A follow up on 2 Timothy 3:16-17
This week I am going to share one response I received so far to the E-Word study on 2 Timothy 3:16-17. I know I am a week early but my schedule was changed by an unexpected illness. This week’s study comes from an old friend of mine, Greg, from Canada.
“Now, in my morning study today I read “The liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” from Galatians 5:1. Here is when the “magic” begins inside me. Connections begin to be formed and crystalized.
Authority and the God of Israel
There are three major religions that trace their roots to the God of Abraham. Statistics show between 50-60% of the current population profess faith in this God. Each religion has different sects or offshoots which claim to practice the true faith. Within Islam, there are two main branches which formed after the death of their founder and prophet because of a dispute over succession. In modern Judaism, there are three or four main branches. In Christianity, it is difficult to say, but there are 3 major branches that have themselves split into around 20 large denominations. However, there are approximately 45,000 denominations and if you include sects and small splinter groups, the number is higher.
Come, let us reason together!
In recent weeks, I have focused a lot on translation issues and textual variations based on traditions and so on. Most of the time I do most of the research and work on my end and never ask those of you who are reading about your ideas, interpretations, and or traditions. That being said, this week I want to ask those of you who do read and (hopefully) enjoy the E-Word Studies to take the time with me and dig into a portion of scripture. I hope you might choose to participate and share your own thoughts for everyone to consider.
My idea is for you to do a little research of your own or just share your own point of view based on your particular understanding or tradition. If I can get at least a few of you to share your responses, I will then take your answers and in a couple of weeks, I will post them together for everyone to read. I will, of course, keep everyone anonymous unless otherwise directed.
The verses for consideration should be familiar to almost every person who has ever been to church or attended a bible study. All that being said, let us begin. In Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, we read;
“All scripture is inspired of God and advantageous for instruction, for reproof, for restoration to moral living, for discipline in the way of righteousness in order for the man of God to be found adequately prepared with regards to all manner of honorable occupation.”
Now, you probably noticed this does not read the same way in any of your Bibles. There is, of course, a reason for that. However, I will not be sharing that reason until later. I would like o hear how you understand these verses, what you have been taught they mean, or anything else you care to write about them. I urge you to consider the entire third and fourth chapters for context and, if possible, the Greek words used. Using different translations and as much historical and culturally relevant information as you can find might also help.
All that being said, keep it simple and do not worry about how long or short your responses are. Please keep in mind, this is not some kind of test. This is all about dialogue and participation in the study of God’s word. We all see the world through a different lens and no matter how much we may or may not know about scripture, we can each learn something from one another. My teaching (and learning) ministry is all about salt.
Study, Apply, Live, Teach.
This translates to the study of scripture in order to apply it in our lives and live it out in our walk with the Messiah. In doing so, we will hopefully teach others by the way we live, as well as through the things we learn and then pass on to them. Being able to think about things differently, from the perspective of others, is one way we learn from each other and continue to grow in our faith.
I plan to wait the next two weeks to give those who wish to do so time to respond. I will then post the responses in the first newsletter of October with my explanation and response included.
For those of you who read weekly or at least periodically, thank you. It makes all the work I put into this worth the effort. I hope you continue to read the E-Word Studies and tell others who may be interested to sign up by emailing me at Lee@bibletalkwithleeanthony.org
You can also fill out the pop-up form on our home page at https://studytheway.org/ or just ask me and I will add the e-mail address manually. Thank you.
Which text? Which tradition?
Genesis 3:16 (NASB20)
“To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you shall deliver children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
καὶ τῇ γυναικὶ εἶπεν πληθύνων πληθυνῶ τὰς λύπας σου καὶ τὸν στεναγμόν σου ἐν λύπαις τέξῃ τέκνα καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἡ ἀποστροφή σου καὶ αὐτός σου κυριεύσει
Hebrew text (WLC)
אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ בְּעֶצֶב תֵּלְדִי בָנִים וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּךְ׃
As I mentioned last week, we are not finished with Genesis 3:16. The focus of the second part of this verse will be the word desire. This is translated from the Hebrew “tᵊšûqâ” which generally means desire. However, the word underlined above in the Greek Septuagint is “apostrophé” which means to turn away or turn back. Almost all modern translations use the word desire. Interestingly, almost every ancient version of scripture uses some form of the word turning. Among those versions are the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and even the Latin Vulgate.
Here is a fun fact. Early “church fathers” such as Clement, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen all only seem to be familiar with the use of the word turning. Even in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate we find the word “conversio.” You can probably guess what that one means.
There has been much study done on this issue. The word “tᵊšûqâ” occurs only three times in Scripture. We find it in Song of Songs 7:11, Genesis 3:16, and Genesis 4:7. A look at these verses reveals that “desire” can certainly be an acceptable translation in all three verses. The question is, why is it not translated this way in Genesis 3:16 in older versions of the text?
This rare Hebrew word is not entirely understood, which is one good reason there is no scholarly consensus about how it should be translated.
In Genesis 3:16, the common view teaches this is about sexual desire, which is a bit suspect if you think about it. The idea of sexual desire might make sense in Song of Songs, yet it certainly does not fit with God’s warning to Cain about sin in Genesis 4:7. Of course, desire can be literal, figurative, sexual, or cognitive. You get the idea. Some doctrines say this means the woman will desire to control the man. There is, of course, a Bible for that. The NET says, “You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.”
In 1528, an Italian monk named Panino translated “tᵊšûqâ” as lust. He based his translation on commentary from the Babylonian Talmud, which speaks about the “ten curses of Eve.” Every English translation since has adopted this idea employing words like desire or craving. What if the ancient translations were better renderings?
Let us consider this verse using the word turning instead of desire. Remember that this is a description of what is going to happen because of the disobedience of the man and woman, not a prescriptive curse from God. The woman is now going to have more difficulty in bearing and raising children. Instead of the woman looking to please God first, she now seeks to please her husband first. If her “turning” is now toward her husband and he will rule over her, perhaps it is speaking of authority. Now the man assumes the role of being her authority instead of God being the authority of the two together as equals. God intended the human pair to be one, and he was to be their authority.
Paul tells husbands to love their wives as the Messiah loved the church. You might be thinking about those verses where Paul supposedly tells women to “shut up” in the assembly and that men are the “head,” so what they say goes. But, think carefully about what Yeshua’s love for us is like. Sin has caused the fabric of human relationships to become frayed, and the relationship between God and man has been weakened. In many cases, relationships are completely broken.
The role of God in our lives and the roles of men and women in marriage have been corrupted by sin. A closer examination of Genesis 2:18, where the woman is called a “helper” should be enough to make you at least consider the possibility of this translation. The most important word here is “Ezer.” In scripture, “ezer” usually describes God. Here are a few verses to consider where “ezer” is used. (Exo. 18:4) (Deut. 33:7, 26, 29) (Psa. 33:20) (Psa.115:9-11)
Continuing on into our verse, the common Hebrew conjunction and preposition translated above as “yet your” can also mean “toward.” In the Septuagint, the Greek preposition “pros” is used where it is translated above as “for your” husband. “Pros” can also mean “toward.” Based on the older versions, our translation would be something like “Your turning will be toward your husband, and he will exercise authority over you.”
If we connect the possible rendering from last week to this one, Genesis 3:16 could read;
“a lier in wait has increased your sorrow in pregnancy (or and sighing) in sorrow you will bring forth children. Your turning will be toward your husband, and he will exercise authority over you.”
Admittedly, the rendering of the first part of Genesis from last week, while possible, is not as easy to determine because of the different ways Hebrew can be read. As for the second part, the oldest manuscripts support the different renderings without the textual issues. Even the newer manuscripts can be read this way because of the possibilities of the odd Hebrew word “tᵊšûqâ.” Considering the Septuagint translated “tᵊšûqâ” as the Greek “apostrophé” it is safe to assume desire is incorrect in almost all our modern Bibles.
We desire certainty and conformity of thought in our faith, but in ancient times, there was no systematized standard of belief. There was, however, a standard of conduct. How we live was, and should still be, more important than the doctrines we believe. Of course, some of those doctrines determine conduct, but that is another issue altogether.
Are you uncomfortable learning most modern Bible translations include as much bias, error, and doctrinaire as a politically motivated documentary? If you do not see it yet, then keep digging because you have yet to dig deep enough.
More about text and tradition
“To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain and conception, In pain you will bear children; Your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”
The traditional translation and interpretation of this verse (and those around it) assumes that the man and woman are being cursed by God. It also assumes the man was designed to be the authority figure in the relationship. We will not deal with the second part today. I want to focus on the supposed “curse” on the woman. A careful reading of the text reveals the serpent was cursed, and the ground was cursed. This is prescriptive, but for the man and woman, it is descriptive. God is describing what will happen because of their sin. This is not the only issue, however, as you probably guessed.
The original Hebrew had no vowels or syllables and, as a result, some words are subject to interpretation based on context. Many of our modern translations are based on the Masoretic text, which was a translation done roughly a thousand years after Yeshua. The Masoretic placed the vowel points into the text, thus systematizing the text. They decided how the text should be read based on their traditions. Christianity has largely accepted this Jewish tradition even though they tend to reject many others.
There are two possible renderings of “greatly multiply.” The Hebrew letters making up the word could be Resh-Bet-Hey or Aleph-Resh-Bet. The word could change based on the vowel point added. If the word is “Arab” instead of a repetition of “Rabah” the meaning changes to “to lie in wait, or to ambush” instead of “greatly multiply.
A language scholar named Bushnell offered this as a possible translation in the early 1900s in the book, God’s Word to women. Because this was in opposition to established church tradition and also because Bushnell was a woman at the turn of the century, it was mostly ignored. Imagine that.
Based on this reading, the translation would say, “a lier in wait (or a snare) has increased your sorrow.” In this case, it would mean that the serpent catching the woman in a snare has caused the sorrow. So, what do we do about the conception part? The Hebrew text mentions bearing children, but does it actually say that God is going to make childbearing itself more painful? In Hebrew, the word “hērāyôn” translated conception is also found in Ruth 4:13 and Hosea 9:1. There is a different Hebrew word used for giving birth, which is “yālad.” It is translated “bear” in this verse. Interestingly, the Septuagint translates “hērāyôn” as sighing. I also want to note that in verse 17, the word translated “sorrow” or “toil” regarding the man is the same word used regarding the woman, which is usually translated “pain.”
Taking all of this into account, a probable translation would be, “a lier in wait (or a snare) has increased your sorrow in pregnancy in sorrow (or “and sighing”) you will bring forth children.”
Once we consider the second part about the “desire” for her husband and him “ruling over you,” it should come together. Even without digging into part two, the context seems to be more about relationships or the collapsing of said relationships. God’s relationship with Adam was affected, as was Adam’s relationship to the earth. The serpent’s deceit affected the woman’s relationship with her children. This caused the entire process of bearing and raising those children in a now broken world to be painful.
What seems more likely? God adding more pain to women during birth or the serpent’s seduction of the woman leading to raising children in pain and sorrow. Raising children is difficult, but I can tell you what is not a complaint for the vast majority of humanity. The act which leads to conception.
Next week we will look at the second part of verse 16. We will attempt to determine what the Hebrew says and whether our English translations are more faithful to the text or to our long held traditions.
Are you ever angry? It seems like there is always something happening, causing pain or great difficulty. It is easy to feel as if every step we take forward is more like two steps backward. We get angry at ourselves; we get angry with others and sometimes we get angry with God. Is anger always a negative response? We all get angry, but we do not all deal with anger the same way.
In Christianity, anger is viewed almost as if it were sinful. In fact, the modern view of God is one of love only. The Old Testament God is seen as an angry, unrelenting overlord destroying people in moments of rage. That God, went to anger management and now is a loving God of grace and peace.
Anger is a natural, human emotional response. It is not anger itself that is sinful, but how we deal with anger that can be a problem. The scriptures tell us “be angry yet do not sin.” We should pray, cry out to God and express how we feel to him and even toward him. We must learn to deal with anger. Finding an outlet is important, so we do not take our anger out on others or hold it in until we explode.
There is no direct commandment in the Bible which says, do not be angry, yet anger is often destructive and leads to sin. There are various examples in scripture where anger plays a role in the sins of God’s people. Moses has a few episodes of his own. The wise king Solomon says that “anger resides in the bosom of fools.” Developing a Bible trained character and learning to deal with our emotions in ways which do not lead to sin highlights just how much we need God and his instruction in our lives.
How we view something determines how we feel about it. Being aware of our emotions is important for us to handle any difficulties which may arise. We strive to be like Yeshua, who is the only true human expression of how God feels and who God is from a human perspective. We are told many times in scripture that God is slow to anger. In scripture, this is repeated about ten times in different places, from Exodus to Nahum and everywhere in between.
“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…”
“The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.”
If you read some of these passages, you will see they also tell us God is jealous, wrathful, and that he takes vengeance on his enemies. We can, and often do, have these same emotions. When we allow them to go unchecked, it can lead to us acting on our emotions, which can lead to much pain and suffering for ourselves and others.
God is “slow” to anger. James says to be,“quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God.” Almost daily we hear about seemingly normal people snapping. In their anger, they take the lives of others through acts of violence. This has become commonplace. Learning to deal with our emotions in a world where justice is lacking and pain and heartache abounds is difficult. Especially for those who are angry at God and blame him for the injustices they see and experience. There is no “giving it to Jesus” for them. Our world is in a mental health crisis and we are all affected somehow.
Yeshua is often painted as a soft-spoken, mild-mannered individual. Because he is looked at as a “perfect” person and a “god-man” he is often not thought of in human terms. In reality, Yeshua experienced all the feelings, emotions, and temptations all men do. (Heb. 4:15) Anger was certainly on the list. Like the rest, Yeshua expressed his anger without it leading to sin. One example comes from John, where Yeshua made a whip of cords, overturned tables and ran the money changers and people selling animals out of the temple. I imagine his zeal was fueled by anger in this situation.
“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
As followers of Yeshua, we can all do our best to contribute to a better society just by being more patient, relying on God and being slow to anger. Understanding that anger is a normal emotion and learning to deal with it properly is a step toward becoming more like Yeshua. We will all suffer trials and tribulations. What sets us apart is how we deal with them. It is probably best to leave the whip of cords alone.
The text and our traditions
Proverbs 31:10-11, 30-31
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
Fun fact, verses 10-31 of this Proverb are an acrostic in Hebrew. From Aleph to Tav, each line begins with a letter of the Hebrew Aleph bet (Alphabet) which contains 22 letters in all. Needless to say, it does not work out in English. I will leave that one to the reader for further digging if you choose. The focus of this week is the “Proverbs 31 woman.”
In Christian circles, this section of the text is viewed as the ultimate guide for the Christian woman. However, the “Proverbs 31 woman” is not something you hear often, if ever, in Jewish circles. The acrostic poem is believed by some to represent different women of faith in scripture, such as Rachel, Rahab, or Ruth. Ruth is the only woman in scripture where the same wording occurs in the Hebrew text as Proverbs. The Hebrew is “Eshet Chayil.” (Ruth 3:11)
There are various traditions and interpretations historically in Judaism throughout the centuries. The pictures that some paint seem to be of a slightly different type of woman than in Christian tradition. This section of Proverbs is known as “Eshet Chayil.” This is usually translated into English as “an excellent wife” or “virtuous woman.” The model woman in Christian circles historically is one who is soft-spoken, submissive to her husband, a homemaker, a good mother. This is just an overview and these things differ from culture to culture, but primarily, this represents the ideal woman for a man desiring to marry. The translation of “Chayil” into English is not entirely kosher. Virtuous is not a bad translation, but it falls short of the true meaning of “Chayil.” Our modern understanding of the word virtue does not help matters either.
The word “Chayil” is an interesting word that denotes strength. This word is often found in a military context: a strong warrior, a mighty army, a powerful and efficient force. The valiant woman is a woman of strength and Godly character. Notice there is nothing here that speaks of her physical beauty or appeal. This is implied in the text, but her primary attributes are built upon strength. She is Ruth, Deborah, and Hagar. She is competent in all she manages and navigates the trials of daily living with her head held high. She keeps her husband and children on the right track.
A description of a modern woman of strength might be a strong, good-looking, independent woman. One who puts her career first and is politically motivated and driven by a desire for power and authority. The modern picture of a strong woman is certainly not the “Eshet Chayil.” The husband trusts in her because she trusts in and fears God. She is a doer of the word, seeking God in all she does. She encourages her husband to stay the course like the rudder of a ship or a spiritual antenna, keeping the connection between God and her other half strong.
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”
In Hebrew the second part of this verse says “attishaq leyom ‘ahron” literally translating to “she laughs at the former day.” The Hebrew idea of time differs from our own, so this sounds a bit odd. Having considered this before (recently) I will not take much time to explain. In Hebrew, the past is the future, and the future is the past, so seeing where God has been is how we can see where he is going. She relies on God, trusting in him to provide even in times of need. She laughs at what is to come, not because it is funny. This is an idiom. She knows that, even during hard times, God has provided in the past and thus she trusts he will continue to provide in the future. Instead of being anxious and overcome with fear, she “laughs” because she knows all will be well. God provides, she trusts in him and in her own God-given abilities.
The woman described in the text is known by her behavior. Like Ruth mentioned above, all recognize her for her actions. The proper sense seems to be a mix of Christian and Jewish traditions. The subservient wife and homemaker is far from the warrior woman we read about in the Hebrew text. Her strength and abilities are recognized outside of the kitchen and worthy of imitation by those who seek to trust in God. Tradition and culture shape our understanding of God’s word, and what we read is not always written in the original text. This is why it is important to dig deeper. Who would have imagined the Proverbs 31 woman was described the same way as a great army led by YHVH?
Food sacrificed to idols (part 2)
What is food sacrificed to idols? We covered the subject of idols last week, now for the other half of the equation. What is food? A better question is, what was food to a first-century Jew? This question is not as easy as a Westerner in the modern world might imagine. For example, in India, a very large majority of people consider cows to be sacred. Current law prohibits the import and export of beef, with only the boneless meat of buffalo permitted in export. Twenty of the twenty-eight territories in India prohibit the slaughter and or sale of cattle. The government has recently announced the creation of a 130-acre cattle sanctuary for the growing population. Needless to say, beef is not considered food.
There is a long list of different animals, insects, etc. that we could cover from culture to culture that are considered food to one and not to another. The point is, what we call food is a matter of perspective. For Jews, then and now God explains what is and what is not on the menu.
(Lev. 11:2) (Deut. 14:3-4a)
This is important to note; because to Peter and Paul, who both mention food, understanding what they meant by the word “food” should define our understanding of the text. Common Christian interpretation of Mark chapter 7:1-23 is a good example of a lack of understanding of 1st century Hebrew culture. The issue raised by the Pharisees is about hand-washing rituals and eating food with defiled hands.
“Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
Please read verses 6-17
“And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
There are two important details to note. If Yeshua actually said “from now on all animals are clean to eat,” the Pharisees would have had a far greater grievance than hand washing. Also, even if the addition of the text into brackets not found in older manuscripts (thus he declared all foods clean) was not added later (it is an interpolation) it specifically says “foods” in the context of the conversation where not washing one’s hands lead to the defiling of the food, which in turn, would defile the eater. “Food” meant all food permitted by God and Yeshua emphasizes that not washing your hands does not defile the “food” we consume. Yeshua was not sharing a Christmas ham with his disciples.
Decades later, Peter says he had never defiled himself with uncommon or unclean animals. This is another blundered interpretation based on Christian traditions.
On a side note: It is funny how lessons from God to his people about their keeping traditions in place of his word have been misinterpreted by Christianity, who have inserted their own traditions in place of the word of God.
The sheet was filled with both clean and unclean animals. The animals represented gentiles, as clearly indicated in the text, and Peter explains this to us. God was showing him something specific. Gentiles did not defile a Jew, and eating with one was not a problem in the eyes of God. There is way more to the story, but the point is, eating creepy crawly things was not the issue at hand. (Acts 10:17-28)
In first-century Rome, the markets were flooded with meat from animals that had been sacrificed or dedicated to pagan deities. Unless you slaughtered the animal yourself, it was difficult to discover where the meat had come from and to which deity the animal had been sacrificed to. This is just one reason the Council of Acts 15 includes food sacrificed to idols. In fact, all four issues in Acts 15 are connected to idolatry. To be saved, gentiles must turn away from other gods completely. Food that is contaminated by an idol was anything dedicated to, or sacrificed to, a false deity. Eating such things was part of the process of worship at the temples. Included in some of these services were all sorts of sexual immorality.
Understanding why these Pharisees (who were believers in Yeshua) believed gentiles must become Jews to be saved is important. Not all Jews believed this to be true. There were two main schools of thought in the 1st century, the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel. (Acts 15:1-5)
Shammai and Hillel were contemporaries and were leaders in the Sanhedrin. Shammai was strict regarding interpretation and application of the Torah. Hillel was more liberal and allowed flexibility in application. Shammai had an intense dislike for gentiles. He believed there was no place in the kingdom of God for gentiles, unless they became full converts to Judaism and kept all the commandments of Moses. This included circumcision. Since for gentiles to become a part of Israel, they had to be circumcised. Hillel taught that the kingdom of God was for all people, and that gentiles could become part of the kingdom if they only kept the “seven Noachide Laws.” (A subject for another day)
Paul was a student of Gamliel, who was the grandson of Hillel. This does not mean Gamliel was in full agreement with his grandfather. Prior to Paul accepting Yeshua as Messiah, he seems to have been more in line with the teachings of Shammai. All the Jews in the first century would have been aware of the differences and disagreements between the two schools. Most people who read the text today are unaware of these important historical figures and their influence on second-temple Judaism.
Despite the ruling made in Acts 15, Paul is lauded as a voice of freedom for Christians to consume all “foods” freely, including idol food. Romans 14-15:6 is often linked to 1 Corinthians 8-11:1. The straw man argument by Paul about the weak and strong is linked in both accounts and interpreted as being about the same issue. However, the Romans account has to do with interactions between Jewish and gentile believers, eating meat or vegetables and what days are holy. Nothing is mentioned about idol food or the context in which food is eaten. The issue is about a weakness in faith and not in conscience. The word conscience does not appear in the Romans account and the word faith does not appear in the Corinthians account.
The Corinthians account is about idol food and interactions between idol worshippers and believers. Former pagans coming into the faith would not have easily overcome deeply rooted cultural issues. This would have been quite the problem in Corinth. Paul clearly says not to partake of idol food in 1 Corinthians 10:28, having determined that what pagans sacrifice, they do so to demons and not God in verses 20-21. The only connection where one might cite both accounts lies in giving honor and glory to God in all we do. In Romans, Paul explains, both the one who eats and the one who abstains gives thanks and honor to God. So, no matter what your conscience leads you to believe, partaking of idol food is not acceptable. Doing all things for the glory of God is a matter of God’s word and not man’s conscience. If God forbids idols and idol food, then a conscience trained by the scriptures could never allow breaking such a command.
Modern English readers often overlook the textual implications that Paul’s Corinthian issue was an ongoing discussion. Idolatry would have been a primary concern for new believers in a pagan cultural setting almost anywhere in the ancient world. Paul is more likely addressing the Corinthians question of “why can’t we continue to eat idol food” as opposed to “can we eat idol food?” In the culture of Corinth, breaking off social connections like joining in meals and refusing to partake in public sacrificial events would cause a person to be unfit for any public office or influence they might seek to acquire. There are also the relationship issues that would arise in one’s family or among friends. Every aspect of a person’s life would be affected by something that today in the West we consider simple and unrelated to other aspects of our lives.
A modern example of this comes from K.K.Yeo, a diaspora Chinese, who lectures on cross-cultural understanding of civilization and religion.
“To advise the Chinese not to offer food and not eat the food in ancestor worship may be implicitly advising them not to love their parents, not to practice love, and ultimately not to be Chinese.”
When we read scripture, we cannot forget that the writers did not see the world the same way that we do. What is food sacrificed to idols? For those who care to dig deeper and learn more, this might be useful information. For everyone else, thank you for reading. Enjoy your dinner everybody.
Food sacrificed to Idols (part 1)
Before I delve into the often explosive subject of food sacrificed to idols, I think it is important to first define both food and idols. I will begin with idols because it is easier, although just as explosive depending on how it is packaged, the way it is served, and to whom it is served. I plan to package it and throw it like a hand grenade with the possibility that it may well cause some of my readers to blow up and thus, stop reading altogether. However, this is not personal. I am speaking to myself as much as anyone.
How one defines what an idol is depends on their worldview. If you are Catholic, you will see things differently than if you are a Baptist. God is not influenced by denominational theology, and no man alive can speak for God. So, how do we determine what an idol is if we cannot ask our priest, pastor, or whoever to give us the answer? Youtube? Wikipedia?
I decided to ask Google. I typed, “what is an idol in the bible?” The top result said:
(1) “The Bible makes it plain that an idol is nothing (Jer 2:11; 16:20). It is only a piece of wood or stone, carved by human hands. It has no power of its own.”
Of course, this is a short bit from a website taken out of context if only left as is. Scripture tells us that an idol is worthless. Most would refer to Paul, who says, “An idol is nothing” so what is there to consider?
“And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”
Israel made the golden calf so they could have a visual representation of God. They wanted to celebrate. There's nothing wrong with that. Certainly, God knew their hearts. Moses convinced God not to destroy them all and in the end, only 3000 were put to the sword as punishment. What do we notice in the text? The people’s sin was not just the sacrifices to, and worship of, the calf of gold, but began with the forming of the calf itself.
“So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.”
God was angry because they made the calf and sent a plaque on the people. This was a serious crime and at this point the people were relatively new to this worship of only one God stuff. Moses repeats the whole thing in Deuteronomy and yet again we see that making the calf is listed as the primary issue.
“Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’ “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’ So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the LORD your God. You had made yourselves a golden calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you.”
God commands Israel to make no representation of anything on earth, in heaven, or under the sea, and not to bow to them. He did not just say to make no images, just in case you bow to them. He said to have NO gods but him before telling them not to fashion any representation of anything in all creation. This included attempting to make any representation of heavenly beings, not just of God. Israel attempted to make a representation of God in order to worship him. Anything fashioned as a representation of God, regardless of whether it was intended to take the place of God, is an idol.
“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them...
I have heard it said, God told Israel not to make images in order to worship them or, just in case you are moved to worship them. Making the image alone was not an issue. God did not care about the calf per se. That statue of Paul in my yard is perfectly fine as long as I am not worshipping it! The idol I pray to on the mantle in my apartment is not bad, as long as I do not bow down to it. A closer reading of the text tells a different story.
If idols are nothing and there are no other gods, why does God have such a problem with man made representations? Because idols are something to God. Sure, they are representations of deities and not deities themselves, but God still detests their existence.
(Lev. 19:4) (Psa. 96:4-5) (Jer. 51:17-18) (Ezek. 8:9-10) (Hab. 2:18-19) (2 Cor. 6:16) (1 John 5:21) (Rev. 9:20)
I know most readers will not read every verse listed, but I urge you to take the time because these are not just verses about God hating idol worship. These verses include the language of disdain for the idols themselves and not simply the act of worshipping them. There are hundreds of verses specific to idols in scripture, and it is not just an “old testament” thing. God hates the same things today that he hated then. To imply otherwise is ridiculous.
People question why I do not go to church and fellowship with other believers. Worship is the primary reason. There is hardly a church I have been inside of that did not have a statue, inside or out, or images on the wall of Yeshua. There is almost always a giant cross right up front where everyone faces when standing to sing praises and raise their hands in worship. These things may not bother most of you. You may believe that it is a personal conscience matter, or that because God knows your heart, he accepts them as part of your worship.
What would Jesus say? What do you think he would say if he saw a statue of Paul? How would he react to the giant symbol of Roman power and authority, the instrument of his torture, front and center at the worship service?
Please do not think I am attacking the cross. I am not; I am telling a story. The same story told repeatedly in the Bible. History repeats itself when we do not learn from past mistakes. Israel finally learned (for the most part) after Babylon to leave the idols alone. Does this mean I am telling you to discard your children’s action figures and pull down public statues? Some of you might take it that way. You may think I am casting judgment and pointing fingers at the sins of others. I have no right. I sin as much as any other person. However, I cannot water down what I write so much that I place myself in the same boat as those modern believers who have adopted the world’s ways. This is only food for thought prepared for those who accept the authority of scripture and worship God Almighty.
What did God do/say?
Last week I mentioned writing about food sacrificed to idols. This is a somewhat difficult and often touchy subject that will take some time. Instead, I chose to write about God hardening the heart of Pharoah. Something about the narrative just does not sit right with me and I am not alone. God hardening Pharaoh’s heart is one of those subjects that has a slew of interpretations from both Jewish and Christian sources.
“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.”
If God already knows Pharoah will not let the people go, why then does he harden the heart of Pharoah? Was his heart not hard enough already? How is it fair that God hardens Pharoahs heart and then punishes him for being stubborn? Some contend that God hardening Pharaoh’s heart interferes with his free will. However, if it was already Pharaoh’s will to not “let the people go without a strong hand,” then what is really going on in this story? It does not take an all-knowing God to realize the king of the most powerful nation on earth is not setting free the entire population of slaves. Removing the entire working class from any society would bring economic ruin.
There are many interesting points to consider in the Exodus narrative. Some have noted that God did not harden Pharaoh’s heart until the sixth plaque. Pharoah was given five opportunities before this but he was stubborn and already had a hardened heart. Maybe God decided that having already given Pharoah the opportunity to comply that he was not giving him another chance. Pharoah had enslaved God’s people Israel and had removed their free will. Was God punishing Pharoah by removing his free will? Does this sound like a just punishment? Was this an eye for an eye?
Ther are various questions that result from one’s particular understanding of the Exodus Narrative. There are other interesting points to make note of. For example, each of the plaques was representative of one of the numerous deities of Egypt. This includes the death of the firstborn sons, Pharoah being worshipped as a god himself. God was not only showing his power over Pharoah to Israel and the nation of Egypt but over all the gods of Egypt. Pharoah was considered the embodiment of Ra and Horace, the two most powerful gods of Egypt. The sovereignty of YHVH over all creation seems to be a key here. Pharoah is not just any man with free will, he thought of himself as a god and thus felt as if he was free to do as he pleased.
Of great interest to me is that there are three different Hebrew words used in the accounts all translated into English as harden or hardened. The word “kāḇaḏ” is used seven times. These are found in Exodus 8:15, 8:32, 9:7, 9:34, 10:1, 14:4, and 14:17. “kāḇaḏ” is the only word used in connection to Pharaoh hardening his own heart. The word means to honor, encourage, or be heavy. To make something or someone heavy in Hebrew means to laden the thing or person with praise. We know Pharaoh was not exactly an example of humility.
The second Hebrew word “ḥāzaq” is used twelve times. These are found in Exodus 4:21, 7:13, 7:22, 8:19, 9:12, 9:35, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8, and 14:17. “ḥāzaq” means hard or hardened as in strengthened or made firm. Perhaps God strengthened or made firm Pharoah’s heart, which was already stubborn. Interestingly, the word “lēb” translated heart could also mean will. We could easily say God strengthened Pharaoh’s will, causing him to remain or become even more stubborn.
The third Hebrew word “qāšâ” is found only twice in connection to Pharaoh’s stubbornness. These are found in Exodus 7:3 and 13:15. “qāšâ” means to be difficult, stubborn or hard pressed and can be used to describe difficult childbirth, harsh punishment, and stiff-necked, rebellious or stubborn willed people. I wonder why Bible translators would be so sloppy? And I thought the spirit was leading their valiant efforts of accurately representing God’s “perfect” words.
“Then the YHVH said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the YHVH.”
The text says God hardened the heart of Pharaoh and his servants, not only so Egypt would see the power of God. It was also for the benefit of Israel and future generations knowing YHVH! These are obvious conclusions, considering they are spelled out for us. This is repeated throughout the Torah and is associated with YHVH and his sovereignty over Israel. There is also a connection to the commandments themselves. (Exo. 20:2-3) (Lev. 26:1-2) (Deut. 5:15) (Deut. 7:7-11)
This is a reminder to all who have subjected themselves to the authority of the true God. At one time, they served as slaves to other powers like Egypt or even themselves, but now they serve YHVH and YHVH alone. It is to YHVH that Israel owed their freedom from bondage, and it is to him that all who now follow Yeshua as Messiah owe our freedom from bondage. These verses are all reminders of God’s faithfulness, love, and sovereignty.
Balaam and the talking Nicolaitan
“But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the Israelites: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. “In the same way, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”
There is a lot to unpack in this verse and there are various interpretations about what exactly the teaching of the Nicolaitans was. All we know for sure is that Yeshua hated it, (Rev. 2:6) and that it is related to the teaching of Balaam, meat sacrificed to idols, and sexual immorality.
The writings of the “church fathers” include different possibilities. In Christianity today, the majority view believes Nicolaitans were authoritarian types. It is even used today as a common expression to describe authoritative religious groups and leaders. These overseers often lead the people into immoral conduct, much like Balaam, whose teaching led Israel into immorality. This view is based on the word Nicolaitan being derived from the Greek words “nikan” meaning to conquer and “laos” meaning people. Some suggest the names Nicolaitan and Balaam have the same meaning in different languages. It is said that Balaam comes from the Hebrew “bela” meaning to conquer and “ha’am” meaning people.
I found various interpretations of the name Balaam. These include cursing a nation, foreigner of the people, destruction of the people, devourer of the people, glutton of the people, and Lord of the people. These interpretations come from four different websites after a basic google search of the name. Among these search results were Hebrew-speaking Jewish websites which, of course, had differing opinions.
We learn the story of Balaam from Numbers 25:1-5 and Numbers 31:16. Most are familiar with Balaam and the talking donkey, but that is not the whole story. The writings of Peter and Jude both mention Balaam, giving us further insight into his character and personality.
(2 Per. 2:13-19) (Jude 1:10-15)
The key to unlocking the mystery of the Nicolaitans seems to be with the specific sins mentioned by John. He associates the teaching of Balaam with meat sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality. John then connects Balaam's teaching to the Nicolaitans.
A majority of Christianity today believes that they are free to live according to their own conscious when considering matters of food. However, food sacrificed to idols was included in the issues at the council of Jerusalem and condemned by Yeshua in Revelation. This is a matter for next time, for now the issue at hand is finding out how the teaching of Balaam is related to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. (Acts 15: 20) (Rev. 2:20)
The most popular explanations do not seem to fit together with what we know about Balaam. We cannot know for sure but there are alternative possibilities that fit the context better. Let’s dig into the text and see where the evidence leads.
In first-century Roman society, most of the meat sold in the market was dedicated to one god or another. The Jewish communities had their own separate butchers and sellers in the markets in order to avoid such issues but for the gentiles coming into the faith this became a problem as we see throughout the New testament writings. This is one reason James and the council met to decide what to do about the gentiles. We have to keep in mind that this ruling was not a comprehensive list of moral issues for gentiles to follow, otherwise murder, adultery, theft, and so on would have been included. The issues of blood, things strangled, and food sacrificed to idols were all food related, and of course, sexual immorality is an issue that has been problematic throughout history. These were obviously major issues that needed to be resolved at the time and apparently were ongoing concerns because Paul addresses them as well.
According to Irenaeus, “Nicolaitans were likely followers of Nicolaus of Antioch, a proselyte who was one of the seven chosen to serve in Jerusalem (Acts 6:5) and had forsaken true Christian doctrine; he said they lived in unrestrained indulgence.” (Against Heresies 1; 26:3) Hippolytus agreed and said, “Nicolaus left correct doctrine and had the habit of indifference as to what a man ate and as to how he lived.” (Refutation of heresies 7:24)
There is no evidence to back up any of these speculations about Nicolaus who is mentioned only briefly in Acts. The only real connection between Nicolaus the proselyte and Nicolaitans is in the name.
One possibility that is not very popular comes from the Jewish Christian Hebraist John Lightfoot. His suggestion is that Nicolaitans is a Hebraism, (a Hebrew idiom or expression) which in this case is something originally said in Hebrew but spelled with Greek letters. (A couple examples of Hebraisms are found in Matthew 6:22-23 where good eye means generous and bad eye means stingy.)
In Hebrew/Aramaic the verb “nokhal” means we will eat.
“On that day seven women will seize one man, saying, “We will eat our own bread and provide our own clothing. Just let us bear your name. Take away our disgrace.”
If we transliterate this word into Greek one might use it as a term to describe the “let us eat” people, which would be those who believed they had the freedom to eat as they please. As much of a stretch as this seems to be the connection to the teaching of Balaam and eating forbidden foods makes more sense in the Jewish context than most explanations. There is another connection in Revelation 2:6-7 which includes a play on words in Greek.
“Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
The one who conquers is translated from the Greek “nikoti” which is a form of the word “nikao” meaning victorious. Sounds interesting does it not? If John was using the term Nicolaitans as a pun for the “let us eat people” or something similar, the connection would have been easy to make by readers in the 1st century. To eat food sacrificed to idols would have prevented them from being victorious and eating of the tree of life (v. 7) or of the hidden manna (v.17) as promised by God to those “who hear and are victorious.”
Most consider the seven assemblies in Revelation as representative of the “church of God” throughout the ages. This may be true but regardless of whether it is or not the Nicolaitans mentioned existed in the first century and we know next to nothing about who they were. That being said, anyone who tells you they know who the Nicolaitans were or identifies “Nicolaitanism” as a specific issue is only interpreting the text according to their own paradigm. We can only speculate and at the end of the day do our best to follow the Messiah.
What is my Job?
“I יהוה am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: You shall have no other gods besides Me.”
The first of the ten commandments, according to almost every placard or representation of the tablets of stone we see skips the first and most important part of the commandment. Google the ten commandments and you will see what I mean. Very few include the identification of God. We discover the same identification of God in the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6.
“Hear, Israel! יהוה is our God, יהוה is one! “And you shall love the יהוה your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
A major step in dedicating one’s life to God is having a clear understanding of who the God of Israel is. Worship is also an important part of knowing the creator. The Hebrew word “šāhâ” means to bow down in respect. Part of worship is our acknowledgment of God’s right to rule in humility and submission to his authority as Sovereign over our lives. Worship is a part of our attitude. What we do is a reflection of who we serve.
