Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Greatest Commandment & Eternal Life

Yesterday, in the BHC Bible Study Blog, I wrote Comparing Parallel Accounts in the Hebrew Scriptures. Anytime parallel accounts, or things that look like parallel accounts appear in your Bible, they always present great opportunities to discover some very interesting, and sometimes, unexpected things. This will be true in the subject of this blog – The Greatest Commandment & Eternal Life.

If you want to have some fun – and exercise your powers of observation – get some paper and a pen (the old fashion way of studying). Below you will find three accounts that are often considered to be about the same event. In addition, the fourth column contains the verses that are quoted in the Gospels from the Torah (Old Testament). The parallel sections are numbered 1 – 9, and shaded areas indicate that there is no parallel. Compare the sections and note any differences.

#
Matthew 22:34-40
Mark 12:28-34
Luke 10:25-27
Torah
1
But the Pharisees heard that he silenced the Sadducees, were gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him:
And approaching, one of the scribes, hearing them debating, knowing that he had answered them well, asked him:
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying,

2
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
“Which is the first commandment of all?”
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

3
Jesus said to him:
Jesus said to him:
And Jesus said to him: 

4


“What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

5


And the lawyer answered and said:

6






“`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.


“The first is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’






‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’
Deuteronomy 6:4-5

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, he Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
7
And the second is like it:
The second is this:


8




  


‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’





  

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’






  
and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’
Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord
9
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
And Jesus said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”



Now let’s compare notes and look at a few of the differences. They will be listed by section number.

#2 Notice that two different questions are asked. In Matthew and Mark the question is which commandment is the most important, but in Luke it is how one inherits eternal life.

#4 Jesus asks the lawyer a question.

#6 & #8 In Matthew and Mark Jesus answers the question, while in Luke the lawyer answers the question.

#6 In Matthew, Jesus uses the word mind and leaves out strength in quoting from Deuteronomy. In Mark, Jesus adds the word mind to the quote from Deuteronomy. In Luke, the lawyer answers the question just like Mark.

#6 Only Mark includes the quote from Deuteronomy 6:4 -- Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.

#9 Notice how the three books close the section in different ways.

I hope you learned from this study – and enjoyed it!

Shalom,
Jim Myers

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Martin Luther on the Hebrew Language

“The Hebrew language is the best language of all, with the richest vocabulary . . . . If I were younger I would want to learn this language, because no one can really understand the Scriptures without it. For although the New Testament is written in Greek, it is full of hebraisms and Hebrew expressions. It has therefore been aptly said that the Hebrews drink from the spring, the Greeks from the stream that flows from it, and the Latins from a downstream pool.” (Martin Luther, Tischreden)

Source: Hebrew in the Church: The Foundations of Jewish-Christian Dialogue By Pinchas E. Lapide © 1984 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI; p. x.

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Shalom,

Jim Myers

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Did Yeshua Want His Followers to be Poor?


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luke 6:20)

Was Yeshua referring to the same or different people by the terms “poor in spirit” and “poor”? For many years, the opinion among many scholars has been that Matthew stressed the “spiritual” aspect of his message, while Luke stressed the “social” aspect.[1] The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, indicates that once again long-held opinions of certain scholars reveal more about their theological positions that about what The Real Yeshua actually had in mind.

As pointed out in a number of my previous articles and blogs, Yeshua and his audience were very familiar the words of the Torah and the Prophets because they heard them read and discussed every Shabbat in their synagogues. There is no doubt that many of them, when they visited the Temple, heard the read and discussed there too.

It is important to be aware of the fact that Yeshua wasn't the only messianic figure roaming around Judaea at that time. There were a number of others, as well as other groups proclaiming their messianic messages. It is probably accurate to say, that the everyday Jews living during that period had more “messianic encounters” than they wanted – “So, you are another messiah; what’s new! I have no doubt that many of the people who came to see and hear Yeshua were looking for clues as to whether he was that figure. After listening to him some probably made the rounds and checked out the “messiahs” too.

Luke records Yeshua’s answer to “the” question – the elephant that was probably always in the room. It was on a Shabbat at his home synagogue that Yeshua chose to make the announcement after he finished reading the portion from the Prophets assigned to him that day:

“The Spirit of Yahweh ELOHIYM is upon Me, because Yahweh has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of Yahweh, and the day of vengeance of our ELOHIYM; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

After reading the section, he announced that he was the one “Yahweh anointed” to do the things he had just read – he was that messiah. Notice that included in the list is the term “the poor.” Yeshua and his audience would have known that Isaiah made another reference to “the poor” a little later:

Thus says Yahweh, “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says Yahweh. “But on this one will I look -- on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)

Another group was also familiar with Isaiah’s words and used his terms in their writings. It was the sect that produced The Thanksgiving Scroll (XVIII, 14-15), one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this scroll are the terms “good tidings” and contrite spirit.”[2] Professor David Flusser addressed this subject and provides important insights to what the terms “poor” and “poor in spirit” meant to Yeshua:

