Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Pharisees Sat in Moses’ Seat

Then Yeshua said to the crowds and to the disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore, whatever they may tell you do and keep; but do not do according to their works; because they say and do not.” (Matthew 23:1-3)

The three verses above contain clues that reveal a great deal about the real Yeshua and his Jewish world. The first clue reveals a great deal about the two groups that gathered to hear him – the crowds and the disciples. The information recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) also reveal a great deal about Yeshua as a rabbi. There can be little doubt that this was how most of the Jewish people viewed Yeshua. However, it is important to understand that being a rabbi before 70 CE in Judea and Galilee was very different from being an American rabbi today. Pay close attention to the underlined words below:

There were hundreds and perhaps thousands of such rabbis circulating in the land of Israel in Jesus’ day. These rabbis did not hesitate to travel to the smallest of the villages or the most remote parts of the land. They would often conduct their classes in the village square or out under a tree (Safrai, ibid, 965). In some instances, classes would be conducted in someone’s home. Often these classes were small. The rabbis did not hesitate to teach as few as four or five students. According to custom, one could not charge for teaching the Scriptures, so the itinerant rabbi was dependent upon the hospitality and generosity of the community . . . The rabbi’s stay in the community might last from only a few days to weeks, or even months. However, for the long term student (“disciple”), learning from a rabbi meant traveling, since the rabbi was always moving from place to place. If one wanted to learn from a rabbi, one had to “follow after him.” 1

The disciples of a rabbi – his “talmid” – would accompany the teacher on all his travels and tasks . . . talmidim (plural) were expected to be at the service of the rabbi . . . This, of course, was part of their continuing education. 2

Now let’s update the opening of the above account to include the above information:

“Then Yeshua said to the crowds and to the talmidim . . .”

Those gathered before Yeshua were members of the public and his talmidim, so it is important to watch for points that would be important to each group. I would have liked to have been with his talmidim when they gathered later and discussed what Yeshua taught that day. After all, the talmidim traveled with him from town to town with Yeshua. They would listen to him teach large public crowds and then be taught as members of his small inner circle who had the privilege of being taught by him daily.

Now let’s look at the next clues in the above verse:

“The scribes and the Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat.”

Yeshua would have called these two groups the SOFERIM (scribes) and the PERUSHIM (Pharisees). The PERUSHIM is the party (sect) representing the religious views, practices, and hopes of the kernel of the Jewish people in the time of the Second Temple and in opposition to the priestly Sadducees. They were accordingly scrupulous observers of the Torah as interpreted by the SOFERIM, or Scribes, in accordance with tradition. The Pharisees formed a league or brotherhood of their own ("HABURAH"), admitting only those who, in the presence of three members, pledged themselves to the strict observance of Levitical purity, to the avoidance of closer association with the 'AM HA-AREZ (“the people” [the ignorant and careless boor]), to the scrupulous payment of tithes and other imposts due to the priest, the Levite, and the poor, and to a conscientious regard for vows and for other people's property. They called their members "HABERIM" (brothers), while they passed under the name of "Perishaya," or "Perushim." The aim and object of the Torah, according to Pharisaic principles, are the training of man to a full realization of his responsibility to God and to the consecration of life by the performance of its manifold duties: “the one is called "'OL MALKUT SHAMAYIM" (the yoke of the Kingship of Heaven [God]) and the other "'OL HAMIZWOT" (the yoke of His commandments). 3 The last two phrases appear in Yeshua’s teachings too.

Our next clue is the phrase “sat in Moses’ seat.” What was “Moses’ seat”? It was the name given to a special chair of honor in synagogues where an authoritative teacher of the Torah sat. The teacher in practice exercised the authority of Moses in teaching and explaining the words of the Torah. The picture below is a “seat of Moses” that was unearthed at the synagogue in the city Chorazim. 4

The last clue is the underlined word in the following translations:

The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. (King James Version)

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat. (American Standard Version)

Dr. Robert Lindsey recognized the importance of this clue:

The verb “sit” in Greek is an aorist. So, to be consistent with the grammar one should translate that the scribes and Pharisees “sat” on Moses’ seat.”

The New American Standard reads, “have seated themselves on the chair of Moses.”

Excellent! The translators recognized a Hebraism! The Greek translator simply had followed the patter that an aorist in Greek replaces the simple past tense in Hebrew although the Hebrew verb may or may not represent a simple past in meaning.

