Friday, October 7, 2011

Not to be missed!

I wanted to let everyone know about an upcoming event-I am generally not that excited about all things mathemetical, but I wouldn't miss this for anything. Come and meet some of the most amazing folks you'd ever want to know.

A very good friend of mine, Yvonne Bent, is putting together a conference on Oct 14-15, 2011 entitled "About Sacred Geometry". Guest speakers will be discussing the sacred geometry in areas of art, science, mathematics, astronomy, architecture, and anatomy. As far as I know, this is the first of its kind ever..


Friday, Oct 14 at 6:00 - 9:00 PM,

In this workshop, you will have the opportunity to learn, hands on, with the tools of creation, a compass & right angle. You will need to bring the compass point, right angle, and graph paper. You will also need to pre-register. Cost is $35. There is limited seating. Later that evening there will be a panel discussion to answer the gnawing questions of so many regarding ancient information and symbols.


Saturday, Oct 15 and begin at 8:00AM - 5:00 PM

The location for this event is the Springville Museum of Art in Springville, Utah.

If you find this of interest to you and want to share this with your friends, please pass it along.

Tickets and information can be found at www.aboutsacredgeom <http://www.aboutsac redgeometry. com/>

Or call 510-685-2993

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Taking a Break

I will be taking a short break from posting while I work on some other pressing projects. I hope to be back soon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Idle And Mocking Youths.

And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. 2Kings 2:23-24

Here is some useful information regarding this episode:

Needless difficulty has been felt in explaining this incident in consequence of a somewhat defective translation. The path of the prophet Elisha lay through the district of Bethel, the stronghold of idolatry in Israel (1 Kings xii. 28—33), where, as in Dan, stood one of the golden calves set up by Jeroboam.

In this place insult offered to Jehovah's prophet would be intended as insult to Jehovah, and, so regarded, it was properly met by an immediate and terrible punishment.

It appears that there was a number of idle young men on the outskirts of the town, lawless, rude, and amusing themselves with rough play. They are called " children," but the same Hebrew word is used in 1 Kings xii. 8, 10, 14, where it is applied to young men of the same age as King Rehoboam. In all the languages of the East the words "child" and "children" often denote simply a social relation, and are constantly applied to full-grown persons, as in the New Testament.

"No one who has travelled in the East can have failed to notice the extreme lawlessness of a certain class of boys and young men living on the outskirts of a town, especially toward a Jew, a Christian, or a European, who should happen to be passing by alone or unprotected. Let him go, for instance, to the castle hill of Smyrna, and, if it be a holiday and the 'boys' (oghlans) are out, he will perceive stones whizzing past him, and will hear the shouts of ' Frank,' ' hat-wearer'-- rallying the rowdies of the vicinity, and warning him to beat a hasty retreat."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Smelling the Garments

And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son [is] as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed: Gen. 27:27

From Roberts's Oriental illustrations we find the following interesting notes:

—The natives of the East are universally fond of having their garments strongly perfumed; so much so, that Europeans can scarcely bear the smell. They use camphor, civet, sandal-wood, or sandal oil, and a great variety of strongly- scented waters.

It is not common to salute, as in England ; they simply smell each other; and it is said that some people know their own children by the smell. It is common for a mother or father to say, " Ah, child, thy smell is like the Sen-Paga-Poo." The crown of the head is the principal place for smelling.

Of an amiable man it is said, " How sweet is the smell of that man! The smell of his goodness is universal."

That delightful traveller, Captain Mangles, R.N., informed me that while on a short visit at the house of Mr. Barker, our consul at Aleppo, he heard Mrs. Barker, who was a Greek lady, say something to her child, accompanied by signs of great endearment. Mr. Barker said to Captain Mangles, " You do not understand her ; she says, ' Come hither, my darling, and let me smell thee.' "

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lying Among the Sheepfolds

Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. Psalm 68:13

Psalm 68:13 contains a tremendous truth not seen in most English translations of the Bible.