In Hebrew thought, work and worship are related. How many people do you know hate the job they have? Is money the primary reason you do whatever you do? Yeshua was a builder, a carpenter, or a stoneworker perhaps. Paul was a tentmaker, Peter a fisherman. These men were all so much more than a job title. Whatever we do, we are called to do it as if it were for the lord and not men. The separation of work and worship is treated similarly to the separation of “church and state.” Removing God from one area of life is like removing him from all areas of life. God is either the sovereign or he is not.
There are numerous examples of Hebrew words and their connection to other words that we miss in translation. Adam, the man being taken from the dust of the earth, is one example. In Hebrew “ādām” is taken from the dust of the “adāmâ” or man is taken from the earth. Another word in Hebrew connected to worship is also connected to service. The word “ābad’” can mean work, serve, or worship. For Adam, his job was to work the ground and care for the garden. This was his job title, but also his service to God and part of his worship.
“Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to “ābad” it and tend it.”
A derivative of “àbad” is “abôdâ” which appears 145 times in the OT. Our service to God is part of worship. God’s original design included work.
According to the Theological wordbook of the Old Testament:
“Man’s work and labor are not the result of sin and the fall. Already in God’s great creation man was placed in the garden “to work it” (’ābad, Gen. 2:15). The curse (Gen 3:16-17) was only the pain and hardship which were to accompany labor, not the labor itself (cf. ‘eseb “sorrow”). This point is made when Lamech says at the birth of Noah that he “shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.” (Gen. 5:29)
We cannot serve God and money, but we can earn our living by serving God, and that does not mean you have to be a pastor or priest. There is great difficulty in submitting completely to the will and authority of another, especially when we cannot physically see who we are submitting to. We all have a skill, a God-given ability meant to be used not only in service to the creator, but also in our daily lives. Do I live daily for the Lord, or do I live a day or two a week for the Lord?
“Whatever you do, do it with all your being, as something done for the Lord and not for people...”
Prophecy and prediction
What does it mean to prophesy? To Christians, prophecy is the future revealed in advance. Oracles and fortune tellers also foretold the future, yet God says not to listen to them. This modern understanding of prophecy originated around the 300s A.D. In Hebrew thought a prophet is overwhelmed with a message by God, usually a warning which requires a response to said warning. Turn from your wickedness and return to God or else something specific will happen.
If God is all-knowing, then whatever he says is going to happen will happen and we can be sure it will occur just as the prophet said. This is prescription, but what if prophecy is more about description? Prophecy is not always meant to happen. God communicates through the prophet a message to people, which is often a warning. The message is usually contingent on human action. In Genesis, God warned Pharoah what would happen through his dreams and the seven years of famine did not cause devastation like it could have because Pharaoh listened and had Joseph prepare accordingly. Jonah is another good example.
“Who knows, God may turn and relent, and turn from His burning anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their evil way, then God relented of the disaster which He had declared He would bring on them. So He did not do it.”
Who knows, maybe God will change his mind? The choices we make today affect tomorrow. The calamity foretold by Jonah did not occur because the King heeded the warning and the people repented. We attempt to establish what the future holds by assuming every prophetic word must happen. One major reason no man can know the day or the hour of the Messiah’s return is because we believe there is a set moment in time predetermined by God. However, if we look at this from the perspective that prophecy is descriptive, not prescriptive, and that events such as the second coming are contingent on the actions of God and man then the realization that all attempts at identifying when and how the fulfillment of “prophecy” will occur in advance are futile.
Doctrine is how most believers decide what they believe. Two examples are, God is all-knowing and the Bible we have today is infallible because it is the inspired word of God. The doctrines of divine inspiration and omniscience are two doctrines that predetermine what prophecy is and how prophecy is understood by the average believer. Here is an example that may or may not cause discomfort because of these doctrines.
“Yet hear the word of the LORD, Zedekiah king of Judah! This is what the LORD says concerning you: ‘You will not die by the sword. ‘You will die in peace; and as spices were burned for your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so they will burn spices for you; and they will mourn for you, crying, “Oh, my lord!”’ For I have spoken the word,” declares the LORD.”
Does Zedekiah die in peace? God said he would, so he must have.
“And the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and he also slaughtered all the commanders of Judah in Riblah. Then he blinded the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him with bronze shackles and brought him to Babylon and put him in prison until the day of his death.”
That does not sound like a peaceful death to me. Initially, it seems as if God was wrong, either that or the scriptures are not accurate in their record of events. Whatever the case, something seems off. Perhaps our perception of what it means to die in peace differs from what God said in the Hebrew text. Is the key to understanding this dilemma in the promise? “You will not die by the sword.” That part is accurate. To die by the sword meant to die a violent death. But how was this a peaceful death? Shalom has many meanings and could also mean at peace with self or with God and his covenant. A close reading of the story shows he did not die at peace with God, but perhaps he died at peace with himself. We just do not know.
When you read prophecy, ask yourself, is this prescriptive of descriptive? Is God warning someone or is he describing to someone what the result of certain actions might be? Is God telling someone what is going to occur regardless of their choices, or is he telling them what is going to occur because of their choices? While we know God can reveal future events, the outcome may not always be inevitable. Like, the doctrines of omniscience and divine inspiration lead the reader in a specific direction the modern view of prophecy does the same. We believe in a certain way because we are taught a certain way, but what if what we believed was not entirely accurate? What if we read the text from a different perspective?
Driving in reverse
“Then I will take my hand away and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
Have you ever wondered about the way this verse is worded? You cannot see my face, but you can see my back. A few verses before Moses is said to speak with God face to face like a friend, then he is told, “No man may see me and live” but I will show you my back. There is a lot to unpack, but I want to focus on the translation issues. There are Hebrew idioms that are not translated as idioms into English. Speaking to God face to face like a friend tells us Moses was intimate with God the way we are with our closest friends behind closed doors. He could not literally see the face of God and live. How is it then that he could see his back? Does God even have a “back?”
The root word in Hebrew translated into English is “ahar.” According to the Theological wordbook of the old testament: “But in no other place is the word used for the back of a person’s anatomy. This is gab or gaw or ōrep. The word ahor means “back” in the sense of direction.”
If this is a metaphorical idiom, it would describe what follows or, in Moses’ case, being able to see what is behind as God passes by. This allows Moses to see what God will do afterwards. In Hebrew thought the future is the past. What has happened before tells the story of what will happen again. Interestingly, another derivative of “ahar” is “aharit.” “Aharit” means afterward, or backwords. The term “acharit hayamim” will be familiar, it is translated last days or end of days. Understanding the Hebrew idea of time and prophecy is helpful here because it just is not the same for us Greek thinkers.
“H.W. Wolff has likened the Hebrew conception of time to the view a man has when he is rowing a boat. He sees where he has been and backs into the future.” Theological Dictionary of the old testament, Vol. 1, p. 34.
Biblical Hebrew verb tenses are related to action and there are only two, perfect and imperfect. In English, the three verb tenses are related to time, so in Hebrew context is necessary to understand whether something is past, or future. The perfect tense is a completed action, while the imperfect tense is an incomplete action. When we are considering prophecy, we must realize we do not know what it means until after it has occurred. Only then can we make connections and determine the meaning.
We cannot predict the future, not even using God’s word because that is not the intent, but looking behind at where God has been gives us a glimpse of where he is going. Rowing a boat is the same. We face the rear of the boat and as we row forward our progress is marked by buoys as we pass them by. These buoys are like events marked in our history books, defining moments of time that shape and mold our reality. We know where we have been and where we think we are going, but only God knows the final destination. Perhaps it is time to reconsider what we think we know about prophecy. That's another subject to consider...
In the name of…
Was Matthew written in Hebrew? Did it include the Trinitarian baptismal formula?
No manuscripts including Matthew chapter 28 exist prior to Constantine. As a result, we cannot say, as some contend, that the text was tampered with after the fact because we have no surviving manuscripts prior to the 4th century. However, once we research the subject and consider the cultural and religious views of the first-century Jews, we find that something is not quite right.
An early writer named Papias in the late 1st-early second century wrote that “Matthew composed his history in the Hebrew language, and everyone translated it as he was able.” He is not the only person to make this claim, many of the early church fathers say as much.
The Shem Tov Hebrew gospel of Matthew is a later work, so does not provide much evidence. However, it is believed by many to have been translated from earlier editions of a Hebrew text. Esebius, who was part of the council of Nicea in 325, lived at the great Christian library Caesarea and had access to manuscripts far older than what is available today. His earlier writings quote Matthew 28:19 numerous times and none include the Trinitarian formula of baptism until after the council of Nicea. One example is found in “Demonstratio Evangelica, by Eusebius, A.D. 300-336, col. 240, p. 136,” where it reads, “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you.”
Perhaps the most important evidence available is the rest of the New Testament scriptures regarding baptism and, of course, the words of Yeshua that are verifiable through older manuscript evidence. I will begin with the other gospel accounts.
“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. “The one who has believed and has been baptized will be saved; but the one who has not believed will be condemned.”
“Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “So it is written, that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed IN HIS NAME to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. “You are witnesses of these things. “And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
“So Yeshua said to them again, “Peace be to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
Nothing is mentioned about being baptized according to the Trinitarian formula. The concept of being baptized in the name of three separate beings was foreign to second-temple Jews. God is one and his name one. The Messiah was sent forth by the Father to do the will of the Father under the authority of the Father. Let us look at what some of the other writers had to say about “the name” of Yeshua and about baptism.
“For this reason also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Messiah Yeshua is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
“Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Messiah Yeshua for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
‘For you will be a witness for Him to all people of what you have seen and heard. ‘Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.’
“Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Messiah Yeshua. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.”
A few other examples can be found in (Gal. 3:27, Rom. 6:3-4, Acts 19:4-5, Col. 2:11-12)
“Belief in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost was defined by early general councils of the Christian church: The council of Nicea in 325 and the council of Constantinople in 381... (World book encyclopedia, 2004 Edition, vol. t, p. 363.)
The New International Encyclopedia, 1916 Edition, Vol. 22, p. 47, 477, records: “The Trinity doctrine; the Catholic faith is this: We worship one in trinity, but there is one person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy ghost - The glory equal; the majesty co-eternal. The doctrine is not found in its fully developed form in the scriptures. Modern theology does not seek to find it in the Old testament. At the time of the Reformation, the Protestant church took over the doctrine of the Trinity without serious examination.”
The history of an idea must be researched in order to determine if the idea is a valid scriptural teaching. There are so many doctrines in the faith of Christianity that were developed hundreds of years after Yeshua and have been read back into the text. Knowing nothing of the culture and religion of the first-century Jew named Yeshua means we only know what the church tells us, and that is not an accurate representation of the Messiah or the faith of the Messiah.
The great “addition/omission” commission
For a more in depth study of this E-Word article check it out on the Berean Scripture Study page
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
There are obvious problems with these verses. Various Christian groups cite them as a command and the basis for ministry work and evangelism. A casual reading of almost every translation of the bible for this verse seems as if this is a command. Go! Make disciples! That’s pretty clear, is not it? Unfortunately, English is hardly ever clear. The text does not say, go. The verb is an aorist, passive, participle, not an imperative, thus, it should say something like “as you have been going.” It is a continuing action from the past to the present, something that is still ongoing.
The text also does not say, “make disciples” but it says “disciple.” What is the difference? The Hebrew concept of discipleship involves a lot of time and energy. Discipleship is a demonstration of God’s will in my life to the student. A disciple in Hebrew culture copies the life of the master. This is not the passing on of information that we experience in our Greek educational system. You may have heard someone say, “do as I say, not as I do.” Yeshua certainly never imagined that as a possibility. Living the way the master lived, doing what the master did is a disciple. The master teaches the disciple to observe a particular way of life. For Yeshua that life revolved around the word of YHVH, the Torah.
As you live, whether you are a welder, a carpenter, a tax collector, you teach others as you go along. The condition under which you are going to perform the command is your basis for discipleship. You live differently than the rest of the world and they see you live differently. How do I imitate Yeshua if I do not know who Yeshua was? The early followers did not have this problem, but as time went on and the faith grew into a Hellenistic religion under Rome, Yeshua became someone else, something else.
These verses are not a great commission to evangelize and build “the church.” We have no control over the process. God draws people to himself through his son. (John 6:44) We plant and water, but God causes the growth. (1 Cor. 3:6-7) Evangelism is not our job, being a follower of Yeshua is our job, and when we walk the path, we are to be doers of the word as we go. I have not even gotten to the baptism part of these verses yet. That is another story for another day.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when we consider the bigger picture. There are so many problems with the text and so few problem-solvers. Personally, I am not a problem solver. I simply enjoy pointing problems out and sharing ideas. We each have to decide how comfortable we are with the idea of errors, inaccuracies, and purposeful glosses in a text we consider sacred and inspired.
The return of the king
There is a connection between the resurrection of the dead and the sudden transformation and “catching up” of those who are alive at the return of the Messiah. Modern Christian doctrine primarily teaches that this “catching up,” or rapture, comes well before the return of the Messiah and thus, prior to the resurrection of the dead. The history of an idea is often more important than the idea itself and the rapture is no different. The teaching emerged in the 1800s and has become one of the more popular doctrines in fundamentalist evangelical Christianity. Is a rapture what Paul had in mind?
There are a few key events that aid in our understanding of what Paul wrote about. The sounding of the last trumpet, the return of Yeshua, and the raising of the dead are all closely related. Let us dig in and investigate these events.
(1 Cor. 15:22-23, 50-53)
For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Messiah the first fruits, after that those who are Messiah’s at His coming...”
“Now I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does perishable inherit imperishable. Behold, I am telling you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on imperishable, and this mortal put on immortality.”
There is an order to things which Paul carefully explains. When Yeshua returns at the last trumpet, the dead will be raised and those who are alive that belong to him will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and put on spirit bodies, like those who are resurrected. This all happens quickly and in a specific order. We are given a clearer picture when we compare first Corinthians fifteen with first Thessalonians four.
(1 Thess. 4:15-17)
“For we say this to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive, who remain, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
Once again, the return of Yeshua is associated with the sound of a trumpet. In this account, we are told that those who are alive at the coming of the Messiah will NOT precede those who are dead. The dead will rise first and then those who remain, those who in Corinthians are said to “belong to the Messiah” will be caught up together with them in the air.
Corinthians explains how the resurrection works and also how the transformation in the blinking of an eye occurs for those still alive. Being caught up in the clouds is clearly preceded by the sudden change from flesh to spirit. The mortal put on immortality and join the raised dead.
The order of events is clear and what occurs is unmistakable. The resurrection of the dead is connected to the catching up of the living at the final trumpet when the Messiah returns. In Revelation, trumpet blasts are connected to judgments upon the earth, but the seventh and final blast is associated with the reign of the Messiah.
(Rev. 10:7, 11:15)
“but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He announced to His servants the prophets.”
“Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdom of the world has become kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah; and He will reign forever and ever.”
The sounding of trumpets is associated with the return of Yeshua and the fulfillment of the mystery of God, as announced to the prophets. Connecting these occurrences can lead to speculation and the formation of doctrines, but it can also reveal holes in others which are not solidly based in scripture. One day soon we will get to witness these events. Hopefully, whether dead or alive, we will be part of those who belong to the Messiah.
“And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. “And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET BLAST, and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
Times New Roman
2 Tim. 4:3
“For the TIME is coming when people will not endure sound teaching...”
“But when the TIME of the promise drew near...”
There are two different Greek words translated as time in English. In Timothy, the word is “Kairos” which generally means a set or specific time. The Hebrew equivalent in the LXX is “Moed” which means appointed time like we find in Leviticus 23 with the appointed times of the Lord, a.k.a. the Holy days or feast days.
In Acts, the word is “Chronos” (sound familiar?) which is general and means a period of time. The Hebrew equivalent in the LXX is “Yom” meaning day or days. An example of this can be found in Genesis 26:1 when the text mentions “a famine in the land in the days of Abraham.”
The world of today is based on the Greek model of “chronos” time. There is a beginning, an end, and a bunch of points in between by which we mark eras based on specific events like the stone age or the ice age. An age is another word which comes from the Greek “aeon.” I have written about “aeon” before. An “aeon” is a determined length of “Chronos” time. The hands on a clock determine the passing of every new day as we plan and schedule. We are controlled by this concept. God does not work this way. The Hebrew concept of time does not work this way. Bible Chronology and dispensationalism have been introduced in an attempt to make sense of creation and our place in the universe. The distinction between “In the beginning, God created” and “When God began creating” changes everything we think we know about time.
How often have you arrived late for an event or perhaps missed a flight and you found yourself in a state of disarray? Sometimes God puts us in a place at a specific time for a reason and we miss the point or the plan because we are concerned with our own place in the chronology of our own making. “Kairos” has no English equivalent. It is the God engineered time when everything occurs at just the right moment. “Kairos” cannot be marked on the calendar unless God is the one who marks it.
Hindsight often helps to identify “kairos” in our lives. How often have you looked back at a series of seemingly unrelated events to see them all merge together at a point of revelation for your life? What we might perceive as a negative event, such as losing all our money or going to jail, was really God intervening on our behalf at that set moment in time where he had our attention. Did we respond appropriately or did we carry on down our own path, attempting to do things our own way in our own time? A moment of “kairos” can occur at any “chronos.” Everlasting life in the “aeon” to come depends on these moments of “kairos.”
I hear teachers and preachers always going on and on about the chronology of events and how it is all leading up to some prophetic moment where some period of history begins with a countdown to the end of the timeline as we know it. The “seven-year tribulation” or the “rapture” are based on the Greek idea of time, with little consideration of the Hebrew model. Daniel, Ezekiel, John, and Peter were all Hebrew writers and Hebrew thinkers. These men were not Greek.
The “end times” will occur when God accomplishes all he has said he will do. There is no date on a man-made calendar that we can set and no defining moment of “kairos” along the passing “chronos” that will begin a countdown to the “aeon” to come. We assume there is a set day and hour when Yeshua said “no one knows the day or the hour” because we are thinking Greek. There will come a time, but it will come according to God’s plan and purpose, not our own.
This weekend is the holy day of Shavuot. Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, of course, there is no longer a temple to make a pilgrimage too. In the Christian tradition, it is called Pentecost. Pentecost is considered the birthday of the church. The coming of the spirit in the book of Acts was on the holy day of Shavuot when a very large number of Jews from all over the known world were gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration. I have written about the holy days before in various studies. Today I want to consider the word Ecclesia and its usage compared to the word synagogue as well as consider the question, Is Shavuot really the “birthday” of the Christian church?
(Much of the following has been taken from an ongoing study of the book of Acts on the bible podcast page.)
Ecclesia and synagogue are both gatherings. Why does Paul separate the two? They are both Greek words. That’s right, synagogue is NOT a Hebrew word. Paul visits synagogues but when he writes, he writes to those who have been called by God to be a part of one body in the Messiah. Whether in the synagogue or a family home, those called who come out are now “ecclesia” but that does not mean they leave the synagogue.
It can be difficult to separate from our mind the common understanding that synagogue is Jewish and ecclesia is christian. Paul uses the term for a reason, to separate the religious idea from a civic idea. The recipients of Paul’s letter may have attended a synagogue but are called ecclesia. The gathering is important, those who are gathering are important, but where they are gathering is not as significant as why they are gathering.
We think Paul planted churches, but this is, of course, a doctrine and not historically accurate. Stephen is an interesting example.
“This is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness together with the angel who spoke to him at length on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to you.”
Why is ecclesia translated assembly and not church like it is everywhere else? Because translators do not want us to imagine the “church” existed prior to Paul. The church was in the wilderness at Sinai, or the congregation in the wilderness. Paul is using the word the same way as Stephen, and the same way as Moses. This is a deliberate mistranslation because of the belief that church began at Pentecost. This is a theological intention to lace scripture with replacement theology.
Hebrew = Qāhēl (6951) is an assembly or congregation. Qahel is called for a purpose by the caller! God calls the assembly.
The Hebrew Qahel becomes Pauls Ecclesia in Greek. An assembly that is called together for a specific purpose. It's like a town meeting where the elders meet together to discuss issues involving the community. They have a purpose for gathering, not just to gather.
Another related Hebrew word is Edah (H5712) which becomes the Greek somo or “body” of Christ. Somo is a single, unified group.
You can have a qahal that is not an Edah. Simply put, you can have a called-out assembly that does not function like one unified group.
The church today is largely a qahal. A bunch of bodies that function separately may be “called” individual, the ecclesia, but they are not united as one. The Hebrew Edah is connected to the Greek Synagogue in the Septuagint. While the hebrew Qahel is connected to Ecclesia.
Example: Num. 20:8
Take the staff; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it shall yield its water. So you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and have the congregation and their livestock drink.
λαβὲ τὴν ῥάβδον καὶ ἐκκλησίασον τὴν συναγωγὴν σὺ καὶ Ααρων ὁ ἀδελφός σου καὶ λαλήσατε πρὸς τὴν πέτραν ἔναντι αὐτῶν καὶ δώσει τὰ ὕδατα αὐτῆς καὶ ἐξοίσετε αὐτοῖς ὕδωρ ἐκ τῆς πέτρας καὶ ποτιεῖτε τὴν συναγωγὴν καὶ τὰ κτήνη αὐτῶν
קַח אֶת־הַמַּטֶּה וְהַקְהֵל אֶת־הָעֵדָה אַתָּה וְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ וְדִבַּרְתֶּם אֶל־הַסֶּלַע לְעֵינֵיהֶם וְנָתַן מֵימָיו וְהוֹצֵאתָ לָהֶם מַיִם מִן־הַסֶּלַע וְהִשְׁקִיתָ אֶת־הָעֵדָה וְאֶת־בְּעִירָם׃
The ecclesia are those gathered from the synagogue or the congregation group. We are ecclesia or church because we are called and separated from some other system. When we read Paul, we have to understand this: he is speaking of called individuals from a whole who come together as one unified body for a specific purpose. We have to remove the idea of the separation of church and synagogue from our thinking.
God needs us to be one and affect the lives of each other and those outside. This is a LONG process. Yeshua started with 12 and at the end, he effectively had 120. He was not seeking those thousands who believed and followed him, but the few who knew him, and changed from old to new into him. The road is small but destruction is a wide gate!
That they may be One! If we are obedient, we will be one together as one body under one authority. We have lots of qahels but no edahs. Called, but not one body. We must have the same authority. The Messiah! What is his authority? You could say God, but through what method is God Yeshua’s authority? We must affect the lives of others in the body to transform them. Our mission is to transform others, not preach a message based on information that you must believe, but to change and transform the lives of those who will then form more small parts of the body. This is Discipleship!
Ecclesia is never used in Greek literature in a religious sense. God first called and set apart individuals in service to him thousands of years ago. He brought together Israel as a nation by calling them out of Egypt and giving them the Torah on the Mountain. He called them all for a purpose and set them apart from the rest of the nations for service to him. This is the true meaning of the “church.” Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, the words of life. Approximately 1500 years later, the spirit was poured out on those Jews on Shavuot. God is a God of patterns. It's time to pay more attention.
A different approach
“Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
I have written some longer studies lately so this time I will keep it short and let you do the work. I will just share a few thoughts and see where it goes.
Have you ever heard someone teach that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? This would mean that God commanded a human sacrifice. Over the centuries, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have all applied this story in various ways. Have you ever imagined this as anything but a command? What if it was something else? What if God is only suggesting something?
Let’s take a closer look at the Hebrew. The verb “laqah” ( לָקַח ) translated to take or take now is written in this sentence “qah-na.” ( קַח־נָא ) (Strongs won’t tell you this, you have to look at the text or the Forward or reverse inline.) The attached particle, “na,” changes the verb from a command to a request.
“Now take, please, your son, your only son...”
English ignores the Hebrew “na” in translation. This is not the only place where this occurs. While “na” occurs many, many times in Hebrew, it occurs 5 times in the Tanakh when God speaks to a man. (Gen. 13:14-15) (Gen. 15:5) (Exo. 11:2) ( Isaiah 7:3)
This means Abraham is not commanded to act, he is free to make a choice. Verse one tells us this is a test. Abraham does not know it is a test, though. We read what we know into the text and our understanding of it, but what if we thought from Abrahams’ perspective? As a father, I cannot imagine a situation where I would ever say, sure God, I will take my son and sacrifice him. What father would do this without question? Remember, Abraham stood up to God and argued with him over Sodom, yet here he says nothing at all to God about sacrificing the very son he promised him.
Abraham chose to take his son up on the mountain in an act of obedience to God. He had great faith, but what about his relationship with Isaac? Isaac was likely not a young child at the time, like most believe. A majority of older commentaries, like the Talmud, believe he was between 12 and 37. According to Seder olam chapter 1, he was 37. Sarah was 90 when Isacc was born (Gen 17:17, 21:5) and she dies at 127. (Gen. 23:1)
The basis for this is that the binding of Isaac seems to have occurred immediately prior to Sarah’s death. Isaac was faithful to his father, as Abraham was to his, but Abraham was certainly not a faithful father to Isaac. He didn’t even argue with God as he did on behalf of his nephew Lot. Does this change your perspective? I am not saying this is how it should be viewed. This is only another way to look at it. Think about things differently and you might be able to break down some barriers which continue to harm the body of the Messiah.
Matters of faith
“But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a severe famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. “And there were many with leprosy in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and brought Him to the crest of the hill on which their city had been built, so that they could throw Him down from the cliff. But He passed through their midst and went on His way.”
Yeshua begins his ministry in the Galilee after his return from the wilderness. According to the text, he was being glorified by all as the news of his teaching in the synagogues spread throughout the region. Then he comes to his hometown of Nazareth. Here is where he reads from the scroll of Isaiah and afterwards he is no longer glorified by all in the Galilee. Why? Because they knew him? Verse 22 reveals that they too were impressed by Yeshua and they spoke well of him because of his gracious words. Was he not Joseph’s son? What made them so angry after sharing two examples of faith from the Torah?
1 Kings 17:8-16
2 Kings 5:1-15
These two examples of great faith were gentiles, and they are presented as models of authentic faith. For the widow, trust in Israels God and obedience to him, even though trusting in the particular situation seemed to be a death sentence. She was in the land where Baal had power, yet she trusted in the God of Israel. Naaman was obedient, even when it sounded ridiculous. He was not exactly shown the respect due to his station when he came to the prophet who sent a messenger in his stead. Go wash in a dirty river? We are asked to do simpler things as followers of Yeshua, as worshippers of YHVH. Instead of doing what we are asked, we seek ways around it. We follow our own heart and let our own conscience guide us instead of the commandments of God. We are happy to believe that God exists, and that he sent his son to pay for sin, but when we are asked to trust him and to be obedient to his word, we often choose to the path of least resistance.
Romans 14:23 says, “whatever is not of faith is sin.” In modern Christianity, the more appropriate rendering might have been, “whatever is not of faith is unbelief.” For Paul, the opposite of faith is sin, because his understanding of faith includes obedience to God. These examples show the true expression of faith. The widow believed the God of Israel was a God, Naaman believed as well, but in these accounts the widow trusted him even though giving the last of what she had during a famine was surely a death sentence. Naaman was obedient to his words even though they angered him because the command seemed senseless, even ludicrous, to wash in a dirty river to be cleansed.
Is there a connection between Yeshua’s reading of Isaiah where he proclaims in the synagogue his identity as the Messiah who is sent to proclaim to the captives freedom and the prophet Elijah who is sent to the gentile widow? Is there a connection between the Messiah bringing in those from outside Israel and the prophet Elisha attracting Naaman to Israel? The people of his hometown of Nazareth were so angry at this proclamation by one of their own. There is certainly more to this story. They were trying to throw Yeshua off a cliff! He was obviously not upholding the values, traditions, and expectations of the community. He was not the first person to apply such texts to himself, but the way he did, it seems as if it were blasphemous to those listening. Application of these texts to those outside of Israel is another issue. Are there not plenty of examples of faithful Israelites? There was nothing about the oppression of Israel by Rome?
Matthews’ account gives details that reveal something else of interest.
“And He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, with the result that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man acquire this wisdom and these miraculous powers? “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is His mother not called Mary, and His brothers, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? “And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man acquire all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not dishonored except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.”
Here it says “he did not do many miracles because of their unbelief.” Marks version says he “could not.” Does unbelief hinder God’s ability to work through his anointed? The word “apistia” is from the Hebrew “emunah” which is translated unbelief instead of a lack of faith. Unbelief is a BAD translation! That is not the only problem. The Greek is differs from Mark and Matthew, where it says “he did not” or “could not.” In Matthew, the word is “poieo” which is in the aorist, active, which indicates Yeshua chose not to do miracles. In Mark the word is “dunamai” meaning “to be able to” which is in the imperfect passive, which indicates it was a continuing action brought about by someone else. There is a conflict in the texts. Oh no, the perfect word of God is not harmonious. Whatever shall we do?
Think about a little more. What do we know about God and Yeshua? What do we know about their character? Mark indicates that Yeshua did do some minor healings, so despite the Greek issue, we see Yeshua was not prevented from performing miracles. The people had already decided for themselves that this young man they knew who was the son of Joseph was not the Messiah.
Even if Yeshua performed some amazing signs, they probably would not have believed, anyway. Remember, we know Yeshua is humble and never uses miracles to prove the skeptics wrong. Miracles are used to serve God and his purpose, not mans, not even Yeshua’s own. I imagine he wanted these people he knew best to accept him, but the temptation did not cause him to overstep his bounds just as the devil was unable to get him to perform miracles in the temptation.
Yeshua chose not to perform miracles in his hometown. They chose to disregard his words, the stories they had heard about him, the minor miracles he did perform because their paradigm did not allow them to accept that this son of a local “builder” who they all knew could probably be the long-awaited Messiah. Many in Israel would eventually feel the same way. After it was all said and done, only about 120 kept following Yeshua. After all the healings, the miracles which could only be from the power of God, the only ones left were those who trusted in him. Thousands had been healed of life-altering infirmities and surely they believed him, but only a select few chose to follow him and truly act on all they had seen and heard.
What kind of faith do I have? Do I believe? Sure, but do I trust? Do I act on my faith in God in good times and bad? Am I like the widow, or perhaps more like those in Nazareth who thought they knew Yeshua?
Seeing is desiring
“Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
According to common Jewish interpretation, it is unrealistic to prohibit feelings of attraction. To covet something without taking action is not a punishable offense. Who really knows about it except for you and God? This is an area where Yeshua was more strict in the application of Torah than even the Pharisees. According to the Messiah, sins of the heart are equivalent to sins of action.
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MURDER,’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be answerable to the court.’ “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. “Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. “Come to good terms with your accuser quickly, while you are with him on the way to court, so that your accuser will not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will not be thrown into prison. “Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last quadrans. “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
To look at a woman with “epithymeō.” Lust is the word we find in the Greek Septuagint. It means desire or longing and is the word used for all coveting prohibitions for both the Exodus and Deuteronomy decalogue. (10 commandments) With this translation, there are some important connections that we miss in the Hebrew text. The root of the Hebrew “ḥāmaḏ” in the qal verbal form is often paired with an active verb, like “taking.” One example of this is found in Joshua 7:21.
“when I saw among the spoils a beautiful robe from Shinar, two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I wanted them and took them; and behold, they are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
While this is not always the case, the understanding that action often follows desire is typical. Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who was a contemporary of Yeshua, believed that “craving what is not ones own is the root of all social evil. Why else does one murder, commit adultery, steal, or bear false witness?” Men desire power and influence over almost anything and, as we know, will do almost anything in order to attain these desires. Once they obtain power and influence, they will do whatever they have to do to maintain their position. The prophets spoke allegorically of Kings in Egypt, Tyre, and Babylon, speaking of their desires to be like God or even be exalted above God himself. (Isa. 14:4-22) (Ezek. 28) (Ezek. 29:1-10) A careful reading of these scriptures reveals the very heart of these kings.
The Hebrew “ḥāmaḏ” is not just a negative word, but is also used positively. It can mean precious, delight, or desirable. The clear eye in Luke 11:34-35 can help us understand this because the generous person is unlikely to be covetous, in fact, they are polar opposites. The clear or good eye is a Hebrew idiom, meaning a person is generous. Instead of building more barns to hold your extra grain, a rich man should instead take the extra he has and give to those in need. We live in a capitalist society where this type of thinking is very much against the ideals of the society.
A desire for more is almost impossible to avoid. Our world is full of advertisements, the desire of the eye. The serpent in the garden successfully used this method with the woman. Look here! This will make you look, feel, or act better.
(1 Tim. 6:8-10)
“If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
It is difficult to guard ourselves from such things, especially the desire for more and more. The love of money may be the root of all sorts of evil, but it is the desire for all that money can buy us in this world that is behind the love of money in the first place. What good is money if it cannot be used to attain the things I need? The desire to consume is what an addict feels for his drug of choice. Like a man desires power and will stop at nothing in order to attain it, the addict desires the drug. The addict will steal, lie, damage, even murder in order to attain the fruit of his desire. The world today is full of people who desire more and more, and though they may not be drug addicts, they are no different in their quest for more of whatever it is they are chasing.
I could go on and on with this subject. It is never-ending. The main point I hope to make is that each of God’s commandments are tied together and one sin will lead to another and another. That is why there are only two possible roads to walk. The road to life is the road where God is our authority and no other rules, ethics, or laws can lead us on this path. Yeshua walks ahead of us and all we need to do is follow him. As simple as that sounds, how often do those who walk this path tell those who do not that it’s easy?
(Proverbs 18:21) “Death and life are in the power of the tongue...”
Adultery is like murder. The one committing the sin is knowingly engaged in an act with another person, which leads to death for both parties. The other, while making their own choice, is also guilty of the same sin. Either party at any time prior to the act could choose to stop, thus saving the life of the other person. There is yet more which comes with such a sin. They subject others in the community to the temptation to carry whispers about the suspected sins and thus, they are then subject to “lashon ha-ra” or the evil tongue.
Lashon = tongue
Ha = the
(Lev.19:16) “Do not go about spreading slander among your people; do not jeopardize your neighbor’s life; I am the LORD.”
Lashon hara is slander but includes gossip, even if what is said about another person is true. Slander is found in the OT about 6 times. The Hebrew word is “rākîl” and is translated various ways into English. A “hālak rākîl” is a talebearer or one who spreads gossip, though this is far from the serious meaning of the Hebrew. James lets us know just how serious it is. Understanding Lashon ha-ra gives greater insight into James and his words in chapter 3.
“And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by Gehenna. Every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish is tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness.”
Social media is a platform where people focus on self and self-image above almost everything else. It has been built on unrestrained lashon hara. Sure, it can be used for good, however, the reality is, social media is a tool that fits perfectly in our western society where personal freedoms are more important than anything else. Loving my neighbor and loving God is impossible in a world where my personal freedoms are the most important aspect of my existence. Freedom of speech is not an absolute right, as there are laws against incitement and defamation. Defamation is concerned with untruths about another, but again, the principal behind lashon ha-ra includes things which are also true.
Shame and humiliation can lead to irreparable damage to a person’s reputation, which can affect their very livelihood. According to Ecclesiastes, “a good name is better than fine oil”. Imagine what slander might cause in the life of another person. Their relationship with family might suffer as a result of them losing respect in the community, perhaps a loss of employment, which might lead to depression. There are a number of possibilities we might explore because of just a few words. Words are powerful indeed. The Talmud teaches that the ancient temple was destroyed because of lashon ha-ra. In Gittin 55b, Bar Kamtza’s retaliation for being humiliated eventually led to the war between the Jews and the Romans, and ultimately to the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile of the Jews.
“I will sing of faithful love and justice; I will sing praise to you, LORD. I will pay attention to the way of integrity. When will you come to me? I will live with a heart of integrity in my house. I will not let anything worthless guide me. I hate the practice of transgression; it will not cling to me. A devious heart will be far from me; I will not be involved with evil. I will destroy anyone who secretly slanders his neighbor; I cannot tolerate anyone with haughty eyes or an arrogant heart. My eyes favor the faithful of the land so that they may sit down with me. The one who follows the way of integrity may serve me. No one who acts deceitfully will live in my palace; the one who tells lies will not be retained here to guide me. Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, wiping out all evildoers from the LORD’s city.”
The words of David are a reflection of the heart of God. Prophetically, the Psalm speaks through the mouth of God through his servant David. Secret slander is an interesting way to put it, but is understandable because slander is usually always done behind someone’s back and not to their face. The only people who know of the offense are God and the one to whom the slanderer is speaking. The slanderer themselves may not be aware of their sin, but this is certainly not always the case, especially for those who know the word of God.
Blatant disregard for the well-being of others is a typical aspect of modern speech and, if viewed through the lens of ancient Hebrews, would tell a sad story, one where nearly everyone is defacing the image of God in another person without even thinking. The rabbis considered lashon ha-ra to be the greatest sin, as it is likened to idolatry. It is indifference to the image of the Creator, which in our modern day infects the entire world on a massive scale. Social media is a gateway through which lashon ha-ra is spread far and wide by millions of people, often without realizing the seriousness of the words they so carelessly type.
“I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak (TYPE?). “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Cause the spirit/bible tells me so
“Yeshua answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. “The one who doesn’t love me will not keep my words. The word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me. “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”
I have a word from the Lord. The spirit will lead me. Holy spirit tells me this verse means.. I do not need to do anything beyond read my bible and pray and God will lead me into understanding. I could go on, but I know you get the idea. Someone at your church or in your study group is under the impression that knowledge is of primary importance to God and that God will give you the saving knowledge through the anointing of the spirit. No teacher needed. We are our own teachers because we are anointed. Many claim such power, but “the spirit” told them something different about a particular verse than it did me.
Christianity is a religion of knowledge. What a person believes is the most important aspect of their faith. What we believe reveals a lot about who we are, but not necessarily what we are. Alexander would look back and be proud of what he built. Greek culture and thinking conquered the known world in his day and, down to our own time, lives on in modern western society. Hebrew culture is largely ignored and very misunderstood. The empire of Rome is the mother of Christianity and, as a result, the way we understand the text of the new testament is thoroughly Greek.
