Jewish Tradition from the Gospel of Luke


There are few questions I need help with about Jewish tradition.

“according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” Luke 1:9

-What was this custom exactly?
-What was the purpose of burning incense? Was it to purify the temple from evil spirits? If so then is that why we burn incense at Mass?

“The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple.” Luke 1:21

-Why were the people supposed to wait outside?

Thank you all. God bless.


The custom was some form of lots I do not think anyone knows exactly what they did. If I am not mistaken the priests would take turns burning incense that is why they were waiting outside. The incense was offered to God.


Read the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, it is explained there. (Numbers 15) It wasn’t about evil spirits (where did you get that notion?)

When God instituted the Temple and all of the sacrifices and religious holidays, the Levities would draw lots so as to know when which family had the responsibilities of doing the Temple work for a particular month. That’s how we get the notion that Jesus was born in June (Abijah was responsible for a time period around the month of June).

They waited outside the Temple because only the allotted priest was allowed into the inner temple (The Holy of Holies). This is where the significance comes from when the inner curtain rips after Jesus dies on the cross. It rips from top to bottom signifying that God had opened the way for everyone. Try looking up a picture of what Solomon’s Temple would’ve looked like, it’ll help you get a better idea of what took place.


I see. Thank you for your explanation. I don’t believe in the part about warding evil spirit though. I just heard of it and wanted to make sure I had the right answer to some people’s claims. Also was wonder about that lot tradition.

I do need to read the Old Testament though as the whole thing just small passages. :smiley:


Check this out friend.

God bless.


From a Catholic point of view, the significance of the curtain being torn in two is not certain, as the Gospels merely report the event and do not elaborate on its significance and the other New Testament books do not mention the curtain being torn in two.

From A Commentary on the New Testament, prepared in 1942 by The Catholic Biblical Association, on Matthew 27:51, pages 192-193:
51. It is not certain whether this curtain of the temple was the “first curtain” at the entrance of the Holy Place (so St. Jerome), or the “second curtain” (cf. Heb. 9:3) which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies; nor are Catholic interpreters agreed about the significance of this rending of the curtain: some see in it the visible token of God’s displeasure with Judaism, the abolition of the temple as God’s special abode (cf. 23:38), etc.; others prefer to understand this as a sign that God then took away the barrier between Jew and Gentile (cf. Eph. 2:14), that all men are admitted to worship of the true God (cf. Heb. 6:19 f; 9:8; 10:19 f), etc.


Scott Hahn said the same thing. That the curtain represents the barrier between Jews and Gentiles. The sacrifices was finished like Jesus said on the cross. We were all bought, even Gentiles. And from all I have learned from the Bible is that everything in it has a much deeper meaning than simply the obvious. So I root for the barriers being broken argument.

God bless :slight_smile:


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