Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What is a Good Eye?

In the previous blog I discussed the idiom “evil eye.” Now I will focus on the idiom that is used in parallel to it – good eye.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If you have a good eye, your whole body will be full of light. (Matthew 6:22)

In the Greek text we find it is the phrase o ofqalmoV sou aplouV that creates a problem for translators. It proves to be a more difficult challenge than evil eye was for many translators. Below are the different ways they translated the Greek phrase above.

eye be single (King James Version)
eye be true (Basic Bible in English)
eyesight is good (Weymouth New Testament)
eye is sound (World English Bible)
eye may be perfect (Young’s Literal Translation)
eyes are healthy (New International Version)

No wonder people get confused when they read English translations of Yeshua’s words. Let’s do a quick review of the linguistic basics I discussed in the previous blog because they apply to this study too. The above options present readers with options that mean from “poor eyesight” to “an evil power.” The more you learn about how words work (take a moment to read this if you haven’t), the more amazed you will become about how much theology affects “educated scholars” when it comes to the words of the Bible.

Culturally correct meanings are the meanings that best reflect the ancient author’s culture. We think, act, and communicate in ways that are primarily predetermined by our cultures. We did not choose our culture any more than we chose our parents and were immediately immersed in our culture the day we were born.

Yeshua’s culture was the Jewish culture of the Late Second Temple Period. If translators looked there first for the meanings of his words, there wouldn’t be hundreds of English translations of the Bible and thousands of Christian denominations.

We all use idioms when we speak – and so did Yeshua. Every language is laden with idioms and euphemisms. They are words that cannot be translated literally into another language.  They usually create some very difficult situations for both Bible readers and translators.

An idiom is a word or phrase that cannot be translated literally into another language and the meaning of it cannot be understood by defining its component parts. The underlined phrase is the idiom -- He really put his foot in his mouth this time.

A euphemism is the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. The underlined phrase is the euphemism – Do you want to go powder your nose?

Think about what someone from another culture and language would think if they took the words literally of the idiom and euphemism in the above examples. What if that person translated them into his or her language? This why it is good to use resources, like our BHC Bible Tools, that provide you with multiple English translations of the Bible for you to use in your Bible studies. If you encounter a word or phrase that is translated multiple ways, there is a chance that it might be an idiom or euphemism.

When it comes to the words of Yeshua, the primary source to use to find the accurate meaning of an idiom or euphemism is the Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament). When an idiom is used in a parallelism, we can unlock its meaning by locating the word or words used in parallel with it. Below is a parallelism that contains the idiom “good eye.”

He that has a good eye shall be blessed;
for he gives his bread to the poor.[i]

As we saw in the last blog, a good method for working with parallelisms is to make the first part of the parallelism a question and use the second part to answer it.

Question: Who is the one that has a “good eye?” 
Answer: It is the one who “gives his bread to the poor.”

In the above verse, a person with a “good eye” is a “generous person that gives his bread to the poor.” A person with a good eye is one that helps the needy. Now let’s update Jesus’s words with the culturally accurate information for the meanings of good eye and evil eye.

The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, if you are a generous person that gives to the poor your whole body will be full of light. But if you are a stingy or greedy person who gives his poor needy brother nothing, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)

In the next blog I will discuss the terms light and darkness.

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[i] Proverbs 22:9

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What is an evil eye?


But if you have an evil eye, your whole body shall be full of darkness. (Matthew 6:23)

Some terms create real problems for translators and o ofqalmoV sou ponhroV h  (evil eye in above translation) is one of those terms. Below are some of the other choices translators have made.

your eyes are unhealthy (New International Version)
your eye is bad (New Living Translation)
your eye is diseased (Net Bible)
thine eye be evil (English Revised Version)
your eyesight is bad (Weymouth New Testament)

The majority of translators chose to translate it -- your eye is evil.  “Evil eye” is a well-known term, as can be seen by simply searching on Google.

The evil eye is a malevolent look that many cultures believe able to cause injury or misfortune for the person at whom it is directed for reasons of envy or dislike. Talismans created to protect against the evil eye are also frequently called "evil eyes." The term also refers to the power attributed to certain persons of inflicting injury or bad luck by such an envious or ill-wishing look. The evil eye is usually given to others who remain unaware. The idea expressed by the term causes many cultures to pursue protective measures against it. The concept and its significance vary widely among different cultures, primarily the Middle East.[i]

If this is what the term meant to Yeshua, then one of these would be the best option:

but if you have a malevolent look. . .
but if you have the power to inflict injury or bad luck. . .

