Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Journey to Discovering the Real Yeshua (Updated)

Jim Myers

My journey to discovering the Real Yeshua began in 1980. I believe that if you know more about my journey it will help you understand what I write in our newsletters, blogs, groups, etc. My approach is very different from how others view this subject – many are either defending their positions or attacking someone else’s. I completely understand both positions and have engaged in both over the years. The problem, from my point of view, is that either of those options usually polarizes people and creates environments that make cooperation and respect impossible. My journey has led me to discover ways that brings people together to more accurately understand the past that has produced the present and to include those facts as they consider their future.

Let me begin by telling you about the two most difficult obstacles that I repeatedly encountered on my journey -- my subconscious mind and my Belief System. The subconscious mind acts like a firewall on a computer and screens out information that does not support the information in its memory -- and we are not even aware of the fact that our subconscious mind is doing it. As an information processor -- the subconscious mind is one million times more powerful than the self-conscious mind.[i] The bottom line is that we are wired to move away from and avoid things that we do not believe or consider to be true – even when what we believe to be true is completely false!

So, when I began this part of my life in 1980, my mind was not a blank slate – it was loaded with information, beliefs and truths I had acquired before. This will give you a quick overview of some of the life experiences that created important memories for me. My father was a nurseryman who loved plants. He was an excellent teacher who taught me how to germinate, cross-pollinate, graft, make cuttings, pot, ball, can and do all sorts of other things with plants and trees. He made me aware of how nature and seasonal cycles affect life. The United States Air Force trained me to be a surgery and radiology technician and was where I witnessed lives being saved and lost. My professional career was in banking and finance.  I am a graduate of the School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University (Graduate School of Banking at LSU today). I learned about the power of money, how it is created and how it is used to control lives. And, I was raised as a Baptist, required to attend to church every Sunday (morning and evening services) while I lived with my parents, was saved when I was thirteen and after I graduated from high school no longer attended church. These experiences not only produced lots of memories, they also gave me a unique way of understanding many things in life – from the point of view of being an insider – that most people do not have – agriculture, military, medical, banking, and as you will see next, religion. So, as you can see, my mind was not a blank slate in 1980.

1980 – I was at a critical juncture in my life, as the result of a personal crisis; I reexamined my life and made the decision to recommit my life to God. I became actively involved in a nondenominational church and soon felt that I was called to go into the ministry. I enrolled in a Bible College and classes were to begin that September. In August, I purchased a new Bible and while sitting at my kitchen table, I opened it and prayed, “Please show me what I need to know.” Instantly, this came into my mind:

Unless you know how words work you cannot understand one word of the Bible.

My first thought was – What does that mean? Then, I brushed it aside.

1981 – One of my most important beliefs at that time was this:

The Bible – meaning an English translation – is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. Every word is the literal Word of God and the Bible has every answer for every question a person could ever face in life.

This will probably sound strange to those who know me now, but back then I did not know this:

The original words of the books in my Bible were written in Greek or Hebrew – not English!

One of the books we were required to purchase for classes was Strong’s Concordance. It was then that I remembered -- “Unless you know how words work you cannot understand one word of the Bible.” I knew I had to learn more about Greek and Hebrew to understand the words of my Bible. The Bible College didn’t offer any courses, so I enrolled in correspondent courses in Biblical Greek and Hebrew from another Bible school at the same time.

1982 – I discovered a set of interlinear Bibles at the college bookstore that had the Greek and Hebrew texts with English words beneath them and the Strong’s Concordance reference number. It felt like I was in heaven. I love to analyze things. One of my banking skills was analyzing financial statements, so I guess my subconscious mind simply did what it had been trained to do – but did it with biblical texts instead of financial statements. It soon identified a familiar pattern:

Bible translators often had more than one option for translating Greek and Hebrew words. They chose one and rejected others, which their readers never know. And then, sometimes they translate Greek and Hebrew words one way in one verse and another was in other verses.

My Belief System did not like what I was discovering and my subconscious mind was trying to filter out a lot of things that were challenging my beliefs. If it hadn’t been for my desire to understand how words work my Belief System might have won.

