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Baptism

May 6, 2013 in Hebrew Understanding

Luke 12:49-50 - “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!”

John the Baptist prophesied that The Coming One would baptize with fire (Matthew 3:11). As we learn from the book of Acts, Jesus did baptize his disciples with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. At that same time did he also baptize them with fire? Many Christians have assumed the answer is yes, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the baptism of fire took place simultaneously. They take for granted that the “tongues like fire” mentioned in Acts 2:3 are a fulfillment of John’s prophecy about a baptism of fire.

Were these “tongues like fire” on the Day of Pentecost that “baptism of fire” which John prophesied? It seems very unlikely. When Jesus himself later prophesies about the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 11:16), he says nothing about fire: “John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” In this post resurrection saying of Jesus, he instructs his disciples not to return to Galilee, but to remain in Jerusalem for a few more days until they are baptized in the Holy Spirit. Jesus, clearly referring to what would take place on the Day of Pentecost, makes no mention of fire or a baptism of fire. Those Galilean disciples who remained in Jerusalem until Pentecost waited for the promised Holy Spirit, but not the baptism of fire.

What John Meant in Matthew 3:11 by a baptism “with fire” or “in fire” he clarified in the very next verse through a beautiful allegory:

Matthew 3:12 - His winnowing fork is in his hand. He will purge his threshing floor and gather his grain into his granary. But the chaff he will burn in a fire that never goes out.

For John, as for the Old Testament prophets, fire was a symbol of judgement. Isaiah often used this symbol:

Isaiah 66:15-16 - Here comes the Lord with fire, his chariots are like a whirlwind to vent his anger with fury; his rebuke with flames of fire. For with fire will the Lord execute judgment.

Fire is an awesome thing. It can destroy a home in a matter of minutes, or a huge forest in a few hours. The Old Testament usually speaks of fire as “eating” or “eating up” (“devouring” in King James English). Hebrews 12:29, quoting Deuteronomy 4:24, pronounces: “Our God is a devouring fire.” Fire is a perfect symbol of destruction, and thus a figure of judgment. Luke 12:49-50 remains a puzzle to the English reader for the same reason so many other verses of our Gospels do. These verses are not English, nor Greek; but pure, undisguised Hebrew. In just two short verses we have a whole complex of Hebraisms.

Luke:49-50 - I have come to cast fire upon the earth, But how could I wish it [the earth] were already burned up? I have a baptism to be baptize, And how distressed I am till it is over!

First of all, we should note that these verses are a beautiful example of Hebrew poetry. It is not rhyming the ends of verses of the poem. It is not a repetition of the same sound, but a repetition or echoing of the same thought. One says the same thing twice, but each time in a different way, in different though equivalent words. This feature of Hebrew poetry is called parallelism. Parallelism,  the placing of two synonymous phrases or sentences side by side, is the essence of Hebrew poetry. We meet it repeatedly in the old Testament. For instance:

II Samuel:20-1 - “We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.”

Both parts of this verse express identical thoughts. “The son of Jesse” is a synonym for “David,” and “inheritance” is equivalent to “portion.” Another example of parallelism in the Old Testament is:

Hosea 13:14 - “I will ransom them from the power of Sheol. I will redeem them from death.”

“Ransom” is a synonym for “redeem,” and “Sheol” is parallel to “death.” In our passage, “baptism” is parallel to “fire”; “baptize” is parallel to “cast”; and “How distressed I am till it is over” is the equivalent of “How could I wish it were already burned up.” To the English speaker, such doubling is disconcerting. It appears entirely unnecessary. For us, it seems quite superfluous to say the same thing twice. We could easily omit either of the doublets, either side of the parallelism. But for the Hebrew speaker, this repetition of an idea is the most beautiful form of the language.

So let’s look at this difficult scripture (Luke49-50) and translate it into modern day English using Hebrew logic and understanding. What Jesus(Yeshua) was saying is this. “My task is to set the earth on fire. That I am doing. The earth is burning. I already have begun to sow the seeds of judgment, and one day there will be a final judgment. But I do not look forward to that Day of Judgment, that final moment – the moment of my return – when men will no longer have a chance to accept me as Lord. How could I wish for that! I am required to baptize the earth, to judge the world. That is the task I have been given by my Father. But in the meantime, until that judgment is complete, how difficult it is for me! How I agonize as some men decide to become my disciples, and others decide to reject my messianic claims.”

