from the Temple, it was the Temple Crier's cry that was heard in the courtyard where Y’shua was being questioned and not the cock/rooster. Josephus the historian (pg 187), the historian, and many others, confirms this by stating that no chickens were allowed inside Jerusalem’s walls at all as they flew into and defiled the Temple (see references further below).

While this example does not change the meaning of the event (that Peter would deny Y’shua despite his bravado earlier in the evening), it does serve to illustrate how English reading Bible students as well as other languages have been shortchanged in their understanding of some of the events as they actually took place. Also, by knowing the true facts about the Gever, one's attention becomes focused on the fact that Y’shua, the Son of God, was being questioned while standing within earshot of His Father’s House (the Temple).


Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on the topic “JEWISH ENVIRONMENTAL PERSPECTIVES” by Manfred Gerstenfeld states under the heading “Jewish Environmental History” confirms the issue of “no chickens in Jerusalem:: “Jewish law continued to develop in the Mishna and Talmud, and later in the responsa literature. It is known that stricter environmental laws were applied in Jerusalem than elsewhere in the Land of Israel. For example, the Talmud prohibits erecting a dung-heap, building a kiln, or raising chickens in the Holy City. It was equally forbidden to leave a corpse in Jerusalem overnight.” Gerstenfield quoted from “Talmud - Bavli Bava Kama 82b”.

The Jewish Encyclopedia under the heading “ANTIOCHUS III. THE GREAT” confirms this: “The Mishnah, B. Ḳ. vii. 7 (see also Ab. R. N., ed. Schechter, xxxv. 106), forbade the maintenance of poultry and sheep in the city; and probably Josephus' decree may be connected with this prohibition, which was considered an ancient ordinance.”

The Schechter Institutes confirms also what has been said: “I) Law and Customs Attributed to Second-Temple Jerusalem: This category consists of at least fifty laws and customs. We shall only mention them briefly since they have already been listed and investigated by quite a few scholars.2 About twenty of these laws are contained in a list which has come down to us in four different versions.3 The most well-known version ( Bava Kamma 82b) reads as follows: ‘Ten things were said about Jerusalem: That a house sold there can be redeemed even though it's a walled city (see Lev. 25:29-30); that it does not bring a heifer whose neck is broken (see Deut. 21:1-9); that it can never become a condemned city (see Deut. 13:13-18); that its houses cannot be defiled through leprosy (see Lev. 14:33-53); that neither beams nor balconies are allowed to project; that no dunghills are made there; that no kilns are made there; that neither gardens nor orchards are cultivated there, except for the rose gardens which existed from the days of the former prophets; that no chickens may be raised there; and that no dead person may be kept there overnight.