No wonder people get confused when they read English translations of Yeshua’s words. The above options present readers with options that mean from “poor eyesight” to “an evil power.” The more you learn about how words work (take a moment to read this if you haven’t), the more amazed you will become about how much theology affects “educated scholars” when it comes to the words of the Bible.

Culturally correct meanings are the meanings that best reflect the ancient author’s culture. We think, act, and communicate in ways that are primarily predetermined by our cultures. We did not choose our culture any more than we chose our parents and were immediately immersed in our culture the day we were born.

Yeshua’s culture was the Jewish culture of the Late Second Temple Period. If translators looked there first for the meanings of his words, there wouldn’t be hundreds of English translations of the Bible and thousands of Christian denominations.

We all use idioms when we speak – and so did Yeshua. Every language is laden with idioms and euphemisms. They are words that cannot be translated literally into another language.  They usually create some very difficult situations for both Bible readers and translators.

An idiom is a word or phrase that cannot be translated literally into another language and the meaning of it cannot be understood by defining its component parts. The underlined phrase is the idiom -- He really put his foot in his mouth this time.

A euphemism is the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. The underlined phrase is the euphemism – Do you want to go powder your nose?

Think about what someone from another culture and language would think if they took the words literally of the idiom and euphemism in the above examples. What if that person translated them into his or her language? This why it is good to use resources, like our BHC Bible Tools, that provide you with multiple English translations of the Bible for you to use in your Bible studies. If you encounter a word or phrase that is translated multiple ways, there is a chance that it might be an idiom or euphemism.

When it comes to the words of Yeshua, the primary source to use to find the accurate meaning of an idiom or euphemism is the Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament). They will provide the meaning of the above idiom Yeshua used.

"If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land YAHWEH your ELOHIYM (God) is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Beware that there be not a thought in your wicked heart, saying, `The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and you have an evil eye against your poor brother, and you give him nothing; and he cry unto YAHWEH against you, and it be sin unto you.’"[ii]

They key to discovering their meanings is to understand a popular writing style used by biblical authors called “parallelism.” In a parallelism, words are placed in parallel to their corresponding words. When an idiom is used in a parallelism, we can find its meaning by locating the word or words corresponding to it. The parallelism in the verse above is:

(A) and you have an evil eye against your poor brother
(B) and you give him nothing

A good method to use when working with a parallelism is to make the first part of the parallelism (A) a question and use the second part (B) to answer it.

Question: Who is the one with the evil eye?
Answer: It is the one who gives his poor brother nothing.

In the Jewish culture of Yeshua, a person with an evil eye is “a stingy or greedy person who gives his poor needy brother nothing.” Now let’s update the translation at the beginning of this blog:

But if you are a stingy or greedy person who gives his poor needy brother nothing, your whole body shall be full of darkness. (Matthew 6:23)


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Monday, October 14, 2013

Did Anyone Call Yeshua “Christ”?

As we learned in an earlier blog – How “Yeshua” became “Jesus” – during the life of Yeshua, and for over another thousand years afterwards, the name “Jesus” was unknown. It didn’t exist. This isn’t a recent discovery. It has been known in scholarly circles for centuries. However, when it comes to local pulpits, there are numerous examples of sermons and theological disputes over the importance of the English word “Jesus.” Some say there is no salvation without the “name of Jesus.” Others preach that healing only comes through the name “Jesus.” They use the word “Jesus” like it has some “magical properties” connected to it. But, as pointed out above, no member of the Yeshua Movement or anyone else for over the first thousand years of Christianity would have known who you were referring to if anyone had asked if they knew “Jesus.”

The same thing would have been true in Galilee, Samaria and Judah if anyone had asked about “Christ.” BHC President, Dr. Ike Tennison, provides some very interesting information about the word “Christ,” including the fact that Yeshua was not the first “Christ.

A common assumption among people is that Christ was the last name of Jesus.  There is good reason for this assumption, since he was called Jesus Christ in the New Testament itself.  The more accurate phrase, however, is Yeshua the Christ, because Christ is a title and not a name.
The name Jesus is a succession of transliterations (i.e., simply converting the letters of one language into the equivalent letters of another language): English from Latin from Greek from Hebrew (see Matthew 1:21 and Luke 1:31 for the name).