Up to this point, we have ignored one important fact. Luke 12:49-50 is really only an introduction to the next three verses. Verses 51-53 restate verses 49 and 50, explaining and amplifying them. Verses 51-53 should, therefore, indicate whether our interpretation of verses 49 and 50 is correct. Jesus was a prophet. So often we forget his prophetic role. He acts like a prophet. And like the Old Testament prophets, he frequently speaks in allegory. Unfortunately, when a prophet speaks in allegory, he is hard to understand. Fortunately, he usually repeats in less veiled language what he has just said in allegory. This creates a doublet, the feature so characteristic of the Hebrew mind. We might call it an additional type of parallelism. The prophet delivers his message once in allegory, and then a second time in more straightforward terms.

In our Gospel passage, Jesus first speaks in allegory (Luke:49-50), and then repeats in more explanatory words (Luke12:51-53). Notice the parallel between the allegory and its explanation. Both “I have come” and “earth” appear in the allegory as well as in its explanation. We can also easily see that “give division” in the explanation is the parallel to “cast fire” in the allegory. It seems obvious that verses 51-53 are a clarification of what Jesus has said in the allegory. Now the question is: Can we understand the clarification any better than the allegory?

Verses 51-53 do turn out to be easier to understand than the allegory of the two previous verses. Jesus is causing division. The Hebrew word which must have stood in the original text means disagreement, dissension, or dispute. Jesus was not going to bring peace and harmony, but division and dissension. Even members of the same family would disagree about Jesus. One would become a disciple; another would not. This is undoubtedly the same dissension that the righteous Simeon had prophesied in the Temple:

Luke 2:34-35 - “This child is destined to cause the downfall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that many people will speak against [a cause of division]… so that the thoughts of many minds will be revealed.”

The “sign spoken against” of Simeon’s prophecy is Jesus himself. Jesus, as himself declared, was a sign to his generation just as Jonah was a sign to the people of Nineveh(Luke 11:30). The people of Nineveh were forced to make a decision about Jonah and what he was preaching. Their choice was to believe God, who spoke through the prophet, or face destruction. They had to accept God’s sign or reject it. The people of the generation in which Jesus lived had to make a decision about Jesus, and like the people of Nineveh, had to either accept God’s sign or reject it.

Simeon in his prophecy speaks of thoughts being revealed. This, like “the sign spoken against,” is a reference to the controversy that would surround Jesus. The messianic claims of Jesus would cause division, even family disputes. Each person Jesus called would be forced to take a stand for or against Jesus. Each person’s thoughts would be revealed, each person’s stand made public.

In this sense, the judgment of which Jesus spoke in Luke 12:49-50, that baptism of fire which John predicted, had already begun. It began the moment Jesus started calling men and women to join his movement, the Kingdom. The final judgment would take place at Jesus’ Second Coming; but in the meantime, people were making decisions which would determine their eternal destiny. If they did not believe him, did not repent, they would be condemned. Furthermore, the men of Nineveh, who did repent, would be their accusers at the judgment(Luke 11:32).

So much was at stake – life or death, salvation or damnation. For this reason Jesus was distressed. He hung on every decision. He rejoiced over every sinner who repented. His heart fell at every “righteous” person who thought he needed no repentance. This passage, Luke 12:49-50 is extraordinary in still another way. It is a saying in which Jesus indirectly claims to be God himself. In the Old Testament it is always the Lord who comes with fire or who kindles a fire of judgment. “I will send fire” or “I will set fire” are recurring phrases in the Old Testament, “I” referring to the Lord. When Jesus spoke in the first person of casting or sending fire, his listeners must have been shocked. Nor is this the only instance in which Jesus hints that he is the Lord almighty. Jesus never hesitates to speak or act like God.

Jesus is also like God in his concern for the sinner. “The Son of Man,” Jesus says, “has come to seek and to save the lost sheep.”(Luke 19:10) Like a good shepherd, Jesus knows and loves every sheep. He would not think of abandoning even one of them which had somehow wandered away from the flock. This concern for the lost is what explains Jesus’ anxiety in Luke 12:49-50. Until the Day of Judgment he is under great emotional stress; and yet, in spite of this stress he does not at all long for that day because then it will no longer be possible to rescue the lost.

