A Passion for Religion
John, like any Jewish boy of his time, began studying the Torah at the synagogue under a teacher with other young boys around the age of five. For half a day, six days a week for the next five years he would learn the words of the Law phrase by phrase until he knew it almost by heart. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..." Later, for another few years he would study the Talmud, the oral law, under the direction of a teacher. This kind of education kept Judaism strong for generations.
John's passion for his religious tradition, however, went far beyond his companions' and grew stronger through the years.
Reflective by nature, he loved thinking about God's way with the world and its people. Faith captivated his imagination and enlarged his soul. Somehow, he believed, manna still fell from heaven and water still flowed from a rock as in the days of Moses. One just had to look for it.
Priests in the Family
"Three times a year all your men shall appear before the Lord your God." So had Moses commanded in the law.
From his earliest years John must have joined the thousands of Jewish pilgrims who flocked to Jerusalem and the Temple of God for the great feasts of Passover, Tabernacles, and Weeks. He found lodging in the city more easily than most pilgrims , for John's family was related to a priestly family serving in the Temple and was known even to the high priest.
In fact, Jerusalem, its Temple, and its feasts were particularly dear to John . The ancient rites and institutions of the Holy City were sacred signs to him. Though quarreling factions of Sadduccees and Pharisees, priests and royal officials, made Jerusalem a place of continual intrigue and unrest, the city still pointed to a world yet to come. Despite everything the Holy City shone with a divine light.
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