Psalm 68:13a is translated in the English Bibles as “though ye have lien among the pots,” which says you have been lying among the pots and pans in an Oriental kitchen. In the East (Orient), the cooks often sleep in the kitchen, and all they know are pots and pans, because they are not exposed to culture outside the kitchen. They do not even take the food to the table in another room. Their life is centered on the room with the pots and pans; the kitchen.

In contrast, the Telugu translation of the Bible, done by Oriental scholars gives a translated version that emanates with deeper spiritual meaning and implications. The first half of the Telugu Bible reads as follows:

Psalm 68:13a Though you have been lying in the midst of the sheepfolds,

The two versions paint entirely different pictures. The Telugu Bible (the Eastern Bible) refers to destitute men who wander without a home, family or friends. These men wander aimlessly with no destination. Wearing tattered clothes, they suffer the winter chill. With no money, they are unable to hire a room for the night. So, seeking help from the physical world, permission is sought from a shepherd to sleep with the sheep where rest and warmth is found.

The origin of the figure of speech “lying among the sheepfolds” represents the destitution inherent in this situation. The sheepfold is a place of dung, mud, and muck; however, it offers rest and warmth to the weary and downtrodden. A person in this situation is in a state of constant conflict, knowing that he should be doing more to better his situation. This shame becomes a constant mental burden while lack of proper nutrition and care wears down the physical body. Sickness, weakness, and weariness are the result, with no way of getting out of this downward spiral.

The spiritual implications of this part of the verse are strikingly clear: we are destitute and homeless without God, the Father of our living lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

Now we will focus on the 2nd half of Psalm 68:13b where God tells us with vivid imagery His deliverance through Jesus Christ. Both the King James Bible and the Telugu Bible say: Psalm 68:13b …yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver and her feathers with yellow gold.

In Oriental thought, the “dove” represents peace, “silver” represents strength meaning “God will bless you, and lift you up”, and “yellow gold” represents prosperity.

The dove was the first bird to be tamed. Faithful and easily procured, the dove takes and returns messages. These birds are loved and accepted by everyone. Often the dove is a pet that the owners decorate with silver coins on the wings and yellow gold (thin gold leaf, used for decoration) on the feathers. As the doves are adorned, so are we adorned and accepted in the beloved.

Psalm 68:13 has the following meaning: Though you have been lying among the sheepfolds; yet will you be peaceful, strong, and prosperous. Look at the Israelites in bondage in Egypt; they were figuratively in the dirt and dung of the sheepfold, looking to the material, physical world, lazily waiting to eat the old grass about to be discarded. However, when they sought deliverance from God, He gave them deliverance from Egypt into the land of milk and honey adding peace, strength, and prosperity to their lives.

In our lives, God through His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, delivers us from spiritual enslavement into the land of milk and honey (Christ within). Then he adds peace, strength and prosperity to us who now have the glorious freedom as a son of God. When we are saved, our broken hearts and feeble bodies are made whole (sōzō). As a child of God no longer under the bondage of this world (lying among the sheepfolds), we are able to claim what is already ours: peace, strength and prosperity.

Orientalisms of the Bible by Bishop K. C. Pillai, D.D., American Christian Press, 1986, 3rd printing 1998 (p.37-43).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Christ In You

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Colossians 1:27

In the Bible lands and times mirrors were made of polished golden metals. When a person looked in the polished metal he could see himself. But when another person saw the reflection of the person looking in the mirror he would see a glint of gold on their face and their face was brilliant!

When we focus on the Christ in us we see the brilliant glory of the spirit of God in us and we are changed into the same image reflecting brighter and brighter!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Constrained by the Love of Christ

For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead...II Corinthians 5:14

In the Bible lands culture, to constrain a person means to ask him over and over at least three times. If you were to ask me to come to dinner at your house it would not be polite for me to immediately accept your invitation.

The first time you asked me, I would politely refuse and give you a good excuse for why I could not come.

Then you would tell me how you really wanted me to come and ask me a second time. Again, I would give you a good excuse for why I could not make it.