In the Second Epistle of Peter, there is a striking parallel to Luke 12:49-50. Like Luke 12:49-50 it speaks of judgment, but also of the compassion and patience of the Lord. It is such a fascinating parallel that I quote it in conclusion:

II Peter 3:7-10 - And God has commanded that the earth and the heavens be stored away for a great bonfire at the judgment day, when all ungodly men will perish. But don’t forget this, dear friends, that a day or a thousand years from now is like tomorrow to the Lord. He isn’t really being slow about his promised return, even though it sometimes seem that way. But he is waiting, for the good reason that he is not willing that any should perish, and he is giving more time for sinners to repent. The Day of The Lord is surely coming, as unexpectedly as thief, and then the Heavens will pass away with a terrible noise and the heavenly bodies will disappear in fire, and the Earth and everything on it will be burned up.

Green Tree

March 15, 2013 in Hebrew Understanding

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

Here is an example of a verse which is unintelligible in the Greek in which it has been preserved, but which makes perfect sense when re translated into Hebrew. Yeshua is referring to the “green tree” and the “dry tree” mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy against Jerusalem and its temple

Ezekiel 20:45-21:7 - Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field; And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it: it shall not be quenched. Then said I, Ah Lord God! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables? And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel, And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked. Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of his sheath against all flesh from the south to the north: That all flesh may know that I the Lord have drawn forth my sword out of his sheath: it shall not return any more. Sigh therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes. And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt answer, For the tidings; because it cometh: and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water: behold, it cometh, and shall be brought to pass, saith the Lord God.

Allegorically, “the green tree” is “the righteous,” and “the dry tree” is “the wicked.” A forest fire, which God starts, sweeps through the forest of the Negeb. The heat is so intense that even the green trees are burned up. On his way to a cruel death, Yeshua is not oblivious to the women who are wailing and weeping for him. What a terrible destruction would soon sweep down on Jerusalem, engulfing them and their children! Like Ezekiel. Yeshua is heartbroken.

Ezekiel 21:6-7 - Sigh therefore, son of man, Sigh before them with broken heart and bitter grief. And when they ask you, “Why are you sighing?” answer, “Because of the tidings which will come. Every heart will melt and every hand go limp; every spirit will faint and all knees turn to water. It is coming! It will come to pass!”

The women were weeping for Jesus. If they had only known what was coming, they would have been weeping for themselves. “Don’t weep for me,” Jesus says, “weep for yourselves. If they do this to me, what will they do to you?” In other words, if this is done to the “Green Tree” of Ezekiel 20:47 (i.e., to Jesus), what will happen to the “dry trees” (i.e., to the less than perfectly righteous)? The “dry trees” would face the same fate at the hands of the Romans, and worse.

The Greek text reads, literally “If they do these things in a green tree….” To “do in (someone)” is a Hebrew idiom which means to “do to (someone),” and it is this idiom that has confused our translators. Some translations, the Revised Standard Version, for instance, attempt to make sense out of this verse by translating: “For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” The same idiom appears in Matthew 17:12, referring to John the Baptist: “They did to [literally, "in"] him whatever they pleased.” There, because the context is so clear, the idiom “do in” has not seemed to cause most translators any trouble. But in Luke 23:31 there exists one additional difficulty: in order to understand, and then translate correctly, the translator must also know something about rabbinic methods of scriptural interpretation. In a very rabbinic way, Jesus is hinting in Luke 23:31 at a passage of Scripture in the Old Testament. Our translators are not aware of this, many even translating “green wood” instead of “green tree.”

In 1901 William Wrede, a German scholar, proposed what he called ” Das Messiasgeheimnis” (“The Messianic Secret”), a theory still widely accepted. Wrede suggested that Mark’s Gospel was to a large extent an apology. In order to explain why almost a generation after the death of Jesus the Jewish nation as a whole had still not accepted Jesus as Messiah, Mark inserted in his Gospel the notion that Jesus deliberately kept his messiahship a secret. Wrede personally did not believe the historical Jesus thought of himself as the Messiah, or ever claimed to be the Messiah. He believed that was an idea invented by the Church after Jesus’ death.