This creative midrashic treatment of Isaiah results in the addition of the `poor’ to the `meek,’ so that a threefold promise – to the `poor in spirit,’ `the contrite,’ and `the meek’ – is obtained both is DST and Matthew. The fact that we were able to deal with DST XVIII, 14-15 and Matthew 5:3-5 simultaneously means that there is some literary connection between the two passages. Therefore the question arises – Is the supposed source of Jesus’ words and of DST a common, though very specific Jewish `midrash,’ or is it probable that the source of the three first Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount originated in the Dead Sea Sect or in some milieu close to it? The second possibility seems to me to be the greater.[3]

The terms the Dead Sea sect used for self-identification provide important clues about their meanings of the terms. They called thesmelves:

(1) the contrite in spirit
(2) the poor of spirit
(3) paupers of grace
(4) paupers of Your redemption
(5) the ones desperate of justification
(6) the Sons of Light [4]

Yeshua also used many of these terms in his teachings. Let’s turn to Flusser again for his insights:

Thus it seems that the `poor of spirit’ in Matthew and DST are to be understood in the same way – they are the meek ones, the poor endowed with the supreme gift of divine bliss, with the Holy Spirit. [5]

Another source of information are the parallelisms of Psalm 34:15-18:

The eyes of Yahweh are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of Yahweh is against those who do evil to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and Yahweh hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.

The parallelism links “contrite spirit” to the most important term in the message of Yeshua – the righteous.  The righteous are those with a contrite spiritthe ones who do TOV (good) instead of RA (evil). What are the acts of TOV that the righteous with a contrite spirit do – they are acts that protect life, preserve life, make life more function, and increase the quality of life. Some of the examples of TOV Yeshua used in his teachings are -- feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc. And just like in the Psalm above, Yeshua linked deliverance (salvation) to acts of TOV:

And the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment,
but the righteous into life eternal. [6]

This is the salvation message of The Real Yeshuado you know of any Church that teaches Yeshua’s salvation message? Dr. James H. Charlesworth, addressed the connection between Yeshua and the Dead Sea sect (Essenes):

The attempts to compare Jesus with the Dead Sea Scrolls have foundered on numerous fallacies, misconceptions, improper methodologies, secondhand, even insufficient understandings of Jesus and the Essenes, and misguided apologetics. To be specific, the most prominent, pervasive, and significant faults are the following: the desire to prove Jesus is totally unique and the incarnate Son of God; the tendency to read red-letter New Testaments as if one has been given Jesus’ unedited authentic words; the opinion that the Qumran Essenes over three centuries espoused the same theology and that those who went to Qumran in the middle of the second century BCE were the ones living there in the first century CE; the confusion of a search for a relationship with evidence of borrowing; and the tendency to miscast the role of historian, who works only at best with probabilities, so that only what is a certainty is to be judged reliable.[7]

Charlesworth also provides us with the answer to the question we began with -- Did Yeshua want his followers to be poor?

It is inconceivable that Jesus wished to praise those who poor spirits; it is also improbable that Jesus meant this blessing to be interpreted literally. He did not tell his disciples to become financially poor, or to make people poor. The intent was to help the penniless rise out of poverty.[8]

The Real Yeshua’s mission was to create a kingdom of people – the righteous -- who were committed to doing acts that would make people’s lives more like the Creator intended life to be for all mankind. The Creator introduced TOV (good) into the world through His actions. Adam introduced RA (evil) into the world through his acts. Yeshua’s goal was to restore the world by doing acts of TOV like He did. Yeshua called for people to follow him by doing what he did, not worship him while doing acts of RA.

Shalom,
Jim Myers

PS – If you found this information useful, please let me know:

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[1] Judaism and the Origins of Christianity By David Flusser © 1988 Magnes Press, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, p. 112.
[2] The Thanksgiving Scroll (DST XVIII, 14-15)
[3] Judaism and the Origins of Christianity; pp. 105-106.
[4] Judaism and the Origins of Christianity; pp. 107.
[5] Judaism and the Origins of Christianity; pp. 108.
[6] Matthew 25:46
[7] Jesus Within Judaism: New Light from Existing Archaeological Discoveries By James H. Charlesworth © 1988; Doubleday, New York, NY; pp. 70-71.
[8] Jesus Within Judaism; p. 68.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Bet Midrash of the Second Temple

What if there was a building located in your town where you go and find God – and it was the only place like that on the Earth? What if it was literally the place where Heaven and Earth met? How would that affect your life?  How would that affect your town? That was how Yeshua and the Jewish people of his time viewed the Jerusalem Temple.