John was not a Hellenistic Jew. When John was writing 1 John chapter 2, he was not thinking in Greek philosophical terms. To be anointed by god meant to be called and chosen by him for a purpose. Those who are part of the Ecclesia are anointed, and the word they have heard from the beginning means they not only heard it but lived it. To hear meant to obey. All Jewish children grew up learning the Torah. The word of God was inculcated in them from infancy and thus they needed no one to teach them the way because they had been instructed in the way their entire lives and now Yeshua the Messiah of God had come and showed them the way in all its glory.
The spirit will be poured out on all people and all people will know the lord and walk in his ways. This time has yet to come. The prophecy is clear, and the world we live in is not the world of this prophecy fulfilled. No one will need another to teach them about Yah because all will know him and if they know him, they will walk the way without needing guidance. The “church” is not a representation of the Ecclesia. The spirit of truth has not led men to 30,000 different roads to walk, there is only 1 path. There is only one way, and it is a narrow road that causes pain, offense and cannot be walked by counterfeit followers.
When there is no standard, humans will do what is right in their own eyes. They will follow their hearts. Welcome to our world. A world where we decide what is best for ourselves. Many have already forgotten the creator, and for those who remember, in large part, they deny his authority. As long as they know the right way to believe, then the right way to walk no longer makes much difference. Grace is the only rule.
I am a big fan of Yochanan (John). I believe he is the disciple Yeshua loved, and that he is the author of the gospel of John, the epistles of 1,2,3 John, as well as revelation. His writing style is very Jewish. He was a simple Jew, a son of a fisherman and a fisherman himself. He was more educated than most are led to believe. All Jewish children were given a good Hebrew education, especially in Torah and tradition. Contrary to what many scholars believe, Johns gospel is likely an eyewitness account.
Yeshua told his apostles that the spirit would bring to mind all that he had taught them. I personally was not taught directly by Yeshua, so he was not speaking to me. The apostles were able to call to mind all his words after he was gone because of the spirit. This is why the secondhand account of Yeshua is good enough to be called his words.
The subject at hand is one which will become more important as we move closer and closer to the coming of Yeshua. Most of the religious world is in lockstep with the political spirit of the world and the melding together of the two while pushing God further and further into the past is inevitable. Who is my authority? A question we should all ask ourselves.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight. Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil.”
Hellenism and our faith
Some time ago, I wrote about Gnosticism and its influences on Christianity. I meant to write about Hellenism soon thereafter, but other matters became more important. This week I think it is time to investigate a little into Hellenism and its influences on Christianity and modern Rabbinic Judaism.
Hellenism refers to the influence of Greek culture on the world, particularly in the areas of literature, philosophy, and religion. The New Testament is believed to have been written almost entirely in Greek, which is the language of the Hellenistic world. Thanks to Alexander the Great, Greek became the lingua Franca of the eastern Mediterranean. Because of the influence of Greek in the known world, the early New Testament writings spread far and wide and eventually reached a vast audience of Greek speaking Jews in the diaspora and gentiles.
Hellenistic culture influenced the worldview of the early believers. The way they communicated is not the only influence, but how they understood the world and their place in it, as well as God’s place in creation, was altered. The Hebrew worldview differs from the Greek worldview. Greek philosophical concepts like divine reason or the logos and the idea of the soul, body, and spirit making up the whole of a man are but a couple of examples.
The Hebrew concept of a divine Torah is not the same as that of the logos. The Hebrew concept of spirit and soul is certainly not the same as the Greek body, spirit, and soul. Man is a living being animated by the spirit of God, and communicating this idea into Greek along with the influence of Greek philosophy leaves us with a non biblical way of understanding what a human is in relation to God.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Greek influence on Hebrew culture is the way the scriptures were translated and interpreted. The Greek Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, was used throughout the world in the first century. Translators used Greek philosophical terms to translate Hebrew concepts, which had a significant impact on the way Jewish ideas were interpreted by Greek speaking Jews and later gentile followers of Yeshua. The usage of Greek words in the Septuagint was often different from the modern vernacular. Yeshua, Paul, Peter, etc. were all familiar with, even quoting from the Septuagint.
Another example of the influence of Hellenism on the Interpretation of scripture is the use of allegory in the interpretation of the New Testament. Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle used allegory to interpret the various myths and legends of the time. This approach was adopted by early Christian writers, such as Origen and Augustine. The use of allegory in interpretation has had a significant impact on Christian theology and modern spirituality. One of the most common and unfortunate mistranslations of a Torah concept is the idea of perfection. Both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism have been influenced by this parmenidean infection.
God’s character does not change, however, scripture portrays God as an interactive, dynamic, and thus, changing being. We easily mistake character with actions and when we do not distinguish between the two, we ignore the evidence of God’s changing actions throughout scripture. We are ontologically imperfect. Anything that changes cannot be perfect. As a result, we feel we can never live up to God’s expectations, even though he tells us we can in scripture. (Deut. 30) Greek thinking seeks a reason to profess that we are not good enough, but for those who try, God accepts them. David, Rahab, Daniel, the list goes on. All people who have fallen short of the glory of God yet found that in their attempts at living a dedicated life to him, whether for a moment or for a lifetime found grace, thus found that they were acceptable to him.
Another look at God’s anniversary day(s)
Spring is here and the beginning of months, according to Exodus 12:2-3, have arrived. Passover begins with the setting of the sun on Wednesday evening, which is usually when I send this e-mail. I am taking a break this week so the content is from notes on the subject I prepared as part of our fellowship study that we went over a month or two ago, so this might look familiar to some.
There has always been controversy surrounding the death and resurrection of Yeshua. The time Yeshua spent in the grave, the last supper and its relation to the Passover meal, the seeming contradiction between John’s gospel and the three synoptics. The list goes on. We will focus on the three days and three nights and the importance of God’s calendar.
To begin, I want to determine what three days and three nights meant to first-century Jews and thus what it meant to Yeshua. The way Jews refer to a day or days, or a year or years is not always specific. In fact, it is hardly ever exact. For example, if we say a king served for seven years, this is a round number representing a period of approximately seven years, but certainly not to the day. When Paul went to Arabia, then Damascus for three years, he very well could have been there for one year and six months. (Gal. 1:17-18)
How does this work? Paul could have started his count in the last month of the year, counted the entire next year, and then only stayed five months into the final year. Paul counted each period as a year, even though it was only 1.6 years. The same reckoning applies to days. I might say I spent three days on the road after driving from nine p.m. Monday, all day Tuesday, and returning home by five p.m. Wednesday. Technically, I was only on the road approximately two days and not seventy-two whole hours, but I would say it was three days.
I believe Yeshua was specific when he alluded to Jonah being in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. There are two reasons for this. One, his death coincides with and is in fulfillment of the appointed times. (holy days) Two, this is in line with God’s accounting in Genesis of what a Day is.
(Jonah 1:17, Matt.12:40)
“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Yeshua alludes to there being twelve hours in a day in John 11:9. The Roman day was twelve hours and began at sunrise. The Jewish day began at sunset and ended at sunset and, depending on the time of year, there may be more or fewer hours in a day. Yeshua mentioning twelve was typical of the average amount of sunlight during a day depending on the season. A day had approximately twelve hours, and a night was approximately twelve hours. The hours were relative. This is not an issue when you do not have a clock controlling your every moment. Ancient Jewish writings always refer to relative hours. The Romans were similar in their reckoning as well.
Genesis should be part of our consideration, as it would have been part of Yeshua’s basis. “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Each new day had an evening and a morning, or a sunset and a sunrise. Remember that each Jewish day begins at sunset, so from sunset to sunset includes a sunrise. One day on earth is approximately twenty-four hours. This is relative because the sunset determines when a day begins and ends, not hands on a clock. God’s clock is the master clock.
When was Yeshua slain and then placed in the tomb? Was it on a Friday? How long was he in the tomb? Church tradition holds that it was Friday to Sunday, but that is not three days and three nights. If Yeshua was not being specific but was speaking idiomatically, then this works, but we believe he was being specific, especially when he said, “for just as JONAH WAS IN THE STOMACH OF THE SEA MONSTER FOR THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” He does not just say three days, but three days and three nights.
Now we will look at God’s “Moedim” (appointed times) and how they connect to the death and resurrection of Yeshua.
Yeshua was nailed to the Roman cross and died on Passover and is called our Passover. (Matt. 18:39, John 19:14-16, 42) (1 Cor. 5:7)
The gospel accounts make it difficult to determine the timing because they all seem to call the feast by a different name and put the last supper at a different time than the Passover celebration. At least they seem to. In the first century, and today, the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread and first fruits, has all become known as one feast. It is called Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, or just the feast. A couple of examples are found in Luke 2:41, where the whole week is called by one name, Passover. In Luke 22:1, it says it was “the day of unleavened bread on which the Passover was to be sacrificed.” Unless you know that the lamb was sacrificed and prepared on Passover and eaten the evening beginning the first day of unleavened bread, you might not understand all the different references and seemingly contradictory issues.
John tends not to confuse things as much, he is also the only gospel writer who was an eyewitness. John 19:14 calls the day Yeshua was crucified, the day of the preparation of the Passover, but in 18:39, he calls it the Passover. The preparation of the Passover is Passover day, because passover is not eaten until the first day of unleavened bread, after sunset. Yeshua was placed in the tomb before the sun set.
Exodus 12:5-20 helps to understand where this originated and why God declared it to be this way.
“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. “ This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.”
Without the foundation of Exodus and Leviticus, what happened in the gospels can be difficult to understand in our modern English translations. Leviticus 23:6, 10-11
The significance of “not a bone of his shall be broken” not only relates to the lamb being without spot and blemish, but the Lamb was not to have any bones broken. (Exo. 12:46) Yeshua was that lamb, as we know. He was the perfect sacrifice. His body was to go into the grave just before the beginning of the feast of matza. There was no leaven in the bread, just as there was no sin in the Messiah. (1 Cor. 5:6-8) The feast of Passover and Matza are linked and Paul alludes to this in his writing about Yeshua as the Passover. First fruits is also lumped into the week of Passover and not separated as a day of its own like it was originally. This one is easy to miss and not as easy to grasp, but the sheaf of the first fruits waved before the Lord is important.
Yeshua was raised on firstfruits. Paul alludes to this in 1 Cor. 15:20-23, calling Yeshua the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. The feast of firstfruits is about the firstfruits of the new harvest season. The resurrection of the dead is like a harvest, with Yeshua being the first fruits of that harvest. According to Leviticus, the day of firstfruits was the day after the Sabbath, making the first day of the week as the day which the sheaf of firstfruits is waved. The key to understanding this as relating to Yeshua being resurrected on firstfruits and being what Paul was alluding to is in Levitcus 23:15-16.
This tells us that from the day you waved the sheaf, the first day of the week, from that day they were to count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. This was Shavuot A.k.a. Pentecost and is the key that helps understand Matza and firstfruits. Passover was easy, but those two are a bit more difficult to glean until it connects with Pentecost. What happened at Pentecost? The Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, another fulfillment by Yeshua of a holy day. Yeshua was on earth 40 days before he ascended into heaven. (Acts 1:3-9) The disciples waited another 10 days for the feast in Jerusalem.
They came to the tomb on the first day of the week, early in the morning. (Mark 16:1-2) Yeshua had already risen after three days and three nights. Let’s count backward from Sunday a.m. to sunset the night before. This would have been the actual beginning of the first day, Saturday night, for us. The Sabbath was ending. Yeshua could have been raised anytime between this point and just before sunset roughly 12 hours later. No matter what time it was, it would have been on first fruits, the first day of the week. Let us just assume God did not resurrect Yeshua on the Sabbath, but let him rest. Saturday sunset back to Friday sunset, (1 day, 1 night) Friday sunset back to Thursday sunset, (2 days, 2 nights) Thursday sunset back to Wednesday sunset, (3 days and 3 nights) Yeshua is killed on Wednesday afternoon and taken down that evening just before sunset, which began the first day of Matza.
From what I could gather looking at a lunar date calendar, that would put his death in 34 A.d. But who knows? There are a couple of possibilities as to the date based on our modern calendar. The calendar that matters, however, is God’s. I know that was an awful lot, considering I am taking a break this week. Enjoy the celebrations and hopefully the weather.
Making it up as we go
“Give us each day our daily bread”
Almost everyone has heard this prayer. One need not attend religious services to be familiar with it. This verse is unique and very few of the “everyone” who has heard it realize it. The wording should make you question, and the numerous footnotes found in various translations should open your eyes if the basic translation does not. Give us each day our daily bread. Please God, give me the bread I need for today each day. The Greek is where things get interesting.
τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δίδου ἡμῖν τὸ καθ᾽ ἡμέραν
The word ἐπιούσιον or “epiousios” usually translated as daily is our suspect this week. The problem with this word is that it seems to have been made up by the writer of the gospels. Whatever word Yeshua used required the writer to create a new Greek word. There is no evidence of the word found in any other Greek literature. The famous Greek scholar Origen who lived in Alexandria, one of the two great centers of Greek learning in the ancient world in the early 3rd century, says he “does not find this word in use among the Greeks nor was it used among private individuals.”
Determining the use of a particular word becomes difficult when we only find it used one time, ever. It is possible the word was known in the first century but was only ever written in the New Testament. Yeshua seems to have known it or made it up from two other words. There is much debate about this possibility. Some believe the word is derived from “epi” meaning on or over, and “ousia” meaning substance or essence. If this is true, the word “epiousios” would mean something like “super-substantial” or “essential,” referring to bread that is more than ordinary, but rather a source of spiritual nourishment. This reminds us of the manna in the wilderness.
Another suggestion is that “epiousios” may be related to “epiouda” which means “for tomorrow.” This means the prayer would be for bread for the coming day. The footnote in the ESV and Nasb20 reflects this possibility. Some early “Christian” writers believed this word refers to time. Cyril of Jerusalem in the 4th century thought it meant “this day” while others, like Jerome in the 5th century, thought it meant “tomorrow.” While time was a popular view, it is only one possibility. Others believed this to be a specific amount of bread. In the Middle East today, the prayer asks for “just enough to stay alive” or the “necessary sustenance.” Chrysostom of the 4th century agreed with this view.
Is it time, or amount? Considering the manna in the wilderness, perhaps it is both. God provided each day what was needed so that no one went without. Each had what they needed, not too little and not too much. This means the thought of “only enough to survive” may not be quite right. God provides for our needs, and we need to eat. He also provides in abundance. The story of the manna is found in Exodus16.
“When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Everyone gather as much as he will eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of people each of you has in his tent.’” The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. When they measured it by the omer, the one who had gathered much did not have too much, and the one who had gathered little did not have too little; everyone gathered as much as he would eat. Moses said to them, “No one is to leave any of it until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank; and Moses was angry with them. They gathered it morning by morning, everyone as much as he would eat; but when the sun became hot, it would melt. Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, “This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a Sabbath observance, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not stink nor was there a maggot in it. Then Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, Sabbath, there will be none.” Yet it came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? “See, the LORD has given you the Sabbath; for that reason He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain, everyone, in his place; no one is to leave his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day. And the house of Israel named the bread manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.”
There is more to the story, like how it relates to the sabbath rest, for example, but our focus is on the bread and the provision of God. We are told not to be “anxious about the daily necessities of life or about tomorrow for today is trouble enough.” (Matt. 6:25-34) God provides for us when we focus on him, his righteousness, and his kingdom. The focus of some in the wilderness was one of worry. They were gathering manna and putting some aside, or gathering on the sabbath instead of relying on God to provide when he told them to rest. Many failed to trust God. It is easy to worry about the daily necessities, especially when we have future troubles that are on our mind.
God is good and provides. This seems to be about the past, present and future. God’s provision is a daily occurrence of his grace. The kingdom is the future where we will all experience the fullness of God’s provision each day. God provided then, he provides now, and will continue to provide our necessities each day as each has the need.
Please continue to give us all we need today as you did yesterday and we know tomorrow will be the same.
Recently I tested out Artificial Intelligence technology using chatGPT. I asked a lot of detailed questions about various subjects and am intrigued by what it can do, but I am also concerned. I want to share its answers to three different questions. The first question was, in simple terms, what is ChatGPT? The answer:
“ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI that can understand and generate human-like text based on the input given to it. Essentially, it is an AI-powered chatbot that can converse with humans using natural language processing and machine learning techniques. It has been trained on a vast amount of text data from the internet and can understand and generate text in various languages and styles.”
That all sounds very interesting. This isn’t google folks, this is artificial intelligence. God created man after his image and likeness, man created AI after his image and likeness. Students can write an essay in seconds, teachers can create an outline for their history lesson with a few keystrokes.
This technology is still in development but is already being used for chatbots, customer service, creative writing of all sorts, language translation and more. Should we use it for bible study? Another question helped me answer this for myself. I asked, Does the paradigm of your creator, programmers, etc. affect your response to queries for information?
“As an AI language model, I was designed to be as neutral and unbiased as possible in my responses, drawing on a vast corpus of texts to provide information on a wide range of topics. My creators, programmers, and designers have taken measures to ensure that my responses are based on factual information and not influenced by personal biases or beliefs.
However, it’s important to note that any information I provide is still subject to the limitations of my training data and the algorithms used to process it. While my creators strive to ensure that my responses are accurate and unbiased, it’s possible that there may be certain biases or limitations in the information I provide due to the limitations of my training data.
Additionally, some topics may be subject to differing interpretations or perspectives, and my responses may reflect the dominant or commonly accepted perspective in a given field or community. In such cases, it’s important to remember that my responses represent one perspective, and that there may be other valid perspectives and interpretations on the topic at hand.”
Sounds somewhat human to me. It also sounds problematic because if Gods creation eventually had problems imagine the kind of issues man’s creation will result in. I have no doubt many people will use this technology to simplify their study of scripture. The key problem with this seems to be the last part of the response which said:
“my responses may reflect the dominant or commonly accepted perspective in a given field or community... it’s important to remember that my responses represent one perspective, and that there may be other valid perspectives and interpretations on the topic at hand.”
For those of us who are heretics (of a differing opinion) or those of us who do not “toe the line,” this simply creates another barrier to digging into the root of a particular subject. The biggest issue, however, seems to be us as people. We want easy and chatGPT is easier than google. With a search engine, we get to thumb through the information and decide what is or isn’t relevant to our query. We still have to do our homework. With AI, our homework is mostly done for us. Whatever your view on AI, it can be useful and is certainly very interesting. For further demonstration I decided to have it write the rest of my study for this week.
I decided on a lightweight, ongoing doctrinal battle. I asked chatGPT, can you explain the seeming contradiction between James 2:20-22 and Romans 4:1-4 using a Hebrew paradigm?
“The apparent contradiction between James 2:20-22 and Romans 4:1-4 revolves around the relationship between faith and works in salvation. In James 2:20-22, it says that faith without works is dead, while in Romans 4:1-4, it appears that faith alone is sufficient for salvation.
However, when we examine these passages from a Hebraic paradigm, we can see that they are not necessarily contradictory, but rather address different aspects of salvation from a Jewish perspective.
In Jewish thought, faith and works were often seen as interconnected and inseparable. This is because the Jewish concept of faith, or emunah, was not just a matter of intellectual belief, but also involved trust, loyalty, and obedience to God. This kind of faith was expressed through actions and deeds, and was seen as the foundation of a righteous life.
In James 2:20-22, the emphasis is on the need for faith to be demonstrated through works. James argues that true faith must be accompanied by actions, and that faith without works is dead and unable to save. This is consistent with the Jewish understanding of faith as an active, living commitment to God.
In Romans 4:1-4, Paul is focusing on the relationship between faith and grace, and how these work together in salvation. Paul emphasizes that salvation is not earned through works, but is a gift of grace that is received through faith. This is also consistent with Jewish thought, which recognized the importance of God’s grace in salvation.
Therefore, when we view these passages from a Hebraic paradigm, we can see that they are not necessarily in contradiction. Rather, they represent different aspects of salvation from a Jewish perspective, with James emphasizing the need for faith to be demonstrated through works, and Paul emphasizing the centrality of faith and grace in salvation. Together, they provide a more complete picture of the Jewish understanding of salvation as a holistic, interconnected process that involves both faith and works.”
I think it did a great job, but it took the research out of it. I didn’t have to open a bible, or any book. It was easy. Sometimes easy is good. I guess it’s up to each of you to decide for yourself. We all have the freedom to choose, does ChatGPT? Perhaps that is another question I will ask it.
What do you see?
“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a blindness has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
The word in Romans translated blindness is “pōrōsis” which means dulled perception or a covering of a callous. There are usually two ways “pōrōsis” is translated: blindness or hardening. The KJV, being the most popular, has caused most of Christianity to believe God has blinded Israel as a people, thus not allowing them to turn to the Messiah.
There is another word that is translated blinded or blindness in Greek. The word “typhloō,” found in verses like 2 Corinthians 4:4, which says:
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
This word means blind or make blind and is used either in the sense of physical blindness or mental blindness. The general belief resulting from the translation of Romans 11:25 would make sense if the word “typhloō” was used instead of “pōrōsis.”
The belief that Paul is speaking about Israel being blinded, in reality, makes little to no sense. For the first 10 years or so of the faith, almost every person who accepted Yeshua as the Messiah was of Israel. We often think God has blinded Israel as a nation. History tells a different story. If we understand Paul as saying that most of Israel will not accept the Messiah because of a hardening of their hearts or a stubbornness, then the story changes.
There were thousands of Jews who had accepted Yeshua as Messiah and there were Jewish followers of Messiah up to the 3rd century when the emerging Roman Church began systematically expelling Jews from their ranks. Conversion to gentile Christianity was necessary, Jews were required by law to give up their Jewishness and deny the God of Israel in place of the new Christian God which was slowly beginning to form under the influence of Roman bishops and the councils of men which have formed most of what Christianity today accepts as Christian.
From the end of the Bar kokva revolt in 136 A.D. Until 1948, during which time Israel was scattered abroad, and the nation was no more, the Jewish people as a majority certainly denied Yeshua as Messiah, however, for good reason. The Christian Christ portrayed as God in the flesh who was murdered by the Jews was not a scripturally acceptable Messiah. Not only that, but the theology of the Christian church is not in line with the Torah, which, for Israel, is the foundation of faith and practice. There is only one God, and he is One. The God of Israel and the God of the church appear to be two different gods. Far be it from Israel to accept such a God. How can Israel be jealous of the gentiles relationship with God if that relationship appears to be with another God?
In the last 50 years or so, many Jews are once again accepting Yeshua as the Messiah. Most of these Jews maintain their Jewish faith. Some have done as the church demands and converted to the faith which has ostracized them for so long. What has changed? Many gentiles are returning to their roots. They recognize that without Israel, there can be no attachment to the olive tree of God. The Jews don’t need the church; the church doesn’t need the Jews. We all need God to provide sustenance through the roots for us to grow and produce fruit, but we must first be attached to the same tree. A more careful reading of the whole of chapter 11 is helpful.
Perhaps Judaism and Christianity are both in the wrong place? There is work to be done if we are all going to be attached to the same tree, feeding on the same root, and worshipping the same God. Changes on both sides are necessary. One person at a time, one paradigm shift at a time. No worries, God has it all under control..
Culture and history series: Joseph
Yeshua Ben Yoseph. This is how Yeshua would have been known growing up and as he began his ministry. Jesus, son of Joseph. There is not much in the text about Joseph, but what we do read about him is important, although is not always understood in translation. With no prior knowledge of the culture, it becomes more difficult to imagine the circumstances around the pregnancy of Joseph’s fiancé.
“Now the birth of Messiah Yeshua took place in this way. When his mother Miriam had been betrothed to Yoseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Yoseph, being a _just_ man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”
Joseph is called just because he resolved to put her away quietly. In doing so, he is making the compassionate choice. We have the benefit of hindsight, however, let’s put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes. What would I think after finding out my fiancé was pregnant? There are a couple possibilities as to how his betrothed could have become pregnant that I am sure went through his mind. Here is what the Torah says about the such matters.
“If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. “But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help, there was no one to rescue her.”
Perhaps Joseph thought she was raped and had not yet said anything, or maybe she really had been with another man? In this situation, being “just” was not a result of the appropriate application of the law, being just was the way of compassion for the weak and lowly. Joseph’s compassion was greater than his anger. Joseph had not yet been told by an angel of the miraculous pregnancy, and according to the Greek text, his immediate response was anger.
Verse 20 reads, “as he considered these things, an angel appeared…”
The Greek translated “he considered” is “enthymēomai” and can mean considered or pondered. According to the theological dictionary of the New Testament, “this word has many senses, of which only “to weigh,” “consider” occurs in the NT.
So, you're probably wondering how I can say Joseph was angry. Let’s dig deeper.
“Enthymēomai” comes from two words. One is “en” which is a preposition usually translated into English in, on, at, with, by, or among. The other word is, “thymos.” “Thymos” is found approximately 18 times in the NT and always means wrath or anger. “Thyō” denotes violent movement, and “thymos” may denote desire, impulse, anger, spirit, all of which are moved violently or boiled up. The two combined might be used to describe a person who is “reflecting on emotions which have been balled up inside.” In this case, the emotions would be ones of anger and disappointment.
Let’s look at a couple examples of the word and how “enthymēomai” is translated elsewhere in the NT. We find the only verbal use of the term in Matthew 2:16, where Herod is in a “rage” upon discovering the wise men left without reporting back to him. The root word we find here is “thymos.” Two other accounts where the term “enthymēomai” is used are in Matthew 9:4 and Acts 10:19.
“But Yeshua, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”
“And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you.”
Thinking or pondering evil in their hearts because they believed Yeshua to be speaking blasphemy. The contemplation of evil is a response to the anger or outrage of the scribes accusing Yeshua of blasphemy. This is a serious offense for deeply religious people.
The literal sense of the word has to do with anger within (en) the person. Peter certainly would have been a bit upset after believing God told him to do something against the Torah. Once Peter understands the real meaning behind the animals on the sheet, that being gentiles are not unclean, things would not have been much better because Peter was raised believing that gentiles were unclean and that Jews could not eat with or fellowship with them. This was not in the Torah, although tradition taught as if it were.
“Enthymēomai” can be translated simply as ponder or think. However, it can also be translated with the root word meaning attached, depending on context. A natural human response to “your fiancé is pregnant” would be anger. Betrayal is something that makes even the calmest and coolest of people upset. The more I “ponder” the day Joseph was told his bride-to-be was pregnant, the more I imagine him being angry. I believe the scribes and Peter were angry, and I have no doubt Joseph was upset and felt betrayed. The deeper meaning of the Greek words allows the reader to immerse themselves into the story and better relate to those in the narrative. We always lose something in translation, but by digging deeper, we can regain what is lost.
Joseph deciding to do as he did was an act of justice, mercy, grace all rolled into one. We do not have all the details, but we cannot imagine that Mary would have gone long without others knowing she was pregnant. Living in a close-knit community, this would have been impossible. The shame on her and him would have been a problem for many years. Perhaps Joseph came out and said they had slept together and the child was his? I imagine I would have chosen this path once I knew the child was from God. That way, the shame would be avoided altogether. Rabbinic writings allow for a future groom who had relations with his bride-to-be at her father’s house, was not guilty of immoral behavior. The parentage of the child was secured and the only difference between being betrothed and married was a ceremony and, of course, the act of consummation. Cultural mores aside, in the eyes of God, no sin is committed.
In an honor shame society, public shame is a reality that in the west, is more or less unheard of. Shunning is the closest we tend to get and that usually only occurs in religious groups like the Amish or Mormons. An extra canonical text from the 2nd century b.c.e. called Ben Siri, speaks of the shame of illegitimate children upon the mother and how serious the issue would have been. Mary participated in social events and traveled with family regularly to temple in large groups, all things that, had she been perceived of as having a child outside of her marriage to Joseph, would not be portrayed as it is in the text.
While it is impossible to depict all the details of what life was like for those we read about in the text, we can paint a very good picture by better understanding the language, cultural setting, and historical backdrop of the time when the text was written. Whatever Josephs’s reaction, he was surely a righteous man chosen by God. The little information we have reveals to us what kind of father and husband Joseph was.
A speck or a flank
Over the last couple of weeks, I have had a conversation with more than one person about the flank or speck in the eye. Some of this will be a replay of one conversation and some from the other. First, Here are the verses in question.
Do not judge, that you may not be judged; for with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured again to you. But why do you look on the twig that is in the eye of your brother, but do not see the log in your eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Allow me to cast out the twig from your eye; and behold, the log is in your eye! Hypocrite, first cast the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to cast the twig out of the eye of your brother.
In this world, none of us is likely to have all twigs or specks removed from our eye. Does this mean that we shouldn’t attempt to help our brother or sister in need? I am an addict and enjoy helping other addicts. I take daily medication, 6 years and counting, to help keep me level and in line. To me, this medicine is a speck in my eye, and it is one that may never be removed.
Jewish tradition says we cannot judge someone “unless we have arrived in his or her place.” And since we can never be in the exact same place and life circumstances as another person, we are never allowed to judge anyone.
“You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; you shall not respect the person of the poor, nor favor the person of the mighty; but in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go as a slanderer among your people; you shall not stand up against the blood of your neighbor; I am YHVH. You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall certainly reprove your neighbor, and not allow sin on him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am YHVH.”
In a community, sometimes a person or persons have to be brought to task to help protect them and others in the community. Leviticus 19 gives us some guidelines on handling certain situations, it is summed up in “love your neighbor as yourself.” Most people have a “leave me alone, don’t judge me, worry about yourself, attitude. In our western individualistic society, these things are all normal and it is wrong to dabble. In the communities of Israel and the eastern world, the action of one affects all in the community, especially God’s covenant community as God holds his people accountable as a whole. Israel all throughout the Old Testament and the assemblies in Revelation are good examples of this.
Paul writes about this more than once. We find one example in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.
“For what is it to me also to judge the ones outside? Do you not judge those inside? But God will judge the ones outside. “And you shall put out from yourselves the evil one.”
Deut. 17:7Paul knew well the scriptures which say to remove the evil from your midst like in Deuteronomy 17:7, which is one of the verses he was likely referencing here. Deuteronomy 22:22 is another possibility as it relates to sexual sins.
If God chastises us and corrects us because he loves us, then are we not to love our fellow the same? (Deuteronomy 8:5) How is this done without hypocrisy? Modern Church tradition and order come the N.T. scriptures, which had their basis in the synagogue of second temple Judaism. Should my issues cause me to ignore my brother? If I am a habitual liar and my brother is a habitual liar, then I imagine it would be hypocritical for me to bring this issue up. There are various examples of a speck or flank we could use and discuss. We all have specks or flanks we deal with, yet certain sinful practices are not to be ignored. Shortcomings are one thing and judging others as a result is wrong and not to be done according to Yeshua and according to Torah. Sinful conduct is another thing altogether.
The word used by Yeshua in Matthew's translated judge is the same word used by Paul in Corinthians. The word is “krinō” and, like many Greek words, has different meanings. It could mean separate or to choose. It could mean pronounce judgement, or similarly, judgement as carried out by a judge or king. Other uses are to go to law or filing a suit (popular in our day) and pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong.
I don’t want someone looking down on me or passing judgement because of the way I look, talk, walk, speak, for what I eat, how I eat, and the list goes on. However, I hope that if a brother or sister sees me stumble or becomes aware of an ongoing struggle that they will care enough to reach out and help me to remove the flank.
While the initial reaction of a person will usually be negative when bringing up sensitive matters, the negative long-term result of not seeking to aid them could be disastrous for them and possibly others. This is a difficult subject, especially for those of us who have been part of high mind control groups in the past. Ultimately, the objective is loving God and your neighbor as yourself. If these principals are not the basis for our concerns, then minding our own business may be warranted.
If you have had experiences related to this article in the church or in general, or would like to comment on the thoughts here, feel free to do so in the comments section of bibletalkwithleeanthony.org
Matt. 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Lev. 19:2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
The idea of perfection most people have is as Greek as Alexander's empire. We think about perfection in mathematical terms. Perfect means 100% correct or without error. That’s an A+! There are many who believe God requires them to live without fault, thus it comes as no surprise that we needed doctrines to excuse our inability to do so.
(*) Parmenides’ idea of perfection has influenced both Jewish and Christian theology. The majority believe God is perfect as understood from the Greek perspective. However, this idea of perfection doesn’t allow for any alteration of the qualities of the one considered perfect. The Tanakh (Old Testament) does not employ the word “perfect” to describe God. So, what did Yeshua mean in Matthew 5:48?
The Greek word translated perfect is “teleios” and “teleios” can mean finish, goal, mature, full grown, complete, or whole-hearted. Perfect is on that list too, but the Greek idea of perfection is not the biblical Hebrew understanding. The Greek Septuagint uses the same word to describe Noah in Genesis 6:9.
Αὗται δὲ αἱ γενέσεις Νωε· Νωε ἄνθρωπος δίκαιος, _τέλειος_ ὢν ἐν τῇ γενεᾷ αὐτοῦ· τῷ θεῷ εὐηρέστησεν Νωε.
“These [are] the generations of Noah: Noah [is] a righteous man; he has been _perfect_ among his generations; Noah has habitually walked with God.”
Noah is called “teleios” in his generation. The Hebrew word is “tāmîm.” “Tāmîm” means complete, whole, innocent, without blemish, and whole-hearted devotion. This is the word commonly used of the sacrifices that were without spot or blemish. The consonant root of “tāmîm” is Tau-Mem-Mem. When translated, these consonants mean integrity, complete, and entirety. The animal sacrifices, like Noah, were certainly not perfect in the Greek sense, but they were without spot and wholly acceptable to God.
The Greek idea of perfection means something is immutable and cannot change. It is a permanent, unchangeable condition, as it lacks nothing and needs nothing. The Hebrew idea of whole or complete means that while something might be whole today, it could change tomorrow. It is temporal and subject to change. We cannot be perfect but we can be complete, mature, wholehearted in our devotion to God. Noah, Abraham, David, Daniel, etc. all had flaws. They were all imperfect, but were complete in their faith and walk with God.
Yeshua was without sin, but he was still a man and had to deal with all the same tribulations as other humans. (Heb. 4:15) I try to imagine Yeshua as a child learning as other children learn, making mistakes, falling down and skinning a knee while playing, stumbling and falling while learning to walk. People often see Yeshua as perfect and without fault, according to our Greek definition. If this is true, then his life on earth as a human for 30-plus years would not have been human at all. Church doctrine and theology paint a picture of Yeshua that is not in line with scripture.
In Matthew 5:48, Yeshua was quoting from Leviticus. The word in Leviticus is not perfect, it is holy. The two are related and lead many to believe holiness is the same as perfection.
Theologically, there is a connection between the two that has caused much confusion and debate. Holiness, however, is connected to complete whole-hearted devotion to God and his standards of conduct. To be holy is not a state of being. We are commanded to be holy ‘to God.’ The root word “qādaš” from where the word for holy or “qādōš” comes, gives the idea of being consecrated for, and dedicated to, the service of YHVH. Being fully devoted to God is what we find throughout the scriptures as the expression of a complete faith. “You shall love YHVH your God with all you heart, soul, and strength.” That is it, be holy. Be perfect.
Submitting ourselves to God’s authority and bringing an end to all forms of rebellion is a process. Each day, as we mature in our faith, we learn another way we can set apart some measure of our life to God. In Matthew chapter 19, the rich young man was lacking in one aspect of his devotion to God. Even though he seems to have done all that was necessary for eternal life, he fell short in his “perfection.”
“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Yeshua said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Yeshua said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Being rich is not a bad thing, but if being rich interferes with being wholly devoted to God, then there is a problem. What in my life interferes with my wholehearted devotion to God? There will probably always be something. Upon discovery, I cut it out or off and cast it away. Yeshua connects the commandments with devotion and eternal life. Why did he not tell the man “believe in me to be saved”? Is not following Yeshua more than believing in him? It was not what the man believed, but where his heart was that mattered.
Torah does not provide salvation, but devotion to God by living according to his standard is faith in action and that faith, which is wholehearted devotion to God, leads to us being declared “perfect” or “innocent” like Noah and Daniel. Imitating Yeshua is the perfect way to be perfect in our devotion. Being Holy, or complete, means to live in faithful devotion to God and his standards of conduct. Yeshua gives us insight into this very thought when he quotes Leviticus. A reading of Matthew 5 and comparison of Leviticus chapter 19 and 20 where the command to “be holy because I am holy” is repeated reveals the connection between being “perfect” and being “holy.” When reading the verses above, ask yourself, what do I learn about God from his words? What does this teach me about the creator?
Here is a quote from Jacob Neusner in his book, Judaism When Christianity began, pg. 46.
“The Rabbinic exposition of Leviticus 19 underscores that to be like God, that is, to be holy, means to act in accordance with the rules of morality and compassion. One cannot overemphasize that fact, since people do not always correlate ‘holiness’ with morality and ethical conduct in the way in which the Torah insists they are to match.”
Psalm 19:7 “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple..”
Nothing in God’s word leads us to sin or ungodly conduct. Torah reveals the heart of God and the reaction of us to Torah reveals our own heart. God is devoted to us and we are supposed to be devoted to him. Holiness means living according to God’s way, not our own. Any other way of living, no matter how morally or ethically upright it seems, is not God’s way and thus, it is not Yeshua’s way.
So, after all of that, the message is simple. Trust God, imitate his son, and be faithful.
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?”
1 John 5:1-3
“Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
(*) Parmenides employed the imagery of a perfect sphere so masterfully constructed that you could not distinguish its rotation. I think of the compass which allows us to draw a “perfect” circle.
Born of a virgin
Yeshua was born without sin. Because of doctrines like original sin, the immaculate conception, and infant baptism, an explanation of how it was possible for him to be born without sin became necessary. One doctrine builds upon another, and for the Roman church, this is certainly true. How do we justify our tradition or doctrine with scripture? If all humans are born sinners, then Mary must have also been free of sin for Yeshua to have been born without sin. For many, Mary is held in higher esteem than Yeshua. Protestantism denied this teaching, yet continued to teach original sin. Now, they had to propose a reason to justify Yeshua being born without sin.