Nothing could be farther from the truth! Had Wrede known more about rabbinic argumentation and methods of scriptural interpretation, he would never have erred so completely. The truth is that Jesus seems hardly ever to have spoken without somehow or in some way making a messianic claim. Jesus does not come right out and say, “I am the Messiah,” as we moderns might expect; but in a very rabbinic way he hints at Old testament Scriptures which were understood to be references to the coming Messiah. In this passage, for instance, Jesus refers to himself as “the Green Tree” of Ezekiel 20:47 – a clear messianic claim.

 

Turn The Other Cheek

February 28, 2013 in Hebrew Understanding

It is widely accepted that Jesus (Yeshua) taught a higher ethic epitomized in his statement, “Turn the other cheek.” This has led to the belief that when attacked, one should not injure or kill in order to defend self, family, or country. The idea that pacifism (definition – opposition to war and violence) was a part of the teaching of Jesus was popularized in the writings of Tolstoy. Pacifism, however, is not today, nor was it ever, a part of Jewish belief. The Jewish position is summed up in the Talmudic dictum, “If someone comes to kill you, anticipate him and kill him first”(Sanhedrin 72). In other words, it is permissible to kill in order to defend oneself.

Can it be, then, that Jesus was the the first and only Jew to teach pacifism? It is very unlikely. We know that at least some of Jesus’ disciples were armed (Luke 22:38; 22:50). Add to this fact that, at one point, Jesus even suggested to his disciples that they should purchase swords (Luke 22:35-37), and we begin to ask ourselves, Did Jesus really believe or teach pacifism? In reality, pacifism is a theological misunderstanding based on several mistranslations of the sayings of Jesus.

The first of these mistranslations is Matthew 5:21, where most English versions of the bible read, “You shall not kill.” This is a quotation of Exodus 20:13. The Hebrew word used there is “murder” (ratzach), and not kill (harag). In Hebrew there is a clear distinction between these two words. The first (ratzach) means premeditated murder, while the second (harag) encompasses everything from justifiable homicide, manslaughter, and accidental killing, to taking the life of an enemy soldier in war. The commandment very precisely prohibits murder, but not the taking of a life in defense of oneself or others.

It is difficult to explain how English translators made this mistake since the Greek language also has separate words for “murder” and “kill,”and it is the Greek word for “murder” (not “kill”) which is used in Matthew 5:21

Matthew 5:21 – Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

Even with no knowledge of Hebrew, the English translators of the New testament should here have correctly translated “murder,” and not “kill.” A second saying of Jesus(Yeshua) on which pacifism is based is Matthew 5:39, usually translated, “Do not resist evil,” or “Do not resist one who is evil.” Could Yeshua possibly have said this to his disciples ? If he did, his statement contradicts other scriptures such as, “Hate what is evil” (Romans 12:9), and “Resist the devil” (James 4:7)

Again, Hebrew provides the answer. When we translate this verse back into Hebrew, we see that Jesus was not creating a new saying, but quoting a well known Old Testament proverb. This proverb appears with slight variations, in Psalm 37:1,8, and Proverbs 24:19. In modern English we would translate Jesus statement in Matthew 5:39 to this “Don’t compete with evil doers.” In other words, do not try to rival or vie with a neighbor who has wronged you. Jesus is not teaching that one should lie down in the face of evil or submit to evil; rather, he is teaching that we should forget about trying to “get back at,” or take revenge on a quarrelsome neighbor as stated in the following proverb:

Proverbs 24:29 - “Do not say, ‘I will do to him as he has done to me. I will pay the man back for what he has done.’ “

Jesus is expressing an important principle which applies to our relationships with friends and neighbors. It does not apply when we are confronted with a murderer, rapist, or like person of violence; nor when we are facing the enemy on the field of battle. Jesus is not talking about how to deal with violence. He is talking about the fundamentals of brotherly relationships, about how to relate to our neighbor. If, for instance, a neighbor dumps a pail of garbage on our lawn, we are not to retaliate by dumping two pails on his lawn. If someone cuts in front of us in traffic, we are not to catch up and try to run him off the road. Wanting to “get even” is, of course, a natural response; however, it is not our responsibility to punish our neighbor for his action. That responsibility is God’s. We are to respond to our neighbor in a way that will disarm and shame him for his actions.

