Blogs about the life of the real Jewish Jesus whose actual name was Yeshua. View his life, teachings and movement in the cultural context of first century Galilee and Judea. Using a Linguistic Model to more accurately understand what his words meant to his original Jewish apostles, followers and audiences.
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Yeshua the Fence Builder
which is called the Oral Law, records
the sayings and teachings of generations of Jewish teachers. Its earliest
teachers preceded or were contemporaries of Yeshua (the real name of “Jesus”).
Their teachings provide many valuable clues about the techniques they used to
teach their disciples the words of the Torah.
The tractate in the Mishnah that is called Avot,
Sayings of the Fathers, is a
tremendous source of information related to the teachings of Yeshua. It opens
with these words:
the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it
over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over
to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly]
would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgment. Establish many
pupils. And build a fence around the Torah. (Avot 1:1)
This history of the Oral
Law begins in the Jewish sect called the Pharisees. The quote above played a very important role in the
formation of Rabbinic Judaism, which
began in the 3rd century CE. It established an unbroken chain of
textual transmission and authority from Moses to the rabbis. It specifically instructed
the rabbis to do three things:
(1) Be cautious in judgment (interpretations).
(2) Create and teach many pupils (disciples).
(3) Build a fence around the Torah.
Contrary to beliefs that developed in non-Jewish
Christian sects long after Yeshua taught, the Pharisees were not the “bad
guys” from Yeshua’s perspective. He was very close to them in many ways and
they heavily influenced his life and teachings. When it came to their teaching
about the Torah, this was how much confidence Yeshua had in Pharisees:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’
seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,that observe and do.” (Matthew
Of course, he also warned his disciples to not to do what
they did in practice. He also warned the Pharisees that unless they did acts of righteousness (acts of TOV), they would not be included
in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The importance of creating many disciples and accurately teaching
them was clearly very important to Yeshua by the words recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. His well-developed skills
of “fence building” are evident. In order to understand the principles behind “building fences” we turn to the Mishnah again (Avot 4:2):
One good deed leads to another good deed;
one sin leads to another sin.
The reward for a good deed is another good
deed; the reward for a sin is another sin.
It is the teacher’s responsibility to teach disciples
things that enhance their chances of fulfilling the commandments and decrease
the likelihood of their committing sins. They “built fences” to achieve those goals. Fences were built by linking light commandments with heavy commandments of the Torah. The premise was that if their
disciples kept (observed) the light
commandments they would be much more unlikely to break the heavy commandments.
It is important to be aware that chapter and verse
markers were add to the biblical text over a thousand years after Yeshua taught.
They often disrupt the flow of the words and sometimes completely destroy the
original context in which they were heard. It is a very good idea to ignore chapter
and word breaks and let the words determine where Yeshua’s teachings begin and
end. Below is one of Yeshua’s most famous teachings (Matthew 5:21-26). It
includes three fences, however in this blog I am just going to help you identify
the first fence (Matthew 5:21-22a):
“You have heard that it was said to the elders,
‘You shall not murder and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’
However, I say to you, ‘Whoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of
The first step is to identify the light and heavy commandments of the Torah:
(1) “You shall not murder” is the heavy
(2) “You shall not be angry with your brother”
is the light commandment.
(3) The first
principle is this: If a disciple does not
become angry it is much more likely that he will not commit the sin of murder.
commandment is found in Exodus 20:13 – “You
shall not murder.” The origin of the light
commandment is not as well-know. Yeshua took it from one of the most famous
stories in the Torah – Cain and Abel
became angry with his brother Abel.
(2) God saw Cain’s
anger and told him that if he would do acts
of TOV, acts that protect and
preserve his brother’s life, things would turn out well.
(3) God also
told Cain that if he didn’t do acts of
TOV for his brother, his anger would lead to sin -- which would be like a wild animal and it spring upon him.
We all know the end of the story – Cain ignored what God said and murdered Abel instead of being his
brother’s keeper (guardian). Yeshua created his first fence from this story – “You
shall not be angry.”
Did Yeshua really expect his disciples to never become
angry? Of course not! The teachers of his period often used their light
commandments as shock statements to grab the attention of their disciples. He
knew that they would all become angry. His goal was to get them to remember what
happened to Cain -- anger led to murder.
If this fence helped them keep their anger in check, they will be much less likely
to murder someone. By the way, Yeshua build two additional fences in this
lesson, just in case they crashed through the first fence!
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the last blog, we covered the first part of Yeshua’s lesson on Anger -- An Angry Person Should be Tried in Court like a
– keep in mind that “anger” is the focus of Yeshua’s lesson. “Whoever says to a brother, ‘RAKA,’ shall be answerable to the
Sanhedrin.” [i] Yeshua
reveals that the seriousness of the offense has become greater by elevating the
crime to the next highest court – the
Sanhedrin. It is the highest court in the nation and would be the
equivalent of our Supreme Court. What makes this offense more serious than murder,
to keep things in the context established by Yeshua? It is because of what the
angry person said out of anger – “RAKA!”
is the English transliteration of the Greek word found in the ancient
manuscripts of Matthew. Interestingly, the Greek word is also a transliteration
of a Hebrew word into Greek. Keep in mind that when a translator working on a
translation of a Greek manuscript transliterates a Greek word, he only finds
the closest equivalent En…
Jesus’s earliest memories was no doubt watching and listening to his family when
they gathered to pray the Shema at sunrise
before the day’s work began and after the working work day was over at sunset.
He also heard and participated in praying the Shema at their synagogue. He was surrounded by neighbors who also
prayed the same prayer in their homes every day. The
Hebrew word for prayer is tefilah. It
is derived from the root Pe-Lamed-Lamed and the word l'hitpalel, meaning “to judge oneself.” This surprising word
origin provides insight into the purpose of Jewish prayer. The most important
part of any Jewish prayer, whether it be a prayer of petition, of thanksgiving,
of praise of God, or of confession, is the introspection it provides, the
moment that we spend looking inside ourselves, seeing our role in the universe
and our relationship to God. Most
of Jewish prayers are expressed in the first person plural, "us"
instead of "me," and are recited on b…
have unlocked the original meanings of two of Yeshua’s words in the verse
below. We used them to replace “jot” and “tittle” in the following translation:
For verily I say unto you, Till
heaven and earth pass, one yod
(the smallest Hebrew letter) or one qotz
(the smallest part of the smallest letter) shall in no wise pass from the law,
till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18) Now
let’s turn our attention to the word “verily.”
If we look it up in a dictionary we find the following definitions: in truth; really; indeed. Did
Yeshua mean: ● “For in truth I say unto you . . .” ● “For really I say unto you . . .” ● “For indeed I say unto you . . .” As
pointed out before, Yeshua didn’t teach in English, so our first step to discovering
what he did say is to examine the Greek word that is translated “verily” – amhn. Before we find
out what it means, let’s review the options that translators have when they are
working with ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Translators have four