The Temple’s domination of Jewish thought was so powerful, that when the Mishnah (Oral Law) was written down in 200 CE, over two-thirds of which is related to the operation of a Temple that had not existed for over a century. The more we can learn about the Second Temple the better we can understand the world of Yeshua and his teachings. This is the first in a series of blogs about what Yeshua’s experience at the Temple would have been like.



Not only did religious Jews have access to the Temple Mount, it was open to ritually unclean Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. It is important to understand that none of the Temple ritual was performed on the Temple Mount; they took place within the Temple itself. The colonnades served as a gathering place for the people before and after worship, as well as those who ascended the Temple Mount to hear the words of the Torah.

Now it was the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Yeshua walked in the Temple, in Solomon’s porch. (John 10:22-23)

A bet midrash (house of study) was located on the Temple Mount, along with the Sanhedrin (highest court in the land). On the Shabbat and feast days, the Sanhedrin convened as an academic, rather than as a judicial body, and met in the bet midrash on the Temple Mount. For those wishing to hearing the greatest scholars of the Temple teach the Torah, the Temple’s bet midrash was the place to be.

Yeshua’s parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the boy Yeshua lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and his mother did not know it; but supposing him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. Now so it was that after three days they found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. (Luke 2:41-46)

We now know where Yeshua would have been at the Temple and probably who those teachers were. In the two quotes above reveal that at the beginning of Yeshua’s adulthood and just before his crucifixion he was at the Temple. There is no doubt that between those two visits he made many other trips to the Temple and its bet midrash. It probably played a major role in his Torah education.

The bet midrash on the Temple Mount is also called the "Bet Ha-Midrash Ha-Gadol," the Great House of Study. It formed the center of learning, and was one of the oldest institutions, standing in close relation to the "Bet Din ha-Gadol," the High Court of Justice (Sanhedrin) in the Temple. There were many other houses of study located throughout the land in synagogues. Everyone knew that a synagogue could be transformed into a bet midrash. They also understood that no synagogue could be changed into a House of Worship (Meg. 26b, 27a) as long as the Temple stood.

Always keep in mind that Yeshua’s followers were call “talmidim” (students [disciples]), not “believers.” It is very clear that Yeshua was not only a great teacher of the Torah – he was also a great “talmid” (student) of the Torah too.

Shalom,
Jim Myers

SOURCES:
(1) The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two: Historical Geography, Political History, Social Culture and Religious Life and Institutions; Edited by S. Safrai and M. Stern in co-operation with D. Flusser and E. C. van Unnik; © 1976 By Stichting Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum Testamentum; Fprtress Press, Philadelphia, PA; 865-866.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Understanding the Roman Presence in Yeshua’s World

Many readers and scholars of the New Testament have imagined Yeshua living in a world in which the Roman soldiers and officials daily oppressed the Jews living in Judaea and Galilee. In Jerusalem, Jewish leaders were in day-to-day control. The magistrates were Jewish and ruled according to Jewish law, the schools were Jewish, and the religion was Jewish. The high priest and his council were responsible for many things, for example:

(1) organize the payment of tribute

(2) get the money and good to the right person

(3) police Jerusalem

(4) guard the Temple

The Romans understood that the high priest was a suitable ruler for three reasons:

(1) government by the high priest was traditional

(2) Jews held the office in reverence

(3) he was considered to be a good official spokesman for Rome by the Romans

The Romans considered the high priest to be the responsible official in Jerusalem. If Jews wanted to deal with Rome, they went through the high priest. If Rome wanted to communicate with the Jewish people, the perfect summoned the high priest. If things went wrong, the high priest was held accountable.

In Galilee there was no official Roman presence at all. Greek-speaking Gentiles lived in the cities that they had long inhabited. In geographical Galilee there was one Gentile city, Scythopolis (see map), but it was independent of political Galilee. In Judaea the official Roman presence was very small. There was one Roman of rank in residence, and he was supported by a handful of troops. This Roman and his small military force lived among a lot of other Gentiles in Caesarea, seldom came to Jerusalem, and did nothing to plant Roman laws and customs in the Jewish parts of the country.

In terms of culture, the emperor and the Senate of Rome did not intend that the Jews of Judaea should become Romanized. In spite what some New Testament scholars claim, Rome did not `annex’ Palestine – not even Judaea, though it was a Roman province. They did not impose Roman educational, civil, religious or legal institutions on the Jewish people. Rome’s interest in the Jewish homeland was quite limited: maintain a stable region between Syria and Egypt.

Contrary to the image created by Josephus, in the late twenties and thirties, Jewish Palestine was not tottering on the brink of revolt. The main protests near the lifetime of Yeshua were largely non-violent, but this doesn’t mean the populace was happy with the situation. In the 50s the situation began to heat up and escalate until war broke out in 66.

(SOURCE: The Historical Figure of Jesus by E. P. Sanders © 1993; Allen Lane the Penguin Press, New York, NY.; pp. 26-28.)

Be Empowered,
Jim Myers

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