This idiom of “sitting” occurs in the Old Testament. Examples are:

Then sat Solomon upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was established greatly. (1 Kings 2:12)

And say, Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, that sat upon the throne of David, thou, and thy servants, and thy people that enter in by these gates. (Jeremiah 22:2)

To sit on the seat of somebody” means literally “to take over his authority.” It is a Hebraism. It is a Hebraism that shines through despite the fact that a Greek translator has translated the verb as simple past. Most English translators have felt compelled to do something with it. They cannot write, “The scribes and Pharisees sat on Moses’ seat”, so they have written “sit.” Once again this is a strong indication that Hebrew stands behind the Greek. 5

When we see the words of the Synoptic Gospels through the lens of the Jewish culture of the Real Yeshua, we find an abundance of clues that help us see the words through his eyes. Here, they shed light on the Hebrew though beneath the Greek words and give us new insights to the relationship of Yeshua to the PERUSHIM and SOFERIM.

I hope that you found this blog informative and it helped you more accurately understand the Real Yeshua -- who is very different from the many “theological Jesus’s” created by Gentile theologians centuries after Yeshua was crucified.

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5 The Jesus Sources: Understanding the Gospels by Robert L. Lindsey © 1990 HaKesher, Inc., Tulsa, OK; pp. 51-52.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Roman Rule in Yeshua’s World

When Yeshua was about 10 years old (6 CE), Judea became part of a larger Roman province, called Iudaea, which was formed by combining Judea proper (biblical Judah) with Samaria and Idumea (biblical Edom). Even though Iudaea is simply derived from the Latin for Judea, many historians use it to distinguish the Roman province from the previous territory and history. Iudaea province did not include Galilee, Gaulanitis (the Golan), nor Peraea or the Decapolis.[i]

Its revenue was of little importance to the Roman treasury, but it controlled the land and coastal sea routes to the bread basket Egypt and was a border province against the Parthian Empire because of the Jewish connections to Babylonia (since the Babylonian exile). Egypt seems to have had grain surpluses often enough, so that they could be stored in state granaries and even be exported. During Roman times the country was one of the bread baskets of Rome.

In Egypt, we find barley cut at the end of six months, and wheat at the end of seven, from the time of sowing. (Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book XVIII, chap. 10)

The capital was at Caesarea, not Jerusalem, which had been the capital for King David, King Hezekiah, King Josiah, the Maccabees and Herod the Great.

Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (Greek Κυρήνιος – Kyrenios or Cyrenius, c. 51 BCE – 21 CE), a Roman aristocrat, became Legate of Syria (Governor) in 6 CE.[i] He conducted the first Roman tax census -- the Census of Quirinius -- the enrollment of the Roman provinces of Syria and Judaea for tax purposes in 6/7 CE. The Census was taken during the reign of Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE).[ii] It was opposed by the Zealots, who were led by Judas the Galilean, founder of the "Fourth Sect" (Zealots). He is said to have partnered with a man named Zadok (or Saddok). Judas considered the census a plot to subjugate the Jews and prevent them from freedom -- and a sign that other Jews were compliant and comfortable being ruled by pagans.[iii]

Iudaea was not a Senatorial province, nor exactly an Imperial province, but instead was a "satellite of Syria" governed by a prefect who was a knight of the equestrian order (as was Roman Egypt), not a former consul or praetor of senatorial rank. This is a clear reflection of how the Roman authorities viewed the land of the Jews. Pontius Pilate was one of the prefects appointed to govern from 26 to 36 CE. Caiaphas was one of the Roman appointed High Priests of Herod's Temple. He was appointed by the Prefect Valerius Gratus in 18 CE.

Yeshua’s childhood trips with his family to Jerusalem, as well his daily life in the Galilee, would have made him very aware of the tensions between his people and the Romans – as well as those between the Jewish sects over the presence of the Romans on Jewish soil.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Basic Tools for Studying the Hebrew Bible

I receive many inquiries asking about which Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible I would recommend. For a list of Bible Study Tools I recommend for the Hebrew Bible click on -- 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

“Corn” or “Maze” – Know the Culture of the Translator!

If you have read many of my blogs, you know how much I stress the importance of knowing as much as you can about the culture of Second Temple Judaism when you read the words of Jesus. It was his culture. But, there is another culture that you should be aware of too -- if you rely on English translations of the Biblethe culture of the translators.

