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Hebrew Catch Phrases(Idioms)

May 19, 2012 in Hebrew Understanding

It is indeed unfortunate that all of all the New testament writings, the words and sayings of Jesus himself are the most difficult to understand. Most Christians are unconsciously devoting the majority of their time in Bible study to the Epistles-almost completely ignoring the historical and Hebraic synoptic Gospels(Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Without really understanding why, they tend to “just read over” the Synoptic Gospels. Phrases such as “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven“(Matthew 5:3) sound so beautiful and poetic, but for the English speaker, do they convey any real depth of meaning?

Why are the words of Jesus that we find in the Synoptic Gospels so difficult to understand? The answer is that the original gospel that formed the basis for the Synoptic Gospels was first communicated, not in Greek, but in the Hebrew language. This means that we are reading English translations of a text which is itself a translation. Since the Synoptic Gospels are derived from an original Hebrew text, we are constantly “bumping into” Hebrew expressions or idioms which are often meaningless in Greek or in translations from the Greek.

The more Hebraic the saying or teaching of Jesus, the more difficult it is for us to understand. But it is just these Hebraic teachings that are often the strongest or most important. The difficulty arises because many of the sayings of Jesus are actually Hebrew idioms. An idiom is “an expression in the usage of a language, that is peculiar to itself either in grammatical construction or in having a meaning which cannot be derived as a whole from the conjoined meanings of its elements.” Some examples of English idioms would be: “Kill time,” or “Break a leg,” or “Eat your heart out.” Many of the idioms that Jesus used in his teachings can be understood only when properly interpreted in a Hebrew context.

I began my Bible reading as a teenager. My greatest difficulty was trying to understand the words of Jesus. I would note sayings of Jesus, such as

“For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:31)

Picture a teenager trying to make sense out of such good King James English as,

I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled.? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished ! (Luke 12:49-50)

I would question my pastor or teachers or visiting seminary professors as to the meaning of such passages and would invariably receive the common response: “Just keep reading,son, the Bible will interpret itself.” The truth is one can keep reading the Bible forever, and the Bible will not tell them the meaning of these difficult passages. They can be understood only when translated back into Hebrew! These men of God I questioned could not help me; however, they cannot be blamed for the lack of an answer. No one had ever suggested to them that the most important tool for understanding the Bible_both Old and New testaments-is Hebrew,  and that Hebrew is the key to understanding the words of Yeshua(Jesus).

My reason for starting this website was to show that the original biography of Yeshua(Jesus) was communicated in the Hebrew language and that most of both, the Old and New Testaments can only be understood from a Hebraic perspective. For a more in depth study on the difficult phrases above;  see the post titled Green Tree for an explanation of Luke 23:31, and the post titled Baptism for an explanation of Luke 12:49-50