If you really wanted me to come you would ask a third time. Upon the third request, I would know that you really wanted me to come and I would accept your invitation. This is called constraining in the Bible lands.

The love of Christ manifest in his death and resurrection constrains us to live for him. We are reminded over and over of his love.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Sabbath Day's Journey

Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. Acts 1:12

The Old Testament Law set aside the Sabbath as a day of rest. The people in the Bible lands and times did not work or travel on the Sabbath. The legalistic Pharisees even set a specific distance (2,000 cubits) that a person could legally travel on the Sabbath day.

In practice, people did not travel far on the Sabbath. Jesus and his disciples stayed in the town of Bethany and traveled back and forth to Jerusalem on many Sabbath days. The east side of the Mount of Olives near Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem. Certainly, many of the Judeans in Bethany would travel to the Temple in Jerusalem on the Sabbath.

The expression "a Sabbath day's journey" simply meant a short distance, such as one would normally travel on the Sabbath.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Treasures in Heaven

Remembering that scriptures can be understood and appreciated on many different levels, I thought this was an interesting and helpful perspective of Matthew 6:19-21.

Dr. K.C. Pillai, a Hindu convert to Christianity, was a Bishop at large of the Indian Orthodox Church in Madras, India. When he came to the United States many years ago, his mission was to acquaint Christians with the Orientalisms of the Bible, or as he referred to it, "to give light through an eastern window."

Matthew 6: 19-21
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

"The western interpretation of this scripture is that the treasure refers to money which is laid up in the world. Therefore, it is not security at all because moth and rust corrupt it, and thieves may steal it. On the other hand, money and labor given to the church, or some other worthy cause, is treasure stored in heaven. But as in all cases where symbols and figures of speech are used, the proper understanding of the scripture must come from its spiritual meaning. Christ was not referring to money. The "treasure" mentioned here simply means our thoughts. In fact, there are several symbols used in this passage. Let me explain them.

"Heaven" speaks of the realm of the Spirit. "Earth" is the realm of matter, which is material things. The "moth" is fear that eats away our thoughts. "Rust" is worry that corrodes and destroys godly, positive thoughts, and "corrupt" means to breed. In the light of Oriental philosophy then, these scriptures should read as follows: "Let not your thoughts be centered in material things where fears and worries breed defeat and frustration, and where the doubts break through and steal your thoughts. But let your thoughts be centered in the Spirit, where neither fear nor worry breeds defeat and frustration, and where doubts do not break through and steal your thoughts. For where your thoughts are, there will your heart be also".

If our thoughts are centered in material things, our lives will surely be plagued with defeat, frustration, and despair. The reason for this is that the things we see are not really dependable. We watch them come and go. And the things we think are real substance vanish before our eyes. Everything we know through our five senses is in a state of change and decay. But when our thoughts are on God, there are no fears, no worries, defeats, or frustrations. We are not staking our lives on that which changes, but on Him who changes not. Since there is no means of communication between the Spirit and the things of the earth, there can , therefore, be no satisfaction in them. But God, who is Spirit, can speak to the spirit within us. The oneness of Himself with our spirit enables us to be satisfied through fellowship with Him. Man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. Man cannot live by bread alone. To flourish, he must rather live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Blessing From Heaven

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matt. 5:45

In our culture where we have sayings like "Don't rain on my parade," generally rain is not looked upon as a blessing. I have heard this scripture used to support that thought. But we have it all wrong.

Here is an insight regarding this topic:

"Wow, has our reaction to rain changed over the centuries! Today, we wake up, look outside and say, "Oh, it's raining" and view the rain as "good" or "bad" depending on whether we plan to be outdoors or not. Rain has become just another facet of life. But it didn't always use to be this way.

Once upon a time, our ancestors viewed rain very differently. They would wake up, look outside and say, "Thank you, God, for your life-giving blessing of rain." They realized that rain was the key to their survival and to the survival of the world. They knew that too little rain or too much rain could destroy the crops that provided their food. Rain, in Jewish tradition, is far more than just a natural resource. It is considered nothing less than a magnificent blessing.