1984 – I was now the minister of a church I founded in my home town. It was affiliated with the Bible College and we were one of the first to use cutting edge satellite technology. People enrolled in the Bible College, but attended classes at my church. The satellite network grew to include over a 1,000 churches spread around the world -- my church was #20. Things were going pretty well.

But then I received “the” letter and that changed everything. It was an advertisement for a new book -- Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus by David Bivin & Roy Blizzard.  Guess which two words in the title jumped out at me – understanding & words. I immediately ordered it. When it came I finished the entire book the same day and added this to my Belief System:

Jesus was a Jew. To accurately understand his words we must view them from the perspective of his Jewish culture. I call this “seeing his words through his eyes.”

I was beginning to understand the importance of the answer to my 1980 prayer, but now I knew I had to really focus on finding out how words worked! The closest university library was at a Seventh Day Adventists university and that was where I decided to camp out until I had the answer. I never dreamed it would be three month camping trip. During the first month, I was literally there when the doors opened, and except for a lunch break, I stayed there for the remainder of the work day. 

Armed with my new information about the Jewish Jesus, my first goal was to learn as much as possible about his Jewish culture. The very first day I discovered the Encyclopedia Judaica -- it was like discovering gold! I spent days studying words like righteousness, sin, repentance, forgiveness, holy, salvation, God, mashiach (messiah), etc. My Belief System was being turned upside down because I believed -- salvation was based on believing IN Jesus, but I was beginning to realize that the Jesus I believed IN wasn’t the Jewish Jesus I was learning about.

This definitely created a BS CrisisBS stands for Belief System. I now knew there were two different figures named Jesus in my mind -- one was a Protestant Christian Jesus and the other was the Jewish Jesus. Later I learned there were many more versions of Jesus out there too. What should I do next? I knew the answer was tied to learning more about how words work. So, I moved from the Jewish section of the library to linguistic section and spent a week there. It was then that I formulated what I call “The Law of Language”:

A word is a symbol or group of symbols with an attached bundle of associations.
Those associations are the product of the Source's culture,
historical time period, geographical location and personal experience.

There are two parties involved in a communications experience are a Source & Receptor.

(1) Source – the one sending the message (author or speaker).

(2) Receptor – the one receiving the message (reader or hearer).

In order for them to have a successful communications experience they must both share the same “bundles of associations” (meanings) for the words of the message. When it comes to words written in the Bible, we can’t go ask the Source what his words mean. It is the responsibility is on the Receptor to do his or her best to learn as much as possible about the Source’s language, culture, geographical location, historical time period, and personal experiences. When I applied this to the Jewish Jesus, this is what I discovered:

(1) symbols -- languages – Hebrew & Aramaic

(2) culture - Second Temple Jewish culture

(3) historical time period -- 6 BCE – 30 CE

(4) geographical locations -- Galilee, Samaria & Judea

(5) personal experiences – a few childhood experiences recorded in Bible, but most adult experiences are related to his activities as a rabbi and teacher

While working on this, a nagging thought sidetracked me. My church was located in a small town with a population of around 25,000 -- and it had over 100 churches. They didn’t work together and most seemed to be in competition against each other. The nagging question was this -- How did the single movement of Jesus produce the hundred churches in my town that never worked together? This required a move over to the history section in the library. The first things I found were the 38 volumes of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (writings of the early church fathers). Reading the writings of Christian leaders from the second through fourth centuries was an eye-opening experience. It didn’t take long to realize that two questions caused a great deal of conflict among early Christian groups:

(1) What was Jesus (God, man or something else)?

(2) What was his mission (save the world, create a new religion, etc.)?

I also discovered Philip Schaff’s eight-volume History of the Christian Church. Something was becoming very clear:

Christianity had consisted of groups that disagreed and were in conflict with one another – and with Judaism – beginning just a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus. As the movement spread from Israel to foreign lands, members from those cultures began to interpret the Greek translations of the words of Jesus based on what those words meant to them long before they heard of Jesus. They knew nothing of his Jewish culture, and many looked down on anything Jewish. A group of new Jesus figures emerged that reflected the cultures of Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Africans, Babylonians, etc.