A common answer is that Yeshua was fully God and fully man, which doesn’t explain how the doctrine of original sin became what it is. I have written about this more than once, but don’t worry, this E-Word isn’t about any of the doctrines mentioned above. This one is about the virgin birth. Many declare that Yeshua was without sin because Mary was a virgin. Interestingly, only Mathew and Luke mention the miraculous conception and there is not a lot dedicated to the birth itself. This is, of course, related to another doctrine called the trinity. The birth of a “god man” must be celebrated, right?
Moving on to the subject at hand, which is a somewhat touchy subject, hence the reason I have been picking on other doctrines so I can quietly pave the way for the virgin birth. Don’t worry, I’m not denying the virgin birth. I am challenging the reason for the virgin birth. Nowhere does the bible say that Yeshua was without sin because of his miraculous birth. His birth has nothing to do with his sinlessness. Put aside the doctrines of the trinity and imagine that Yeshua was really born as a man like scripture says he was. Next, ignore the original sin dogma and imagine that sin is rebellion or disobedience to the divine standard just like the belief was in second-temple Judaism. Now, throw the need for infant baptism out the window as well as the immaculate conception (if your Catholic) because they are no longer needed to justify the teaching.
Yeshua was without sin because of his obedience. (Heb. 4:15; 5:8-9) (Rom. 5:18-19) The Greek idea of perfection has made its way into Christian theology. The Hebrew idea and thus the scriptural understanding of the Greek word “telioō” or the Hebrew “tāmîm” is complete, entire, having integrety, without blemish or whole-hearted devotion. To be whole or complete does not mean that we are absolutely perfect. To think Yeshua never had to learn as a child, never made mistakes, or was 100% without fault is not exactly a scriptural idea, but is more of a dogma based on tradition. This is a subject for another day. For now, I need to get back to the subject at hand.
We are told the reason for the virgin birth in Matthew 1:22-23, “that this took place to fulfill what was spoken, that the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Immanuel.” the prophecy in Isaiah reads that “YHVH will give you a SIGN, behold the virgin will conceive and bear a son...” The Hebrew word for sign is “owth” which means a distinguishing mark, evidence, miraculous sign, or proof.
Matthew doesn’t include the part about the sign, but as we read the text, the angel explains to Joseph that the child in Mary’s womb is from God and that he would deliver the people from their sins. Joseph knew the scriptures and knew the promises of the coming Messiah. Here an angel tells him his betrothed would be the mother of that long awaited Messiah and he was to step in and raise the child as his own. What a responsibility to raise the Messiah! Parents, imagine your feelings when you hear you are to have a child for the first time. Did you think about everything that could go wrong? What about preparations and the excitement the news brought? Imagine God telling you that you will be responsible for his son. I think fear would have been an appropriate response.
Verse 22 says “all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet...” The prophecied sign of the coming Messiah from Isaiah 7. As we can see, scripture explains the virgin birth. It is a sign, as a proof of the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God’s birth. That is what Matthew applies the prophecy to mean. The word in Isaiah translated virgin is “almâ” which can also mean a young woman of marriageable age, a maid, or even a newly married woman. While many believe this speaks of Hezekiah or even Isaiah’s son, Matthew believed otherwise.
Perhaps you have never given much thought to the reason for the virgin birth of the Messiah. The virgin birth is almost always associated with Yeshua and his being born without sin but a simple look at the text and a not so simple discarding of doctrine brings clarity and understanding to a miracle that is so amazing that I am not even sure resurrection can compare. Perhaps next week I will write about perfection since I started in already this week. Sounds interesting does it not?
The importance of words
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
James says the man who bridles his tongue is a perfect man. The word translated perfect here means complete or mature. Our words are important. They are a reflection of our inner person. I am not saying that if you accidentally or purposely cuss that it is sin. I know James says not to curse, but again, the word means something different to James than it does to us. A curse word in one language may not be a curse word in another. Profanity is not exactly a sin, that is a cultural issue, not religious. To curse someone is a different story. To lie, to gossip, to slander these are all sin. The issue in Matthew, however, is about promises, vows, and commitments, especially as it relates to God, but it is not limited to him.
There is much we could cover in the above verses. For now, I want to focus on “for every careless word.” The word in Greek is “argos” and its basic meaning is lazy or being idle. It sounds like Yeshua is saying God will judge us for every careless word we speak. Sounds scary. The reality is, in context, the word “argos” is a description of words that are false or unkept. Broken vows and unkept promises or simply put, not doing what we say we will do. This is the opposite of God.
God is faithful and always does what he says he will do. The words of God are powerful. They are a reflection of the heart of God. We come to know him better through the words he has spoken, the abundance of his heart is revealed in scripture. Each instruction, every prophecy, all the commands are a reflection of the heart of the creator. If we want to know God and understand him better, then we must meditate on his words and attempt to see him in light of the revelation of those words.
Yeshua was addressing the religious leaders here, but the lesson is applicable for us all. The leaders of our day are in the same position as those in Yeshua’s day. When we follow tradition and accept doctrine over the words of God, then we are eating of the bad fruit.
Making vows to God was common practice in the first century and when Yeshua explains that we should let our yes mean yes he is helping us to recognize the importance of our words and making it clear that not keeping our word, especially to God, is a path best avoided. When we accept Yeshua as the Messiah, we begin to live differently than the rest of the world. We enter into a covenant with God. The fruit we produce can only be good if we are rooted in the truth of Scripture.
When Moses led the nation of Israel out of Egypt, they were not immediately free of Egypt. Israel was fully integrated into the Egyptian culture. Just think about how short of a time it takes for families to integrate into American culture when leaving behind their old world. It usually takes one or two generations. The children, no matter how hard the parents try to prevent it, integrate into and become part of their new world. If they do not fully integrate, the grandchildren surely will.
The society we are part of influences our reality. Israel spent about a generation in the wilderness. Only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the land. The rest died in the wilderness because they did not obey the voice of the Lord. (Josh. 5:6-7) In the first century, those who were leaving the pagan practices of the Roman world had a lot to learn and much to leave behind. To die to our old way of life is not easy. Developing new patterns of behavior and learning new habits takes time and effort.
Spring is coming up and the celebrations of Passover, Easter, and other similar occasions are times of remembrance, renewal, and annual reminders of starting over. Paul said to “celebrate the feast not with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor. 5:7-8)
A bit of leaven is all it takes to cause the whole batch of dough to rise. We are all still in the wilderness, learning to rely on God and putting into practice all that he is teaching us. When the time comes, we will have the chance to enter into the promised land. Hopefully, we will be like Joshua and Caleb and not like the rest who failed the test in the wilderness.
Even Yeshua went through a time of testing in the wilderness. His full reliance on his Father is the pattern set for us to follow. There are an abundance of temptations set before us, and it can be very difficult to overcome the desire of the flesh, especially during times of weakness. When we are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, it is best to halt and wait for God to provide the way out. (1 Cor. 10:13) Self-reliance is common in our world today. Relying on God is difficult when we have trouble leaning on others. We live in an individualistic society where it is all about me and I. Being self-made, self-taught, and self-serving is the opposite of what it means to live and thrive in community. The body of Messiah was meant to function as one whole, yet even that is split up and divided.
Having love for one another and serving for the benefit of the community is just one aspect of change that must occur when Yeshua returns. There is much to discard from our old culture and way of life that will only become a reality in the world to come under the kingdom of the Messiah. With the memorial season upon us, now is a good time to think about all the leaven we need to remove from our lives. (Exo. 12:15) Getting a head start is always a good idea. Let us not forget we are in a race for the finish. (Heb. 12:1)
Some time ago, I considered a few verses that are often misunderstood because of Hebrew idioms. Idioms don’t translate well, if at all. We can easily get the wrong idea and, as a result, our interpretations of what Yeshua said, or Paul, or whoever, will be way off. It’s easy enough to interpret the text wrong when there are no idioms. This week I want to look at Matthew 16:19.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
There are various interpretations of this verse. The keys, binding, and loosing are all idioms. (In some cases, so is the kingdom of heaven.) You may have been told this has to do with spirit beings, like binding and loosing demons. As for the keys, there is the idea that Peter was the first pope and has the authority to make or break the law of God. Of course, so does every pope after him, too. Protestants who deny this teaching have still determined this means Peter, and others like Paul, had the authority to act as lawmakers for the assemblies of Yeshua.
First, let's look at the keys. The “keys” of the kingdom is an idiom for authority. In Isaiah 22:20-22, we have an example where authority is given to Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, and “the key to the house of David is placed on his shoulder.”
“In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.”
The end of this verse is important. John makes a connection in Revelation when he writes about the same key in Revelation 3:7.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.“
Determining that the “key (s)” is an idiom for authority, aides our understanding of the terms, binding and loosing. What is this all about? In Rabbinic literature, binding meant to forbid by an indisputable authority and loosing meant to permit by an indisputable authority. The particular religious authority with these keys is usually specific to the community to which they are connected. For example, in each community the interpretations of certain matters might be stricter than in others in a neighboring community. When the temple still stood, it was the center of authority, even though each synagogue would have still functioned autonomously in each community.
In Exodus 18:14-16, Moses stands in judgment over the people and in his position of authority, he would have determined the extent of the letter of Torah on a case-to-case basis. (This is the basis for the tradition that the oral Torah also came from Moses, which helps give it more authority.) One example is, God tells the people to keep the sabbath but was not at all specific as to how to go about keeping it. What was considered work? By the first century, the Oral Torah had become more important than the Torah itself because of rulings on various issues. Pharisees would later develop the oral torah over a long period because of questions like these, and the commands and rulings on those questions which were passed down through tradition.
In extra-biblical Jewish writings, we find examples of the terms binding and loosing. We find one example in b. Avodah Zarah 7a:
“If one sage declared something as bound, he should not ask another sage who might declare it loosed. If two sages are both present and one rules something unclean and the other rules it clean, if one binds and the other loses, then if one of them is superior to the other in learning and number of disciples, follow his ruling, otherwise, follow the stricter view.”
This is the same useable we find in the gospel. These terms were common in the first century. Yeshua demonstrates his authority various times in the gospels when teaching the people the proper application of the Torah not only in the letter but in the spirit. The Pharisees’ attempts to catch Yeshua up in some sin or another, like breaking the Sabbath by healing or plucking heads of grain, was not only a show of Yeshua’s authority but of his understanding of the Torah and its true application.
Yeshua grants authority to Peter by giving him the keys, and later we find him, and other apostles, exercising that authority in the book of Acts. The Sanhedrin, who would have had this type of authority over the religious communities as a whole in the first century, were overridden by Peter and John in Acts 4:18-21 when they tried to bind the apostles from speaking and teaching in Yeshua’s name.
The gentiles coming into the faith and following Yeshua were a big deal in the first century. How were the gentiles saved? This issue was serious and demanded a council. The council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 makes a ruling that is another example of binding and loosing.
“Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
The ruling by James (not Peter) was based on the Torah and allowed for most issues for new gentile converts to remain under the authority of each individual synagogue or assembly. Only these four rulings were binding upon them for salvation. When they first entered the fold and had little to no knowledge of God or his word, they needed simplicity. They would need time to learn and make decisions based on their own study with their personal teachers and in the public reading of Torah every week at the synagogue. Verse 21 is often overlooked but is important to note. We find similar allusions throughout the new testament. Gentiles coming into the faith had a lot to learn about YHVH and a lot of pagan gods and associated practices to leave behind.
When a person first becomes a follower of Yeshua, it can take years of study and fellowship with others to grow to maturity. Leaving behind idols and certain sins, like fornication and eating blood, were serious issues that had to be overcome before one could become a part of the body. Repentance is always the first thing, but to repent, they had to know what sin was and what it meant to be a disciple of Yeshua. (Acts 26:20)
The authority granted by Yeshua did not extend beyond his own authority granted by his Father. (John 14:24) Yeshua never went beyond what was written. His intention was never to misapply or negate the authority of God already set in stone, but only to give the proper interpretation and application of what was written for the good of all who would be part of the kingdom.(Matt. 5:17-18) The apostles only did as they were taught, and just like Yeshua, they too bound and loosed within the parameters already set in place by YHVH God.
There are hundreds of idioms in the gospels alone. Poetic language, parallelisms, doublets and other Hebrew language issues are not just in the Old testament but all over the Greek new testament as well. This is a big part of the reason we have so many translation and interpretation problems that have led to such disunity and outright hostility in the congregations of believers. Yeshua will return and fix the problems just as he did in the first century, only this time the entire world will be under his authority, not just a few faithful followers.
Advice from a cricket
The Greek word translated conscience in the New Testament, “syneidēsis”, is found only one place in the Greek Septuagint (Old Testament in Greek) which is in Ecclesiastes 10:20. The word we find in Hebrew is “Madā” meaning the thoughts of the mind, knowledge, or place of knowledge.
Prior to the influence of Hellenism, the place of knowledge or of one’s innermost thoughts was not the mind, but the heart. In 1 Samuel 24:5, we have an example of the Hebrew “lēb” usually translated heart in English. “Lēb” translated as conscience in the NASB, NIV, and a few other modern translations. Was it David’s conscience that bothered him as we understand it, or was it his heart as we understand it? Perhaps things were simpler before I asked the question.
1 Sam. 24:4-6
“And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. And afterward David’s conscience struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’s anointed.”
Why is it that this bothered David’s heart? The text says that David told his men, “the Lord forbid that he should put out his hand against his anointed.” Even though David had been anointed himself, he patiently awaited God to set matters right in his own time. David recognized Saul had also been anointed by God and knew that to strike him down or even threaten him as he did in this account would be as if he were fighting against God. David knew YHVH God.
The Hebrew understanding of the “lēb” is that it is our deepest feelings, the truth of who we are. For those who serve God and get to know him, learn about him through his word and their heart becomes trained in his ways. They have what some call a “bible trained conscience.” God knows our hearts in a way that no one else can. (Jer. 12:1-3) When he destroyed the earth with a flood in the days of Noah, it was because of the “inclination of the hearts of men” that he did so. (Gen. 6:5-7) They had no conscience. All that was in their hearts was only evil. They did not know God
God promised to circumcise the hearts of his people so that they would once again obey him and prolong their days. (Deut. 30:5-6) For us to truly have a conscience we can trust, we must be circumcised in the heart. This means turning from the way of evil, removing sin from our lives as God called his people to do over and again throughout the ages. (Jer. 4:1-4) Throughout the ages, even God’s people have followed after their own hearts and leaned on their own understanding, thus their own conscience. (Zech. 7:9-14)
Malachi prophecies that the forerunner to the Messiah would come and “turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” (Luke 1:16-17) God makes sin known to humanity. The way of God is the way of wisdom (Psalm 1)
If fathers teach the way of God to children, will the faithful children not fail to point out the sin of the fathers in their hypocrisy? (Psalm 78:5-8) (Eph. 6:1-4) The disobedience of even the children of Abraham has turned them into children of the devil. (Matt. 3:8-9) (John 8:39-44) What message did John the Immerser preach? Was it not a message of repentance? “Turn back to God!” “Make ready a people for the Lord!”
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Malachi 3:19-24 (or chapter 4:1-6 depending on your Bible) is a prophecy that they knew well in John’s day but few know well in our own. Yeshua brought a message to the people that many of the religious leaders rejected because their own traditions were more important than the word of God. (Matt. 15:1-20
God made the new covenant with the house of Judah and Israel. (Jer. 31:31-32) Gentiles would later be grafted into Israel and partake of this new covenant. (Gal. 3:29, Rom. 11:15-27) Many Jews would reject it but not as a whole. Israel did not reject the Messiah, but Israel also did not accept him. The gentiles have not all accepted him either, but eventually the fullness of time will arrive when God will draw all people unto him. Those who accept his Messiah and the authority of his kingdom will be one people. All will have the Law written on their hearts and the fault found on the part of the people to keep the old will be remedied in the way of the new. (Heb. 8:7-13)
The trained conscience of each will be without fault through the spirit within. Once everyone can truly say I know the Lord, without having to be taught, then the old, written on stone, being obsolete will pass away as the new, written on the heart, will have taken its place. Only then can everyone truly know and follow the Lord. Thus, the conscience or heart of man will fully rely on God so that in anything we do, it will truly be “for God’s glory.” God’s morality cannot be legislated by human processes, as we have seen from Adam to Moses and from Moses to Messiah. The period between Messiah and Messiah so far has attested to this even more.
Habakkuk 2:4b and faith
English text ESV
“the righteous shall live by his faith.”
From Greek Septuagint
δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεώς μου ζήσεται
“The righteous through trusting will live”
בֹּ֑ו וְצַדִּ֖יק בֶּאֱמוּנָתֹ֥ו יִחְיֶֽה׃
“In his Righteousness the just is sustained”
Do you see the difference in the way this is written and then translated? When read instead of studied, it all sounds the same. Paul cites this verse on a couple of occasions, and each time he is applying it for his own purposes, which is common for Jewish teachers. Don’t imagine what you find will be “harmonious” because Paul, at least Christianity’s Paul, is not harmonious with Yeshua or Moses or Jeremiah or Peter… You get the idea.
Christianity often defines faith as a particular set of theological beliefs. They usually perceive faith as if it were a possession, something to be acquired. Most churches have a statement of faith which defines that group’s beliefs. When joining a new group, whether by baptism, as a servant or minister or as a change of denomination, we are asked about our beliefs more often than about our relationship to God. There are a great number of definitions for faith when doing a google search. Many begin and end in Hebrews 11:1. However, chapter 11 is a continuation of chapter 10. If we go back to 10:38, we find Habakkuk once again. Connecting the whole helps us better understand the subject at hand.
I hope for the kingdom to come and God to exercise his authority on earth as it is in heaven. I live according to that hoped for reality by making him my authority on earth now. You might have many future hopes that affect the way you live now. For example, you might save money for a vacation, your child’s college fund or a down payment on a house. The thing you hope for causes you to take action now to make that future hope a reality. Action is required!
The Greek word “hypostasis,” found in Hebrews 11:1, is translated in most modern bibles (thanks to Luther) as assurance. The word was a scientific and or medical term, which meant “the underlying truth behind something.” It would be like saying the reason you are sick is actually a tumor deep down we couldn’t see before. It was hidden prior to us going in and discovering it. Finding the tumor is the demonstration of the true but hidden reality. Keep in mind faith is not an inner confidence but has to do with external evidence. So hopefully the tumor example doesn't make you think I meant an inner feeling.
The faith defined in scripture has to do with God’s future plan for us all. The faithful ones of old showed their faith in God by action. James explains it well in chapter 2 of his letter.
“But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
The interpretation of Habakkuk, which comes from Paul’s usage in the N.T. is based on a translation according to a doctrinal perspective that Paul would not have held. The belief is, each person who is righteous will live by his faith. This means a person must first have righteousness, so of course they must be saved by belief in Yeshua, and then they can live by that faith. This is Luther, not Paul.
The Hebrew understanding of Habakkuk (remember this was written in Hebrew by a Hebrew) is “the righteous will live because of acting on the basis of his trust.”
We trust God and live accordingly. Faith is our trust in God and living according to his word and not our own heart, no matter the circumstances or the outcome. Every example in the scriptures of men and women of faith demonstrates this very idea in action. When Daniel continued to pray regardless of the new law causing those praying to any “god” or man besides the king to be thrown into the lion’s den, he continued his practice regardless of the possible outcome. (Dan. 6:10-12)
God is faithful, he is reliable. The Hebrew word “emunah,” translated as faith in English, helps clear up the idea that faith is belief or simply hope. The word “emunah” is translated faithful, faithfulness, faithfully, truth or truly in the Hebrew scriptures every time it is used except in Habakkuk 2:4. Faith is not a substance that can be stored or acquired and does not work like a magic potion. When the disciples asked for Yeshua to add to their faith, his answer was, of course, in story form. This tells us what they already knew and what many still need to learn. Here it is in Luke 17:5-10.
“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
Obedience is expected of a servant. He is not given a reward because he did his job. We are servants and we all have a job. Have you ever asked for more faith and God gave you something more to do? When he did, did you obey him by doing? Asking for more faith is asking for the opportunity to be more obedient. For those who are not servants, they have no reason to be faithful to God and do anything according to his will. For those of us who are, we are called to live differently than the rest of the world. We are called to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Deut. 8:3, Matt. 4:4) We are called to be faithful just as he is faithful. (1 John 2:6) (2 John 1:6)
We walk as he walked by living our faith, by loving God and our neighbor. We do this by not lying to our neighbor, by not holding a grudge and taking revenge on someone who did us wrong, by not spreading gossip and slandering another person, by not falsely accusing someone just because we dislike them, by not trying to engage in a relationship with another persons spouse, by not causing the blind or mentally disabled person to stumble, by not taking from others what is not ours...
I could go on and on, but I don’t want to anyone to think God makes mistakes or redefines sin based on the desires of his creations. Christianity has been taught that authority belongs to each man and that we are free to choose our own way according to our own understanding. Jiminy cricket has taken the place of the Messiah and the desire to live under the yoke of the Messiah has been replaced by a desire to break the yoke into pieces and reshape it into a cross. I think Jeremiah had a lot to say about these things. Israel didn’t listen then and I imagine no one is going to listen now either.
Last week was long. I will try to keep this one to a minimum. I used various English idioms in one section last time to make an important point. This week I want to speak on some Hebrew idioms which are found in the Greek Testament. First, a few idioms which are found in Matthew 5:17.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
1. “I am come” or “think not that I am come.” In Hebrew this denotes intention or purpose. The English may not be difficult to understand but would more accurately reflect the idiomatic expression if translated something like, “think not that my purpose or intent is to…”
2. “Destroy” or “abolish.” These are technical terms used in Rabbinic arguments. When a teacher thought that another teacher (or anyone) had misinterpreted or deliberately misused a passage of Torah, he might say in English, “you are destroying (abolishing) the law.” Basically, “destroying” the law for a teacher on the far right is “fulfilling” the law for a teacher on the far left, and vice versa.
3. “Fulfill.” This meant properly interpret or represent Torah. Moses said that when the prophet God would raise up came to listen to him. (Deut. 18:15) Yeshua never taught against Torah or contrary to it but taught it in its fullest spiritual sense as well as taught the proper way of understanding the letter of the law. Some of Yeshua’s teachings were more strict than the Pharisees. People only considered the Pharisees strict in certain matters, in some, they were too “loose.” (Matt. 5:22-23)
There are plenty more idioms to explore. Hundreds exist in the gospels alone. Understanding those in verse 17 helps us better understand verses 18-19. There are idioms in those verses too, but I want to skip down to verse 20 and talk about another idiom that is a bit more difficult to grasp because of the Hebrew words and their different uses. This one could be literal or idiomatic. I would suggest the idiom makes more sense and better fits the overall context.
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The word righteousness is translated into English from the Greek “dikaiosynē” which means righteousness or an approved state before God. In Hebrew, the word is “sedāqâ” which can also mean righteous acts, prosperity, and justice. The Hebrew idiom in question has to do with almsgiving. Giving to the poor was supposed to be inspired by compassion and a desire for justice, not something to be done for show in order to establish one’s own righteousness.
Yeshua likely had the Pharisees hypocrisy in mind when he said this. Yeshua was referring to the least and greatest commandments, a concept that is relatively unknown in Christian thought. Giving alms obviously would have been a lesser command compared to something like stealing. Yeshua implies that even relaxing the least of the commands and teaching others to do so would cause one to be called least in the kingdom. He then says that unless you do “Sedāqâ” more than the Pharisees, you will not even make it to the kingdom.
Seems like “doing” the commands were, in fact, important to Yeshua, after all. If belief is enough, then who cares about the least of the commands at all? And why would something so simple keep a person out of the kingdom? Maybe it has something to do with hypocrisy? We are told to listen to the Pharisees but not do as they do. (Matt. 23:2-13)
Even in the shorter letters, there seems to be much to consider. With another year gone and the world becoming more and more opposed to the way of God, remembering our lot in life as slaves to the Messiah will help us deal with the surrounding evils. Keep in mind in the first century, a student was also servant to his Rabbi. We might better understand the word slave this way. We serve God and his king; the world does not. What we say and what we do matters. The life we live now matters. Too much emphasis on the world to come can cause our steps in the world that is to falter. We cannot see the narrow path clearly enough without a lamp to light our way. (Psalm 119:105) (Prov. 6:23)
Slaves to the king
1 Peter 2:21-25
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
We have been called to follow in the footsteps of the Messiah. Back then, to follow a particular Rabbi meant to imitate everything he did, not just what he taught, but to live the way he lived. This included walking, talking, dressing, eating, imitating his mannerisms and style of teaching. This was an all-encompassing process. According to the verses above, Yeshua committed no sin. He entrusted himself fully to the Father in all his ways. Because he kept the way of God, he was without sin and thus he could give his life in place of ours. Notice this verse does not say, now that he died for you and kept the way so you don’t have to. It says, “so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” They saw the way he walked, they understand how to fully live the life and now we can do the same. We are called to repent and return to the shepherd and live to righteousness, which means living while being cognizant of sin and trying not to make a practice of sin. What is sin? (I talked about it before. Hint: it’s not a disease)
1 John 2:1-6
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Messiah Yeshua the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
This one hits the nail on the head. However, it isn’t as simple as it was when John was writing. Most of Christianity considers the commandments of Yeshua as different from his Fathers. There is a clue in the text itself, however. Yeshua kept the commandments of his Father fully and was therefore without sin, which is how he could be the atonement for ours. It is the Torah which defines what a sinner is. In fact, how is it the entire world is guilty of sinning against God according to God’s word if all the world were not responsible to God? They may not recognize God as their authority, but he still is. (Rom. 3:9-23)
We are called to walk as Yeshua walked, which means a life without sin. How? By imitating him and “walking in the same way he walked.” That “way” was according to his Father’s commandments, not his own. He himself said he taught only what he heard from his Father, that his words were not his own. (John 14:24) (John 15:10-15)
The commandment which is the basis for the “law of the Christ” is based on the Shema. This is as Jewish as it gets. Google the Shema and read up on its history. Every Jew knew this as the greatest commandment and from childhood they would recite it every morning and every evening and perhaps more, depending on circumstances and one’s own practices. Here is the beginning of the Shema from Deuteronomy six.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Yeshua quotes this in Mark 12:29-30. Then in verse 31 he adds, “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
This comes from Leviticus 19:17-18, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
Let’s also include verses 33-34: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
This includes the stranger which were the gentiles dwelling among them. The commandment was much more than just love those who are your own but loving even those you do not know, yes even your enemy. Many people struggle with the idea because of our modern understanding of love. However, the love we read about here is not a feeling or an emotional response. Love is about how we treat them. Love for God is serving him willingly because ________________. You fill in the blank. Love is an action, just as faith was (is) and action. We do this type of “love” we don’t feel it.
In the first century B.C.E. Jewish sage Hillel the elder, writes the following, which was included later in the Talmud.
“It happened again that a gentile came before Shammai. He said to him: “convert me on the condition that you teach me the entire Torah as I stand on one leg.” He pushed him away with the builders cubit in his hand. The gentile then came before Hillel, who converted him. He said to him, “what is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the whole entire Torah; the rest is its explanation. Go and learn.”
There were two major schools of thought in the first century. Rabbi Hillel and Shammai. The two were typically in opposition when applying the Torah. One viewed outsiders (non-Jews) negatively while the other (Hillel) was open-hearted toward them. Yeshua was not the first to apply this great principle to the entire Torah. The principal during the second temple period was widely known and understood. The other gospel accounts like Luke 10:25-28, for example, have the man asking Yeshua how to gain eternal life. Notice Yeshua asks the man how he reads the law? The man responds with the answer that Yeshua gives in Mark. Love God and love your neighbor.
Matthew is the most quoted of the accounts because Yeshua’s answer at the end in Matthew 22:36-40 is “upon these two commandments hang the whole law and the prophets.”
Yeshua says essentially the same thing that any Jew at the time would have understood as we have discovered. “The entire law AND the prophets “kremannymi” on these two commands.” This Greek word means to hang. Other uses include the men “hanging” on the cross beside Yeshua in Luke 23:39, or Yeshua “hanged” on the tree in Acts 5:30. Even in the Greek Septuagint, we see the word used in reference to a “hanged” man being cursed in Deuteronomy 21:23. This is the only place where we see the word used as an idiom. The Nasb 20 translation reads that these two commandments “hang on the whole law and prophets.” We might say that the two sum up the whole Law and prophets.
Paul says as much in Galatians 5:14. He literally spells it out for us in Romans 13:8-10, where he says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” How do we love? Follow the commands and treat your neighbor accordingly.
The bottom line is this: Gentiles who are under the authority of the Messiah and thus of God are partakers in the covenant (not Mosaic) through spiritual circumcision. God’s divine standards apply to them just as much as they do to a Jew. In fact, there will be no difference between Jew or gentile, slave or free, man or woman in the world to come. All people will serve God and will learn HIS ways. Does that mean we all have to make sacrifices and offerings? This is a popular justification for why gentiles shouldn’t have to pay attention to the divine standard. What is it God says he requires?
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
God’s words to king Saul are of interest here.
“And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.”
Saul did what he thought was right in his own heart, and his rebellious acts of disobedience against God ended badly for him. The way of many who claim to follow Yeshua and do what is right according to their own hearts and choose to rely on God’s grace and mercy, hoping that it has no limits. We must be careful. The idea of grace has unknowingly gone to an extreme, putting emphasis on freedom from guilt instead of freedom from sin.
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the torah, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
These two verses are not the same one from a different translation. One is from Isaiah 2 and the other is from Micah 4. Yeshua quotes Isaiah when he is at the temple. He says that his father’s house will be a house of prayer for all nations. All will eventually worship the God of Israel as one in Jerusalem. Will this word of the Lord that goes forth from Jerusalem be some new law of the Christ? James speaks of this law of liberty in a manner easier to understand than Paul when he tells us that the reason we are all convicted of sin is that to transgress even one part of the law is to transgress it all.
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
The Torah was known by many idioms. The way, the law of freedom, the law of the Messiah. There was only one law that meant anything to James, Yeshua or any other Jew at the time this was written. The Torah Ha Mashiach. Christians call this the law of the Christ. What most do not realize is that this was already a term in use that was a reference to the torah. The messiah who would come would not only walk the way without faltering but also teach the way and its application in its fullest sense beyond the letter which often led to legalism.
The legalistic understanding of the Torah was what led many to teach that gentiles coming to faith had to physically undergo circumcision, become literal Jews and keep all the Torah in order to be saved. Being saved to a Jew meant being able to partake of the covenant and live in the world to come. Keeping the law was not the way to be saved, but once one was part of the covenant, keeping the law was an expression of faith which was part and parcel of that faith not separate from it. There was no works that could save you, just like simple belief was not enough to be part of the covenant. Faith was an active expression of one’s trust in God. Obedience came after being delivered. James explains this better than I can in the rest of chapter 2 referenced above.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
You can see why James almost didn’t make it into the canon. This almost sounds like the complete opposite of Paul In Ephesians chapter two. Paul is the most quoted by those who teach that simply believing Yeshua is Lord is all that is needed to be “saved.” Cherry picking scripture is a huge issue in the church. One can interpret the text any way they like and without a proper understanding of the language, culture, and history. Without knowing the authors’ reason for writing or who they were writing too, we can easily get the wrong idea even when the context seems clear.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I imagine most people just go with the flow while others prefer whatever floats their boat and opens their eyes to the truth enough so they can see the light.
Though, some people surely realize they better bite the bullet and get back to the drawing board and do their homework because the religious world is on thin ice relying of the interpretations of men and God will not let sleeping dogs lie when His Messiah returns and lets the cat out of the bag.
Imagine someone translating that mess in about 1000 years into another language with little to no knowledge of the theological issues of the church today. Modern English speakers have a difficult enough time reading old English like the KJV or Shakespeare, let alone reading a two thousand year old document in another language.
If you have made it this far without your paradigm driving you to the point of scrambling for a response to all of this and thus actually considering a point of view outside of traditional Christian thinking, then just maybe you are growing. I want to be careful because I am not implying you must start keeping the sabbath and not eating bacon. (Hmmm bacon…) I am only daring to suggest that the new testament scriptures were not written by Christians but by Jews who had accepted Yeshua as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah who would not only bring Gods word to Israel but the entire world of humanity who has been astray since the first human pair disobeyed God.
When Paul wrote about needing milk and not solid food, he was not implying that the torah and the prophets were not part of that meal. If they were, why did he continue to use them as the basis for instruction and righteousness until the end of his life? (Acts 28:17-23) (Heb. 5:11-6:1-3) These are both milk and meat, are they not? Milk is the elementary principals of the oracles of God. This foundation is certainly the same foundation even Yeshua had, that being the commandments themselves. Solid food comes by constantly putting into practice these things and discerning right from wrong. How else do we know right from wrong if not by the word of God?
“for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
Yeshua died for us, but that doesn’t mean we are now free to practice our faith as we see fit. God still has a standard. If he didn’t, Yeshua’s death meant nothing. It was the standard of God that led to death because of sin in the first place. Let us not forget we are not our own, but we are slaves of the Messiah who paid for us with his own blood. We are free to live as he sees fit. We won’t be barred from life in the world to come because we choose to live according to the Church’s interpretation of Paul instead of God’s word, but we might find ourselves least in the kingdom instead of greatest. Since we really don’t know what that entails, I guess it doesn’t matter as long as we make it in, right? It’s not as if life is some kind of competition or race to see who makes it to the end on the right path. I mean, that would just be crazy!
Thoughts for today
The world is heading in the right direction. It’s all going according to God’s plan. When we look at the price of living, the rise of pestilences, wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters like never before, and violence as a daily occurrence, I am sure you don’t think that it’s all under control. Don’t worry, God has already planned for a positive outcome. Our deliverance has already occurred. We just don’t realize it when we consider all the current world conditions. The lamb slain from the foundation of the world will soon return as the lion of the tribe of Judah, and instead of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, he will ride into Jerusalem on a white horse.
This time of year, people think about the birth of the Messiah. Christians remember the babe lying in the manger and think about peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Jews remember the deliverance of Israel from the Greeks and the rededication of the holy temple after being defiled by an evil tyrant. The miracle of 1 day worth of oil burning in the menorah for 8 whole days allowing enough time to make more so they could keep the eternal flame lit.
Whether Jew or gentile, this time of year is a special time. We all know Yeshua wasn’t born in December, but our traditions keep the story alive and help us find joy during a time that is often gloomy, cold, and somewhat depressing for many people. Taking this time to reflect on the last year and think about the year to come can also be a positive experience. Remember that God has a plan for you and as long as you still live and breathe, you have more work to do, more time to serve him and more time to do better today than you did yesterday. Every day is a blessing bestowed by the God who gives and who takes away.
I have been studying about the effects of theological dissonance and how our paradigm determines the way we serve God. Do we remember the things he has asked us to remember? Do we remember the things our traditions say we should? Or do we forget them all and decide for ourselves what we remember and how we remember? The religious world is in such a state today that only bits of truth can be found in all the different sects and denominations. None which remain represent the faith of Yeshua. None worship the Father in spirit and in truth. You may not accept this or you may not think it matters. As long as we all serve the same God, then we are on the right track, right?
I think I will leave you with a couple of verses to contemplate and perhaps pick up from there next week. The idea that belief in Yeshua is enough to be in right standing with God is an idea that causes a lot of back and forth from opposing camps. Mostly, this view comes from verses taken from Paul’s writings. Here are some of Yeshua’s words.
“All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it.”
“Not everyone who is saying to Me Lord, Lord, will come into the kingdom of the heavens; but he who is doing the will of My Father who is in the heavens. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name? And in Your Name cast out demons? And in Your Name done many mighty things? And then I will acknowledge to them, that—I never knew you, depart from Me you who are working lawlessness.”
I’m not trying to put a negative spin on an otherwise positive message. I am only hoping to add a bit of balance to the traditional evangelical perspective. The message of the gospel is not as simple and straightforward as Paul “seems” to imply, nor is it as difficult as some groups make it out to be. However, there seems to be a middle ground. The Hebrew of the first century understood something that we do not. Faith is not simply something we believe, but is something we do.
The life we live is the faith we practice, and if we are not practicing our faith, then we are not living a life for God. We are living for ourselves while claiming to live for God. God wants us to love him with all our mind, heart, and strength, and this love is not emotional, it is not a feeling. We must live it as his son lived it. Yeshua is our example. He did not live the way for us, so we don’t have to. He showed us how to walk so that we can walk the way too. That is what next week will be about. Another doctrine. Yeshua kept the way, so we don’t have to. He was without sin because no one else could be and now no one else has to try to be because he did it all just for me. Sorry, I’m no poet, but you get the idea.
This week I need a break. I am physically and mentally exhausted, so much so that I cannot seem to stay awake. Sometimes we just need a reset. Psalm 46:10 comes to mind.
“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
The word translated “be still” can also be translated relax or calm down. Remember when Yeshua said, “don’t be anxious?” There we have it. Just stop thinking, stop doing and just let it all go. The passion translation puts it like this: “Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving…” We get the idea.
The second part is also important. The Hebrew word “yadah” means to know, have knowledge, learn to know, perceive, experience… There is a wide range of meanings including “to know” as in be intimate with. God wants us to know him, not just know about him. Knowing he exists is not enough. Knowing him intimately is the idea here. Filtering the world or blocking it out as much as possible in order to spend time with him is the idea. We do it with family, friends, children, significant others, but do we do it with God?
The world and the people in it can bleed us dry. The anxieties and concerns of daily life can cause us to just want to curl up in bed in the dark and hope it all goes away if we ignore it long enough. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work, but just knowing that God is there in the darkness with us should help to bring a little light to whatever dark place we might find ourselves in. Amen.