[Jewish rabbis] taught: The sending of rain is an event greater than the giving of the Torah. The Torah was a joy for Israel only, but rain gives joy to the whole world, including birds and animals, as it is said: You take care of the earth and irrigate it. (Psalm 65:10) .

Nor was rain viewed merely as a natural phenomenon determined by wind, air pressure, dew point or other meteorological conditions. Deuteronomy makes it clear that there is a direct relationship between the rains we receive and the life-choices we make. "And if you will carefully obey my commands which I give you today…I will give rains for your land at the right season…Beware lest your heart…turn and serve other gods and worship them, for then the Lord's anger will blaze against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain." Deut. 11:13-17 condensed

The Jerusalem Talmud goes on to tell us that four specific actions can result in the lack of rain:

For four sins rain is withheld – idolatry, unchastity, bloodshed and because of those who promise publicly to give charity but do not.

And not only do we speak of rain in our daily prayers, we actually insert into our worship service, at the conclusion of Sukkot, a special prayer for rains to fall on the land of Israel.

Ultimately, Jewish tradition views rain as it views rainbows – a part of nature that directly represents God's "personal" involvement in Creation. Rainbows are a sign of God's pledge never again to destroy the world with water. Rainbows are created directly by God, just as rain is. Talmud Taanit 2 tells us, Three things are kept in God's hands and never delivered to an angel: one of them is the key to rain".

Rain in Jewish Tradition
Culled from
The Jewish Sourcebook on the Environment and Ecology
by Ronald H. Isaacs)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Feasting on the Word

"In John's gospel, Jesus is presented as the Living Word. John says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us ..." (John. 1:1 & 14).

Jesus was and is the authentic Living Bible. He was and is the Living Psalms, the Living Proverbs, the Living Torah (Law). Had Jesus depreciated the word in the least, he would have depreciated himself. We must understand that there is a great similarity between Jesus as the Living Word and the written word which we hold in our hands. To follow that word is to follow him; to desire it is to desire him.

One professor friend in Israel describes it this way:

Jesus is the Word; the Bible is the word about the Word; preaching is the word about the word about the Word; and theology is the word about the word, about the word, about the Word.

As Jesus taught in the synagogue at Capernaum he made a statement so astounding that his religious listeners spurned him and many of his own disciples turned against him. Jesus said: "...I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53).

The Master was simply offering himself as food for his people. Those who were hungering and thirsting after him were in a very real sense feasting on the Word of God."

Jim Gerrish

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

God With Us

For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15 NIV

We all know that God dwells in a place of celestial perfection.

"Yet in Isaiah, it actually says that God also lives with the one who grieves and with the one who is crushed by the burdens of life here on earth. He really dwells here too, but the place you find him most is in the squalor – the depressing places that no one wants to go.

This actually changes my perception of God. I used to think of God as happily disconnected from us here. I would ask God why we all couldn’t be happy like he is. But then it hit me that if I genuinely love someone who is hurting, I don’t live a happy life as long as they are in pain. If God is truly empathetic with his people, he really doesn’t just dwell in paradise. If our goal is only to be happy, we’re asking for something that even God doesn’t have, until he brings healing and redemption to the earth.

In Isaiah 63:9, it says, “In all their affliction, he was afflicted.” God suffers as long as his people do. He is both on his heavenly throne, but fully with us here, and the place we can most join him is in healing the hurts of others. "

Lois Tverberg

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Bible is Like Star Trek pt.2

"Let’s look at how an ancient person would read the book of Ruth. I used to simply see it as a nice story about a widow who found a good husband because she was kind to her mother-in-law.

But if we lived in biblical times, we would be curious about Ruth’s ancestors, and our ears would prick up to the fact that Ruth was a Moabite. Immediately we’d think of the scandalous past of her people, and it would cast her story in a different light. We’d recall that when the weary Israelites were journeying to the Promised Land, the Moabites lured the Israelites into sexual immorality and worshipping idols (Numbers 25:1). From that time on, the Moabites were associated with sexual immorality, even more disgusting because it was how they worshipped their “gods.” Because of that sin, God declared that Moabites were barred from being a part of the assembly of Israel in Deuteronomy 23:3. Was their sin ever forgivable, we’d wonder?