1985 – I knew that the information I now needed required more than a trip to the library, so I enrolled in the University of Texas at Arlington and completed classes in Hebrew, Classical Greek, Roman History, Greek History, Linguistics, and others that I needed to fill in the blanks.

1987 -- Dr. Ike Tennison was my professor for one of the courses in Classical Greek. Ike soon became an important partner in my work and a very good friend. Ike made me aware of something else that would change the way I studied the words of my Bible -- there are approximately 5,800 Greek New Testament manuscripts that are currently known.[ii]

Of those 5,800+ Greek New Testament manuscripts, no two are identical. Not only must translators choose which English word they will use as the translation of a Greek on an ancient manuscript – they must decide which Greek word from all of those manuscripts is the one that should be translated.

I also learned that no original manuscript of any of book of the New Testament or Jewish Scriptures exists. The earliest manuscripts of the New Testament books were copied three hundred years or more after Jesus spoke them. He did not write down his teachings. What we have are copies of copies of copies of accounts made by others of what he said and did – thousands of copies!

In addition to discovering that thousands of ancient manuscripts existed, I also discovered that there were other New Testaments that had different books than mine -- other Gospels, Epistles and Revelations. Many had been Scriptures for earlier Christians. My version of the New Testament didn’t appear until the middle of the fourth century and wouldn’t be translated into English for another thousand years.

1988 – Keep in mind that I was still pastoring a church while all of this was going on! It does create a challenge when you are preparing a sermon. It also created some very interesting Bible studies and heated discussions. I realized I needed to come up with a way to defuse these situations and bring people together instead of polarizing them. The first thing realized was that people were not making a distinction between opinions, beliefs, truths & facts. Some people get just as mad over their opinion being challenged as they do over a truth be challenged. So, I asked them to let each other know what they were defending:

An opinion is a judgment not founded on certainty or proof.[iii]

A belief is a judgment in which trust or confidence is placed, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so.[iv]

A truth is a judgment, proposition, or idea that, in accordance with a standard, is accepted as real or the state of being the case.[v]

This was an eye-opener for many people. We soon realized that we all had standards that we were using that determined the above categories. We also discovered that those standards would produce conflicting truths-- two truths could be polar opposites and still be truths!  This is the way the world operated for tens of thousands of years, but things changed when the Scientific Revolution introduced a new standard -- facts.

A fact has the quality of being actual; something that has actual existence; an actual occurrence [vi] A fact is verifiable.[vii] 

Facts are verifiable by anyone, regardless of their Belief Systems. No matter what one believed about their Bible – the facts are that thousands of manuscripts and many canons exist that different. This was when I created the Guiding Principle for Bible Study:

My beliefs will be large enough to include all of the facts; open enough to be tested; and, flexible enough to change when error or new facts are discovered.

The introduction of facts in our studies and conversations changed things. We all understood these facts:

(1) There are hundreds of English translations of Bibles and they differ.

(2) Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant Bibles do not contain all of the same books.

(3) There are thousands of ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts for the books in the different Bibles and they differ.

When different positions came forth we identified whether they were opinions, beliefs, truths or facts. We then searched for facts together that are related to our study. Everyone was prepared to consider whatever answer came forth in light of existing facts. This brought members of the group together to look for facts. We wanted to understand the development of the differing positions, instead of blindly defending whatever we believed .

1990 – Shortly after my first grandson was born, I was sitting in my study reading a magazine when I flipped a page and saw this picture:

My eyes locked on the soles of the two little tennis shoes between the two bodies on the left. I assumed the child wearing those shoes was lying between its parents.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the shoes in the picture and then this thought seemed to explode in my mind:

What is so powerful that it would cause a loving mother to place a glass of poison
to the lips of her baby, look into its eyes, and tell it to drink?

This answer immediately followed -- It was her religious belief system!

How had a religious belief become more powerful
than a mother’s instinct to protect the life of her child?

And then I thought about Jim Jones and me – we were both Christians; we were both minister; and, we both used our Bible as the authority for our beliefs. We both did a lot of things that sounded very much alike. How could I make sure I would never do or teach anything that could cost another child its life – like that little child in the picture?