Christ, on the other hand, is a transliteration of the Greek word Χριστός  (CHRISTOS) into English.  The Greek word CHRISTOS, a form of the Greek verb CHRIO that means "to pour," is a translation of the Hebrew word MASHIACH (transliteration), from which we get the word "Messiah."  Both words, Christ and Messiah, mean "anointed" (i.e., the anointing oil was poured onto their heads). Thus, Yeshua the Christ means Yeshua the Anointed.  

In the history of the Hebrew people, those who were anointed included priests and kings.  This raises some questions:

Why was Yeshua anointed?  
When was he anointed?  
Who anointed him?  
Who else was anointed in the history of the Hebrew people?  
Who did the anointing?  How was anointing done?  

(We will address these questions in future blogs.) For a description of the origin of the process, read Chapters 28 and 29 of Exodus.

As pointed out above, Yeshua was not the first “Christ.” So, who was the first?  The first “Christ” of the Bible was Aaron, the brother of Moses, who was anointed as a priest (Exodus 29:7). Another “Christ” (a priest) appears in Leviticus 4:5.  The first king to be anointed was Saul (I Samuel 9:16). Thus, Aaron the Christ was the first priest to be so anointed, and Saul the Christ was the first king to be so anointed.
Perhaps the most interesting of the “Christs” is the one mentioned in Isaiah 45:1.  This was Cyrus the Christ, King of the Persians!  Interesting.  Check it out.

During the life of Yeshua, there is no doubt that many Jews argued over whether Yeshua was “the Anointed One,” because there were other Jews living at the same time who claimed to be “the Anointed One.” All of the Jewish people knew what “anointed” meant in their culture. But, when Gentiles became part of the movement, and later when church leaders came from Gentile cultures, the original meaning of what “anointed” meant was lost. It didn’t take long for the belief that “Jesus was the only Christ to ever exist” emerged throughout Christianity.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What did “Heaven” Mean to Yeshua?

What did “Heaven” mean to Yeshua -- “store up treasures in Heaven” or “kingdom of Heaven”? Before we learn what it meant to him, let’s consider what it means to millions of Bible readers today. The place we will begin our study is the BHC Bible Study Tools Section on our website. Be sure to bookmark it and use it in all your Bible studies too.

The first tool we will use is a dictionary to look up the word “heaven.” The first entry is:

The abode of God, the angels, and the spirits of the righteous after death; the place or state of existence of the blessed after the mortal life.

If this is what “heaven” means, then the picture it creates in the reader’s mind is:

(1) “store up your treasures in the abode of God, the angels, and the spirits of the righteous after death.”

(2) “the kingdom of the abode of God, the angels, and the spirits of the righteous after death.”

You may be surprised to discover that Yeshua wasn’t talking about a place when he used “Heaven.” As far as what would happen after the “Great Day of Judgment” he said:

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to life eternal. [i]

Do not mistakenly assume that “to life eternal” means “go to Heaven.” Long before the time of Yeshua until today, ShAMAYIM (Hebrew word translated “Heaven”) was used as a very common euphemism[ii] in the Jewish culture for ELOHIYM (God) or YAHWEH (the sacred name of God). It was used to avoid breaking the commandment of “taking the name of ELOHIYM in vain,[iii] Common euphemisms for “God” are: ShAMAYIM (Heaven), HaShem (the Name), the Holy One, the Almighty, and many more.

Another BHC Bible Study Toolthe Jewish Encyclopedia – provides important cultural clues for what words meant to Yeshua. When Yeshua said, "malkut shamayim" (kingdom of Heaven), his Jewish audience knew it was an expression of the "sovereignty of YAHWEH" that would become a reality in the Messianic age when -- YAHWEH will reign as the sole King on earth.” Make sure to understand that the focus is “on the earth” -- not in “Heaven.”

When you see the phrase “kingdom of God” in the New Testament -- instead of “kingdom of Heaven” -- it is probably a good clue that the author was either not writing to a Jewish audience or was not familiar with the Jewish culture – or both.

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[i] Matthew 25:46
[ii] A euphemism is the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/euphemism