Proverbs 25:21 -  “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

In doing so, you heap red-hot coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” Once we discover how to correctly translate Matthew 5:39, we can then correctly understand the verses which follow. Each verse is an illustration of how we should react to a hostile neighbor. If, for example (Matthew 5:39), a friend insults and embarrasses us by slapping us on the cheek, we are not to slap him back, but instead offer our other cheek. This, by the way, is probably the best-known of all the sayings of Yeshua. It also is another of the sayings on which pacifism is based. Properly understood, however, it has nothing to do with battlefield situations, defending oneself against a murderer, or resisting evil. It is an illustration of how to deal with an angry neighbor, a personal “enemy.”

Mistranslation of Matthew 5:39 has created a theological contradiction. But, when this saying is understood Hebraically, rather than contradict, it harmonizes beautifully with the rest of Scripture. Our response to evil has to be resistance! It is morally wrong to tolerate evil. Our response to a “hot-headed” neighbor, on the other hand, must be entirely different. His anger will only be temporary if we respond in a biblical manner:

1 Thessalonians 5:15 - “See that none of you pays back evil with evil; instead, always try to do good to each other and to all people.”

1 Peter 3:9 - “Do not repay evil with evil or curses with curses; but with blessings. Bless in return – that is what you have been called to do – so that you may inherit a blessing”

Romans 12:14, 17-19 - “Bless those who persecute you. Bless them. Do not curse them. Do not pay anyone back with evil for evil….If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with everyone. Beloved, do not take revenge, but leave that to the wrath of God.”

The responsibility of the godly person is to defuse a potentially divisive situation by “turning away wrath.” We are not to seek revenge. If a neighbor or friend has wronged us and is in need of punishment, God is the only one who can administer it properly:

Proverbs 20:22 - “Do not say, ‘I will repay the evil deed in kind.’ Trust in the Lord. He will save you.”[i.e.,"He will take care of it"]

Our responsibility is not to react, not to respond in kind, to be a belligerent (combative ) neighbor. We are not to “be overcome by evil, ” but to ” overcome evil with good.”

 

A Prayer For The Soul

February 24, 2013 in Various Topics

May Your will be done in Heaven above, and grant peace and contentment to those who fear You, and do whatever seems best to You. May it be Your will, O Lord, my God, to make me familiar with Your law, and cause me to adhere to Your commandments. Do not lead me into sin, nor into iniquity, nor into temptation, nor into dishonor. Compel my impulses to serve You, an keep me far from an evil man or evil companions. Give me good desires and good companions in this life. And let me this day and every day find, grace, favor and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see me, and grant me your best blessings. Blessed are you, O Lord, who grants Your best blessings to Your people.

The Kingdom Of God Is Here Now

December 15, 2012 in Hebrew Understanding

Luke 10:9 – And heal the sick that are therein, and say to them, The kingdom of God is come near to you.

It’s important for the reader to understand that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God(Yahweh) are essentially the same thing. In fear of violating the third commandment(thou shall not take the name of Yahweh thy God in vain), the Jewish scribes developed an unbelieving superstition that the safest way not to take it in vain would be to never say it at all. No wonder both God(Yahweh) and Jesus(Yeshua), were always condemning the leaders and teachers of Israel, for leading the people astray with their man made traditions.

Matthew 23:13 – But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in.

The American church has carried on this evil man made tradition by not using the real name of God, which is Yahweh. Nearly 7000 times (6,823, if memory serves), God saw fit to move His prophets to use His personal name Yahweh in the Hebrew Old Testament. Man had no right to remove his name from his word. Imagine how angry celebrities would be if we removed their names and just called them all celebrities. If you wrote a best seller and your name was substituted for some generic name wouldn’t you be angry. God is a generic name. The people of Yahweh had many Gods(idols) which is why they were scattered in the first place. I don’t want to get off topic to much, the reader just needs to understand that whenever he sees the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven written in the bible, they both mean the Kingdom of Yahweh. I will visit this topic in more depth in another post.

Luke 10:9 – And heal the sick that are therein, and say to them, The kingdom of God is come near to you.