Facts are important, but most of time we base our decisions on beliefs simply because we don’t have the facts. Our minds are belief processing engines that operate most of the time on the powerful subconscious level – completely above the level of our conscious awareness. I knew it was essential for me to become aware of what it was doing, so I began keeping a BS Log to record beliefs that were affecting my life. It was an eye-opening experience. It didn’t take long to discover exactly how much of my life was controlled by my religious beliefs – they affected my relationships with others (believers yes & unbelievers no), how I used my time (going to church, reading my Bible, praying, evangelizing, etc.), how I spent my money (tithing, donating, buying books, etc.) what I believed was right or wrong (according to the unknown standard), and much more. I never realized how powerful my religious beliefs were – but I placed a picture of those little shoes on the BHC website Homepage to make sure I didn’t forget!

It was during this period that I was asked to become chaplain at the local law enforcement center by the sheriff. This brought me in contact with a world that I was completely unaware of before. It also placed me an interesting place, when it came to religion. I was in charge of scheduling where visiting ministers and priests would preach every week in the jail. There were three rooms of male inmates and one for female inmates. I quickly discovered that every Monday there were a lot of requests from inmates that were linked to the previous day sermons. Keep in mind that they were hearing different ministers every week -- Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholic, etc.  The requests were usually questions about which one was right! So, I decided to put the monkey on the visiting ministers’ backs. Instead of sending ministers from the same denominations into the same room, I mixed them up. Now, with Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist and Seventh Day Adventist ministers standing before them, the inmates could ask them their questions instead of me. The sheriff received more than a few complaints from the ministers and a lot of “thank you notes” from the inmates. He thought it was a good plan, too.

It was also during this period that I co-founded an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program called Helping Open Peoples EyesHOPE! Working on this project was very revealing in many ways. One thing I learned through my research was that most of the inmates in the program began taking drugs between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. This has been a strong motivation for me to be involved in youth sports programs ever since. Another factor that affected a lot of the lives of the inmates was their religious beliefs and the related guilt.

1996 – I read The New Science of the Meme by Richard Brodie and was introduced to “memes.

A meme is a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events such that more copies of it are created in other minds.

Our brain is like the hardware of a computer and memes are like the software. It is through memes that we assign meaning to things and create strategies and associations related to those meanings. Opinions, beliefs and truths are memes and just like genes they have histories that can be tracked from one generation to the next. Just as we have genealogies, we also have our memealogies too. Understanding this completely changes the way we deal with religious, political and economic conflicts. The first thing everyone around the table must do is – show us your memes!

2010 – I became aware of the TOV Standard. The Hebrew word TOV appears seven times in the first chapter of Genesis – the TOV Standard the Creator used to measure His actions. TOV is usually translated “good” in the Bible, but “good” is a very subjective word that can mean different things to different people. Below is the contextual meaning of TOV:

For something to be TOV it must protect life, preserve life, make life more functional and improve the quality of life.

Once we understand that the above is what “good” meant to the Creator, then we can also understand what RA, which is translated “evil” meant to Him:

For something to be RA it must destroy or harm life, threaten life, make life less functional and diminish the quality of life.

Think about that meaning of evil for a moment. I did and that was when I discover the importance of understanding the Real Yeshua and his message. The name “Jesus” didn’t exists until about the 15th century and that Jesus had been completely severed from the life of the Real Yeshua. His words were not viewed through Yeshua’s Jewish culture and he didn’t teach the importance of the TOV Standard. Religions have been teaching about the other Jesus figures for almost 2,000 years – take a hard look at what kind of world we live in. I believe the time has come for anyone that believes IN Jesus to take a hard look at the Real Yeshua and consider what would happen if he or she did what he taught and use the TOV Standard he used to live by.

I hope this helps you understand me and what’s behind my words. Keep in mind the lessons I learned above as you read my articles, blogs and newsletters. Use them in your studies and in your groups. Know, that if you are a pastor or minister, I understand the challenges you face. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you. If you would like to share your thoughts or comments, please email them to me by clicking here.