This one has always been difficult for me because I know how most readers will accept it, as I once did before I challenged the teaching. I became a follower of Messiah in 2009 and I never thought to question the doctrine of original sin until a little over ten years later. I had always been taught to stick to the text and the text alone, and this is common amongst most Christians. Unfortunately, without an understanding of the cultural background, the history, the original language of the text, and the social norms of the world power in charge at the time (and then some) the text alone falls short. Our interpretive bias and the paradigm which shapes our understanding of what we read will determine what “the spirit reveals to us” in our study. (There’s another topic for later.) If we at least consider the history of a doctrine, this will help put us on the right path to discovery.
There seem to be two sides of the spectrum. The more extreme is the assumption that original sin is a universal belief and the less extreme is the common view that original sin is attested to in scripture. The Hebrews’ understanding of sin has its basis in free will. God has given us all the opportunity to choose good or evil. The innate desire for both is a natural tendency within us all. God's covenant is the foundation of life, and in life, we choose whether to obey God or our own desires. The result of either choice is blessing or curse. For the Hebrew, sin is about right relationship to God rather than a result of “fallen human nature.”
Early “Christian” writers believed in the universality of sin but did not yet have a doctrine which associated the cause of sin with Adam and an inherited condition. Original sin did not exist in the early church and to this day does not exist in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The doctrine did not become official until the council of Carthage in 418. The council sided with Augustine and rejected Pelagianism, citing Romans 5:12 as a “proof text” and deriving the existence of original sin to the sacrament of infant baptism.
Tertullian, who lived between 155 and 220 A.D. opposed infant baptism and of course disagreed with Gnostic thinking, which held the belief in a cosmic fall into sin starting with Adam. Other early writers, like Clement of Alexandria, who lived between 150 and 215 A.D. believed sin was inherited but that it was not biological. He believed that we all imitated the example of Adam. Clement was an active opponent of Gnosticism during this period. I do not have time to mention all the early writers, known as church fathers, and theirs views, but recommend a study of each and their beliefs. They all had different ideas, but in the case of original sin none until Cyprian, who died in 258 A.D. strted developing the idea of sin being spread through intercourse and thus birth. He was a major influence on Augustine, who popularized the doctrine and during the Pelagian controversy in the 400’s succeeded in etching the doctrine into church history and practice. Eventually, the council of Trent (1545-63) gave the church’s stamp of approval that propagation was the means by which sin was transferred and the idea of imitation was officially denied.
We all know the teaching that through Adam, all humans are born in sin and are thus wicked and condemned by God at birth. The argument actually works backwards citing the need for infant baptism because of an original sin, which would necessitate such a practice to begin with. Infant baptism was needed to “save” the child in case of premature death because the child had not had the chance to “become a christian” but the doctrine of original sin now gave a reason for the child’s condemnation to hell if he weren’t baptized before death. It is interesting to note that baptism, which was originally a Jewish ritual practice done over and over throughout one’s life, became a Christian practice of conversion and salvation, considering salvation is by faith and not through works according to the majority teaching. Doctrine builds upon doctrine.
We don’t look down at our newborn children and think, “oh how wicked you are.” However, for many Christians, this is exactly what they believe, whether they like this example or not. After the reformation, the doctrine of original sin was a mainstay, as were most Catholic teachings. (some reformers they were) Wesley, who lived between 1703-1791, formulated the thinking that bridged the gap between Pelagius and Augustine. He taught that there was a difference between original sin and actual sin and believed that no one would be eternally condemned because of Adam’s disobedience. This was a sort of loophole in the doctrine. Wesley defined actual sin as a ‘voluntary transgression of the divine law.’ This is what most Protestant Christians believe, which makes the idea of children born into sin easier to accept.
Having considered some of the background, it’s now time for the “proof texts.” First Romans 5:12. The Latin Vulgate was the text cited at the time of the early controversy. This particular text was mistranslated “in whom all sinned” instead of “because all sinned.”
It is easy to see why the Catholic Church eventually endorsed the doctrine and the Eastern Orthodox Church, who used Greek texts instead of the Latin, would not and still do not accept this teaching.
The Hebrew understanding then and now, as I noted previously, believes in man’s ability to choose. Death may have resulted from Adam’s sin, but Sin itself does not spread to all. Rather, it is the desire of all that no one can deny. We all sin because the inclination to sin is within us all, and choosing right over wrong is often more difficult.
The prophets are all in agreement that each man is judged for his own actions and that none dies for another’s sins. Ezekiel 18:20-32 is one good example. Greeks believed in inherited punishment, while the Hebrews believed in individual accountability. The Greek idea of children being punished for the sins of their parents who had made it through life unpunished for their sins was the way to balance the scales of judgement. The Hebrew idea is, all will be accountable in the judgement after being raised from death.
“Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.”
While the Torah forbids men from punishing the children for the sin of their parents, God reserves the right to do so under certain circumstances, such as for “those who hate him.” (Exo. 34:7) Call it the divine prerogative. There are always consequences for sins and those consequences may affect our progeny, however, that does not mean it is a punishment from God. Depending on how we understand this issue we might ask, if God punishes men for the actions of their parents then why are we prohibited by God from doing the same? Most of the Scripture seems clear, so it must be our interpretation of scripture that is in error.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
There are two different Hebrew words used here, one for sin the other iniquity. It is also interesting to note that it was the conception of David that was in sin. The Hebrew verb “Yaham” which is attached to David’s mother, is most often associated with animals in heat. The Psalm here is one of great emotional turmoil being expressed by David after his sin with Bathsheba. As opposed to theological language like Augustine taught, perhaps David is using poetic hyperbole to express his deep felt regret for his sinful actions, as is very common in Hebrew, especially the Psalms. Another thought is found in a note by Robert Alter: “Some early rabbis suggest David’s father, Jesse, did not have relations with his wife to fulfill a higher obligation but rather out of sheer lust.” There are also those who believed that Jesse and David’s mother were not married at his conception. Whatever the case, the details are not given. The Hebrews did not deduce from this text the idea of original sin or of all humanity being born in sin because of Adam. This is read back into the text by Christianity because of the doctrine of original sin.
(1 Sam. 15:24)
“Saul said to Samuel, I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”
“All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him.”
(1 John 3:4)
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.”
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
“For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.”
(Rom. 7:7) [read through verse 13]
“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
That should be enough. The scriptures seem to teach that sin is not a disease which is spread to each person, but sin is something we do. It is an action or a choice. We rebel against or disobey God. We know sin through God’s word. There was a first sin, an original sin, but the understanding of sin is based on a doctrine called original sin, which is not the same thing. You may or may not find this alternative view probable. Either way, if it has inspired you to think about things differently, then I have done my job.
For a complete list of works referenced in this article, email a reply to this newsletter and I will be glad to send them over.
For more interesting information on the subject, check out https://skipmoen.com/2011/08/further-thoughts-on-sinful-nature/ There is also an article on the word study archives page on “Sarx” (Flesh) at https://studytheway.org/old-study-articles/
Peccability vs. Impeccability of Christ.
(Definitions from alphadictionary.com)
Meaning: Capable of sin, given to sinning.
Notes: We generally think of impeccable “flawless” as an orphan negative, without a positive. But impeccable also means “sinless” because its positive counterpart, peccable, means “sinful”. The noun from this word is peccability. It has a cousin with a similar meaning, peccant “sinful”, which also has a noun, peccancy “sinfulness”.
Meaning: 1. Faultless, flawless, perfect, in accord with the highest standards. 2.(Theological, rare) Sinless, blameless, unerring.
Notes: Today we have a word that was once a fraternal twin of impeccant. Once they broke up, though, impeccantcontinued meaning only “sinless”, while its twin acquired a lay meaning “flawless”. Don’t forget to double the C when writing this word. It comes with an adverb, impeccably, and a noun, impeccability.
Since it is impossible for God to sin, then it is believed, according to Christian doctrine, since Jesus is 100% God and 100% man that he could not sin, not only that, but he cannot be tempted. The opposition amongst Christian doctrine is that while Yeshua was on earth, he could have sinned because he had free will, however, he did not sin.
We know for sure that Yeshua never sinned. (Pet. 2:22) (Heb. 4:15) He was obedient to the point of death. (Phil. 2:8) Who was he obedient to? We are going to look at Hebrews and Philippians in order to help answer this question and the question, could Yeshua have sinned? Just reading the verse in Hebrews should make a person think, at least if you read the text without a doctrinal viewpoint already in place to alter your understanding.
Yeshua had free will. Other powerful beings like the angels and the devil had free will and thus could choose to disobey God and rebel. They could sin. We know that the devil and many of the angels did sin. Yeshua was obedient to God and God’s standard of conduct. Yeshua did not break the law, nor did he choose to rebel against his father’s will. The doctrine of original sin should probably be dissected first, but I’m saving that for next week. For now, let’s just use the simple definition of sin.
(1 John 3:4) “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices anomia; sin is anomia.”
“Anomia” is translated as lawlessness. The word literally means violation of the law, or rebellion against God’s words. Do not eat from the tree! This was a command. Adam broke the command, thus he sinned. Either we fall short of a standard, choose to disobey, or disobey in ignorance. Yeshua was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. The text clearly states this as a fact. Hebrews says that he “was tempted in every respect as we are, yet was without sin.” Yeshua was tempted. God cannot be tempted. (Jas. 1:13)
The Hebrew “yetzer hara” is the evil inclination. This is the natural inclination of the flesh, to feed its desires. The desire to thirst, hunger, to procreate are all natural desires God put within us so that we might survive and multiply on the earth. The flesh can become addicted to many things based on this natural desire. This stuff feels good and when something feels good, we like to do it. There is also the inclination to rule over others, to do as we please because it feels good. The fruit of the tree looked good to Eve, although the desire to be like the Elohim was surely a greater temptation than the taste of the fruit. Yeshua would have been hungry in the desert after fasting forty days. The devil played on this natural desire.
Yeshua was obedient to his Father. He was not obedient to himself. In his obedience, he humbled himself by dying on the cross. Philippians chapter two speaks of the humility of Yeshua and how we should have the same attitude. What attitude?
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Putting others first, even to the point of putting aside our ambition, is one of the most difficult things for a human to do. We think first about ourselves and our immediate family. Yeshua thought first about God, then his tribe, and then mankind. In his humility, the text says he emptied himself of his divine form. He did not seek to hold on to the position of power and authority he had, but set it aside and instead took the lowly form of a servant in the likeness of men.
He was in the “morphe” or external appearance of God, but “kenoo” himself or laid aside or emptied himself and took the “morphe” or external appearance of a servant and was born in the likeness of men.
That which Yeshua had, his likeness to God, he laid aside and came instead in the likeness of men. This was humility indeed. Had he not laid aside that divine part of who he was, then we could not truthfully say that this was an act of humility. To come in the likeness of men and not keep hold of that which he shared with God or seek to grasp it was an amazing act of humility. If you were a heavenly being with great power, would you give that up and come to live on earth as a man so that eventually you could be treated as a lowly criminal and be tortured and executed in most brutal fashion?
Mathematically, 100% and 100% do not add up. 50/50 sure but 100 percent God and 100 percent man? Nope. This is a doctrine. A doctrine contrived by the Roman Empire, the same empire responsible for the enslavement of Israel, the destruction of the temple, the sacking of Jerusalem, and let us not forget the crucifixion of Yeshua. This empire, which would later decide to create a religion by the syncretism of the pagan system with that of gentile followers of Yeshua as Messiah, is the same one which would persecute Jews to the point of death and mistreat them for centuries to come.
If it was decided that gentiles did not have to convert and become Jewish in the first century, then why do we now teach that Jews must convert and become gentiles (Christians) today? To answer this question, we must look at history to when the empire of Rome decided “Christianity” was politically advantageous. This is also the point in history where all the doctrines we now call Christian were being developed by councils of Roman men and then instituted as defining standards for the church. What does this have to do with the topic? Absolutely everything. If we do not know our (true) history, then we will not see the reality that is the present and the future that is inevitable because of our present actions.
You can decide for yourself if Yeshua could have sinned. The reality is that it doesn’t really matter because he didn’t sin. However, the reason for this doctrine does matter because other doctrines have a great effect on the faith we practice. We may not think much about how the Trinity and original sin change the way we see God and the way we love him with all of our being but the truth is these doctrines affect our worship and God wants us to worship in spirit and in truth. Next time I hope to dissect original sin. This one will be fun because just like the Trinity, everyone feels the need to defend it. Prepare your shields for the swing of the sword.
He will (never) leave us or forsake us...
God is incapable of looking upon sin. Thus, he abandoned his Son on the cross because he had taken all the sins of the world upon him at that moment. Is this true? Is it so that because of his holy nature, God is incapable of dealing with a sinner? Isn’t this why we needed the sacrifice of the Messiah? So that we could be at-one with God again? We considered the abandonment issue and the Psalm that leads to this conclusion. Now let’s look into the Father’s aversion to sin.
All of Christianity, in one way or another, has been influenced by reformation theology and various doctrines that are required to explain other doctrines that do not seem to fit with the text. One example, it was impossible for Yeshua to sin. Since Yeshua is one part of the “Godhead” then he could not possibly have succumbed to any of Satan’s temptations, let alone choose to sin during his time on earth. (This is the argument of Impeccability vs. Pecability of Christ, a subject for another day.)
Christian doctrine presents a perfect God who is so pure and holy that he cannot possibly be responsible for anything other than the good in the world. Tell that to the Canaanites… God is a God of light, a God that has no evil within him. (Psalm 92:15) He is also the creator of ALL things. He is “the one forming light and creating darkness, causing well being and creating ‘Ra; I am the Lord who does all these.” (Isaiah 45:7) Your translation likely says calamity, but the word in the Hebrew text is “Ra.” This is the Hebrew word for evil. God planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Ra) in the garden. God destroyed the earth with the flood because of the “Ra of man was great in the earth and every intention of the hearts of men was only “Ra” continually.” (Gen. 6:5) Does this make God responsible for evil?
If God is in full control and knows the end from the beginning, then to say he was not cognizant of the fact that all these horrible things were going to happen would be to disregard the doctrines we have created to explain God. Omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence. They all play a role, but set those aside a moment and try to reflect on who the God of scripture is without these doctrines as your point of reference. Before and after Adam and Eve sinned, he walked in the garden. He planted the tree of knowledge in the garden and allowed the serpent entrance. He spoke with Moses face to face. A murderer and adulterer was “a man after his own heart.” You can fill in the rest…
Yeshua was prepared as a lamb before the world was even created. God pre-planned for a way to deal with sin and death and for all that happened after Adam’s rebellion. Is God responsible for evil? God gave free will to Adam. Adam willingly disobeyed, and the result was a disaster. The serpent was used the same way satan’s are used throughout the Bible. They are allowed to be satan’s, to be accusers. They are even sent to do what God himself cannot. (Keep in mind that Satan was not a personal name in ancient times but is a Hebrew word meaning “adversary.”)
(1 Kings 22:19-23)
“And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.”
This spirt was allowed be a lying spirit in the mouth of God’s prophets. God never lies, nor would he put false words into his prophet’s mouth. (Titus 1:2) Here, this spirit comes up with an idea in furtherance of God’s plan and God says “go and do it.” Notice that it is the Lord who is given the credit in verse 23. God is the boss, he is given the recognition even though he does not physically do it himself. Just like Solomon is credited with building the temple, or kings are said to be the ones who win a war. The builders and the soldiers are those who are doing the work in the name of the one who commanded it to be done.
Turning now to the book of Job, chapter one.
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?”
Please notice that the sons of god are before the throne, and Satan, one we know to be evil, comes before God in his heavenly abode. Also, notice that it is God who brings Job to Satan’s attention, not the other way around. God allows Satan to do whatever he wills save for the taking of Jobs’s life. I imagine God knew very well that Satan would cause all of Job’s children to be killed, along with the rest of the “calamities” that would occur. Can we apply the same logic in this situation as scripture does in the story above? Satan is the one who acted, but God not only brings up the situation to Satan, but allows him to act in a most despicable way.
This is not about blaming God or anyone else for the evil of the world. This is about reality. God had a plan and his plan involved sin. His plan involved his Son suffering and dying. His plan involved a serpent who is called Satan. We do not know the mind of God, save for what he reveals to us. We know God is the sovereign over his creation. Nothing is done without his knowledge and nothing can be done without him allowing it to be done. We say that God is everywhere all at once, but we also say God cannot be in the presence of sin. We say God is not responsible for evil, but we also say God is all knowing. Even by our human standards, men in positions of authority bear responsibility for the actions of those under their command.
The Hebrew thinking on this subject helps, but we have to first ignore our Greek theology. Our troubles and distresses serve a higher purpose. Paul would have understood verses like the one above in Isaiah or Job 5:18, which says “For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal...” as relating to God who is in control as the one true sovereign God. In Isaiah’s day, the surrounding nations believed the gods to be responsible for good and evil, yet Isaiah assures them that YHVH God is the one God and only he is the creator of all things. His purpose will stand and no one else can step in and cause his plans to fail.
(2 Cor. 12:7)
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. “
Paul recognized that the thorn was given by God for a purpose. The messenger of Satan was used by God to keep Paul on track. While we do not see how God’s hand plays a role in the shaping of our experiences, in the good and bad, Hebrew thought understood that he does and that no matter what was going on, it served a higher purpose. We may not see how the role of Hitler fit into this plan, but ultimately, the nation of Israel was reborn and regathered because of the atrocities of that great war and the evils which resulted. If God is in control, then we cannot deny that God shapes the plans of evil men for his own outcome. It is not God who does the evil, he only controls it and allows it to continue for the good of his people.
Abraham Heschel says in his book, Man is not alone, pg 152. “The decay of conscience fills the air with a pungent smell. Good and evil, which were once as distinguishable as day and night, have become a blurred mist. But that mist is man made. God is not silent. He has been silenced.”
Our world is so out of control, and the institutions of religion which claim to serve God or represent him fall short for failing to recognize the sovereignty of God and his right to decide for us what morality looks like. We define good and evil according to our cultural ideals and ethical values. God is the creator. We bear the responsibility for our own actions. God created good and then gave free will to his creation. The will to choose to deviate from a set standard of conduct invariably leads to wrongdoing.
God gave the knowledge of evil to the higher beings (Gen. 3:22) and allowed man the choice to eat of the tree, knowing he would, so that man would also know and experience evil. This does not make God responsible for the evil, but we cannot say that he was ignorant of the results of planting the tree. Besides, it was not the knowledge of evil that was the sin but disobeying the command not to eat of the tree, which was the sin. You are free to decide how you feel about it, but it is best to decide based on scripture, not doctrines of men which have made God in our image.
Can God look upon sin? If he couldn’t, then he wouldn’t be God. Can he be in the presence of sin? He can certainly be in the presence of sinners. If he is omnipresent, then he is always close to sin. Sin is rebellion against and disobedience to the divine standard, not a material substance like kryptonite is to superman.
Scripture is not the only way to have communion with God. Many of the people of faith we find as examples in scripture did not have the written word as we do. The word may be eternal, but the written word has not always been available to all.
Whatever you believe, we can all agree that the best way to walk is like Yeshua. What would Yeshua do? How would Yeshua feel about that? What would Yeshua think? Hasn’t he already told us?
Are we there yet?
Note: We have begun a study through the book of Acts on the bible podcast page.)
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)
Christian doctrine commonly teaches that God momentarily abandoned Yeshua because he took all the sins of the world upon himself on the cross. One justification for this doctrine is the idea that “God cannot look upon sin.” Habakkuk 1:13 is cited as a “proof text” without regard to the overall context. I won't dig into that one today, instead we will think about Yeshua’s words from the perspective of a Jew living in the second temple period. The practice among Jews of citing a psalm by referring to the opening verse is one that few Christians seem to consider in their attempts at interpretation. In fact, referencing an entire book is done by citing the opening verse. The books of the Pentateuch are named in this way. Genesis is called “Bere’shiyt” which means in the beginning, Exodus is “Shemot” meaning names. Yeshua is referencing the whole of Psalm twenty two, not just the first verse. Psalm twenty-two is not about abandonment but vindication.
The belief that God abandoned his son for a moment actually causes issues for other doctrines. The trinity is one of these. In this moment, does God abandon himself? The Father part detaches from the son part, perhaps? I’ll stop nit picking for now. The Jewish audience would have understood Yeshua and his reference to the Psalm. Almost every Jew grew up memorizing the Psalms. The first verse would bring to mind the whole Psalm.
There are also language and translation issues between Mark’s version and Matthew's s, which is what led some bystanders to think Yeshua was calling for Elijah. This is also a subject for another day.
Calvary was certainly a moment of despair for Yeshua. He was nailed to a wooden cross! But the Psalm only begins with a cry of desperation. This Psalm is about the sovereign God bringing deliverance. There is victory in Yeshua! This victory is not only referenced in this Psalm but also in his dying breath, “it is finished.” The Greek word translated “it is finished” is “Tetelestai.” “Tetelestai” comes from the root “telos” meaning the goal, the end, or the completion. Yeshua has “accomplished” a goal, his life’s purpose.
Let’s dig deeper. This is a perfect indicative passive tense. An indicative mood makes a statement or points out a fact. The perfect tense describes a completed action in the past that has continuing results for the present. The verb tense itself tells us that “it” isn’t finished just yet. Whatever is finished is only the beginning of something ongoing. The passive voice means that someone or something other than the subject is the active force.
An example: Instead of “the kid hit the ball,” it would be, “the kid was hit by the ball.”
The subject receives the action. Yeshua is saying that something other than himself has finished the job. He just happens to be the one acted upon. Simply put, Yeshua was not in charge here. God acted through Yeshua. What God began, he continues to do through Yeshua. The cross is just a pause in the plan of God. God put his plan in place from before the founding of the world. The lamb slain before the world began and the work accomplished this far is still ongoing. Humanity first heard about it from God, then saw it in Yeshua, and finally, one day will experience it in the world to come. But it’s not just about us.
I mentioned before that John 3:16 says that Yeshua was sent to save the “kosmos.” The “kosmos” or the world, includes more than just us humans. The kingdom on earth under Yeshua’s rule affects more than just created beings. All of creation suffers in pain and in expectation. (Rom. 8:20-22) Yeshua tells Pilate his purpose in John 18:33-40. The conversation had to do with Yeshua’s authority as the king of the Jews. A king’s authority extends only to the boundaries of his kingdom. In Yeshua’s case, there is no boundary line. All things are subject to him except the one from whom he received his authority. (1 Cor. 15:27-28) All of creation was affected by the penalty of death and as a result, the ransom for the penalty was paid on behalf of all creation.
The defilement of sin prevents God from dwelling with humanity the way he desires. If we are honest with ourselves and in our reading of the scripture, we will realize God is not barred from relationship with us because of sin. Prayers were answered by God before Yeshua came to earth. From Adam to Abraham, and Moses to Malachi, humanity experienced God’s forgiveness, his mercy, his faithfulness. Yeshua opens the way to the Father, but not in the way theology seems to imply. We will dig deeper into the doctrine that “God cannot look upon sin” but this will have to wait for next time. For now, it is time to conclude this long drawn out session because every additional issue opens up another can of worms that I don’t have time to dig through all at once.
My conclusion is that most of this isn’t much different from what common doctrine teaches. Everything is just far more complex than “Yeshua died on the cross for our sins.” I’m certainly not saying keeping it so simple as that is a bad thing, but there is so much to learn from the word of God when we unroll every scroll side by side and search for the connections that can be made and the insight that can be gleaned from the mind of our creator. Why would we not want to know more about all the wonderful things he has hidden for us to discover? We dig deep into the earth for oil, gold and diamonds. We dive deep into the sea and fly out into the vast reaches of space in order to discover more about creation, yet most of us are to comfortable or to scared to delve into the recesses of God’s word to learn more about the one who created it all. The ransom is a subject of great depth, as we have discovered. I hope that from this point forward, you might think about things differently when you think about what happened on the cross.
One lamb, two goats, and a ransom paid.
Sin brings death to the innocent. Yeshua is called our Passover, and of course, he was slain on the Passover. (1 Cor. 5:7) (John 18:39) This is something that should be more personal for us, but today is not. The Passover lamb that was slain on the fourteenth was chosen on the tenth. (Exo. 12:3) The lamb was taken home and over the next four days, your family lived with it, cared for it, fed it. Imagine growing up as a child and every year bringing this year-old lamb into your home for four days. How quickly do children become attached to animals? How quickly do some adults? This was a deeply personal experience. The lamb you were to slaughter, whose blood was painted on the doorpost in order to save the life of all the firstborn sons, was more than just a random animal chosen for sacrifice. All who did not make the sacrifice, whether Israelite or Egyptian, had their firstborn sons and the firstborn of their animals slain. We all become children of God through Yeshua’s sacrifice, thus we can now join with Israel, who is God’s firstborn son. (Gal. 3:26-4:1-7) (Exo. 4:22-23)
Yeshua is the Passover lamb chosen to be sacrificed for the deliverance of all the people from the bondage of death. The Passover was about life, not death. Deliverance came to Israel at Passover by the blood of the lamb. The death of all the firstborns came by not making the sacrifice and covering the doorpost with the blood. Passover and atonement are separate events. Yeshua is not only our Passover, Yeshua is also our sin offering for atonement which washes away sin and the scapegoat which carries all people’s sins away into the wilderness. Sin has to be dealt with, and so does death. Yeshua did not just cover sin or erase it, he washed it away as well as carried it away. “He is the lamb who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) It is likely John the baptist was thinking of the scapegoat. He was a Hebrew thinker, not a Greek thinker. Digging deeper into this phrase, however, is a subject for another day.
The sacrifice of the lamb on the altar in heaven before the world began accomplishes more than saving us from sin. He makes atonement for our sin and delivers us from death. As we covered in the first study of this series, Yeshua is the authority that ends the corrupt governments of this world. God has once again transformed a pagan symbol of control and death into a standard raised up to signify healing and victory over death. All that stands in opposition to God has been subdued. We also see that he is the sin offering chosen on Yom Kippur and the scapegoat chosen to be released into the wilderness and bear on its head all the sins of Israel. How does the ransom relate to these various things Yeshua has accomplished?
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
“who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Tim. 2:6)
A Ransom for many and a ransom for all. The Greek word in Mark is “Lytron,” and in Timothy we find “anti-lytron.” Anti is a preposition that in English usually means against or opposed to. In Greek, it can also mean “in exchange of” or “in benefit of.” Yeshua is not just a substitution, but he is also an exchange. His blood is a payment which washes away our sin. His life is a substitution for our life because we are all sentenced to death under the penalty of the law. This is for all men because we all sin, and because of the sin of our first parents, the penalty of death affects all humanity. Here is where the doctrine of original sin affects our understanding of everything we have been talking about. This is a subject for another day but one to contemplate none the less. Now, let’s consider the possible Hebrew equivalents for “lytron.”
“Kippur” should be familiar to us. Yom Kippur is the day (yom) of atonement. (kippur) “Kippur” has the meaning of washing away. The Hebrew idea is not about covering something up, but about washing something away. The defilement caused by sin needs to be cleansed. If “kippur” is meant, then we are being told Yeshua acts as atonement for many. Defilement is washed away and death will soon be dealt with.
“Go’el” is another word that will be familiar to us. In Ruth, the kinsman redeemer is the “go’el.” The idea is that of a bloodline obligation on behalf of one party for the release of the other party from a debt, or from bondage. If “Go’el” is meant, then the covenant promise of release from bondage to death is soon to be a reality. (Heb. 2:15)
“Pada” stresses the act of making payment in order to execute release, but the focus is on the action (the one making payment) not on the subject. So the crucifixion of Yeshua is the end of slavery to death, which delivers us just like Israel was delivered from Egypt.
After considering all the different aspects of the sacrifice, it seems as if the meaning of the ransom for all encompasses everything we have considered up to this point. The serpent lifted up, the Passover, the sin offering for atonement and the scapegoat. The timing of it all is not as simple as we have always imagined, either. Sin and death still plaque us even though the lamb slain from the founding of the world was manifested to us two thousand years ago. Still, we struggle with sin and the penalty of disobedience to God’s instruction, death, still exists.
What did Yeshua mean by “it is finished?” Is it finished? He still has to return and complete the task. There is more to this than we have considered. The creation itself remains in bondage. We like to think it’s all about us. But the world is included in the act at the cross. The resurrection is a part of the continuation of the purpose of God, which proves that “it is finished” may not mean in English what it meant in the Hebrew words spoken by Yeshua.
Next week, we will focus on the cross. Yeshua’s words about God forsaking him and his dying declaration of “it is finished” will be broken down in an attempt to piece them together in the (il?) logical conclusion of this ongoing tirade about the lamb slain from the founding of the world and what the cross really is (or is not) and why Christian theology falls short in explaining it all away with “Jesus died on the cross for my sins.”
Phew… O.k. I think “It is finished” for this week. Of course, there’s more to come.
The plan before time
Heb. 9:11) “Messiah entered the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with human hands, that is to say, not of this creation.” (Heb. 9:24) When did Messiah enter the tabernacle? Was it after the cross? We know it wasn’t pre-ascension. (John 20:17) We know the temple on earth represents the greater reality in heaven. (Heb. 8:5) The blood was sprinkled on the altar in heaven, making atonement once for all. (Heb. 9:12)
Hebrews 9:26 in the ESV says, “since it had behoved him many times to suffer from the foundation of the world, but now once, at the full end of the ages, for putting away of sin through his sacrifice, he hath been manifested”
In the Greek text, the verb comes last in the sentence. The ESV, shown above, is the same. The verb is “phaneroo” and here it is in the perfect passive third person. As a perfect passive, it implies the action was done to the subject in the past but has continuing effects in the present. It is the effect of the action taken in the past that is manifested at the end of the ages. Basically, the sacrifice on the altar took place somewhere else in the past but is only now being revealed or manifested to us.
(Rev. 13:8) “And bow before it shall all who are dwelling upon the land, whose names have not been written in the scroll of the life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”
Yeshua volunteered for the role of redeemer before the world began. He willingly and obediently went forth to do the will of the most high God. God did not make up his plan after the sin, but in advance developed and executed the plan. (2 Tim. 1:9-10) The Torah mandated sacrifices and offerings are shadows of the heavenly reality. Yeshua’s death is truly the fulfillment of all these different sacrifices and offerings which reveal some aspect of Yeshua’s sacrifice. Every sacrifice and offering found in the Torah tells us something important about Yeshua’s sacrifice and the fullness of all it accomplishes. (Exo. 25:8-9, Acts 7:44) (Col. 2:16-17) The appointed times, the sacrifices, offerings, even the covenants point us to the sacrifice of the lamb, without spot, who is foreknown before the founding of the world. (1 Pet. 1:19-20)
I took the following from an E-Study on Oct. 5th, titled Yom Kippur. You can find the entire study in the archives.
“The book of Hebrews is not about Yeshua entering the holy place on earth, but is about his sacrifice being made on the altar in heaven “before the founding of the world.” Yeshua was not a Levite, so he could not have entered the Holy of holies to make the sin offering on earth. But, because he is of the order of Melchizedek, he could enter the holy of holies in heaven and make atonement once and for all time. God did not have to fix a broken world after the fact. God already planned for our healing before he made us. Perhaps the mishap in Eden was a part of God’s will for humanity and the development of us as a people.
I have often heard the question, what happens to all the people who lived before Yeshua came and never had the opportunity to hear about him and put faith in him? There are various doctrines in Christianity based on questions like this one. Revelation 13:8 is the basis for an understanding of atonement and forgiveness. Some translations read differently depending on the way the translator thought about this issue. Here is the key to understanding this passage.
The NASB makes the modifier apply to the “writing of names in the book” instead of to the “sacrifice of the lamb.” This theology leans toward predestination. While I am not a fan of the NIV, it keeps with the original Greek text and places the focus on the sacrifice. The Greek text places “from the founding of the world” as a modifier of “the lamb who has been slain.” This can change everything. The way we read the gospels, Paul, John, Peter, everything we understand from the scriptures regarding the forgiveness of sin and the atonement of humanity. The scriptures can be read and interpreted in various ways, depending on how we understand time and the sacrifice of Yeshua.”
If Yeshua has always been the only access to the Father, even though Abraham, David, and Daniel, as recipients of God’s grace, did not know it, would this not change much of Christian theology regarding forgiveness and atonement? Did forgiveness truly occur at the cross? God has always forgiven those who sin against him and repented of it. Yeshua forgave the sins of many people on earth prior to his death. What about death? Is death not the true enemy?
Last week I said we would also talk about the ransom but because of the length of this week’s study that will have to wait until next week. We will dig into the Passover and its relation to the ransom for many. The Greek “lytron” must be considered alongside its possible Hebrew equivalents, “kippur,” “go’el,” and “pada.” After that is accomplished, we will then consider all of this from a broader perspective. The cross is not just about us humans. The cleansing of creation from the defilement of sin and the defeat of death is a must.
God wants to dwell with us but cannot, not just because of sin but because the earth itself is corrupted and death reigns where life was meant to flourish forever. We must put sin in its proper place. Sin is merely a symptom of the real sickness, death. The penalty of sin has affected all the “kosmos.” At the end of this 3 or 4 part study, it is possible the way you understand “It is finished” might be slightly different than your theology previously allowed. I am certainly not attempting to change anyone’s mind. My goal is to get my readers to think about things differently.
Copper serpent, wooden cross
We will consider various aspects of the Messiah’s ransom over the next few weeks. The Passover, the atoning sacrifice, the scapegoat, the altar in heaven, and so on. It is just not as simple as “Yeshua died on the cross to save us from our sins.” The cross itself is not as relevant as we imagine. The blood was not even sprinkled on the altar, at least not on earth.
In John 3:14-15, Yeshua refers to Numbers 21:6-9. We often relate this narrative to an act of faith, but is there more to the story?
God uses the hooded serpent, a familiar symbol of pagan practices in Egypt. The Israelites would have known this symbol of royalty that was associated with the sun god and other deities. They also wore the symbol on their headdress as a protective icon. God, having conquered Egypt and its deities, now uses an idolatrous icon as a symbol of healing.
Roman crucifixion was the most brutal and cruel form of execution they had at their disposal. The cross was a symbol of death and of Rome’s authority over everyone else. Yeshua does exactly what Moses did in the wilderness. He transforms a symbol of control and death into a standard raised up by God meant for healing and victory over death. YHVH is sovereign over Rome. Just like he delivered Israel from Egypt, he delivers the world from death.
Yeshua is lifted up on the cross just like the copper serpent was lifted up in the wilderness by Moses. The people were healed by looking at the serpent in obedience to God’s instruction. Yeshua was lifted up, and the world saw defeat, but God is proclaiming victory over all those who deny his authority as sovereign.
The Greek words in John 3:14 translated “must be lifted up” are “hypsoō” and “dei”. “Hypsoō” means to lift up, but it can also mean to exalt. In the Septuagint the word is often used for the exaltation of God. (Isa. 52:13) The word describes the exalted Messiah in John 8:28, 12:32 and, of course, here in 3:14. Yeshua is exalted through his death and at his resurrection, he takes a seat at the right hand of power. Death is defeated. While we still die, the authority of Yeshua over death and the grave means that all who look to him in faith are healed and delivered from death in the resurrection.
Just like the copper serpent, the cross itself was a symbol of paganism and the authority of an empire that stands in opposition to God. The copper serpent became important to the people and apparently found a home in the camp and eventually the temple itself. From the time Moses made the serpent in the wilderness until Hezekiah was hundreds of years. The temple was built almost 500 years after the wilderness, so this serpent had a place among the people for a very long time.
In 2 kings 18:1-4, we read about Hezekiah “destroying the high places, pillars, Asherah and the serpent Moses had made.” The people had been making offerings to the serpent and burning incense. How did an image survive so long in Israel? Do we imagine the cross is any different? What will Yeshua say when he returns? Will a reformer like Hezekiah come and tear it all down?
The ransom is not only important for humanity but for all creation. Reconciliation between God and man had to be made first before God could once again dwell with his people. The eradication of sin and our deliverance from death were accomplished on the altar in heaven before the founding of the world and the results were revealed to us on the cross two thousand years ago. Next week we will dig into this timeline and talk about the ransom.
Now that the holy days over I Am finally going to finish up the beatitudes. I recommend going back and re-reading the E-Word study on Matthew 5:3 from the Archives.
Matthew 5:10 “Happy those persecuted for righteousness’ sake—because theirs is the reign of the heavens.”
“Because of them, the kingdom of heaven is.”
Reading this in the bible you might think this isn’t the end of the beatitudes. According to Christian tradition, you would be correct. Verse eleven is included, but the original text reveals something different.
There is a literary device in biblical studies typical of Hebrew thought called an inclusio. An inclusio occurs when an author places the same idea word, phrase, or character both at the beginning and end of a unit of thought. There was no punctuation or paragraph break in Hebrew or Greek, so other methods, like the inclusio, were implemented. Here, it is to let the audience know where a thought begins and ends within a larger section of text. Matthew 5:3 is the opening and Matthew 5:10 is the close of this inclusio. (A few other examples of an inclusio can be found in (Num. 4:24-28, Prov. 1:2-7, James 2:14-26)
Who are the persecuted? The opener in Mathew 5:3 and the closer in 5:10 are both present tense, with all the rest being future tense. The word “diōkō” often translated persecuted can also be translated chased after or pursued eagerly. Those who are happy are those being chased after for righteousness. In the first century, those who were being chased for righteousness were those who are pursuing God. Those who are doing the persecuting are the legalists who are chasing after them, declaring “you must do things our way, according to our rules to get to God.”
In our day, this is the reason there are thousands of denominations. You must believe such-and-such or you're going to hell. If you don’t do A, B or you don’t get in line with our creed, then you are not acceptable to God. We have all heard this before. Even in our non denominational grace and love focused church, we still find these doctrines which are disguised as “Christian essentials.” In the third century, to be part of the emerging church, you had to renounce Passover, sabbath, food laws, all things Jewish in order to be part of the church and be acceptable to God. This was the beginning of the Christian persecutors. In Yeshua’s day, the legalists, not just the Pharisees, did the same. This was certainly nothing new.