Here is an example from Matthew 12:1 of the King James Version:

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Different Beginnings of Jesus in the Gospels: John’s Jesus

The beginning of John’s Jesus is very different from those of Mark, Luke and Matthew. John’s Jesus is not introduced as a man from Galilee or the son of Mary and the Holy Spirit. One word describes John’s Jesus:

For those who know how to use the BHC Greek-English Transliterator, take a moment to transliterate this word (if you haven’t downloaded your FREE BHC Transliterator click here to get it and learn how to transliterate Greek words).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men

Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest,
Peace on earth and good will toward men.

The message of the angels to the shepherds in Luke’s account is one of the most powerful messages in the New Testament. It has been memorized by children for centuries and touched the hearts of millions who long for – “peace on earth and good will toward men.”  It is a message that hearts understand, regardless of the doctrines lodged in the minds.

In the context of the Gospel of Luke, the message of the angels announced the birth of Jesus. Before the multitude of angels appeared, a lone angel delivered this message to a group of shepherds that were spending the night in the field with their flock:

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Anointed One of the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

It was after this announcement that the angels appeared and said:

Glory to God in the highest,
Peace on earth and good will toward men.

The message announces that peace on earth and good will toward men will come through the baby – the future Savior and Anointed Onebut not in the way that most people have been taught to expect.

Since the angels were speaking to a group of Jewish shepherds in first century Judea, chances are very good they were speaking Hebrew. The words we are reading are English translations of ancient Greek manuscripts. So, let’s get back behind those ancient manuscripts and do our best to reconstruct the original Hebrew message:

The English translation is this:

“Glory to God in the highest
With SHALOM on the earth
What is acceptable on mankind.”

The mission of the future Savior and Anointed One is to bring “glory to God in the highest.” How is he supposed to do it? It is bringing “SHALOM on the earth and what is acceptable to mankind.” In other words, the mission of the Savior and Anointed One is creating SHALOM on the earth and by doing what is acceptable for mankind. Understanding the Hebrew meanings of the two underlined words is essential. Let’s begin with the root form of the second underlined word:

(Transliteration = RATzON [Holladay Lexicon p. 345 col. b last word])

This word is translated -- favor, what is acceptable and good understanding. The key to understanding it is determining from whose point of view is something favorable, acceptable or understood. The answer is -- “from God’s point of view.”

The first underlined word in this verse is:

(Transliteration = ShALOM [Holladay Lexicon p. 371 col. a first word])

ShALOM is usually translated “peace,” which most people understand to mean “lack of conflict or war.” The Hebrew meaning is much more than our English meaning of “peace.” Pay close attention to the meanings given by the Holladay Lexicon:

(1) ease, unaffectedness
(2) prosperity, success
(3) intactness, wholeness
(4) well-being, state of health
(5) peace
(6) kindness
(7) salvation

The bottom line is that ShALOM means to be whole and complete.”[i] Therefore, the mission of the Savior and Anointed One is:

“Glorify God the highest by making the earth whole and complete and mankind what is acceptable to God.”

The shepherds, as well as every other Jew that attended a synagogue, would have recognized the link to Ezekiel’s prophecy of the “Covenant of SHALOM:”

I will make a covenant of SHALOM with them and will rid the land of wild beasts, so that they can live securely in the wilderness and even sleep in the woods. I will turn them and the regions around my hill into a blessing. I will make showers come down in their season; they will be showers that bring blessing.[ii]

Then they will know that I, YAHWEH their God, am with them, and that they are My people, the House of Israel, declares YAHWEHAnd you, My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are My people, and I am your God, declares YAHWEH.[iii]

Why did YAWHEH’s people not live in ShALOM?

The word of YAHWEH came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them: “To the shepherds – thus says YAHWEH; “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep!

You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled over themThey were scattered because they had no shepherd, and they became food for every wild beastMy sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over the entire face of the earth with no one looking or searching for them.”

Shepherds, hear the word of YAHWEH`As surely as I live, declares YAHWEH, my sheep have become prey and have become food for all the wild beasts. There was no shepherd, and my shepherds did not search for my flock, but fed themselves and did not feed my sheep.[iv]

Why was the earth not ShALOM? Israel’s shepherdskings and priestswere consuming the sheep instead of tending, guarding and protecting them. Those shepherds would not have been spending their nights in the fields taking care of the flock.