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Thank you for taking time to read this.

Jim Myers

Friday, April 10, 2015

Yeshua the Rabbi

The role of Yeshua as a messianic figure gets lots more attention than his role as a rabbi. The Synoptic Gospels, however, provide a wealth of information that highlights his activities as a rabbi. In order to see It is important to remember that Yeshua wasn’t the only messianic figure or rabbi the people would have known. There were hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of rabbis circulating in the land of Israel at that time. According to Professor S. Safrai, the itinerating rabbi was the norm, rather than the exception.[i] Being a disciple of Yeshua, especially for the apostles, required much more than just attending lectures.

Learning by itself did not make a pupil, and he did not grasp the full significance of his teacher’s learning in all its nuances except through prolonged intimacy with his teacher, through close association with his rich and profound mind. The disciples accompanied their sage as he went to teach, when he sat in the law court, when he engaged in the performance of meritorious deeds such as helping the poor, redeeming slaves, collecting dowries for poor brides, burying the deed, etc. The pupil took his turn in preparing the common meal and catering for the general needs of the group. He performed personal services for his teacher, observed his conduct and was his respectful, loving, humble companion. Some laws could not be studied theoretically or merely discussed, but could only be learned by serving the teacher.[ii]

According to custom, a rabbi could not charge for teaching the Scriptures, so the itinerant rabbi was dependent upon the hospitality and generosity of the community. Many rabbis carried their food with them – a pouch of meal and a few olives. From such they subsisted, not wanting to be a burden to their host. 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.”[iii]

The rabbis taught in public places and in private homes. The Mishnah (Oral Law) in Avot (The Sayings of the Fathers) states:

Let your home be a meeting place for the wise; sit amidst the dust of their feet, and drink thirstily of their words.[iv]

If the people had not been hospitable, opening their homes for teaching and providing food and lodging for the rabbis and their disciples, it would have been impossible for the rabbis to teach and for the students to learn. [v]

The rabbis used two primary methods to teach their disciples -- halachah and haggadah. Halachah comes from the Hebrew root word halach, which means “to walk” or “to go.” In other words, halachah is that path or way in which one is to walk. Halachah is the term that is also used to refer to the whole legal system in Judaism, which today includes the 613 written commandments of the Torah along with all of the legal rulings and decisions of the rabbis found in the Mishnah.

Haggadah comes from the Hebrew root word nagad, which means “to draw out; to narrate or tell.” According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Horavot 3:8. 48c), the purpose of the haggadah, unlike the purpose of the halachah, is not to state what is “forbidden” or “permitted” nor is it to declare what is “pure” or “impure.”Haggadah includes history, narrative, story, legends, fables, poetry, dirges, prayers, parables, proverbs, allegories, metaphors, hyperboles, analogies, and more. The haggadah is not written as a legal textbook, nor a digest of legal precedents. Haggadah consist of moral and ethical instruction about personal faith and the ways of God. It strives to teach man how to live in harmony with God and in harmony with his fellow man. Its fundamental purpose is to reach out and touch the heart of man so that he might “know the Creator of the world and adhere to His ways.[vi]

In Yeshua’s period, the stress was more on haggadah. The common man loved haggadah and was strengthened and encouraged by it. Rabbinic sermons for the common people were mainly haggadah, while the more technical discussions of halachah were reserved for advanced disciples. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the focus switched more to halachah.
Interestingly, and as surprising as it may seem, we have a record of more of the sayings and the deeds of Yeshua than any other 1st century rabbi.[vii]

There were a number of haggadic methods of interpretation used by the rabbis. The most frequently used method by Yeshua is remez or hinting. It was a rabbinic way of making a statement or declaration about something or someone by alluding to verse or passage from the Hebrew Scriptures. Yeshua would hint at a biblical verse or passage by just mentioning one key word or phrase in the passage. His listeners, having heard those verses read in the synagogue on a weekly schedule, knew the whole passage. Often, the point that he wanted to make is found in the biblical passage immediately before or just after the “hint” from that passage. The moment the audience recognized the “hint,” the whole passage immediately burst into their minds and they would recognize the point he wanted to make.