In Hebrew, “to come near” means “to be at.” If we try to understand Luke 10:9, quoted above, by reading the Greek word engiken(translated “has come near”), we are in trouble. Engiken means “about to appear” or almost here.” However if we translate it back into Hebrew, we get an entirely different meaning. The Hebrew equivalent of engiken is the verb karav, which means “to come up to and be with,”or “to be where something else is.” The Greek engiken, or the English, “near,” mean : “It’s not yet here.” The Hebrew karav means the exact opposite: “It’s here ! It has arrived !”

When King Ahaz was in Damascus and saw the altar there, he sent a model of it and the exact dimensions to Uriah the priest in Jerusalem. Uriah built it and had it ready when the king returned. II Kings 16:12 records ; ” And when the king came from Damascus the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near(karav) to the alter and went up on it.” In other words the king went right up to the altar, and stood right next to it or beside it. He was right there ! Another instance in which karav is used is found in Deuteronomy 22:13-14, which states: ” If any man takes a wife, and goes into her, and then despises her, and brings false charges against her and maligns her, saying, ‘ I have taken a woman, and when I came near(karav) her, I did not find her a virgin,’ then…”Here, “came near” (karav) is used in the same way in which “knew” is sometimes used in the Bible-that is,” to come near” and “to know” are sometimes Hebrew idioms for having sexual relations.

We are told in Genesis 20:4 that Abimelech ” had not come near ” Sarah. Although Abimelech had taken Abraham’s wife to live with him (verse 2), he had not had sexual relations with her. In Isaiah 8:3 we are told that the prophet Isaiah ” came near the prophetess[i.e.,his wife], and she conceived and bore a son. ” Again we see the idiomatic usage of karav. Karav does not imply that there necessarily has to be any distance between that which is coming and that which is being approached. This is most important for the understanding of such passages as Luke 10:9: ” The Kingdom Of God has come near to you. ” We can see how the Greek or English leaves the wrong concept of the Kingdom Of God: futuristic. The Hebrew leaves the correct concept: present tense-NOW! The Kingdom Of Heaven or Kingdom Of God is always present tense,” right now, ” according to Jesus’ understanding, and in rabbinic usage as well. It is unfortunate  that the Church, because of a Greek consciousness, has confused the Kingdom Of Heaven with  Jesus’ teachings on his Second Coming (what Jesus calls ” the coming of the son of man “)

The concept of ” kingdom ” is perhaps is the most important spiritual concept in the New Testament. In English or Greek,” kingdom ” is never verbal. It is something static, something to do with territory. But, in Hebrew, ” kingdom ” is active, it is action. It is God ruling in the lives of men. Those who are ruled by God are the Kingdom Of God.

” Kingdom ” is also the demonstration of God’s rule through miracles, signs, and wonders. Wherever the power of God is demonstrated, there is His ” Kingdom. ” ” Kingdom as the demonstration of God’s power is echoed every week in the Sabbath prayers in the synagogue: “Your sons saw your Kingdom as You split the Red Sea before Moses.” How can one see God’s Kingdom ? It is only possible when ” kingdom ” is correctly understood as something which is verbal and not static. We see God’s Kingdom when we see him in action. In the same way, people saw the Kingdom when they saw Jesus in action. This is what Jesus meant when he said:

Luke 11:20 ” But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Jesus also used ” kingdom ” to refer to those who followed him, the members of his movement. His disciples were now to literally be the Kingdom of God by demonstrating his presence and power in their lives. Jesus’ charge to those sent out by him was :

Luke 10:8-9  Whenever you enter a town and are accepted…heal the sick of that town and then tell them, The Kingdom of God is here !”

It is necessary to paraphrase the disciples, proclamation(just three words in Hebrew) in order to maintain its force in English: “You have seen God in action. Through us God is now ruling here. Satan has been defeated. The miracles you have just witnessed are proof of it.” The disciples, words were verified by the miracles God performed.

From just the few Hebraisms discussed above, one can easily see the importance of reading the Gospels Hebraically. Only when we begin to put the Greek of the Gospels back into Hebrew will it be possible to fully understand the words of Jesus. One can only hope that there will soon be a new translation of the Gospels based on the Hebrew understanding of the text.

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

Are Gentiles Under The Law?