Then we’d think back to the origins of the Moabites in Genesis 19:30-38. After Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, we read the not-so-nice story of when Lot’s daughters got their father drunk so that they could become pregnant by him, since their husbands had refused to leave the city and died. One of Lot’s daughters gave birth to a son named Moab, and he became the father of the Moabite people. So that’s why the Moabites are so immoral! This would make complete sense to us, because we’d expect that people would be defined by their ancestry.

Keeping these ideas in mind, now let’s turn to Ruth. She was a Moabite woman who had returned to Israel with her mother-in-law after her husband died. An ancient listener would immediately wonder, was she as immoral as those who came before her? She said that she would worship the God of Israel, but would God ever accept her? We even find her in the same situation as Lot’s daughters! Like them, she was a widow who desperately needed children. Naomi even told her to approach Boaz when he was sleeping outside by his harvest, after he had eaten (and drunk) his fill.

But unlike her ancestors, Boaz proclaimed that she was a virtuous woman (Ruth 3:10). He then married her, and her son became the grandfather of King David. Not only that, but Ruth even appears in Matthew 1:5 as part of the line of Christ! She turned from her people’s unseemly past to embrace the God of Israel. Not only did he accept her and cleanse her from her history, but he gave her a key role in his supreme act of salvation!

Those of us who struggle with an embarrassing family history or an immoral past should rejoice to see how God redeemed Ruth and used her for his wonderful purposes.

Understanding how texts interrelate has given me a whole new perspective on reading the Bible. When I used to read the stories by themselves, some of them frustrated me because they didn’t show me how to live. But the difficult ones have a far deeper purpose. They illustrate how the terrible sinfulness of man runs throughout history, but then how God graciously intervened to bring Christ into the world.

We need to read with the eyes of an ancient person in order to see how that message is woven into the fabric of the Bible from beginning to end."

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Bible is Like Star Trek pt.1

Some more insights from Lois Tverberg:

"Back when I was in school, my friends and I were huge fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Every Monday morning, all we talked about was the previous evening’s new episode. At first we just focused on the science fiction, discussing how Jean-Luke Picard dealt with whatever strange planetary life form that he had encountered that week.

But after a while, we became engrossed in the plots that were interwoven into many episodes and would surface again in later programs. Data, the android, would discover one week that his creator had also fashioned an evil twin “brother” named Lore, and weeks later, their relationship would come up in the characters’ conversation. Months later Lore would return, now possessing the “emotion-chip” that Data had dearly desired since he was first built.

Over time we saw that key to enjoying the show was paying attention to the crew’s offhand remarks about the past, and then thinking back to how earlier episodes shed light on the current story. Like any well-written series, each program would tell a good story, but a long-time follower would be able to see how the intrigue grew as the plot thickened over time.

As I learned to read the Bible in its ancient Eastern setting, I discovered that it’s actually a lot like this. Why? Because memory and history were central to the fabric of ancient Eastern culture. The ancients were very aware of ancestral relationships and oral history handed down to them, and used it to understand later events. Especially important to them was the first place they found something, because it usually set up relationships and patterns that would come up again and again.

Being aware of this has greatly enriched my Bible study, because the Scriptures are written with this in mind. As a child, my Bible story book trained me to read the Scripture as a series of short stories, mostly unrelated, each with its own moral lesson. Only after learning about its Eastern setting did I discover that the Old Testament especially is an epic saga with a delightfully interwoven plot.

Sometimes the Bible includes stories that hardly seem to be moral examples, and I used to wonder why they were there. But they need to be there to explain the deeper meaning of later events."


Friday, June 10, 2011

Ancient Hebraic Perspective --- Good

"What does "good" mean? The first use of this word is in Genesis chapter one where calls his handiwork "good". It should always be remembered that the Hebrews often relate descriptions to functionality.