Keep this in mind whenever you read the words of Yeshua, especially in the Synoptic Gospels. Watch for his use of remez and find the passages he hinted at. This will add a new dimension to your understanding of his words. His audience recognized him as a skilled teacher of the Torah and viewed his messages in light of the words of the Torah. Most modern readers do not understand this and therefore fail to grasp the points that he wanted to make and the purpose of his movement. Reestablish the link of the Yeshua’s words to the words of his Bible – the Hebrew Scriptures – and you will take a giant step towards rediscovering the Real Yeshua.

I hope you enjoyed this and learned something too!
Jim Myers

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[i] 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; p. 965.
[ii] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 964.
[iv] Mishnah, Avot 1:4
[vi] Sifre, Deuteronomy 49

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Yeshua and the Passover Part 2

Three times in a year all Israelite males are to appear before Yahweh.[1] These are called Shalosh Regalim (the three pilgrimage festivals):

(1) Feast of Unleavened Bread

(2) Feast of Weeks (Shavuot aka Pentecost) 

(3) Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)

On the major feasts days, all priests from all divisions could make pilgrimage, and all of them were entitled to the festal offerings. The special feature of Passover in the Temple was the slaughter of the paschal lamb by all worshippers, inhabitants of Jerusalem and pilgrims alike. Let’s take a moment to define a couple of key words:

(1) pilgrim – from Old French pelerin, peregrine "crusader; foreigner, stranger."[2]

(2) paschal – from Greek pascha "Passover," from Aramaic pasha "pass over," corresponding to Hebrew pesah, from pasha "he passed over."

Notice that Passover is not listed above in the feasts. Originally, Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were two separate holidays:

(1) In the fourteenth day of the first month at evening is Yahweh’s Passover.[3]

(2) On the fifteenth day of the first month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread unto Yahweh; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. [4]

At the beginning of the Babylonian exile they were combined.[5] The Torah’s laws for the observance of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are given in Exodus 12:1-28, Leviticus 23:4-8, Numbers 9:1-14, Deuteronomy 16:1-8. Below is an overview:

(1) This month shall be the first month of the year -- Nissan, is in the spring (March-April).

(2) On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb for a household.

(3) If the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it.

(4) The lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year (from the sheep or the goats).

(5) You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month.

(6) On the fourteenth of the month, the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.

(7) They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.

(8) You shall eat it with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste.

(9) They shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

(10) Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire — its head with its legs and its entrails.

(11) You shall let none of it remain until morning.

(12) If any of it remains until morning you shall burn it with fire.[6]

By the time of Yeshua, the ways Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were understood and celebrated had evolved. The Temple was the center of activity and the rituals had to be able to accommodate and include the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims coming to Jerusalem. At midnight the Temple gates were opened to the people and before the sun rose the Temple court was already filled with Israelites. The special feature of Passover at the Temple was the slaughter of the paschal lamb by all worshippers.[7] Obviously, there was simply not enough space and time for every family to sacrifice a lamb in the Temple. Therefore, group sacrifices of single lambs were done in the Temple by a few, while most sacrifices were done outside the Temple.

The lamb was sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan, on the eve of Passover, at the ninth hour (about 3 pm) of the day. The Mishnah (Oral Law) describes the activities that took place within the Temple. Those who wished to sacrifice formed groups, each of which slaughtered one paschal lamb for the entire group. The priests allowed the Court of the Israelites to be filled three times. The paschal lamb, unlike with the usual animal-offerings, was sacrificed by the Israelites themselves. As with all peace-offerings, it was offered in the inner court and its blood tossed on the altar. After one group completed the ritual, the doors were opened again and the next group entered. The lambs were then eaten in the households and courtyards throughout the city.[8]

At the close of the first festival-day, the people participated in the harvesting of the barley sheaves. These usually came from Beth Makleh, beside the Kidron brook, but if, due to the late arrival of winter, it proved difficult to find ripe barley nearby, and the sheaves thus could not be harvested in this area, they were brought from afar. [9] The Torah states that the barley should be waved “the morrow after the Shabbat” and that a count should be made for seven weeks until “the morrow after the seventh Sabbath,” when the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) was to be celebrated.[10] This created a conflict between the Sadducees and Pharisees.[11]

● The Sadducees interpreted “the morrow after the Shabbat” to mean literally the day after the first Shabbat after Passover (the very next Sunday).