The second word RATzON (“acceptable”) is found in another prophecy about a future Anointed One. It is the prophecy Jesus used to declare that he was that Anointed One to his friends and neighbors at his hometown synagogue:

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of YAHWEH is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the acceptable year of YAHWEH.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”[v]

Why was the state of mankind not acceptable to God? If we go back a few chapters in Isaiah before the section Jesus read at the synagogue we will find the answers:

Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a horn, and declare unto My people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, and wish to know My ways, like a nation that performed TZEDAQAH, and did not forsake the ordinance of its God; they ask Me ordinances of TZEDAQAH; they desire nearness to God.[vi]

“Why have we fasted, and You did not see; we have afflicted our soul, and You do not know?” Behold, on the day of your fast you pursue business, and [from] all your debtors you exact [payment]. Behold, for quarrel and strife you fast, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. Do not fast like this day to make your voice to be heard on high.
Will such be the fast that I will choose, a day of man’s afflicting his soul? Is it to bend his head like a fishhook and to out spread sackcloth and ashes?  Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to YAHWEH? [vii]

Is this not the fast I will choose? To undo the fetters of wickedness, to untie the bands of perverseness, and to let out the oppressed free, and all perverseness you shall eliminate.
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and moaning poor you shall bring home; when you see a naked one, you shall clothe him, and from your own flesh you shall not hide.[viii]

The way Isaiah defines TZEDAQAH here lays the foundation for the entire movement and teachings of Jesus – TZEDAQAH is feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, clothing for those without clothing, and helping their kinfolks.  To put it even more clearly, if the Jewish Jesus stated his mission and message it would have sounded like this:

It is my mission and responsibility to do acts of TZEDAQAH where ever I find the lack of SHALOM or people living lives that that do not measure up to what God defines as “acceptable.” This is also the mission of all who follow me and belong to my movement.

This is not the primary message and mission that Christians are taught today by their churches. But interestingly, on one day every year the spirit of the Jewish Jesus reappears briefly and can be seen by the world as Christians turn their attention to doing the things prophesied by Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jesus – that day is Christmas.  As I worked on this article, a television news broadcast is showing stories about busloads of homeless people that are being given a free night and food at a major hotel; and other stories about food and gifts being given to the hungry and the poor. They want the hungry, poor and homeless to have a good Christmas. But, what happens to those people the day after Christmas -- and all the days until next Christmas?

If the real Jesus, the one that came to fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel, showed up in your town – who would he be looking for and what would he be doing for them? Where are the conditions not SHALOM or the quality of life acceptable to God in your town? If you wanted to see the real Jesus, then that is where you would have to go to find him. Take a moment to think about this:

What if all 2,000,000,000 Christians understood the real message of the real Jesus and did what that Jesus did and taught? What would happen?

(1) Billions of lives would be protected and preserved.
(2) Billions of lives would become more functional.
(3) Billions of people would have their quality of life increased dramatically.
(4) Many leaders, employers, usurious lenders – evil shepherds – would be tried by a just justice system.
(5) 2,000,000,000 Christians would experience being the image of God.

And, we might hear a sound in the sky, look up and see a multitude of angels proclaiming:

“Glory to God in the highest
With SHALOM on the earth
What is acceptable on mankind.”

We, at the Biblical Heritage Center, are praying this prayer for you:

May YAHWEH empower and guard you.
May YAHWEH make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you.
May YAHWEH lift up His countenance upon you, and give you SHALOM!

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Shalom & Be Empowered!

[ii] Ezekiel 34:25-26
[iii] Ezekiel 34:30-31
[iv] Ezekiel 34:1-8
[v] Luke 4:16-20
[vi] Isaiah 58:1-2
[vii] Isaiah 58:3-4
[viii] Isaiah 58:5-7

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Different Beginnings of Jesus in the Gospels: Matthew’s Account

This is third Gospel account of the beginnings of Jesus. We are examining them in chronological order – Mark, Luke, Matthew and John.

David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon begot Rehoboam . . . And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called the Anointed One. (1:6-7)

If you read Luke’s account, I bet you immediately saw a major difference in Matthew’s genealogy. In Luke, Joseph was from the line of Nathan, but in Matthew he is from Solomon’s line. Matthew’s Joseph is a party to David’s covenant, which descendants of Nathan were not. Read complete blog at --