The word tov would best be translated with the word "functional". When looked at his handiwork he did not see that it was "good", he saw that it was functional, kind of like a well oiled and tuned machine.

In contrast to this word is the Hebrew word "ra". These two words, tov and ra are used for the tree of the knowledge of "good" and "evil". While "ra" is often translated as "evil" it is best translated as "dysfunctional".

AHLB# 1186-J

If you have enjoyed this perspective, may I recommend Jeff's website? It is an absolute treasure trove of wonderfulness.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ancient Hebraic Perspective --- Praise

"The word praise is an abstract word that has no relationship with the ancient Hebrew's concrete way of thinking. While the word halel is translated as "praise" it is also translated as "shine" as in Job 29:3:

When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness;

The original meaning of halel is the North Star. This star, unlike all of the other stars, remains motionless and constantly shines in the northern sky and is used as a guide when traveling. In the Ancient Hebrew mind we praise God by looking at him as the guiding star that shines to show us our direction."

AHLB# 1104-B

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ancient Hebraic Perspective --- Holy

"When we use the word holy, as in a holy person, we usually associate this with a righteous or pious person. If we use this concept when interpreting the word holy in the Hebrew Bible then we are misreading the text as this is not the meaning of the Hebrew word qadosh (pronounced Kah-dosh with a long "o" sound).

Qadosh literally means "to be set apart for a special purpose". A related word, qedesh, is one who is also set apart for a special purpose but not in the same way we think of "holy" but is a male prostitute (Deut 23:17).

Israel was qadosh because they were separated by the other nations as servants of God. The furnishings in the tabernacle were qadosh as they were not to be used for anything except for the work in the tabernacle. While we may not think of ourselves as "holy" we are in fact set apart from the world to be God's servants and representatives."

AHLB# 2700

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ancient Hebraic Perspective --- Break

"While the word keep, as in "keep the commands of God" does not mean obedience but guarding and protecting, the meaning of "break the commands of God" does not mean disobedience.

The Hebrew word parar, translated as break, is the treading of grain on the threshing floor by oxen to open up the hulls to remove the seeds. To the Ancient Hebrews, breaking the commands of God was equated with throwing it on the ground and trampling on it.

In both cases, keeping and breaking are related to ones attitude toward the commands. A child who disobeys his parents and is genuinely apologetic shows honor and respect to his parents. But a child who willfully disobeys with no sign of remorse has trampled on his parents teachings and deserves punishment."

AHLB# 1388-B

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ancient Hebraic Perspective --- Covenant

"While the Hebrew word beriyt (pronounced bear-reet) means "covenant," the cultural background of the word is helpful in understanding its full meaning. Beriyt comes from the parent root word bar meaning grain. Grains were fed to livestock to fatten them up to prepare them for the slaughter.

Two other Hebrew words related to beriyt and also derived from the parent root bar can help understand the meaning of beriyt. The word beriy means fat and barut means meat. Notice the common theme with beriy and barut, they have to do with the slaughtering of livestock.

The word beriyt is literally the animal that is slaughtered for the covenant ceremony. The phrase "make a covenant" is found thirteen times in the Hebrew Bible. In the Hebrew text this phrase is "karat beriyt". The word karat literally means "to cut".

When a covenant is made a fattened animal is cut into pieces and laid out on the ground. Each party of the covenant then passes through the pieces signifying that if one of the parties fails to meet the agreement then the other has the right to do to the other what they did to the animal (see Genesis 15:10 and Jeremiah 34:18-20)."

AHLB# 1043-H

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ancient Hebraic Perspective --- Faith

"The Hebrew root aman means firm, something that is supported or secure. This word is used in Isaiah 22:23 for a nail that is fastened to a "secure" [or "sure"] place. Derived from this root is the word emun meaning a craftsman. A craftsman is one who is firm and secure in his talent.

Also derived from aman is the word emunah meaning firmness, something or someone that is firm in their actions. When the Hebrew word emunah is translated as faith, misconceptions of its meaning occur. Faith is usually perceived as a knowing while the Hebrew emunah is a firm action.