● The Pharisees interpreted the term “Shabbat” as “festival” and taught that the sheaves should be brought on “the morrow of the first day of Passover” (the 16th of Nisan).

There were many things going on in and around Jerusalem other than the religious rituals. Consider the fact that 250,000 to 500,000 pilgrims were added to the resident population and they had to eat, sleep and do all of the other things humans to on a daily basis. Some of the pilgrims slept in Jerusalem, while others stayed in nearby villages or in tents around the city. Pilgrims came to make new friends as well as renew old friendships on these journeys.[12] They came to browse among the masses of merchants and buy things they could take back home. It was an environment in which there was a great deal of activity, festivity, and many opportunities to encounter and interact.

 The worshippers could spend their nights outside Jerusalem until the day of sacrifice of the paschal lamb. But on that night they were required to remain in Jerusalem for the night.[13] Matthew records Yeshua’s activities during this period. Before the feast Yeshua stayed outside Jerusalem, but with the approach of Passover he told his disciples to go to one of the inhabitants of the city and fix a place for their mean. Even though the townsman is not necessarily a follow of Yeshua, he and his disciples are welcomed to his house as a matter of course.[14]

It is not clear whether pilgrims were obliged to remain in Jerusalem throughout the seven days of Passover and the eight days of Sukkot, but many traditions from the time of the Temple take it for granted that they remained until the end of the feast-days. [15] The feasts created many opportunities for the multitudes to interact with Yeshua, as well as many other teachers – and others who claimed to be the messiah. It also made it possible for them to go to the Temple and listen to the scribes discuss and teach from the Torah, as well as go to the “Stairs of the Rabbis” and listen to their views. The focus of the scribes, teachers and rabbis would have been on the correct way to do the laws of the festivals. I feel we can be sure that when the pilgrims returned home the first thing their friends and neighbors did was ask them about their experiences in Jerusalem and on the journey.

With the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the offering of the paschal lamb came to an end. During the period between 70 and 200 CE, the synagogue and home became the center for the practice of rituals that had been exclusively done at the Temple. New ways had to be created to make it possible for the laws of the Torah to be done. Today, a book called the Haggadah (from the Hebrew root "to tell") serves as the liturgy and guidebook for the seder (the rituals of the Passover meal). Yeshua did not use a Haggadah or participate in a seder meal like those done today.

The first documented evidence of parts of the Haggadah is found in the Mishnah (Oral Law edited ca. 200 CE). The arrangement of the table, the psalms, benedictions, and other recited matter of today coincide substantially with the program laid down in the Mishnah. Midrashim (commentaries) were added and most of the version we now have was completed by the end of the Talmudic period (500-600 CE). Evidence of the wide acceptance of the Haggadah was its inclusion in Rav Amram's siddur (prayerbook) in the eighth century CE.

Let me repeat, it is important to understand that the Passover Yeshua knew and participated in was not the same thing as the Passover of Rabbinic Judaism today.  Rabbinic Judaism is an offshoot of the Pharisees and reflects their positions on many things. The focus in Yeshua’s time period was on correctly doing the laws of the Torah, something that in many cases today is impossible because there is no Temple or functional priesthood.

I hope you learned something from this and enjoyed it. Passover begins tomorrow night (April 3, 2015) at sunset. Remember your biblical heritage with the wisdom and values we have received from those who came before us.

Jim Myers

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[1] Deuteronomy 16:16
[3] Leviticus 23:5
[4] Leviticus 23:6
[5] Encyclopaedia Judaica Vol. 13, p. 169.
[6] Exodus 12:1-12
[7] 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;p.891-892.
[8] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 892
[9] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 892
[10] Leviticus 23:11-16
[11] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 893
[12] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 903
[13] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 904
[14] Matthew 26:17-18
[15] The Jewish People in the First Century Volume Two; p. 904