How are we happy when we are persecuted? Because we seek after God. We see through the doctrines and the religious tyranny hung around our necks by those in control. We are free to serve God according to his word of righteousness and not according to the standards put in place by men. The church’s idea of grace has gone to the extreme, with emphasis placed on freedom from guilt instead of freedom from sin. When we do as we please and cite grace as our excuse, we are acting no better than the persecutors.
We are blessed when we allow God to be the authority in our life. We will be persecuted as a result, but this is the persecution of Yeshua. It is an honor to be called a heretic when standing up for the same reasons as our king! We hold his standard high on the battlefield and march after him into the volley of fire because if it were not for him, we wouldn’t be able to stand at all.
The day of atonement. The high priest could enter the holy place one day per year on Yom Kippur. Tonight, as the sun sets and this E-Word study reaches inboxes, Jews and sojourners alongside Israel will begin the fast for Yom Kippur. However, tonight is not the beginning of Yom Kippur according to God’s instructions on how to determine the proper time. According to Judaism, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. Even secular Jews fast and pray on Yom Kippur. Imagine millions of Jews and gentiles all around the world fasting and praying all at the same time to the Almighty. Many believe that on Rosh Hashana, God inscribes our names in the book of life or the book of death. Jews consider the days leading up to Yom Kippur as a time of deep reflection and repentance from our sins so that God might move to write our name in the book of life if it is not already there.
Christian theology is familiar with the concept of atonement. However, there are different interpretations of what atonement is and how Yeshua’s death makes atonement. Yes, even with this subject, Christianity is divided in its thinking. I believe that Judaism and Christianity both fall short of understanding how atonement and forgiveness works. This is something only God truly knows and understands. A paradigm shift needs to occur to understand atonement the way the Hebrews who were living in the first century did. Here are some interesting thoughts on the matter.
The book of Hebrews is not about Yeshua entering the holy place on earth, but is about his sacrifice being made on the altar in heaven “before the founding of the world.” Yeshua was not a Levite, so he could not have entered the Holy of holies to make the sin offering on earth. But, because he is of the order of Melchizedek, he could enter the holy of holies in heaven and make atonement once and for all time. God did not have to fix a broken world after the fact. God already planned for our healing before he made us. Perhaps the mishap in Eden was a part of God’s will for humanity and the development of us as a people.
I have often heard the question, what happens to all the people who lived before Yeshua came and never had the opportunity to hear about him and put faith in him? There are various doctrines in Christianity based on questions like this one. Revelation 13:8 is the basis for his understanding of atonement and forgiveness. Some translations read differently depending on the way the translator thought about this issue. Here is the key to understanding this passage.
The NASB makes the modifier apply to the “writing of names in the book” instead of to the “sacrifice of the lamb.” This theology leans toward predestination. While I am not a fan of the NIV, it keeps with the original Greek text and places the focus on the sacrifice. The Greek text places “from the founding of the world” as a modifier of “the lamb who has been slain.” This can change everything. The way we read the gospels, Paul, John, Peter, everything we understand from the scriptures regarding the forgiveness of sin and the atonement of humanity. The scriptures can be read and interpreted in various ways, depending on how we understand time and the sacrifice of Yeshua.
Regardless of what we believe, the future arrival of the messiah to earth will bring clarity to all questions which have divided the body. The day of atonement may very well be the time when Yeshua enters the holy place on earth as the high priest and fulfills on earth what I believe he already has in heaven. The reality that sin is still a problem on earth and that death, “the last enemy to be destroyed” is still a plague on humanity is one that we all know to be true. Placing our trust in Yeshua and in God’s promises should diminish any fear of death or of falling short in God’s eyes.
This week I want to talk about the fall holy days, beginning with Yom Teruah. Next week we will consider Yom Kippur, and after that the feast of Sukkot.
Yom Teruah is one of the “moedim” or appointed times of God. Yom Teruah means, “day of the sounding of the shofar.” It is also known as the day “when no one knows the day or the hour.” Sound familiar? This is the only holy day that occurs on the first day of the month. The first of the month is determined by the sighting of the first sliver of the new moon in the sky. The day of the new moon was never known, although every month there are only one or two days of darkness prior to the appearing of the new moon. Traditionally, the moon was to be sighted by two witnesses. Depending on the weather, it could be very difficult to determine the first day.
Yom Teruah is the first of the fall “modeim.” In modern Israel, it also marks the beginning of the new year called Rosh Hashanah. This tradition is not based in scripture. The earliest mention of Rosh Hashanah occurs in the Mishna and the Tosefta, both having been redacted about 200 C.E. In ancient Babylon, they celebrated new years twice a year. Once in the spring and once in the fall. The first of what is now the month of *Tishrei, or the 7th month, is when this celebration occurred. The names of the Jewish months are Babylonian names. Other influences from Israel’s captivity in Babylon are rooted in Hebrew culture. Rosh Hashanah is certainly one of these. The Akkadian word for the new year celebration in fall is called Resh Shattim.
Today Rosh Hashanah occurs over a two-day period. During the diaspora, when the people were scattered all over the world, they could not make the announcement of the new moon in Israel to the rest of the Jewish world. Today the calendar is predetermined, as evidenced in this year’s celebration, which began prior to the sighting of the physical new moon. None of God’s appointed times are determined by the biblical tradition. Rabbi Hillel II developed a set calendar in the 4th century and Israel has used the calendar ever since.
Ezra set aside the first two days of the seventh month in Nehemiah 8:2-3. Many cite this as proof of a biblical celebration, however, there is no mention of the practices of Rosh Hashanah in this account. A look at Exodus 12:1-2 aides us in understanding when God commanded the first of the year to be, and it was not during fall. The beginning of months was to commemorate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and became the basis for all the future “moedim.”
The day of remembrance and a day of the blowing of the shofar is significant in prophecy. Israel sounded the shofar for various reasons. For this occasion, it was an appointed time commanded by God. Modern tradition teaches this is a day of mourning or of Judgment, but according to Leviticus 23 and the accounting of Nehemiah 8:9-12 this does not seem to be he case.
Two major events in scripture are associated with the sounding of the shofar, specifically the last trumpet blast. The return of Yeshua and the resurrection of the dead. Both events seem to coincide with one another.
(1 Cor. 15:52) “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
(1 Thess. 4:15) “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”
(Matt. 24:30-31) “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
No man knows the day or the hour of Yeshua’s return. We also never knew the day or hour of Yom Teruah, not until the physical sighting of the moon. Yeshua’s death and resurrection and the outpouring of the spirit have fulfilled the spring and summer feast days. (John 19:14-16) (1 Cor. 5:7) He was sacrificed on Passover as our Passover. (Lev. 23:5-6) (John 19:42) His unbroken body went into the tomb just before the start of unleavened bread. (Lev. 23:10-11) (1 Cor. 15:20-23) (John 20:1) God resurrected him on firstfruits as the firstfruits from the dead, (Lev. 23:15-22) (Acts 1:3-9) and the coming of the holy spirit came later on Shavuot / Pentecost. We may not know the day or the hour, but we know the signs and the season. Are we ready?
*Tishrei: From Akkadian “Tishritu” meaning beginning
Something to think about
This week is an experiment in interpretation. Everyone who reads this brief story will understand it differently, some may not understand it at all. Here is a clue: The story is a historical illustration based, in part, on Paul’s grafting analogy in Romans and a few other biblical texts.
Long ago, a wise orchard owner in a glorious land established a cultivated olive tree in the center of his orchard. He cared for the tree, feeding it, trimming it, and helping it to grow and establish a deep and strong root system. Eventually, the wise owner began grafting wild olive branches of different varieties into his cultivated olive tree. When the wild olives were grafted in, they became one with the tree and began feeding off of the established root of the cultivated tree leading to its bearing much fruit. The fruit the wild branches bore were wild olives, and the fruit the cultivated branches bore were cultivated olives. They both fed off of the same root as part of the one great tree.
At a certain point in history, a neighboring orchard owner, who was an evil man, began contaminating the wise man’s orchard with all sorts of filthy chemicals putting the cultivated olive tree in great peril. The evil man also released a myriad of pests into the wise man’s orchard to eat the fruit. He succeeded in defiling the great tree so that most of the fruit it bore was tainted, leaving the rest to be devoured by the pests he released into the orchard every night. The wise owner having foreseen this outcome had prepared to cut down the great tree while keeping the established root system intact and dormant until such a time the great hardships were passed. He had anointed the root system with a special oil to prevent the great root from perishing.
Before this came to pass, however, the evil man snuck into the orchard at night and cut off some of the strongest wild olive branches. One wild branch rooted apart from the cultivated olive in the neighboring orchard and became established and grew very strong. The tree grew up and bore fruit of its own. Eventually, the fruit it produced brought forth a second tree, producing another variety of the wild olive. The two grew side by side and over many years they produced more trees from the fruit they bore. Many varieties of wild olives, now into the thousands were growing all over in the evil man’s orchard. Some were strong while others were weak. A few even took root and grew up in the wise man’s orchard. Many of these new varieties would die out, but some flourished and became just as large as the first wild olive tree.
At the appointed time the dormant root of the original cultivated olive began growing into a new tree. It grew fast and soon re-established itself in the great field where it had started all those years before. Eventually, the wise man resumed grafting wild olives into the original cultivated tree. The wild olives, which had grown on their own apart from the great cultivated tree began suffering from disease and various pestilences. Many perished, and some were cut down. The filthy chemicals had come back to haunt the evil man and began affecting the root systems of many of his wild olives.
The wise man began grafting what healthy branches he could find from those wild olive trees into his original cultivated tree. The tree was soon full of all the different varieties of wild olives growing alongside the cultivated olives. All the remaining wild trees that had survived the pestilences, diseases, and other disasters were cut down and burned up after all the best branches had been cut off and grafted into the cultivated tree. In the end, the only tree that remained in the orchard was the original cultivated olive. All the trees in the evil man’s orchard had been destroyed after the wise man finally had all the needed evidence to prosecute the evil orchard owner. The wise man had him thrown into prison for all the crimes he had perpetrated against him and his orchard.
Years later the evil man was released from prison and returned to the orchard. He once again attempted to destroy the great tree, however, the wise man had prepared a trap for the evil man knowing the malicious intent of his heart. The evil man walked right into the trap and so he met his end in the orchard he once sought to destroy.
The great olive tree grew so large and produced so much fruit that there was no longer any room left in the orchard for new trees to start. The great root of the one tree sustained every variety of wild and cultivated olive cared for by the wise man of the orchard. All land outside the orchard became part of his orchard and thus the great tree flourished and grew so large that no matter how far you might wander in the glorious land, the shade of the great tree might be found to cool you off in the heat of the day.
Follow your heart
(Numbers 15: 38-39) “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tzitziyot on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tzitzit of each corner. And it shall be a tzitzit for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after."
This command may not apply to you. If you are Christian, you have likely never heard of tzitzit or are aware of this command. Religious Jews today wear these tassels just as those in Yeshua’s day did, but few Christian representations of the apostles or Yeshua include them. The New Testament includes mention of the tassel. However, because of the translator’s lack of cultural understanding and the church having removed itself historically from all things Hebrew, the practice is overlooked. (Matt. 23:5) (Matt. 9:20)
I am not highlighting this verse today to consider the fringes and their relevance or lack thereof to followers if Yeshua. I want to dig into the reason God gave Israel for wearing them. God gave many Torah commands without explanation, and the Hebrew mindset was to be obedient and ask questions later, contrary to our Greek way of, sure, I will do such-and-such, but I need to know why first. Having been given such an explanation is significant. It was to be a visual reminder of all the commandments, or to remember they were in a covenant relationship with God.
Our heart and our eyes easily lead us astray. How often do you hear people say, “follow your heart”? This is the way of man. Even amongst Christians, I have heard this adage which seems to imply doing the right thing out of love or according to that inner voice which guides us is the best choice. However, according to scripture, the heart is not always the way to go. The Hebrew words “lēḇ” or “lēḇāḇ” are used pretty much equally in scripture and mean the inner man, the person as a whole, and denotes flesh, conscience, morality, feelings, pride, thinking, and so much more throughout the Bible. According to Jeremiah, the heart is deceitful more than anything else. (Jer. 17:9) In Genesis 6, prior to God destroying the earth with a flood, he tells us “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
The truth of the matter is, the heart, or innermost being of man is inclined toward evil. Christianity calls this a sin nature, however, this idea did not yet exist in Jewish thought for followers of Yeshua in the 1st century. The Hebrew understanding based on texts like Jeremiah 17:9 is called the “Yetzer hara” or evil inclination. “Yetzer hara” is, however, more than an inclination to do evil. The flesh naturally has a desire to eat, drink, reproduce, etc. All these things are desires of the flesh that can often become a priority in the heart of a man, yet these things are not inherently evil.
Yeshua also had to battle the “yetzer hara” during his time on earth, but he did not give in to sin. When he was tempted by the devil at his weakest point as a man, he never gave in and fell into sin. The devil played on his hunger and even tried the old eye trick, showing him all the kingdoms of the world. Yeshua successfully ruled over these natural inclinations throughout his entire life. (Hebrews 4:15) (1 Pet. 2:21-22)
God created Adam and Eve with the same natural desire to eat, drink, reproduce, and more. What set them apart was their lack of experience and knowledge. Prior to eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they did not understand evil. A visual reminder calls to mind the way humans are most easily enticed. The eye. The serpent enticed Eve through the eye. He recognized the beauty of the fruit and understood the human tendency to be drawn in by such an appealing and appetizing delicacy. This was the one thing they were told not to eat, according to Eve, not even touch. I wonder if she ever looked at the tree and thought, why can we not eat from that one? Just as the serpent used the eye to draw Eve away from God’s commands, God uses the eye to remind his people of his commands.
Today we can look back on thousands of years of history and we have an intimate knowledge of evil. However, we also have an intimate knowledge of good. We have the word of God. We have a written record of Yeshua our Messiah, who we are called to imitate. God has provided everything we need to look at and remember all his commands to do them so we are not enticed by our eyes or drawn away by our heart. Regardless of all of this, we still fall short, but like God told Kain, “sin is crouching at the door and its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
We are in a better place than our first parents because of our experience, and the history in written form of God’s people and their experience with him in a broken world full of evil. We have the instructions from God himself on how to live, how to love, how to please him, and what to do when we fail.
(Matt.5:9) “Happy the peacemakers—because they shall be called Sons of God."
What is a peacemaker? The Greek word “eirēnopoios” is pretty straightforward. One who makes peace, or brings peace. Being a peacemaker implies there is a conflict of some sort. “Eirēnopoios” is two Greek words. One is “Eirēnē” which means a state of peace or the opposite of war. This is the Greek word used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of Hebrew OT) for the Hebrew shalom. Its use heavily influenced Greek-speaking Hebrews in the second temple period. The second word is “Opoios” which means whoever, whichever, whatever, any. Together, the idea is whoever or anyone attempting to bring opposing parties together to make peace. These are “eirēnopoios.”
Yeshua is prophetically called a prince of peace in Isaiah 9:6. He is the one who will bring peace to the world. He will do away with those who are rebellious. This helps us understand who he is speaking about. Not every person who is a peacemaker will be called sons of god. There are plenty of people out there who step in between two conflicting parties to resolve the issues between them who are not peacemakers in the way Yeshua is.
Self-sacrificing individuals who give themselves up, not only for their friends but for their enemies, are sons of god. There are religions whose adherents sacrifice themselves to eliminate their enemies in the name of peace or because it promised them a heavenly reward. Some people seek to make peace between two parties because of a vested interest in the outcome or even political gain. The true sons of God share the characteristics of their father, just as Yeshua did. They remove “self” from the equation.
There are ways we can make peace in the lives of others when we help them through times of trial or despair. Those who have PTSD because of abuse or other traumatic experiences are often not at peace. If we have the skill or perhaps the God-given ability to comfort other people in their time of distress, this is another way of being a peacemaker. The willingness to sacrifice our time and energy to help others in their tribulations is a way to resolve the conflict between them and what some call their “inner demons.”
This world is full of violence, and the “yetzer hara” (evil inclination) more often than not, overcomes the “yetzer ha-tov” (good inclination) leading to oppression, abuse, and many other things which rob us of peace. Choosing to be a doer of the word and conducting ourselves according to the way of the spirit is the best way to battle both the inner demons and the real demons who attempt to bring conflict to every area of our lives. (Rom. 8:14) “All who are led by God’s spirit are sons of God.”
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Salvation, Yeshu`ah, sōtēria
When we read our Bible, whether the OT or the NT, and we see the word salvation or saved we usually understand it as being saved from sin and death. Are you saved? This is a common question for evangelicals. The problem with reading the text this way is that this understanding is based on a theological perspective that did not exist as it does today when the text was written. Of course there are places where the meaning of saving from sin and death is implied but there are fewer of these than you might imagine.
Let’s look at Exodus14:13.
“And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.”
The Hebrew word translated salvation is “Yeshu`ah.” You may recognize Yeshua as the Hebrew name of Jesus. Jesus, (Salvation) save me! The salvation in this Exodus passage is deliverance of Israel from Egypt by God. Deliverance from danger or from oppression, usually by God or one of God’s anointed is the Hebrew understanding of “Yeshua.” The psalms are full of references to the God of salvation. However, a second look at these verses from the perspective of the writer will reveal a different aspect of the salvation of Yah. Here is one…
(Psalm 27:1-2) “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.”
God delivered David in various situations. David was a great warrior who won an abundance of battles and slayed many mighty enemies. It was God who delivered him safely from Goliath and from the thousands who stood against him before and after his time as king.
Israel looks forward to being delivered from slavery to the nations. In the first century the salvation they looked forward to from the Messiah was not from sin and death but from Rome. Deliverance from sin and death was an added benefit and one that was not exactly expected.
(Acts 4:12) “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The Greek word “sōtēria” is the Greek equivalent of Yeshua, as it means deliverance from an enemy or preservation. We are saved or preserved from destruction through the blood of Yeshua who brings us salvation. This salvation is of course not only deliverance from oppression, which will eventually occur when all the enemies of God are vanquished. But, we have deliverance from the penalty of the law which is death because of our sin. While most people only imagine heaven or the kingdom of God as the salvation we find proclaimed in the gospel, this is not the only sense of the message.
There is also another way to think about this. Let’s look at Psalm 3:7-8.
“Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people!”
Save me! This is the English rendering of the Hebrew root word of Yeshua, “Yāša‘“ which means save, deliver, etc. Understanding the root helps us understand the true meaning. God, help me get through this! We do not always get delivered from trouble, just like God does not deliver us from this world full of sin. He gives us all the help we need to live in this world. Yet, we often ask, God where are you? Why are you not listening to me and helping me? Yet we do not realize that he is. He is giving us the strength to carry on, the needed guidance not only by his word, his instruction, but by his spirit which helps us find a way through this mess each day. God gives us help in the midst of our troubles not always an escape from them.
The evangelical teaching about salvation in Christianity focuses on escape from this world. They even have songs which go like “this world is not my home,” or, “I’m just passing through.” They teach us to focus on the escape instead of realizing that God is here now helping us as we suffer trials and tribulations. The Hebrew view is that life is about the here and now. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He will dwell with us when the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven to earth. There is certainly nothing wrong with looking forward to the resurrection and an escape from the body of flesh, but when our focus on the world to come interferes with the world we are living in, we can neglect the will of God in our day to day.
(Matt. 5:8) “Happy the clean in heart—because they shall see God."
Who can be clean in heart? Who can see God? Imagine being an Israelite in the first century. When you heard these words, you would have likely thought, “no man can see God and live.” This verse means seeing “Ha-Elyon” or God Almighty, not just any “Theos” or any god. The way they would have understood “clean in heart” would have differed from how we understand it today.
In Greek, the word here is “Katharos.” “Katharos“ is used differently in Greek religion from Hebrew religion. Yeshua is referring to more than purity of heart. He is also speaking of ritual purity, which includes personal hygiene. In the past, only the high priest could enter the tabernacle. But the qualifications of the high priest were not so different from the regular person. Psalm 15 is an excellent example for us and likely came to mind for those listening.
“O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.”
None of these things are impossible. Keep in mind this is not a list of things that are required for holiness. Being clean is not the same as being “holy.“ Moses was the example of one who is clean in heart, yet he could not see God. How do we make sense of this beatitude? We cannot be clean enough to see God, even if we were, once we saw God, we would die. In the future, God will tabernacle with his people once again. Is this Yeshua’s point? Maybe this is a part of it, but from the perspective of those listening, the thought that Yeshua might be the Messiah meant his words were truly God’s words.
To see God does not imply seeing him physically, though this may become a reality when he dwells with us. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Yeshua’s words are not suggesting he is the Father. How he lived, his actions, his words, his entire way of life, reflected that of his father.
We see God in his creation. When we became followers of Yeshua, we began thinking differently than the rest of the world. We experience God through his care for us. Through interaction with others, through his daily provisions. Those who experience God in their lives will understand this better than others. Those of us who experience God in every aspect of our lives because of our faith and relationship with Yeshua see God every day. Do you see God?
This week I have to take a break from the beatitudes. Too much focus on one area of study can become exhausting. I will pick back up with the “pure” in heart next time around.
I often consider how language and culture affects our understanding of the text. Hellenism and Gnosticism have influenced 1st century Jewish thought and later Christian thinking. Various ideas which helped form our modern understanding of doctrines like the immortality of the soul have heavily influenced Christian theology today. We will eventually consider Hellenistic influences, but today I want to dig into gnosticism.
Marcion of Sinope published the earliest known canon of a Christian “new testament” which included ten of Pauls letters and a version of Luke’s gospel, all edited to fit his own theology. He called himself a follower of Paul who he believed was the only true apostle. Because of his teachings, the first orthodox canon would come about as a response against Marcion and his “scriptures.”
Most Christians have heard about gnostics though they have little understanding of what Gnosticism is. “Gnōstikós” means having knowledge. Gnosticism originated in the late first century A.D. in some Jewish and early Christian sects. They put emphasis on personal spiritual knowledge (gnosis) above the traditional teachings and authority of religious institutions. They viewed our bodily existence as flawed and evil. Salvation came through direct knowledge of the supreme divinity by way of mystical and mysterious insight.
They taught the “Archons” were rulers of this world and in the heavens. “Archons “ prevented men from connecting with the one true transcendent God. “Archons “ each had a seat of power or sphere over which they influenced but ruled the world collectively.
The platonic idea of body, mind, and spirit/soul was being widely proclaimed. A far-off, transcendent unknowable God was also part of their teachings, and Yeshua became the link between this God and men. They believed him to have brought the true knowledge of the heavens leading to salvation and freedom from the evil material world to that of a heavenly realm. The Torah was proclaimed as restrictive and unnecessary. A new saving knowledge was required for salvation as opposed to faithfulness to God or through Yeshua's sacrifice.
Alot of Pauls writings sound similar to Gnostic thinking, at least when Paul is understood from a typical Christian perspective. However, Paul the Jew, as understood from a Hebrew perspective differentiates him from the Gnostics view of Paul. One example of some of Pauls writings that gnostics would have related to and adopted into their own canon is Ephesians 6:12.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
The word translated rulers into English is from the Greek “arche” which is the root of the word “archon” meaning ruler or magistrate. The Gnostic “archons” were rulers of the world and in the heavenly places. Since the world is evil and man is corrupt from birth, then one had to remove himself entirely from all fleshly desires including those which are natural to humankind. Relationship to God was impossible in the current state. This is the opposite of early Hebrew thought. The world, even in its broken state was part of God’s good creation. We still have free will to choose, and we are called to enjoy the things in life God has provided for us to enjoy.
Leaving the world behind and getting to heaven as our ultimate goal is something that Christian theology derives from interpreting writers like John and Paul from a perspective outside their own worldview. Christian asceticism and gnostic influence has caused a portion of Christianity to cut itself off from the world, like the Essenes or like those in monasteries today. How are we going to love one another and enjoy the life God has given us if we lock ourselves away from the world and deny every pleasure?
Do any of the above gnostic beliefs sound familiar?
For more information there is a book called The Gnostic religion by Hans Jonas. You can google it but I have found that various mentions of gnosticism from a basic web search are not always well researched nor are they as detailed as what one might find in a specific piece of literature like this one. What I have presented here is just an overview of different points I found to be of interest. I am still researching.
(Matt. 5:7) “Happy the kind—because they shall find kindness."
In YLT kind and kindness are used in translation although most bibles translate “eleēmōn" as mercy and “eleeō" as merciful. The words can also be read compassion and compassionate. Greek thinking would have us believe this beatitude says if we give mercy we will receive mercy. That's simple. A=A. We read this as if God forgives us so we now we must forgive others. However, we experience mercy when we give up what is ours for someone who doesn't deserve it. Simply put, I had mercy on you when you didn't deserve it. Sounds as simple as A=A but there is a deeper level to this statement. We first give mercy we then receive mercy. We forgive and then we are forgiven.
In Greek culture (something that is still true in our day) emotions were passions, emotions that would overcome us. Emotions were viewed mostly in a negative way. One example is, falling in love. Love overcomes us. The Greeks thought of all emotions this way. Fear, anxiety, even mercy. All of these are passions that overcome rational logical justification. For a judge to be merciful in those days was not considered a good thing. This meant the judge was weak or fickle and that he was easily swayed by emotion. This goes against the structure of the law, the law was certain and the outcome was predictable.
The Hebrew idea of mercy is different. Again, the idea is not mercy shown by a judge in a legal setting but has more to do with the covenant relationship with God. Mercy is a characteristic of God. God feels just as we feel. Emotions are not feared in Hebrew culture the way the Greeks feared them. God has compassion for everyone because he is merciful. The Greek idea is selective, based on merit or overwhelming emotion for the circumstances presented. In Hebrew thought, compassion is available to all without regard to merit or situation. See how the cultural perspective is different?
Those listening to Yeshua understood his words far better than we. This is quite difficult to grasp because it goes against our cultural norms. One example is how God showed Mercy to Adam and eve by clothing them. God provided for them when they came up short. Shame enters in, God provides a way to cover it. This shows mercy from the very beginning. Grace and mercy have always been characteristics of God. God sees the need and provides. The Greek god says, you failed, that's it you are done. The Hebrew God says you fell short, it's ok I forgive you, try again. God has listed in Torah for us the extent of possible punishment according to specific transgressions. However, God does not always hold his people accountable to the extent allowed by the law. If he were to do this, Israel would not exist, and humanity would likely not exist.
Yeshua is the ultimate example for us. He had the legal right to all things, he gave it all up to come as a man so that those who did not deserve forgiveness could receive it. This idea of mercy is shown in Yeshua’s teachings, “before you bring a sacrifice to the altar, if your brother has something against you, go and be reconciled to him first." “Forgive us our debts as we have (already) forgiven our debtors." “He who is without sin cast the first stone." Think about the parable of the man who owed a debt and was forgiven but then went and demanded to be paid the debt owed to him. What happened to him? (Matt. 18:24-35)
Showing mercy to those who are undeserving is not easy, being merciful to those who are not merciful themselves is contrary to what we want to do. Not everyone will receive mercy even though God is merciful to all because not everyone extends mercy to those like themselves who are not deserving of mercy.
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“Happy those hungering and thirsting for righteousness—because they shall be filled."
There are a couple of different words in the Greek language for hungry. The word “Limos" means starvation, or famine as found in 2 Cor. 11:27. Here, Yeshua uses the word “peinaō" which means to be hungry, needy, to be in a continual state of need, or to have a permanent deficiency that needs replenishment. The word for thirst “dipsaō" when used figuratively, is similar as it concerns an ongoing need to be refreshed.
The righteousness mentiond here is not something we store up until we need a refill. We are not given a quantity of righteousness. This isn't a one-time fill-up, it's a daily provision. We are spoon-fed daily. God provides this righteousness on a daily basis like he provided the manna to Israel in the wilderness, the flour and oil to the widow at Zarephath, or the daily bread Yeshua taught us to pray for. Psalm 23 is an example of Gods care for us. The mans needs are filled by God on a daily basis.
The word filled or satisfied actually comes from the word “chortazō" meaning grass or fodder as fed to livestock. This word can also mean satisfying a desire or filling up one who is hungry but the picture here is of a shepherd (God) taking his flock or herd (us) to pasture daily, protecting us and providing for our needs. He fills us. This imagery is found throughout the entire bible. (Psa. 100:3) (Ezek. 34:31)
“They will be filled" is a future passive. It will happen but we won't do it, someone else will do it. In this case, God provides for the need. This is not only for those Yeshua spoke directly to that day but for all who recognize their need for a shepherd now and in the future. No one Yeshua spoke to that day or any day since could be filled on their own because we all fall short of righteousness.
The Greek word for righteousness “dikaiosynè" is closely related to the Greek sense of law and comes from the root word “dikē" conveying the idea of justice. The idea of law, whether political, religious, or ethical forms the basis for Greek thought and society. What is established legally is how things must be, whether it is deciding a punishment or determining the proper order of proceedings.
In Hebrew thought we gain our understanding of justice from God's character, as opposed to justice as found in a court of law. God has established right and wrong. God's law is the order of life that cannot be changed or challenged. Because God is righteous and just his established order of things is also righteous and just. (Deut. 32:4) (Psa. 89:14) Those who seek after his righteousness can be filled with righteousness. His justice is shown in the atoning death of Yeshua and thus our righteousness is established through Yeshua's life and his death.
We could go deeper and deeper as this word not only relates to law and justice but extends to punishment and eternal judgment. Ultimately, we cannot earn righteousness based on our own merit, it is given by God because he is a just God. As we are given righteousness each day we desire more and more, we need more and more like an addict hungers and thirsts after his drug, however, in the case of righteousness we can't get it on our own.
Yeshua said “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never thirst." (John 6:35) Today we understand we are only righteous because of Yeshua and his sacrifice, but when he was speaking to the crowds two thousand years ago most would have understood righteousness in relation to the justice of God, as his application of justice to mankind. In Genesis 18 where Abraham asks God to spare the city on account of only 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, and 10 righteous men is a great example.
In verse 25 Abraham says, “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so the righteous fare as the wicked. Far be that from you. Will not the judge of all the earth do what is JUST?"
We lack righteousness that only God can give to us. He provides the lamb for sacrifice, the manna for nourishment, our daily bread... We cannot cultivate our own righteousness. God provides it on a daily basis, and in the future we will be filled. This is why we are happy.
This week I'm taking a break from the “beatitudes” to talk about the gospel.
The word Gospel in Greek is straightforward, it means good news, a message bringing joy. Today, I want to look into the deeper scriptural meaning and use of the word. This means we need to dig into the word and its background in Hebrew.
The Hebrew word Basar can mean publish, bear good tidings, preach, show forth, flesh. (You may remember when I talked about the Greek “sarx” and its Hebrew equivalent “Basar,” meaning flesh.)
The Root word and its equivalent “besora” appear between 30 and 36 times in the Tanakh (OT) depending on the manuscript. The root is common in Semitic languages like Arabic, Akkadian, and others.
The root meaning is “to bring news,” especially in the context of a military encounter but the news is not always good news. In Akkadian, it is a neutral term. (news is news) Some examples of its use are found in the following:
(1 Sam. 31:9) The news of king Saul's death spread through the land of the Philistines.
In the case of 2 sam 18:17-33, the tidings are announced about the death of David's son, Absolom. David did not receive this news as “good news,” however, the messenger and likely everyone in support of David did accept it as good.
More importantly, the tidings/gospel reflects the fulfillment of God's promises like in
Isaiah 45 where we read a prophecy about God's anointed Cyrus and the exiles being restored. This was an announcement about a gentile Messiah (anointed) being raised up by God to deliver Israel.
Some other Examples are when good news is proclaimed about the character of God like in Isaiah 60 and Psalms 68.
Isaiah 61:1-3 is an example of the gospel about the future Messiah.
The gospel is so much more than “good news.” The gospel reflects the faithfulness of God. The gospel is not “new good news,” but is the fulfillment of promises made by God. The gospel is not a Christian concept, it is not just about the death and resurrection of Yeshua but is about the promises of God made long ago in his word being brought forth and fulfilled.
The message includes Yeshua, his life, death, and resurrection but these events are connected to Israel and the prophetic hope that the Messiah would come as God promised. It is an ongoing work in the lives of God's people, not about a new faith or religion but of the ongoing work of God’s word in his people throughout history. The gospel is about action, it is something that can be seen, and experienced. It isn't just the wonderful things happening like healings and feeding thousands of people from almost nothing but is about these people witnessing the promises of God being fulfilled before their very eyes.
In Luke 7:20-22 When John sent people to ask Yeshua if he was the one to come, Yeshua said, “go back and tell John what you see and hear.” This is the gospel. All these miracles are God's predictions, God's promises of the coming of the Messiah as found in his word being fulfilled. Yeshua did not need to answer the question because he was showing them the answer.
The Gospel is also a statement of God's care for his people, action on his part being performed, based not only on his promises but on his character. Example after example can be found throughout the scriptures. One of the best-known examples might be:
(Isa. 9:6) “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...”
(Luke 2:10-12) “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord. This Is the sign to you: you will find the child wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding troth.”
This is only a small part of the fulfillment of one of God's prophetic promises based on his character and his care, not only for his people Israel but for the whole of humankind. The gospel is so much more than a message, The ultimate fulfillment of which we have yet to experience. Soon...
Beatitudes II (Matt. 5:4-5)
(Matt. 5:4-5) “Happy the mourning—because they shall be comforted. Happy the meek—because they shall inherit the land."
The focus of this week's study is “beatitudes" part 2. After last week you may be curious, or you may be uncomfortable with the idea that the traditional view of this section of the text is not exactly what we have always imagined it to be. That is the point, however, to make you think about things differently.
As we have covered already, it doesn't say “blessed are," but as Young’s literal shows, happy the mourning. (If you didn't receive part one please let me know and I will resend it.) Happy are those who are in mourning due to a death in the family. What?! This is what the Greek word “pentheō" as used by Yeshua means. In the Septuagint (Greek OT) an example is Genesis 23:2 where we find Abraham coming up to “mourn" for Sarah, and to weep for her." The Hebrew word is “sāpad" which also means to mourn or wail.
The disciples were not very happy after the death of Yeshua, however, perhaps they should have been. They would have been if they understood all that he had told them, but they did not want to accept it. Their paradigm would not allow them to accept the fact that the Messiah was going to die! He is supposed to do A, B, and or C, but not D! Not death! Just like the “ptōchos" from verse 3, it is hard for us to imagine that we will be happy. But comfort is coming!
This doesn't happen right away though, does it? When we sit in darkness and feel like there is no way out, just before the end when it all comes crashing down around us, it isn’t our friends or family who will be there to pick up the pieces in the end, they will not be the ones who lift us up when we fall. In the end, when we are all alone God is the one who brings us this comfort. All of humanity will find themselves in this place at some point, but will all find this same comfort?
Now for the meek ones. This one should be easier to understand because Yeshua is quoting from Psalm 37:11. Instead of looking closely at the Greek “praus" which means mild disposition or humble, let's dig into the Hebrew “anav.” This word can mean more than humble or weak. This word is also translated oppression or afflicted. This word would have had a powerful emotional meaning for the audience. The word is used in Hebrew for those who were taken captive in war and oppressed in ways that are unspeakable in certain circumstances. Remember Israel has a long history of oppression by conquering nations.
The people to whom Yeshua came were the lowly, downtrodden, and oppressed of society.
(Isa. 61:1) ”The spirit of the Lord God is on me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the ANAV; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;…”
What fits better here, humble or oppressed? Both are good definitions and both are applicable.
(Luke 4:18) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…"
A note of interest: The Greek word used in Isaiah 61:1 where we have the Hebrew “ANAV” above is the word “ptōchos" from last week's study meaning poor (in spirit). The Greek text of Luke 4:18 also uses “ptōchos.” The “Anav" and the “ptōchos" are connected through these verses and their use both by Yeshua and the Hebrew writers and translators of the Greek text. I imagine Yeshua was well aware of the connection and I believe his audience would have been as well.
The deeper I dig the more I see the reality of the Messiah's first mission to those who, up to this point had been oppressed not only by Rome but also by the rest of their own people who believed that all of the poor in spirit and oppressed ones were being punished by God but they were being blessed. Yeshua set them straight and they certainly didn't like it.
To be continued...
Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3)
To begin, the beatitudes as we call them are not found in the text. Beatitude comes from the Latin ”Beatudo" which means blessed. Let's consider some background. Yeshua is a Hebrew and is speaking to a Hebrew audience, most likely in Hebrew, which would be translated later into Greek and hundreds of years later in the 4th century, into Latin. Latin was the standard for the Roman Catholic church for over 1200 years. This standard has affected how we now read and think about our English translations. This is why the blessings doctrine is so ingrained in us today, it is a result of millennia of church practice and doctrine and the Latin bible.
(Matt. 5:3) “Happy the poor in spirit—because theirs is the reign of the heavens." YLT
”μακαριοι οι πτωχοι τω πνευματι οτι αυτων εστιν η βασιλεια των ουρανων"
Blessed. The. Poor. The. Spirit. For. Them. Is. The. Kingdom. The. Heavens.
There are many interpretations of Yeshua's words here that have been material for entire books and the doctrines created by some of the simple phrases are enough to provide a migraine to someone attempting to search out all of the different concepts which have developed from this portion of scripture.
The Greek word ”Makarios" means happy. Happy are those. We like to think that blessed and happy are the same thing. Perhaps in English, they are similar. Blessings do make one happy, however, the point being made is not about doing anything to be blessed by God, or in the case of the church, by the clergy. A blessing is given by someone who has the ability to bless, the superior gives to the inferior. We think of these as spiritual favors. As a result, we suppose we can obtain a piece of heaven or the kingdom, perhaps our own mansion. This all comes from the Latin Bible and a Greek mindset. There is a difference between “being blessed" and “being happy" or ”being in a state of bliss."
Can someone grant us happiness? Can a priest grant happiness to us?
“Makarios” is a predicate adjective meaning it is a condition. Yeshua is describing the condition of specific people. In verse three the Poor in spirit are Happy...