To have faith in God is not knowing that God exists or knowing that he will act, rather it is that the one with emunah will act with firmness toward God's will."

AHLB# 1290-C

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ancient Hebraic Perspective --- Life

Another author I've enjoyed is Jeff Benner who wrote Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible. His studies on the most ancient pictographic forms of Hebrew words are fascinating.

"On a frequent basis we attach a meaning of a word from the Bible based on our own language and culture to a word that is not the meaning of the Hebrew word behind the translation. This is often a result of using our modern western thinking process for interpreting the Biblical text.

For proper interpretation of the Bible it is essential that we take our definitions for words from an Ancient Hebraic perspective. Our modern western minds often work with words that are purely abstract or mental while the Hebrew's vocabulary was filled with words that painted pictures of concrete concepts. By reading the Biblical text with a proper Hebrew vocabulary the text comes to life revealing the authors intended meaning. "

Here is one example from Brenner's book (AHLB# 1171-A) :

The Hebrew word hhai (or chai) is usually translated as life.

In the Hebrew language all words are related to something concrete or physical, something that can be observed by one of the five senses. Some examples of concrete words would be tree, water, hot, sweet or loud.

The western Greek mind frequently uses abstracts or mental words to convey ideas. An abstract word is something that cannot be sensed by the five senses. Some examples would be bless, believe, and the word life.

Whenever working with an abstract word in the Biblical text it will help to uncover the concrete background to the word for proper interpretation. How did the ancient Hebrew perceive "life"?

A clue can be found in Job 38:39, "Will you hunt prey for the lion and will you fill the stomach of the young lion?". In this verse the word "stomach" is the Hebrew word hhai. What does the stomach have to do with life?

In our culture it is very uncommon for anyone to experience true hunger but this was an all too often experience for the Ancient Hebrews. To the Ancient Hebrews life is seen as a full stomach while an empty stomach is seen as death.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reading in Translation

Here are some quotes that relate to the next several posts I'll be doing.

"Our sacred literature does not use obscure language, but describes most things in words clearly indicating their meaning. Therefore it is necessary at all times to delve into the literal meaning of words to achieve complete understanding of what is actually meant."
--Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888)

"Reading the Bible in translation is like kissing your new bride through a veil."
--Haim Nachman Bialik (Jewish Poet, 1873-1934)

"Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about."
--Benjamin Lee Whorf (Hebrew Linguist, 1897-1941)

"The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed."
--Thomas Paine (Author, 1737-1809)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Real "First Temple"

The following is a synopsis of some similarities between the Garden of Eden and the Creation, as well as the Tabernacle Temple in the wilderness.

The Garden of Eden was the time, place and space created by God in which man was to encounter Him, and walk with Him and with each other, in unity, on a daily basis.

The environment He created within the Garden of Eden was specifically designed so as to promote and enhance that encounter. In essence, the Garden of Eden was, in fact, the "First Temple."

Genesis 2:15
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress (Strong's H5647) it and to keep (Strong's H8104) it.

In the Garden, man's responsibilities were to dress the garden - abad, and keep the garden - shemar.

The activities of the Priests and Levites in the Temple are also referred to as abad and shemar (Numbers 8:26, Joshua 22:27, Isaiah 19:21, etc...).

In the Garden, the voice of God was halak (Strong's # 1980) "moving about" (Genesis 3:8).

The same word halak is also used to describe God's presence in the Temple (Leviticus 26:11-12).

On the larger scale, the completion of the Tabernacle prepared by Moses also has a striking resemblance to the description of the completion of the universe:

Genesis 1:31 -- And God saw all that he had made and behold it was very good.
Exodus 39:43 -- Moses saw all the skilled work and behold they had done it; as God had commanded it they had done it.

Genesis 2:1 -- The heavens and earth and all of their array were completed.
Exodus 39:32 -- All the work of the Tabernacle of the Tent meeting was completed.

Genesis 2:2 -- And God completed all the work that He had done.
Exodus 40:33 -- And Moses completed his work.