January 4, 2012 in Hebrew Understanding

Many words in Hebrew have overtones that do not exist in English. A Hebrew word often has a much wider range of meaning then its English or Greek, literal equivalents. Since our English gospels are derived from a Hebrew original, many of the English words do not mean what they appear to mean. With that in mind, let's examine this scripture.

Matthew 16:18-19 – And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatsoever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatsoever thou shall loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven.

The Hebrew word bind, during Jesus day, literally means to forbid. Also the Hebrew word loose during Jesus day ,means to permit. The Church leaders were constantly called upon by their community to interpret scriptural commands. Was such-and-such an action permitted? Was such-and-such a thing or person ritually clean? The Bible, for example, forbids working on Saturday. But it does not define "work". As a result, the Church leaders were called upon to declare what an individual was and was not permitted to do on the Sabbath. They "bound" (prohibited) certain activities and "loosed" (allowed) other activities.

Interestingly, the Church leaders defined work as any activity involving the production, creation, or transformation of an object. Work , therefore, is not necessarily an activity which causes physical or mental fatigue. Study for example is allowed on the Sabbath. One may spend the entire Sabbath opening and closing books until one drops with exhaustion and yet not violate the Sabbath. On the other hand, the mere striking of a match, just once, is a desecration of the Sabbath because it involves creation. Jesus(Yeshua) in the above verse(Matthew 16:18-19), is giving Peter the authority to make decisions regulating the life of the Church. He confers upon Peter symbols of authority, the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Decisions or rulings Peter makes will have the authority of Heaven behind them.

His decisions will be upheld by God. What Peter forbade, Heaven would forbid. What Peter permitted, Heaven would permit. The movement Jesus created (The Church) was a new phenomena in Jewish history. Situations would soon arise which none of the Jews in this movement had ever had to face, situations about which the Bible gave no instructions, situations with which even the Church leaders or 12 disciples of Jesus, had not had to deal with. Decisions would have to be made, solutions found. Even more frightening, Jesus, their teacher(Master), would no longer be there to make decisions, to say what was permitted and what was forbidden. Peter and other leaders of the Church would now take his place. They were not, however, to be indecisive for fear they would make wrong decisions. God would be with them. he would endorse their decisions.

The Apostles, like the Church leaders, were called upon by their community, to interpret Scripture, settle disputes, and find answers in times of crisis. Sometimes they were compelled to deal with petty complaints: the complaints , for instance, of the Greek speaking Jews that their widows were not being treated fairly in the daily distribution of food. (Acts 6:1-6) At other times, the Apostles were required to settle raging controversies, controversies which had the potential of causing irreparable division in the Church. One such controversy is described in Acts 15 – the controversy over whether to admit Gentiles into the Church without first circumcising them and without commanding them to keep the laws of Moses. The decision that was reached is a classic example of how the leaders of the early Church exercised their authority to "bind" and "loose".The Apostles and elders convened in Jerusalem to discuss the problem. There was much debate! Peter spoke

Acts 15:7-11 At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.

And then James spoke

Acts 15:13-21 When they had finished, James stood and said, “Brothers, listen to me. Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord -including the Gentiles-all those I have called to be mine. The Lord has spoken – he who made these things known so long ago. And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.”

Peter's attitude was probably crucial, since it was to him that Jesus originally gave the authority to make decisions affecting the Church. Peter "loosed". He ruled that the yoke of the commandments was too heavy for former Gentiles. They should not be required to keep the law of Moses. Peter released them from that obligation. James concurred. He too "loosed" by saying "It is my judgment that we should not cause difficulties for those Gentiles who turn to God". But James "bound" as well as "loosed". He ruled that it was necessary for Gentiles who became believers to distance themselves from idolatry and cult prostitutes, and to abstain from eating meat from which the blood had not been removed (such as the meat of animals that had been strangled rather than bled to death). James forbade or prohibited three things. Following there speeches, the rulings of Peter and James, were confirmed by the rest of the leadership, and later by the entire Church.

Acts 15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.

In conclusion the bible is clear that the Gentiles are not required to keep either the Sabbaths or the laws of Moses. The only laws us Gentiles are bound by are the ones spoken of by James(Acts 15:20 - But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood). So who are we the Church of today to argue with a group that included James, Peter, and Paul, all in agreement?