A note of interest: The word “are" in the English text is added throughout, it doesn't belong. When we remove “are" as Young's literal has above, we find that it reads differently. To understand how to read it we must realize that Beatitudes are not rules or some sort of a guide on how to be spiritual. Yeshua is describing the condition of those in the kingdom now and he is describing the condition of those who end up there in the future.
Who are the poor in spirit? English has one word for poor. Greek has two and Hebrew has four. The word in our text is “ptōchos" and it does not simply mean poor as in a low-income worker or laborer. Many poor people still work, pay bills, and get by though they may never obtain much more than the basics of life. Yeshua is not speaking of the poor monetarily, but the destitute, the beggars, those with no social recognition or honor. These are the lowest of the low, the dregs of society. Yeshua is announcing the kingdom to the lowest of the low.
We recognize many people that Yeshua healed who fit this description, the paralyzed, the lepers, the people who were not even given a thought by the rest of society. Think about Lazarus and his position in life in contrast to the rich man in the well-known parable. This parable is a picture that is not often related to this teaching of Yeshua. Lazarus is not given the time of day by the rich man yet in the world to come, the condition of the two are reversed. Doctrines like purgatory and hellfire have replaced what were likely simple lessons. If we believe we deserve favor or recognition by God then we may not be on the list.
The second part of this verse is a notable fork in the road. Unfortunately, every English bible is translated exactly the same way. ”theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This translation seems to imply that we will inherit a piece of God or his kingdom. The Hebrew idea had to do with who had authority over your life. Is God the ultimate authority or someone or something else? Can I give you a portion of God's reign in my life? Remembering the influence of the Latin bible helps to understand why all English bibles read this way. It's all according to a doctrine, a paradigm that today is not specific to the catholic church.
Many groups believe they will be the chosen ones who will sit on thrones and rule over their own portion of the kingdom. The apostles were promised 12 thrones to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, but are we promised thrones? (Matt. 19:28) (Luke 22:30) This depends on your preferred translation and which manuscript it used as well as your church doctrine. Either way, this is not the subject for today but is on the list of future topics.
In Greek, the verse could read something like, “because of them the kingdom of heaven is." or “because of them is the kingdom of heaven." The Greek word ”Hoti" which translators tend to ignore, changes the pronoun to the object of a prepositional phrase. Because of the people whom Yeshua is speaking about the kingdom is now here. God has heard the cry of the impoverished, meek, downtrodden, and so on…
Yeshua is describing the condition of the people, who in this case are in, or have come into the kingdom. Yeshua is not giving spiritual rules, or talking about an attitude like in the ”be-attitudes" or speaking about stairsteps like Max Lucado's book on the subject. This condition cannot be earned or given by a person in authority, nor is it favor from God earned and given in the form of a blessing. Yeshua is describing a condition of a group of people who are under the authority of God in their lives now and in the kingdom.
We will dig into verses 4 and 4 next time.
(Gal. 6:2) "Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of the Messiah."
Bear each other’s burdens, this sounds pretty straightforward. Most refer to this passage as a duty for all Christians. While we will certainly find various scriptures which instruct us to support the widows and orphans, feed the hungry and so on the context of this particular verse is not meant as a universal command to do all of the above and more. Before we examine the context let's first consider the word "Baros" which is translated as burden in verse 2.
(Note: the Greek word often translated as burden in verse 5 is not the same word)
“According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Baros Originally meant "weight" then figuratively "suffering" "power."
A. In the Greek and Hellenistic world.
(1.) From physical weight the meaning first extended to "tone" or "stress" in speech. (2.) The next development is to "thrust," with a nuance of force or violence. (3.) A rather different use is for "fullness," "plentitude," "maturity." (4.) The next meaning is "oppressive suffering," e.g., illness, depression, and burdensome taxation. (5.) Finally, we have a common use for "weight" in the sense of "dignity or power," e.g., personal appearance or influence, the power of a state, or the power of arms..."
“B. The NT Usage.
(1.) Faith carries with it a changed attitude to affliction and power which is expressed in the changed use of báros. Christians are still under the burden of the world’s suffering, as in (Mt. 20:12; 2 Cor. 4:17; Rom. 8:18,) but this is not to be compared with the weight of glory (Rom. 8:18)...
(2.) Suggested offers a chance to show love by bearing others’ burdens (Gal. 6:2). If
the primary reference in Galatians is to moral lapses, the implications are broader ("fulfilling the law of Christ"). As distinct from Stoic altruism, this bearing of burdens finds focus in the community..."
This bearing of burdens is not just doing a good work but is a matter of restoration to fellowship and community of one who has fallen under the weight of some sin or another. This is not for those who are rebellious and have been intentionally living in sin but for those who have succumbed to the burden of sin that has found its way into their lives. We all experience burdens such as this in one way or another, we all have "a thorn" to deal with at some point, and often this can be an ongoing issue.
Some modern groups do little to bear the burdens of others and instead cut off fellowship from those who are struggling with the weight of sin, leaving them alone and without the community to aid them which is, as attested to by the success of support groups, a necessary aspect of rehabilitation and restoration.
In Hebrew culture, the community is the focus. What is best for the family unit and by extension the community the family is a part of, is the primary focus of each. In contrast to this, we have our western Greek-based Individualistic worldview where the primary focus and concern is about what is best for the individual. The idea in the western Christian world is to "mind your own business" and to only be concerned with others and their problems if it directly affects you or if they bring the issue to you for help. However, in the Hebrew community, especially in the first century, all members of the community are affected by each individual's burdens.
To lift up those who have fallen into sin involves lifting the heavy burden of guilt just like Yeshua has lifted the burden of guilt from all of us. Yeshua sacrificed himself for us, we are to sacrifice ourselves for one another. This is loving one another and thus fulfilling the law of Messiah, to live as he also lived and to do as he also did. We are a living sacrifice, since we are not without spot or blemish as was Yeshua we are not able to die for the sin of another but like the intended sacrificial lamb found with a blemish, we cannot be returned to common use but had to remain as a living sacrifice which meant remaining at the temple.
We often think that since Yeshua has died for all of our sins then there is nothing more to be done by us for each other's sin. We make sacrifices on behalf of others in order to bear their burdens, we go beyond what we can afford by giving all we have even if it means personal loss, otherwise, we are only sacrificing that which we can afford to lose. If we can afford to lose it, is it really a sacrifice at all? Often the burden of sin and the resulting guilt can leave a person paralyzed and unable to deal with daily life. We are called to share the burden and to help them carry the weight, to go the extra mile.
Eons ago on a world across the galaxy... Sounds like sci-fi doesn't it? The word eon is from the Greek Aion and mostly alludes to age, a period of time, generation, or eternity. In the scriptures, the word is used to describe a span of time either in the past or future, and includes eternity. Aion is also used to describe the eternity of God. In the OT God always was and will be forever. This was extended to Yeshua in the NT and describes the son in a similar sense as the Father.
The word is also used in the sense of the “time of the world" and the plural, it alludes to one aion being made up of many different aions. Eventually, the word aion came to mean the world itself. (Matt. 13:22) Here is where the translations can read differently and perhaps change how we understand the text.
The Hebrew idea of ”Olam Ha Ba" which means the world to come and the “Olam Ha Ze" which means the world that is, sheds light on the biblical usage of the Greek aion or age. The former days and the latter days are different aions. In Hebrews chapter 1 the author contrasts the former days with the latter days by explaining the different ways God has spoken to us, the latter days being by his Son. He then mentions that the aion was made through Yeshua. Unless you have Young's literal translation then your bible likely says that through Yeshua he made the world or worlds. The BBE translation says generations.
Having Considered the overall context of the opening of Hebrews when we read it according to most translations we must ask ourselves, is this how the author meant us to understand this verse? Yes, the word aion can mean world as we have already discovered, but is that what it means here? The author contrasts the former and latter days and is speaking of different ages which we know are different parts of the created structure of the one world.
Perhaps the author means both? Not only is he speaking of the heavens and the earth created by God but also the different aions which make up what we call time. “There will be a new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness is to dwell" and there will be new aions or ages as we move forward into eternity.
How we understand all of this is determined by how we understand time itself. If we see it as did the Greeks which is how our western world views time then we see it as linear with a definite beginning always moving forward toward some end with many points in between. This changes how we read the verse and others. If we see it as cyclical, where the past is the future and the future is the past, time has no beginning or end but there is a continual cycle of beginnings and endings. This idea is consistent with other ancient cultures and the Hebrew culture is no different.
However you understand the concept of time will determine your perception of God and his creation and how it all operates. It can even change your understanding of the sacrifice made by Yeshua who is “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Language and culture matter so instead of reading our own back into the text maybe its time to learn how to read the text from the perspective of the author and perhaps then we can think about things differently
What's in a name?
I am going to share a list of names and I want you to see how many of these names you recognize from the scriptures.
Miriam, Yochanan, Sha’ul, Moshe, Mattityahu, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Yehudah, Yishai, Shlomo, Yoseph, Yeshua...
That should be enough. These names are all Hebrew names, they were the given birth names of these individuals that are changed in our English translations. Does this matter? Not so much, however, when we better understand the Hebrew culture and the significance of names then we start to realize that it did matter to them. In our western society, a name is usually something we like the sound of.
Names change over time and occasionally we change our own names for one reason or another. Our name can even be pronounced differently in another language. Sha’ul is the Hebrew name for the apostle Paulos or Paul which was the GreekRoman name of the apostle. No God did not change his name after he accepted Yeshua as Messiah, his name was already Paul and Sha’ulSaul! He was a Jew but also a Roman citizen. He already had two names. How about the rest of the above-mentioned? Sha’ul was an easy one, but notice that most include the letter Y and no J.
The Hebrew language had no J, the Greek had no J, and the English language didn't even have a J until about 500 years ago. So Jesus, Jacob, Judah, Jesse, Joseph, and John was not the name of these individuals. Wait, what! “The only name under heaven given amongst men by which we must be saved isn't Jesus?" (Acts 4:12) There's a potential study for another time.
Did you know there never was a Judas? Judas is the Greek derivative of Yehudah, a.k.a. Judah. No one in the first century was ever named James! The brother of our Lord was named Ya’akov, a.k.a. Jacob. This could go on and on but you get it, right? Again, does it really matter? Depends on who you ask, and also on your perspective. The real point is not the names at all but the translations we trust and rely on to be the words of God. When we read the scriptures in English we are reading a translation and with translation comes interpretation. A name change may not be a cause for concern but it is an indication of a bigger problem. What do we do about all of those changes in the English text, however slight, that affect the way we understand the scriptures? Not much until you realize there is a problem in the first place.
Another thought about "Sarx"
In the NIV and NLT Romans 7:18 reads as follows. (See also Rom. 7:25)
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."
There is nothing here that a majority of Christianity would question, even when reading this verse from another translation like the KJV or ESV which reads as follows.
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."
Even if you were to notice this glaring difference while reading and or studying Romans 7, the Catholic/Christian doctrine of original sin has also bled over into protestant Christianity surviving the reformation and is being introduced into our modern Bible translations. The word “sarx" is found in hundreds of places in the scriptures, including the Greek Septuagint, (Greek Old Testament) but only in Romans does it get translated as “sinful nature." Paul uses the word numerous times and a closer examination of how it is used throughout the scriptures will aid in our understanding of the word.
The word is used 269 times in KJV. The way this word is used throughout the Greek New Testament is never used in terms of “sinful nature" in the original Greek. The Hebrew equivalent is the word Basar which is translated most of the time in the Septuagint as our Greek word Sarx. When we take a deeper look at the Hebrew word Basar, which is Strongs H1320, we find the usage of the word throughout the Hebrew is clear and pretty easy to understand. Nowhere do we get the idea in ancient Hebrew thought at all of an inherently sinful nature. This came about later as a result of the Hellenization of the world which of course affected much of Jewish and later most of Christian thinking. A majority of Christianity today accepts this as scriptural and as having its foundation in Genesis but after an examination of available Hebrew cultural traditions and writings, we find this occurs only after the Greeks and later Roman culture influenced the world.
The Hebrew Basar occurs 273 times, 153 of these are found in the Pentateuch. (first five books of Torah) The word means flesh, man or animal, mankind, blood relations, living things, and life itself. According to the Theological wordbook of the old testament pg. 136 bàśār: ”The problem is not with man’s flesh, it is with his “heart" (Ezk 11:19; 44:7), a will to rebel which forgets that it is only flesh (Eccl. 5:5). To be sure, the basis for Pauls NT usage of “flesh" is present in the OT in the sense that the spiritual God is contrasted with fleshly man. However, the idea that the principle of sin is somehow resident in the flesh is an intertestamental idea."
In Hebrew thought, the body, heart, and soul are all one, however, the thinking of men like Homer, Plato, followers of the cult of Dionysius, and many other influential people and movements in the Greek world had different ideas. Later Christian theology under the Hellenized “Church fathers" in the post-Apostolic era would build on dualistic thought and the separation of soul, and body would lead to the development of doctrines like original sin. Of course, the doctrine of the trinity, and the Immaculate conception, which became necessary as a result, are all related. Let us not also forget infant baptism which was certainly needed to save the poor wicked babies from eternal torments in hell, another doctrine that necessitated the need to stray away from the faith of the Fathers, them being Abraham and Moses, not Augustine and Jerome.
Protestant Christianity and even Judaism today accept the idea of the separation of body and soul but even today Judaism does not subscribe to the view of original sin. The understanding of what sin is according to scripture is not the same for Jews as it is for Christians. However you see it, whether you subscribe to Augustine's interpretation of Romans 5:12 or you accept the Hebrew understanding of the subject we all have one thing in common, Yeshua came to give himself on behalf of mankind, Jew and gentile alike, and we are all sons of Abraham and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:28-29)(1 Tim. 2:5-6) What you believe may affect what you feel but does it affect what you do? The questions may just be more important than the answers.
This week we have a special request. The basis for this discussion will be Matthew 24:36-41 or Luke 17:34-36. Here it is in Matthew.
"But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left."
The modern evangelical view of this is that believers will be raptured to heaven at the second coming of our Lord. A very popular series of books titled Left behind has its basis in verses just like this one and as a result of these fictional books millions believe that God will spare all believers from judgment, "just like in the days of Noah."
But wait, while Noah and his family were spared from the judgment they were the ones "left behind." The wicked were taken away by the flood. We are told we will suffer tribulations and throughout history, God's people have suffered trial after trial, and while God may protect his people he does not completely shield them from the evil world.
Verses 38-39 were speaking about those wicked who were left outside the ark and swept away. The immediate context is as clear as day. Those who will be taken are the wicked ones. Remember Yeshua's parable of the wheat and tares. They were to remain and grow together until the harvest, and the tares are cut down and thrown into the fire at the harvest.
Notice Luke's parallel specifically in verse 37 where the disciples ask Yeshua "where Lord?" His answer points not to being taken to heaven but to judgment. He speaks of the birds of prey being gathered where the bodies are. In Rev. 19:17-21 we read something quite interesting, here a great judgment of the wicked occurs and in the end, in vs. 21 we read that "the birds gorged on their flesh." Is this the same feast? We cannot say for certain but a careful reading of the surrounding context and the timeframe being discussed is enough for some to believe the passages may be related.
It is important to dig deeper into the background of the doctrines taught by your church and read the scriptures more carefully to verify whether or not these things are true. More importantly, how we act is far more important than what we believe. As Yeshua said be doers of the word and not hearers only. If he chooses to include us with those resurrected at his return it certainly won't be because we had the correct theology.
Who is your Jesus? What does he look like? If you were an artist and could create a piece representing the Jesus that you know how would it turn out? The church has been on a crusade for the last eighteen hundred years to convert everyone to Christianity all in the name of a Jewish man who was not a Christian. His followers were not Christians either. Paul was not a convert to Christianity nor did he attempt to convert others.
Wait! I've gone too far, some people might even stop reading in disgust at such heresy. Your paradigm is the reason you feel as you do. It is the reason you believe the things you believe and only a paradigm shift can alter the way you read the scriptures. No amount of proof-texts will do it either. Proof texts-only support your interpretation of what you read when read accordingly. For example, a trinitarian will cite the same proof texts as a non-trinitarian to support their supposition. The arguments will never cease but a way forward can be derived from considering the text from a different perspective.
Whenever you hear someone give an interpretation that you believe to be unscriptural do you attempt to “show them the truth" and cite verses to “correct" their thinking? This is a habit based on our Greek education system which requires certainty. Combining this with theological doctrines that support such thinking we get religious tyranny. We become slaves to doctrine, ideas developed over a thousand years and counting by the church of Rome which was passed on in the reformation to Protestants and then to every other movement since.
What then do we do? What are the answers? Perhaps we should ask different questions. The heretic may be the one to listen to because dialogue is impossible if everyone believes the same thing. Other perspectives, other opinions, other interpretations should be welcomed and considered. Most importantly, the faith of our Messiah should be considered. How are we to imitate Paul as he imitated Messiah if we do not know who Paul was? Perhaps it is time to go back to the basics and think outside the box instead of attempting to fit everything into one which is comfortable and safe.
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
There is a myriad of arguments among Christians dividing the church today, some even split families apart. The all-important “what we believe" is held high above “what we do." Heretics are created by the need for conformity to our set theological standards. We are a faith split apart long ago by seeds planted early on which have grown up to crowd out the wheat crop.
The tares look like the wheat when they are young but as they grow they begin to look different. As adults, the wheat is longer, bigger, and stronger than tares. The tares are very light and lack substance whereas the wheat is heavier and bares a lot of fruit. Eating the seeds of a tare will make you sick, causing dizziness and nausea. The tare by the time of the harvest stands straight up looking proud and is noticeable in contrast to the wheat which bows as if in humility from the weight of the fruit and the blowing of the wind.
The reason we are told to wait until harvest is because they share the same root and as a result, they will be uprooted together. Many doctrines fall apart in light of this simple verse but the point is not about the cognitive but is about what we see. The actions of those who call themselves Christian set them apart from those who really follow Yeshua and model themselves after him.
We are called to be faithful servants, to be doers of the word and not hearers only, to bear fruit, and to be lights to the world. We are called to overcome and persevere in the face of trials and persecutions, by doing the right thing and standing up for righteousness in a world of evil. Perhaps it is time to dialogue, time to stand together and live as such, laying aside the cognitive dividers and fellowship as one body instead of as thousands of separate parts of a body which has been broken up and scattered. It sounds good but, will it happen? If the wheat and tares grow together until the harvest then the answer is no. Perhaps it isn't Christianity that needs to come together?
God is faithful to us as he always provides a way to deliver us from the various tribulations and temptations we face throughout our lifetime. God allows us to suffer in order to refine us, to test our integrity, our faith and for reasons we cannot fully know. We are called to not only endure but to rejoice during these times of test and trouble as the testing of our faith sharpens our character and allows us to grow into a more complete person in our walk. We are in training to be faithful servants of our master. We are called to walk just as he also walked. (1 Cor. 10:13) (Jas. 1:2-4) (1 Per. 1:6-7) (Luke 22:28) (Luke 11:4) (2 Pet. 2:9) (1 John 2:6)
We are told that God does not tempt us and some even add that he also does not test us. The Greek word “peirazō" found in James 1:13 is translated as “tempted" and is the same word found in the gospel account where satan tempts Yeshua in the wilderness. (Matt. 4) It is the same word we find in the Greek Septuagint (Hebrew bible translated into Greek) in the Genesis 22 account where God tests Abraham.
What do we make of this? God tests Abraham, he allows Yeshua and Job and us to be tested and tempted yet we read that God does not tempt us but is the one who will deliver us when we cannot do so ourselves. In English test and tempt are not the same word but in Greek the word “peirasmos" comes from the word “peirazō" and are both used in the text in the aforementioned verses. “Peirasmos" was rare in secular Greek but is found many places in the Septuagint and the new testament. A religious use developed by the Hebrews over time and was commonly used in reference to divine testing, the human tempting of God, and in the temptation to transgress the commands of God. (Exo. 17:2) (Exo. 20:20) (Gen. 22:1)
We know God will not tempt us into sin or temptation but he will allow temptation. God will put us to the test but never are we to put him to the test. We learn from the scriptures as well as from our own experiences with God. Words have great meaning but how we understand a word determines our interpretation and application of what he hear or read. This is one reason why digging deeper into the text is so important, one word or lack thereof, can change the entire message and in turn impact our understanding of God.
As gods or Elohim
The current paradigm for most of Christianity says, there is only one God and that this was how it was understood by ancient Israel, that they were Monotheists. This is based on texts like (Isaiah 45:21-22, 46:6-9) which seem to say that only one God exists. Interestingly, a majority of the scriptures indicate just the opposite. We might consider (Exo. 12:12, Deut. 5:7, 6:14, Psa. 82:1, 97:9) among numerous other texts that seem to indicate that there are many gods and that from time to time, always prior to the Babylonian captivity, Israel got into big trouble for serving these other gods.
The words usually translated into English as god(s) or God(s) are Elohim in Hebrew and Theos in Greek. The word Elohim is an interesting one because YHVH God is not the only being called Elohim in the Bible. The false gods of the nations are called Elohim throughout the Bible. Psalm 82:1 is one example. “God (Elohim) presides in the great assembly. He judges among the gods (Elohim).” The angels, called sons of God, are also Elohim. They were there when God laid the foundations of the earth. (Job 38:7, 1:6, 2:1)
Genesis 3:5 says “you shall be as gods” in the Hebrew text. Our English translations make it seem to say “you will be like God” instead. Reading along into Verse 22 we learn that the first human pair were expelled from the garden so that they would not also eat of the tree of life and live forever since they had now become like “one of us”. The “us” here is not speaking only of God and Yeshua but of all the Elohim who shouted for joy during the creation of the earth, as the angels and later demons, certainly knew good and evil just as well.
“Theos” identifies for us other beings called god or gods in the Greek text of the New Testament as well as the Hebrew old testament translated into Greek called the Septuagint. For example, our Psalm 82:1 example above reads Theos in place of Elohim or God and gods.
1 Corinthians 8:4-5 mentions the “many gods” as well as calling God the only one. Any divine being in those days, whether real angels or false idols, were called theos. But YHVH is the only true God, often called the Most High God by those who recognized the existence of other divine beings. This is called Henotheistic, they believed in many gods but worshipped only one. Polytheism is where many gods are worshipped. Judaism today considers Christianity to be polytheists because they worship God, Jesus, and the holy spirit, all of which are called Elohim and Theos throughout the bible.
Are there many gods? It depends on your understanding of the words god or divine. The answer is yes and no. God Almighty is the one true, most high God. However, the scriptures tell us about Yeshua the only begotten son of God who is called Theos like his Father. That of course makes sense, all things reproduce after their kind. Humans beget other humans, Elohim must surely do the same considering we are “made after the same image and likeness” of God. Some of us will one day “be like him,” perhaps then we will truly understand what the Elohim really are. (1 Cor. 15:47-49) (John 10:34, Psalm 82:6)
History and Culture series: A Galilean wedding
Yeshua was a Galilean as were most, if not all of his disciples. Approximately two-thirds of the gospel occurred around the area of Galilee. Judaea in the south was more of an urban area compared to the backwater country-folk of the Galil. The way of life and culture of Galilean Jews and Judean Jews was as different as New York City is from the rural Midwest today. Yeshua used illustrations those in his area of the world would understand and could relate to. The wedding will be our focal point for today.
The wedding: Everyone would gather, usually at the city gate since A contract or covenant had to have an eyewitness to ratify the covenant and a wedding was an occasion shared by more than just friends and family. The father of the groom had a written contract or covenant agreement that would be read and the bride would either agree to terms or not. The bride price was given by the Father of the groom to the bride's father or family. This was not to purchase the bride but to ensure that the bride was cared for in case something happened to the groom while he was away preparing a place for the bride.
A cup of wine was poured and handed to the bride, she would then have a choice to either accept the covenant or not. The choice was hers, not her father's or her family's but hers alone. If she accepted then the covenant was ratified, but they did not marry YET.....
The groom would then go away, usually to prepare an addition or extra room in his father's house for his bride. While the bride awaited his return she would prepare herself. She would ready her dress and other things with the help of her bridesmaids, she was to ready herself and wait in purity for the return of her husband to be. She would make sure to have her lamp burning at night just in case, so oil and wicks would have to be ready and kept. Tradition shows, based on evidence we now have, that the groom would usually come in the middle of the night, the bride would sleep in the dress that she had prepared, and her bride's maids would be with her to tend to her when he came. No one else would be ready and this was deliberate.
The groom's arrival would be accompanied by the sound of a shofar. (trumpet) Customarily, the groom might take about a year or so to prepare. The most interesting part of this custom is that even the groom did not know when the time for him to return for his bride would be. Only his father, who read the covenant in front of witnesses and paid the price, would let the groom know when it was time, only then would the groom return for his bride. Upon his arrival, the bride would be lifted off the ground and carried back to the place the groom had prepared.
Yeshua spoke in parables and much of what we have considered here has a parallel with one parable or another. As we read the gospel and consider his parables it helps to ponder what all these things would have meant to his Galilean listeners. I have been asked more than a few times why the culture and language information is worth the time to learn about since we have our own translation of the text. This is a great example and I hope helps to shed some light on the meaning behind some of what Yeshua had to say.
Are we prepared and waiting with our wedding garments on? Do we keep our lanterns lit in expectation knowing that one day soon (or night) the groom will appear to secure his bride?
Ga’hee Ben Hinnom
Valley of the sons of Hinnom
The Greek Gehenna acquired a bad reputation over time because of child sacrifices offered to Molech at that location. Mention of this valley can be found numerous times in the Tanakh (Old Testament) most note burning child sacrifices in the fires. (2 King 23:10) (2 Chro. 28:3, 33:6) (Jer. 7:31-32; 32:35) During the second temple period Gehenna came to be equated with the last judgment of the wicked.
The Greek scriptures differentiate between Hades and Gehenna, however, as we have previously learned some of our modern bibles do not. Approximately 23 times, give or take a few, the KJV uses the English hell, twelve of those occurrences are Gehenna and not Hades. If your bible does not separate the two, perhaps it is time to re-examine the text and attempt to ascertain the original meaning of the words. There is a significant difference between the word Hades and the word Gehenna.
It is of interest to note that John does not mention hell or Gehenna in his gospel. He does, however, write about both in Revelation. He mentions the grave a few times but does not actually use Gehenna in reference to the last judgment but instead uses the term Lake of Fire, which he calls the second death. (Rev. 20:14) Here is where we gain more insight into what Gehenna is, considering death, the grave, along with Satan are all cast into this Lake of Fire. Yeshua tells us that the everlasting fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matt. 25:41) John says this final fate of Satan is “the fire” where his “torments are forever and ever.”
There is a saying amongst some of the more liberal Christians, “we are all going to go to hell one day, whether we are saved or not.” This is based on the correct understanding of the words in scripture, because we all die and we will all go to the grave, even Yeshua himself was in the grave for three days and nights. (Acts 2:29-32) Yeshua did not go to Gehenna, and those of us who attain to the first resurrection will also not have to fear the judgment of Gehenna. Most of what a majority of Christianity knows about hell is what pop culture has taught us. We are told that the devil is the ruler of hell and and those who die wicked go straight to his fiery pit of torments to suffer, and those who die faithful go directly to heaven. The scriptures tell a different story when we read them in the original language.
We may not know exactly what the Lake of fire is like, and we still know very little about life after death but what we do know is enough, otherwise, God would have revealed more to us than he
has. Regardless of your convictions, it is always best to educate ourselves as best we can when it comes to something as important as God’s message to us.
This week we are taking a break from the ongoing topic of Hell as many are thinking about Easter/Passover/memorial season.
Easter Sunday for Christianity is a commemoration of the resurrection of Yeshua. The celebration was instituted by the early Church of Rome and is celebrated by a majority of Christianity from Catholic, to Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and almost every denomination in between. While Easter is not celebrated the same way on the same day by every group, it is perhaps the most significant time of year for all of Christianity as well as Judaism.
Many maintain that the message of the gospel itself is the “Easter message.” While the resurrection is the center of the Christian faith, the celebration of the resurrection as Easter is not mentioned as a historically verifiable event until the end of the second century and not until the council of Nicea in 325 do we find any consensus for the practice by Christianity as a whole. Long after this point in history Easter was not Easter at all but was called Pascha, the Greek word for the Hebrew Pesach or Passover. The Church has literally written Easter into the history of Christianity and as a result most Christians believe it is a biblical celebration that has its roots in early Christian practice.
Tyndale is the first to use the word Easter in translation during the 1500s. Most people, however, are familiar with the KJV which retains the word Easter in one place, Acts 12:4. The great Bible of 1539 used it in fifteen places. Eventually, the word Passover, also introduced by Tyndale, would replace Easter in subsequent translations like the KJV.
Acts 12:3-4 “and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.) And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover/Easter to bring him out to the people.“
Read this and ask yourself, if Easter is left in the translation then a reading of this section of Acts makes it sound as if there is a celebration called Easter during the 1st century right around the same time as Unleavened bread which is also often referred to as Passover. One well-placed word is enough to shape a paradigm for an entire faith. God's word is considered infallible, without mistakes, and with a bible like the KJV, the effects of one translation mishap were enough to shape the faith of generations of Christians for hundreds of years and counting.
Is celebrating the resurrection wrong? Of course not, but changing history, and changing the text of scripture to create a new Holy day is certainly walking on thin ice. Pesach is one of the appointed times of God, a.k.a. A Holy day. (Lev. 23:4-6) According to the gospel of John, (the only gospel writer to give a firsthand account) Yeshua was crucified during Passover. (John 18:28-19:19) Paul attests to this fact in 1 Corinthians 5:7, calling Yeshua our “Passover sacrifice.” Just like Israel was delivered from slavery to Egypt we have been delivered from slavery to sin and death. Just like the nation of Israel entered into a covenant with God after having been redeemed we now enter into a covenant with God having also been redeemed.
The practice commonly known as the Lord's supper, or communion, was instituted by Yeshua as a ceremony to be kept by all who are part of the covenant in remembrance of him. Not only do we remember his life and his death, but also his resurrection from the dead so that we too might overcome death because ultimately the victory of the cross is over the last enemy, death. (1 Cor. 15:21-26) While it is a custom to celebrate Easter, it is a command to commemorate the death of Yeshua. While the Passover was commanded as one of the pilgrimage festivals, the new life of the partaker of the covenant is one of pilgrimage, one of newness, one without the leaven of wickedness. (1 Peter 1:13-16) (1 Cor. 11:23-30) (1 Cor. 5:7-8)
Whatever your faith demands, whether Passover, Easter or something in between, remember to remember the death of our Lord because had he not willingly died that Passover over 2000 years ago there would be no resurrection, and if Yeshua did not overcome death we would have no hope. (John 10:11-18) (1 Cor. 15:13-18)
The grave. What Hades is in Greek, Sheol is in Hebrew, however, the cultural understanding of each word is not the same. In the Tanakh (Old Testament) the word is used in reference to the place where all men, both good and evil, go at death. (Gen. 37:34-35)(Numbers 16:27-30) The way life is lived and whether a person serves God or does not serve God is the whole aim of a man’s life. (Eccl. 12:13-14) The Hebrew life was not concerned with “making it to heaven” or “avoiding hell.” The afterlife was an afterthought.
The effect of Hellenization on Jewish thought integrated the idea of the immortal soul with the desire for justice upon those who went unpunished in life creating a place of torments and untold horrors where the wicked would finally be punished for their crimes. (Eccl. 9:5-10)(Psalm 6:5, 88:10-11) The place of darkness where there are no thoughts and no feeling slowly became a place of conscious torment.
For one to be either in heaven or hell, the soul would have to be the force that gives life to the body, but in the scriptures, the spirit is the force from God which causes the body to become animated. The biggest lie ever told was by the serpent in the garden when he said to the woman “You shall not surely die.” Yet die she did, and everyone since has died as well. The resurrection of the dead is of no importance if we are already alive in heaven with God. Granting Lazarus life after four days in the grave would not have been an act of kindness by our Messiah if Lazarus had been in heaven.
1 Corinthians 15 speaks in detail about the resurrection. We are told that there is a body of flesh and a body of spirit. Notice that nothing is said here of a soul inhabiting those bodies. The body is itself the “living being” whether it be of flesh or spirit. The body is raised in the spirit, there is nothing said about a soul being united with the body. The enemy that is being overcome in the process is death. (Hos. 13:14) If we do not die, then why did Yeshua suffer and die? Eternal life is from God as an alternative to death. John 3:16 tells us that those who trust in Yeshua “will not die but gain everlasting life.” If the grave only holds this body of dust at death then there was no need for Yeshua to die to overcome death on our behalf.
Death is difficult for many to deal with and as such, it seems to be a comfort to those in the church to believe that their loved ones do not truly die. (John 11:21-26) The comfort for those in the days of the apostles was that at the return of the Messiah there would be a resurrection of the dead and those in Christ would be with him forever afterward. (1 Thess. 4:13-18) The same comfort that had existed for thousands of years before Yeshua was the very same resurrection of the dead. (Dan. 12:2)
The fires of hell which we are so familiar with will be the topic for next week.
The ancient Greeks understood Hades to be the god of the underworld, brother of Zues and one of the 3 most powerful gods. The Romans called him Pluto. The underworld itself is called hades in Greek and it finds its Hebrew equivalent in the Hebrew Sheol, which we will talk about also. While we would translate Sheol to Hades from Hebrew to Greek the understanding of the place to which the words refer is different in each culture.
To the Greeks Hades was a place where the soul went after the death of the body and was not necessarily a place of suffering. Family members would place a coin in the mouth of the deceased so they could pay the toll to actually be allowed in Hades otherwise they would be forced to wander the earth as a ghost. For those who make it in, they are judged based on their actions while they were still alive. Those found unworthy are locked in the lowest levels of Hades, of course we know this as Tartarus. The worst of the wicked are punished with eternal torments.
In scripture Hades is the grave, the place where all makind will eventually go. There is no escape from death and as a result there is no avoiding Hades. Yeshua himself died and was in Hades, (Acts 2:27-32) however, which version of Hades was he in? The Greek version or the Hebrew version? Before Hellenization the grave was not the abode of the “souls of the dead.” The immortality of the soul is a Greek philosophical paradigm which influential thinkers like Pythagoras and later Plato impressed upon the whole of society even influencing the thinking of religious Jews. Early Hebrew though did not separate the body and soul, but viewed the human being as one living being. The spirit from God animates this being and at death returns to God while the being itself returns to dust. (Psalm 146:4) The soul is this being. “And man became a living soul...” (Gen. 2:7; 3:19)(Eccl. 12:7)
Death is the last enemy that will be dealt with by the Messiah. (1 Cor. 15:25-26) The death of Yeshua on the cross allows us to overcome death as well eventually, as for now we will all still die. The resurrection of life is the ultimate victory over death as those who are part of this resurrection cannot be harmed by the second death. (Rev. 20:6)(John 5:28-29) It is death and Hades from which all mankind will be delivered, however, those who find themselves part of the resurrection of judgment will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. Hades will then be cast into the lake of fire as will death itself. (Rev. 20:11-15) This is the point when sin is truly dealt with. Here is where the translation mishaps shine a light on the dilemma of the English tradition of “hell being cast into hell.”
(Rev.20:14) “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire...” Some bibles say “death and hades” or “death and the grave” which gives us better insight. So, is “the lake of fire” the hellfire of Christian tradition or is Hades? What about Sheol? Gehenna perhaps? Does your bible even mention all of these different words? Some bibles do, but most of us know these terms as “Hell.” Sheol will be next weeks word, and after that, we will talk about Gehenna and the Lake of fire.
What in the Tartarus?
The word Tartarus is found one time in the Greek scriptures and not at all in the Greek Septuagint. (Hebrew Old Testament in Greek) Unless you have an interest in the Greek gods or have a bible like Young’s literal translation, you have likely never heard of this word. Turn in your bible and read 2 Peter 2:4. The ESV reads “for God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;”
There are three different words in the Greek that are translated in many of our english bibles as hell. The Hebrew has a couple words also translated as hell. We have four words in two different languages all translated as hell. We will talk about all of them in the weeks to come. For now the focus is Tartarus. Tartarus is not hell. Peter used this word for a reason. Tartarus was understood by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, a dark abyss which was thought to be below Hades a.k.a. Hell. It was also a prison where monsters, horrible criminals or rivals of the gods were imprisoned after war. In Greek mythology the Titans were imprisoned by Zeus in Tartarus.
This is what Peter had in mind. In other literature from the second temple period like the book of (1 Enoch 20:2), we find mention of Tartarus and in chapter 21:7-10, here the text calls it the “angels prison.” Enoch refers to the same angels that transgressed against God in the book of Genesis, and according to scripture are being held for judgement. The book of Jubilees 5:6,10 also refers to the angels being “bound in the depths of the earth.” And of course we have Jude who mentions the same angels.
Hell has come a long way since the first century. Dante’s inferno and the Catholic Church etched it into the minds of generations and modern pop culture influences the church’s thinking more than the scriptures do. Digging deeper is a challenge but the hardest part of digging into scripture is discovering that your paradigm might be due for shift. Hades is next.
Traditionally the role of a woman is that of a helper, designed to be obedient to the man, to raise the children, to cook, clean, and be submissive to her husband in all things because the man has the final word. The translation of Ezer Kenegdo in Genesis has come down to us largely influenced by the Masoretic text which adds the vowel points to the Hebrew where there was none before and as a result gives an interpretation of the text for the next translator.
Often we confuse authority with order. In the body of Messiah, each has a role to play which contributes to the good of the body, yet there is none greater than the other in authority, all are one in Messiah. We are called to be humble and place others ahead of ourselves. The natural right to rule belongs to God, the authority of one man over another comes by the other granting said authority. The argument for those who claim authority is not granted to man by God over the woman comes from the alternate translation of Ezer kenegdo which can also mean strength or power, complement, an equal who complements the other by providing strength where it is needed.
God is an Ezer to Israel in scripture. Israel is an Ezer to other nations in scripture. The word is used more often than not in a military context. The kingdom is our future and in the kingdom, there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, but all are one. All are equal. We are citizens of this kingdom, representatives of this kingdom. The idea is thus, man and woman are designed to work together as a finished unit for God’s purpose. There is a mutual submission of the man and the woman for the benefit of the body.
As always, there are two sides of the coin to consider. No matter what side you might be on today, the translation of the text can prove you right or it can prove you wrong. The text is fluid, not rigid and our truths stand up until they crumble in light of new truths. Perhaps it is time to think like a Hebrew and to be like Yeshua instead of thinking like a Greek and being like Caesar.
The Greek word Kephale is interesting because like many Greek words it has more than one meaning. Throughout the Greek scriptures, the word is translated as head, such as “the head of John the Baptist” in (Matt. 14:8) The metaphorical meaning is prominent things or the chief of a tribe. Messiah is called the “head cornerstone which the builders rejected” in (Matt. 21:42) The word according to Strong and most popular bible dictionaries is always one or the other and translations into English follow this rendering, however, not all agree on some verses.
Liddel and Scott’s Greek/English Lexicon gives us another possible meaning of Kephale in Classical Greek. It also means source, such as the source of a river or the source of one’s being. God is the Kephale of all things. According to some the word head in 1 Corinthians 11:3 should read source according to the context. The way Paul uses the word while going back to Genesis is an interesting argument as he does speak of how woman came from man and that in turn now man is born of woman and that all things are from God.
Reading this with the alternate view does fit the context, however, so does the word head when speaking about authority as found in Ephesians 5:23. Interestingly, while Messiah is the authority of the Church he is also the source of it, Just as God is the authority of the Messiah as well as the source of the Messiah. (Col. 1:16-18) (1 Cor. 15:27-28) For most scholars and translators the battle is simply one way or the other. When we dig deeper we find that in some instances both meanings fit and could even be considered a play on words by Paul. The possibility is there.
The biggest reason most prefer authority over source is that the “headship arrangement” which is a doctrine of the church, would be threatened. Historically men must have authority over women. What was the purpose of women according to Genesis? The Ezer Kenegdo as found in Hebrew is another argument and one that we will consider later on to dig deeper. Was a woman just made to help man, or was she made for far more?
Eve was made from Adam, the two became one because she was taken from him and then they were reunited as one. The man will leave HIS parents and join his wife. Today it is the woman who is taken from her parents and given to the man. Seems backwards. The ancient Rabbi’s said that before Eve Adam was only 50% man and 50% dirt. Eve made man whole once joined. Together we are stronger.
I am not attempting to teach one way or another how it should be translated or if one side is right or wrong. I simply want to show that the traditional understanding is not the only understanding. God’s word is deeper than the ocean and as vast as the universe. He wants us to submit to him as the authority in our lives and the source of our being. Next week we will consider more possibilities for Ezer Kenegdo.
We read our Bible according to a Greek understanding of the world. Unfortunately for us , the Bible is a Hebrew document, and the Hebrew view of the world is about action and not about cognitive reasoning. Did you know there is no past, present, or future tense in the Hebrew language. The passing of time is not marked by a hand on a clock but on the setting and rising of the sun. Man sanctifies buildings and objects while God sanctifies days like the sabbath or Passover. Sabbath begins when the sun sets on day six which changes each week. A clock means nothing to God.
What does all of this mean? That you are reading your Bible all wrong. Every time you read a Hebrew verse in English that suggests past or future you may want to look deeper into the text to verify its meaning. History is before us and the past is ahead of us. That is not philosophical, it is cyclical and it is the Hebrew view of time. God is always acting, always creating, always doing. For everything there is a time. This is perceived time. When you die you die, when you plant you plant. The day on the calendar determines none of this. The first day of the Hebrew year is when the barley pops up and God is the one who causes this to occur. This is action!
The Greek idea of conformity and certainty is our clock. A device on the wall that controls your every move that was invented in the 1400’s. Gods actions in the universe are the true time keeper. We are born, we die, we weep, we rejoice all when it is time. None of this is determined by us or our clock, but Gods. We distinguish time from the events that occur in time. For the ancient Hebrew, time is determined by its contents. Time is the events.
The Messiah has come and will come again. Men attempt to figure out when he came and when he will return, but Yeshua said that even he did not know the day or hour. He will know when the Father says Go forth. We will know when he comes forth. God is in control. Does he control your life?
Church part 2
I wrote about the church back on 01/12/2022 and there is still more to the word Ecclesia and the background of the usage of the word by Paul and others in the Greek scriptures, but we can save that for a future part 3. Today, I want to write about the genesis of the Ecclesia. The majority of Christianity teaches that the beginning of the church was at Pentecost when the holy spirit was poured out on the 120 who were gathered in Jerusalem. What were they all doing there? Yes, Yeshua told them to wait in Jerusalem but what about the thousands of others?
They were all there for the holy day of Shavuot a.k.a. Pentecost. Shavuot is one of the three holy days where a pilgrimage to come together before God was commanded. The day is a remembrance of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Jews from all over the world from different nations and languages were there. The celebration of this day was a gathering of those called by God together for a purpose to remember the gathering of those called by God at the Ecclesia in the wilderness. Steven uses the word Ecclesia to refer to this gathering although your bible will not say the church in the wilderness but something like a congregation. (Acts 7:38) The biased translators certainly wouldn't want us to believe there was a church before Pentecost.
The assembly of those called by God is also called a body, but the church can only be a body if it functions as one under the same authority. Today there are many churches all with a different authority. Is Yeshua the head of your church? Does your church function as one? What is its purpose? Planting new churches and growing into the hundreds and the thousands is the goal for most today. Efficiency and numbers are more important than effectiveness and transformation. How many disciples do you imagine are in a megachurch?
Our model is the Messiah. He chose his disciples and he spent time teaching them and showing them how to live by his actions. Today, A whole lot of time is spent teaching what we should believe instead of how we should live. Yeshua said to be a doer and not a hearer only. He said, if you love me you will keep my commands. If we are his disciples we will model our lives after his. I imagine that looks a whole lot different than the feel-good emotion-driven halls of congregations today. Is it possible for this to change? Certainly, but it's unlikely to come in thousands like at Pentecost. It will probably be one life at a time.
The bible is considered the inspired word of God. The idea is not exactly agreed upon, imagine that. To most, inspiration means that the text of the bible is 100% the word of God and there is no error whatsoever. To others, the bible has been dictated by God to men and is, therefore, the work of God penned verbatim by the men he chose. There are other thoughts but these two are sufficient for us to grasp the point.
The text most cite as proof comes from 2 Timothy 3:16 which tells us that “all scripture is breathed out by God...” At the time this was written, All scripture was what we now call the old testament and a few other works not included in the modern canon. Today what we call the new testament is included and a lot of what was once part of “all scripture” is no longer called inspired. The word in Greek translated God-breathed is theopneustos. The root words are Theos, meaning God or divinity, and the word pneo meaning to breathe, blow, or wind. We also get the word pneuma from pneo, pneuma means spirit. So the word here is literally breath of God.
A prophet was a prophet because God breathed his word into them and they spoke as they were moved by God. Man became a living soul when God breathed the breath of life into him. (Gen 2:7) When we read that the word of the Lord came upon so and so, the Hebrew word Haya means “came upon” or as in Genesis 2:7 man “became.” The prophet speaks God's words after God causes them “to become” a prophet by his spirit, Adam “became” a living soul by God's spirit. God is the means by which we live, speak, act, etc. As we know the Lord giveth and he taketh away. Life is by his spirit, or it is God-breathed, just like his inspired word.
The whole point of this is that inspiration is of God and only God just as life is of God. The man who writes the words writes as he is moved by God to do so, but he writes in his own language, using his own hand. The original works of scripture may have been without flaw or error, or bias, but in our day our bibles are not without flaw. There are mistakes and additions, and biased translations that read differently than others because men have taken an inspired text and copied it as best they can. God has surely kept his word intact for us but men have corrupted the text regardless. Does this mean it is any less true? If it is God’s and he is in control then we have what we need in the word he has entrusted to men. These are still God’s words but now they exist in the languages of men and we must carefully study them to be sure of what it is we believe and then act accordingly.
When we read our bible we read it differently than it would have been in the time it was spoken and later written down. In Matt. 8:21-22, A disciple asked Yeshua to allow him to first go and bury his father and then he would follow him. He was denied by being told to let the dead bury their own dead. The most popular interpretation of this is that those spiritually dead who were not following Yeshua would remain to bury the physical dead. Was this the intent?
Consider how what we call a funeral was done during this period. It was not a service followed by burial which might take a day or a few days depending on circumstances. The first thing that was done is the body was placed in a tomb, usually on the same day. There was a seven-day period of intense mourning called sitting shiv’ah, followed by a less intense 30 day period, called shloshim. Mourning did not officially end until they would return about a year later to perform what is called the second burial or ossilegium, which occurs only after the body decayed and the bones were left. The bones would then be placed in an ossuary.
Now we can look at this account in different ways. Is the father still living? Is the follower asking Yeshua to wait for his father to die and then bury him? Maybe Yeshua is letting the man know that he should be the most important thing in life and all other things should be secondary. This is another popular interpretation. The interpretation that makes sense in light of the standard that Yeshua himself adhered to, that being the Torah which tells us to honor our father and mother, combined with understanding the culture of the time might happen as follows;
The father has died within the last year and the man is asking for the time until the second burial to then go and retrieve his father's bones from the tomb so he can then bury his father and complete the entire burial ritual. Some translations will attempt to distinguish spiritual dead from physical but the text does not read that way. The word in Greek is nekros and is used for the physical dead. Yeshua’s answer fits well with the custom of secondary burial. The fathers had been placed in the family tombs to decompose. In the same tomb would have been other family members who had died, some possibly awaiting the second burial, but others were already placed in ossuaries. The phrase in the greek let the dead bury their “own dead” indicates the father was dead and was included among the rest of the dead.
Here is the biggest point to consider, the practice of second burial by the time of Messiah was corrupted and it was taught that the decomposition of the flesh atoned for the sins of the dead person, and the final stage of this process was gathering the bones into the ossuary after decomposition. Completing the entire process was necessary according to tradition. Yeshua may have been battling this false teaching, as we know only faith in him and his sacrifice can truly atone for sin, not rituals based on traditions of men. We cannot say for sure, but one thing we can say is that the traditional view is faulty because the context is not considered in the interpretation.
What we believe...
Do you want to understand the text of the bible? Your answer may be yes, however, you likely only accept the text through the lens you wear, according to the theology that you come to the table with. More than half of our understanding of scripture comes from Christian theology, which was heavily influenced by Greek thought a.k.a. Hellenism. When we read something in the text that does not fit our theology, instead of trying to understand the text for what it says we change what it means in translation and or interpretation to fit our preconceived notion. Examples?
Notion number 1. God is outside of time and space. What does that mean? Considering we cannot experience things outside our temporal world we cannot conceive what this means. Time passed for God before he created, we know this because he existed, and prior to us coming into being he was. The bible only shows us, God, according to our relationship with him after creation. Nothing is known before creation because it isn't relative for us in our relationship with God. The first day is only day 1 for us because what matters to us began then, but what matters to God already was and continues to be.
Notion number 2. Only the Bible is authoritative. What bible? According to Protestant tradition, the bible is 66 books. The Catholics disagree. The Ethiopian Bible and other orthodox texts are also different. In the first century, the authoritative texts were not canonized. For example, the dead sea scrolls included Enoch, and so does the Ethiopian bible. Yeshua even quoted it, as did Jude. The community defines what is sacred. The first-century community accepted books like Enoch and Jubilees as sacred, but we do not. Most of biblical history had no written canonized text. God spoke, the people passed on his words through oral tradition for a very long time before it was written down. What you believe is inspired depends on your accepted theology. Is the text inspired, sacred, holy? So, what do the scriptures teach? Depends on your bible and your theological affiliation.
Notion number 3. God cannot be in the presence of sin. According to who? Not God. The go-to verse found in scripture doesn't say this when read in context. Here's a clue, the devil is a liar and a murderer from the beginning according to Yeshua. How is it that the devil stands in front of God in heaven in Job? How does God look upon mankind, or even be in the presence of men while on earth in the tabernacle or the temple or any other situation? If God is omnipresent and the world is corrupted by sin, he must only be in heaven all the time. Here we have more notions, like omnipresence, or the creation of evil. God works with everyone, not just those who believe the way you do, so placing God in a box is and has always been an unfortunate fault of man.
The point of all of this is that until we can learn to read the text for what it says, drop our predetermined theology and accept that the scriptures (whatever they are to us) do not all systematically compartmentalize everything into a nice neat little box, we will fall short of understanding God and our place in history. We will continue to be divided, and we will continue to believe God has nothing left to tell us because we have it all figured out. Understanding that being a baptist or being a catholic or being methodist or being non-denominational (yes that is a denomination) means you may be stagnant. There is no progression in your faith in what you believe and in what you know about God because you are stuck in a nice neat little box designed for conformity by those who need to control you. I know the box is comfortable, but interacting with God more means opening the box more, challenging what you believe because your faith demands you believe it, is the very reason you should challenge it.
This week we are going to look at a Hebrew word, teivah. This word is found in the Hebrew bible about 28 times but only in reference to two things; 1. Noah’s ark 2. The basket Moses was placed in as an infant. If you have only ever read Exodus in modern English then you have likely not made the connection since the word is translated as basket in most bibles, but the KJV and the NKJV both use the word ark. The inconsistencies in the translation of scripture are unfortunate but we have to do our best to dig deeper to get to the meat.
The teivah according to Strong is an ark, vessel which Noah built or a basket vessel in which Moses was placed. Nothing too special there. We can safely deduce that a teivah was used by God to save Noah and his family from the wicked world that was wiped out by the great flood and that a teivah was used to place baby Moses in to presumably, save him from being found and killed by the Egyptians along with the other boys born to Hebrew women. A teivah seems special.
Something we don't learn from our bible dictionary is that the word teivah can also mean something else. It means word, however, the word for word we often see in the scriptures is dabar. Dabar means word, talk, or thing. Milla also means word, speech, utterance. Milla is used in reference to the spoken word, whereas Teivah is used in reference to the written word. So after all of that here is where I am finally getting to my point. Keep in mind there is plenty more wordplay to be had, but I won’t speak much more on that.
Noah and his family were saved by the teivah, Moses was protected and saved by a teivah. We have something that God himself has prepared for us, the teivah, recorded over thousands of years and preserved for those of us who need an ark to save us from the flood of wickedness in our world. Praise Yah.
We know the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. You have likely heard a sermon that ends with a proclamation that there won't be many people left on earth with faith at Yeshua's return. While this is likely, as the biblical pattern suggests only a remnant will remain, let’s read our parable and decide whether this is what Yeshua was alluding to.
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart
He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.
And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.‘ For a while he refused, but afterward, he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
The context is revealed in the opening verses. The effect of the parable is that they pray and do not lose heart, or give up. Considering the parable with that in mind, what seems the likely conclusion? Another help is that we find in the Greek the definite article that is left out of the translation as if it were unnecessary in the English text. “Will he find the faith on the earth.” The article is in both places in the Greek text but left out in English.” The context determines the word, for example it could be “the, this, these, that, etc.” How does this sound; “Will he find this faith on the earth.”
This faith would be one where we do not give up or give in under pressure, under persecution, or just when we think God isn't listening or does not hear us we give up and stop praying and perhaps even lose faith or lose heart. The widow never gave up, she kept begging the judge, and finally, he heard her plea. Yeshua said to pray and never lose heart. Sound more plausable? There are lessons to be had upon deeper investigation into the text, and by paying close attention to what is being said. What does your bible say?
Here we have another Greek word connected to English. I have no doubt you likely thought of the word heresies or perhaps heretic, and if so, you reckoned correctly. What is a heretic? What is heresy? What we think about it today is unlikely to be what Peter meant when he wrote 2 Peter 2:1-2. Please read it before continuing. The word hairesis means choice, something chosen, such as a group who chooses to follow their own tenets as opposed to the other group(s). Strongs concordance adds, “dissension arising from diversity of opinions and aims.” That's not all, the word could also mean an “act of taking, capturing.”
In our day the Orthodoxy determines the standard, and any deviation from said standard is heresy. For example, the trinity, immortal soul, and original sin. I am a heretic according to Christianity because I share an opinion that is different than the institution of Christianity. Interestingly, the negative connotation associated with the use of heresy was not part of the original etymology of the word. “Hairetikos” meant “fitted or able to take or choose something.” We all have a right to choose and disagree, but, if you are a Christian, doctrine demands you only choose what is acceptable according to the orthodox view, otherwise “you're not wanted around here.”
Yeshua was a heretic, as were the prophets of old. They were almost all killed for their heresy. What was Peter's issue? Now, read all of the chapter. Notice a common theme. angels who Sinned, lawless deeds, ungodly, preacher of righteousness, righteous Lot, lusts, returning to one's old way of wickedness. Peter’s heretics would deny the master Yeshua, and be workers of sin, causing many to “follow their way.” This is our latter definition, which is first in order according to Strong. “Capturing or taking by force!” These men were “capturing the many” who would then “choose to follow their immoral ways,” (vs. 2) and leading them away from messiah into sin and all that is opposed to God’s standard of righteousness.
Peter did not use the word the same way the church uses it today. Peter's idea of a heretic would place many nominal Christians today in an uncomfortable position. If you have a different opinion than that of your church, congratulations, you are a heretic. Of course, this only applies to the mainstream doctrines called essentials! Who was it that determined these “essentials” of the faith? It sure wasn't Peter.
Convert, epistrefo, converso
Here we have an English word, a Greek word, and a Latin word with an idea in our modern church dating back to the early Catholic church that is not on par with scripture. This should be interesting, so let’s dig in. The apostle Paul is considered by most of Christianity as a convert. You have likely heard about the Damascus experience and Pauls “conversion” to Christianity, even though it did not yet exist. However, Paul was not a convert to a new religion, he was still a Jew who worshipped the God of his fathers, (Acts 24:1-21) but he now accepted Yeshua of Nazareth as the long-awaited Messiah, and this was a life-changing event indeed for Paul. (Acts 26)
Lets consider Galatians 5. Paul is speaking about the circumcism issue, a big one in those days. Those of the circumcision demanded gentiles become literal Jews when turning to Christ, becoming a Jew necessitated physical circumcision. Paul, however, was against this idea of conversion. Becoming a debtor to the “Whole Law” (vs.3) meant accepting the entire body of tradition that most Jews followed, both the oral and written Torah. The subject of the moral law was not the only issue at hand as one might ascertain when reading the whole letter of Galatians, which was in large part, about circumcision.
Gentiles were not to become Jews and guess what! Jews were not to become gentiles! Here is part of the reason Jews have such an issue with “Christianity”. The early church forced Jews to give up their Jewish heritage, persecution drove them away from their own Messiah. A spiritual turning is what is required of either, but we are not required to become a different ethnicity! We are to epistreo to God from idols or our old way of life, ( 1 Thess. 1:9) that way which was against the God of Abraham, who is not o.k. with wickedness! We have to turn from our sin, ( 2 Tim. 2:19) which includes, but is not limited to idolatry, adultery, murder, lies, stealing, coveting... We know the rest, though we tend to forget some of it because of the idea of conversion and 1700 years of anti-semitic rhetoric in the church. Come as you are,(sinner) stay what you are,(Jew, gentile) become who your meant to be. (Col. 3:1-11)
This word epistro, meaning to turn, became converso in Latin translations. These Latin translations of converso of course became Convert in some English bibles. The early church forced conversion to their practices, and especially amongst Jews, where much of what was called Judaizing was outlawed. This includes remembering and keeping the sabbath, recognizing the appointed times of God such as the Passover, which became Easter, and so on. Jews were persecuted and slaughtered for centuries, and Christians today wonder why it is so difficult to preach Christ to a Jew. Even in the blindness caused by God, many are now coming to the faith, but they are remaining Jews upon accepting Messiah. Christians have much to learn from them as they do us.
This is one of those Greek words that sounds very similar to one we are familiar with. The word harpoon, from the early 17th century, denotes a barbed dart or spear. Think about how a harpoon works, now consider the definition of harpazo. It means to seize, carry away by force, or to snatch out or away. The doctrine of the rapture is based primarily on this word and it’s English translation found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. This doctrine has not been around for very long, dating to the early1800’s. Most attribute the doctrine to Darby.
The concept of the rapture is closely related to the resurrection. The standing up again or the rising from death to life has to be addressed first In order to address the harpazo. In 1 Corinthians 15:35-54 Paul explains to us in great detail how the resurrection works. After reading those verses we can then compare what we find in 1 Thessalonians 4, but please think deeply about what you read in 1 Cor. 15:36 and consider the rest of Paul’s explanation with this in mind.
1 Thess. 4:13 speaks about “those who have fallen asleep” and here we are told that the resurrection occurs at the return of Yeshua. (vs.15-16) 1 Cor. 15:21-23, 51-52 Give us clues in parallel with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. We are able to identify the return, the sounding of the trumpet, (also in revelation) the dead rising, and the living in Christ taking on spiritual bodies and joining the dead. Paul taught the resurrection of the dead as a primary part of the gospel message, if there is no resurrection, then there is no gospel. (1 Cor. 15:12-15)
The dead rise first, as Paul makes sure to explain, in fact it is a comfort for those living to know this about their dead loved ones. (Vs.18) Those who are alive at this time will then be harpazo “together with them!” We also take on spiritual bodies, the same ones spoken about in Corinthians, the same ones the dead who are raised take on. No matter which view you might hold, it is important to consider all available information on the subject and dig deeper into the text to determine how much of the doctrine you are taught is true and how much is a work of fiction or fancy. If you are waiting for the “church” to be raptured before you get your act together during the “tribulation” you might be in for a rude awakening.
Greek is not our language, however, the new testament was not written In English it was written in Greek. (Most was likely originally in Hebrew but that is another story) The translated works of the bible are not only translations but are also, in many ways, interpretations. Paul is difficult to understand, even the Apostle Peter said as much. (2 Pet. 3:16-17) Remember Paul was highly educated in more ways than one, Peter was not. Both, however, knew about nomos.
Nomos is law, and it could mean law of any kind according to the Greek. The nomos Paul often speaks about is Torah, or God’s law. Here is where Paul is often misunderstood. Paul seems to say that the law has been removed, or is obsolete in one place and in another he says the law is holy, good, and still valid. (Heb. 8:13)(Rom. 8:2-3)---(Rom. 7:12)(1 Tim. 1:8)
Which is it? Context is needed. Paul was speaking about different things at different times to a different audience. We have to dig deep in order to understand him. For example the word in (Heb.8:13) We will talk about that one another day.
Today let’s focus on 1 Timothy 1:1-11. In verse 9 Paul tells us that the law was made for the lawless or the anomos. He continues on, giving a list of different lawless acts, that according to vs.10 are contrary to sound doctrine. Paul has told us before why the law was necessary, that the law was added because of transgression, that the law is how we know sin. (Rom. 3:20, 7:7) Paul could call no man wicked without knowing God’s standard by which men are made wicked. All thees things which are not according to sound doctrine are things against the law.
Paul is not speaking of the numerous laws about priests, sacrifices, and things that have no bearing on his listeners. He is speaking about the moral laws, the standard God has put in place, God who does not change. The son of God has himself even given us some guidelines in order to understand Paul. He speaks also about the law, and the lawless. In Matthew 5:17-19 he tells us something very important.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Yeshua speaks about those who make a practice of sin, and the fate they share. Read Matthew 7:12-24. Then consider those who were supposedly doing many mighty works in his name, even calling him Lord, Lord. What does he call them? Workers of anomia! Your bible might say iniquity but the word is specific, it means lawlessness. These individuals were living a life of sin and they called Yeshua their Lord and even did works in his name. Some would say they had no faith, and they would be correct. They had works, and those works did not save them because they did not truly repent of their old ways and live according to God’s word.
What do we say then? Whether you accept the Torah, the instruction of God in your life or not makes no difference. The blood of Christ has saved us from death, the law has magnified God’s grace by putting sin under a microscope. (Rom. 5:18-21) God has not made a mistake needing change, we have. We are saved by grace through faith in the blood of the lamb, but we first have to repent and turn from sin. (Acts 2:38-40)(Eph. 2:8-9)
What is the purpose of the law again?
Repent! Our modern understanding of this concept is somewhat flawed. Not because we cannot grasp what it means to turn away from sin, but because we cannot grasp what it means to sin. In Acts 2:14-40 the apostle Peter, having just received Holy Spirit at Shavuot (Pentecost) preached what we might call the first public sermon after Yeshua. There is a whole lot of valuable information in this chapter, so please read it all.
We will begin with verse 38. Peter gives the crowd step-by-step instructions after telling them all about Yeshua as Messiah and how he fulfills the promises of God to David. Upon asking, “what shall we do?” He first says to Metanoeo! Meta means after, hereafter, or afterward. Noeo means To understand, to think upon, consider, exercise the mind. Together we have metanoeo, meaning to look back after the fact, consider your old ways and change your mind for the better. Repentance is the modern word but let’s “noeo” for a second.
For us to look back and consider our past conduct and turn from it for the better, we have to understand what our conduct was, why was it wrong? Sin is difficult to turn from if it infects us like a disease. Original sin is of course a doctrine created in the last 1700 years or so. When Peter was speaking here he was specific. One must first metanoeo, then be baptized in the name of Yeshua the Messiah for the forgiveness of sins. Sin was understood by Peter and those listening in Jerusalem that day as “missing the mark” or “falling short of a standard.” (1 John 3:3-4)(Rom. 3:20, 7:7)
The standard is, of course, God’s standard. The mark is like a bullseye in archery, we aim for the mark but often fall short, we miss the mark. The Greek word aphesis translated forgiveness means release from bondage, or pardon. Like a presidential pardon in our day, we are released and the penalty is revoked. We now have a clean record. The law we broke, however, still exists. If we commit the same crime again we will be subject to the penalty. This is why a change of mind is necessary, a pardon is usually not handed over to someone who has not changed their ways.
We are called to live set-apart lives dedicated to God and to imitating our King Yeshua who is Messiah. Every kingdom has laws and a standard of conduct by which the citizens are supposed to abide. (Eph. 2:19) God’s kingdom is no different. If we are citizens of this kingdom we abide by its laws first, and the laws of our country second. We are ambassadors, representing a holy God and proclaiming the appointed king as ruler. (2 Cor. 5:19-20) We have been set free from the penalty of death by having the debt we owe nailed to the cross.
The Greek word genos is where we get the word gene to describe units of heredity. The bible uses the word gennao and monogenes in numerous places, and of course they are also used to describe Yeshua. The word gennao is basic and is found throughout the genealogies of Matthew and Luke. For example, Matthew 1:2 says Abraham gennao Isaac, Isaac gennao Jacob, Jacob gennao Judah and his brothers. Reading on, we of course have Mary gennao Yeshua in verse 16. We understand the basic useage of the word, although it does have other renderings.
Monogenes is a specific term that once understood aids our insight into the text. John 3:16 is the most well-known passage where this word is found. God sent forth his monogenes son. Mono is a specific root which means one or alone. Together mono-genes means only born or only-begotten. This word is often mistranslated in modern English bibles, for example the NIV says God gave his one and only Son. While the translation states he is “one and only” it leaves out the part where he is born. The text does say he is the only born or only-begotten. They leave out the born part, and just say he is an only son. Why does this matter?
Because the original text doesn't say it that way. Yeshua is not the one and only son of God. Adam is called a son of God. (Luke 3:38) Angels are called Sons of God. (Job 38:7) All who are led by God's spirit are called sons of God. (Rom. 8:14) The KJV has it right on this one, Yeshua is the only begotten son of God. Adam and the angels were created, we are adopted. Yeshua was born. Yes he was gennao to Mary, but he was also gennao to God before Adam, or the angels, or even the world was made. Yeshua is the monogenes Son of God.
Yeshua is also called the prototokos. (Col.1:15) The word protos is the beginning, foremost in time or place, first, chief. Tikto is to produce, literally or figuratively to be born, bring forth, be in travail. Yeshua is called the prototokos pas ktisis. Pas meaning ALL and ktisis meaning creation or creature. He is the First-brought forth-of ALL-Creatures or creation. The context of Colossian chapter 1 is speaking of the creation itself as a whole and specifically states Yeshua, who is the image of God, the firstborn of all things. God did not create Yeshua, he brought him forth as his first born, as his only born. He is the only other being exactly like God because he is the only one born of him. The rest of the creatures in the world produce after their own kinds, giving birth to more like themselves.
There it is from the text itself. Simple, straightforward, easy to grasp. Anything else is a doctrine created by a man or men in order to justify a rule or regulation, to bring unity of orthodoxy to the institution. Imagine a world where God’s word was still important and the leaders taught from the text instead of the textbook of their seminaries or church statements of faith. It is hard to imagine even with my imagination. How about yours?
This is an addendum to the last E-Word study Genes. The statement that Matthew and Luke had the word Gennao throughout the genealogies was not 100% accurate. Luke actually says that each person born was “a son of” instead that they were “born to or begotten”. The word Gennao is in Matthew however and this does not change the rest of the information stated. Thanks
Christianity has a precise understanding of what it means to be perfect, which comes primarily from our Greek background. To be without defect, never failing, never getting sick or growing old, never experiencing pain or having temptation, we have to try and overcome. I could go on, you likely have your own conclusions about perfection.
I am not perfect but Yeshua was. Right? The idea of perfection is not a Hebrew idea. You won’t find it in the Tanakh (Old Testament). The English word perfect is there, however, the Hebrew word meaning is wholeness or complete. The difference in the idea of perfect, (*1) (what God asks us to be) and the Greek idea of perfect, an eternal unchanging condition, (*2) (What God is) is quite subtle.
We can be whole, we can be complete toward God and still have flaws. If we were perfect according to the traditional Greek understanding then we would have no need of God’s grace. Let’s not read too much into the idea of sin causing our imperfections. We often view Adam and Eve as perfect, but were they perfect? They did succumb to temptation. They were not yet sinners when they decided in a moment of weakness to disobey God. Consider Yeshua and his temptations. We are told in Hebrews 4:15 that he has been in every respect tempted as we are, that he can relate to us as men because he as a man. He was without sin, but was he perfect?
We like to think Yeshua never caught a cold, stubbed a toe, skinned a knee as a child, or never had to deal with actually being human. The general idea of perfection demands all these things and more. Yeshua, however, had to deal with the flesh just as we do, he felt hunger, thirst, anger, sadness, and many other things we generally don’t attribute to him, but through it all, he maintained his wholehearted devotion to God. He was without sin and therefore he was considered righteous. (1 Pet. 2:21-22)
(Hebrews 5:7-9 ESV)
In the days of his flesh, Yeshua offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him
We will be made perfect as well but not in this flesh. (Heb. 12:23) We can, however, be like Yeshua in our wholehearted devotion. Will we be called righteous? Not likely, but we recognize our failures and our weaknesses, and God’s grace is magnified by our inadequacies and Yeshua is our advocate if we trust him and do what he has asked of us since he is also now our King. (Rom. 3:23-26)(1 John 2:1-6)
One of the best examples of being “perfect” (*1) yet not “perfect” (*2) is Daniel. Daniel is called innocent before God. (Dan. 6:22) The Aramaic word here “Zakur” means purity, innocence in God’s sight. Daniel’s wholehearted devotion to God is an example of the perfection (*1) we should be. The perfection (*2) we will be is what Yeshua has attained and what we will one day hope to attain. (Phil. 3:8-14)
The word church is known by everyone in the English speaking world as a religious (primarily Christian) building and or gathering of worshippers. Websters defines church as 1: a building that is used for Christian religious services 2: religious services held in a church 3: a particular Christian group. It is amazing how language evolves.
In the first century, the word ekklesia was a non-religious assembly. The word was used by Paul and others for more than one reason. The word synagogue, which we recognize today as a Jewish religious gathering or building, was not Jewish in the first century. Back then synagogue was a pagan religious assembly as opposed to our non-religious ekklesia.
The root word qara means to call. You have likely heard ekklesia means called out ones, and it does, but not in the religious sense. It is used to describe those who have been invited or summoned to come together for a purpose. The use of the word in the Greek testament is understood to denote a special group of people who have been called by God, specifically chosen to be set apart from the rest of the world. We now have a word for a non-religious gathering being used to denote a special religious gathering separate from all other religious gatherings.
(John 6:44-44, 64-65)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me... But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him. And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
The reality is, those who are part of todays church are not all part of the ekklesia of Yeshua. Not everyone has accepted the invitation, like Judas (Yehudah) many believe but not all trust in God and are committed to being set apart, to being completely dedicated to accepting the invitation and living as part of the special called-out ones. For those who are not “All in” the invitation will remain open up until the time the inviter decides to withdraw it, and then the wheat and tares will be separated and the tares will be burned up. Remember, we are all growing together until the time of the harvest. (Matt. 13:24-31)
Mono, Poly, Heno, theism
If you are a churchgoer then you likely know the terms monotheism and polytheism. You have probably been taught that your Christian faith is and has always been a monotheistic religious faith. The same scholars who teach this also tell us Judaism and Islam are also monotheistic. What exactly does Monotheism mean?
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of One God and only one God, no others exist. Interestingly, monotheism wasn’t coined as a term until the 17th century at Cambridge by a fellow named Henry More. Both poly and monotheism are modern terms. Ancient Israel and early Christians as found in our Bibles are Henotheistic. Henotheism is the belief in many gods but only worshipping one. (Psalm 95:3)(Psalm 96:5)(Psalm 97:7)(Deut. 6:14)(1 Cor. 8:5-6)
What about us today? Most Christians are monotheistic, only because they haven't been taught the scriptures according to the original languages. In Hebrew Elohim is translated as God or gods in the bible. Elohim is the word for deity and has a plural intensive syntax and is singular in meaning. The suffix (im) mainly indicates a masculine plural, however, with Elohim the construction is grammatically singular when referring to the God of Israel. When used of pagan gods it is plural as found in (Psalm 96:5, 97:7)
The word Theos is Greek is also a word used for deity. In scripture angels are theos, Yeshua is Theos, God is Theos, the devil is even called a theos. The Elohim are spirit beings, they are the angels, the demons, the true and the false. Ancient societies like Egypt or Rome had myriads of gods and goddesses. In fact, every culture had its own gods. The idea that there were no gods and that they were not involved in any way with the world was virtually non-existent.
What does this mean for our faith? Nothing significant, we do gain insight into the scriptures. It helps reconcile the seeming discrepancy when Moses says to have no other gods, or not to even mention the names of other gods, only to have Isaiah say there is only YHVH God and no others, none can compare. (Isaiah 46:9) The truth is, there is only one being who is Almighty and can be called the most high God, and his name is YHVH.
The Elohim all come from God. They exist on a higher plane and are more powerful than us, and our encounters with them historically have led to the development of all sorts of religious practices, rituals, and idols representing myriads of supernatural beings. Polytheism is, in reality, the worship of demons. YHVH is not just the God of Israel, he is the God of creation, the most high God. The early church had no problem identifying their God. His name, his power, his law, his sense of justice, all these identifiers set him apart from the demons.
Do you believe there are other Elohim or Theos? If you believe the bible then you do. This means you are a Henotheist, not a Monotheist. Does it matter what category you are in? It shouldn't but it does in much of the church. Doctrine dictates a lot of our relationships. It's a good thing we have scripture, so we can understand the difference between reality and dogma. Digging deeper into scripture is a lot of work, but it is worth the effort. I hope you enjoy the journey and don’t give up because much of what you learn, as fascinating as it will be, can also be hard to accept and in some cases may cause you pain.
FROM FAITH TO FAITH
Jude (Yehudah) 3-20
Jude starts by mentioning a common salvation, but he instead is constrained to write about “the faith delivered to the holy ones.”
The word “paradidomi” in the Greek is often translated, delivered in this verse. The word has different uses, depending on context. For example, it could mean betrayed, or handing over. Greek testament usage is often in the negative sense, such as when Yochanan the baptiser was “delivered up” in (Matt. 4:12) or when Judas (Yehudah) betrays Yeshua in (Matt. 26:46)
In Jude the word means “something handed down and entrusted to someone else who is now taking over authority of said something” in this case the faith being delivered to the holy ones. The useage here is like the traditions Paul delivers in (1 Cor. 11:2)
So what is this faith that is being handed down and entrusted to the holy ones? It wasn't new, but there was new information. Messiah had come for one thing. He died an atoning sacrifice, and he was also resurrected from the dead. Grace was not new, however, it was an attribute of God from the beginning. In verse 4 Judes speaks of ungodly men who turn God’s grace into unbridled excess, these men would be punished just like the people saved from Egypt who later didn't trust in God or the messengers that failed to keep their first domain mentioned in verses 5-6.
There are more examples given but the commonalities are wickedness, self-serving people who do not allow God to set the standards of conduct in their lives, instead they choose to live according to their own desires and standard of right and wrong. They would all be punished for their sins, conduct that includes but is not limited to Jude's list in verse 16.
The God of Israel has grace on all who come to him through his Messiah Yeshua. (1 Pet. 2:-5) The need to turn away from sinful conduct is a necessary one. (Acts 3:19 The word of God is the way we learn about God’s standard of conduct, and about sin. God’s grace does not give us a license to sin, it it by his grace that we were provided a way to overcome sin. (Rom. 6:1-3) Whether you believe the Torah is applicable or nailed to the cross, the fact remains: We only know sin by means of the law. (Rom. 3:20; 7:8, 11, 13) (1 John 3:4)
No matter how one views sin, whether it is a nature inherited from our first parents spread through procreation that causes every baby born to be wicked and deserving of death through no fault of their own, or you believe it is disobedience or rebellion against God, a choice based on knowledge which is hard to avoid because of the weakness of our fleshly desires, the fact is, faith in Messiah and trust in God is the only way to please YHVH. (Heb. 11:6) We can do nothing to earn the right to life and inherit the holy faith. (Rom. 6:23) The debt we all owe is paid.