Genesis 2:3 -- And God blessed
Exodus 39:43 -- And Moses blessed

Genesis 2:3 -- And sanctified it
Exodus 40:9 -- And you shall sanctify it and all its vessels.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Stringing Pearls part 3

"What was God saying by making use of these quotations? To answer this question, You need to know two things: the context from which each passage is drawn and thew way in which the people of that time understood the passage. Both Psalm 2 and Isaiah 2 were understood as powerful messianic prophecies.

In Psalm 2, God makes a royal proclamation announcing his Son, the king of kings who would rule over the whole earth.

But in Isaiah 42, God speaks about his 'servant' (also understood to be the Messiah). Paradoxically, God's Messiah is both a king and a servant. This passage from Isaiah also proclaims that God's Spirit is upon his servant. How fitting since the Father utters these words as the Spirit descends on Jesus in the Jordan River.

The reference "whom I love" is likely drawn from Genesis 22, one of the most poignant scenes in the Old Testament. Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac out of obedience to God. Genesis heightens the drama by emphasizing how precious Isaac is to Abraham, foreshadowing the Father's own feelings for his only Son.

When Jesus is baptized in the Jordan, the Father is saying, " Here is my precious son, my Isaac," hinting at the sacrifice he will soon ask of Jesus.

In just three brief quotes from the scriptures, God speaks of Jesus as a king, a servant, and his Son, who will become a sacrifice. When God speaks, he packs a lot into his words! And be sure to notice where these three passages come from: the Torah (Genesis 22), the Prophets (Isaiah 42), and the Psalms (Psalm 2)*. ...God links together words from the three parts of Scripture. By quoting all three, he is proclaiming that the entire scriptures point to Jesus as their fulfillment."

[ *Donna Note: The Jews divide the Old Testament into three parts Torah= The first 5 books of Moses known as The Law (these hold the most weight); the Prophets (in Hebrew, the Neviim) and the Writings (In Hebrew, the Ketuva). These form the acronym for the entire Old Testament The TaNaK (pronounced as tuh-knock).

Matt. 22:40 and many other places have an example of this: "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Whenever Jesus says, "Is it not written?" he is always referring to scriptures. Sometimes when he says, "Ye have heard" as in Matthew 5:43, he is referring to teachings of others such as the Essenes.]

Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stringing Pearls part 2

"Believe it or not, God himself seems to enjoy "stringing pearls." Do you remember the scene in which Jesus is baptized by his cousin John? Listen how the father spoke from Heaven at Jesus' baptism (Mark1:11) :"You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

At face value, this seems like a simple, though wonderful, affirmation. But it's so much more than that. Did you catch all the references? If not, here they are:

"You are my Son" is from Psalm 2:7: "He said to me, You are my Son; today I have become your Father."

"whom I love" is from Genesis 22:2: "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

"with you I am well pleased" is from Isaiah 42:1: "Here is my servant , whom I uphold; my chosen one in whom I delight;I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations."


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stringing Pearls Part 1

"It is difficult to overestimate the love that the rabbis had for their Bible. On a good day, they would link text after text after text.... This was called "stringing pearls"--bringing together passages from different places in scripture. in order to explore their great truths. [Donna note: In our day, this process is known as using rhetorical links.]

This is how Jesus taught as well. Listen to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. These passages are thick with references to Isaiah and the Psalms.

Blessed are the poor in spirit...
Blessed are those who mourn...
Blessed are the meek...

Each of these passages would have reminded the crowd of passages in the Bible in which God had promised to rescue his faithful followers. Jesus was pulling together various scriptures to make one major point: that God is faithful. He cares for us and will bless us if we seek him even when life is painful."


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The "Four Types" Parables

[I really appreciate it when someone tells me about a great book in an subject area I'm interested in. I've thought about an author that many of you would certainly enjoy and this week, I'm going to share some excerpts from one of her books. The author is Lois Tverberg and she co-authored Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Enjoy!]

"Consider the following rabbinic parable:

There are four types among those who sit in the presence of the rabbis: the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sieve. "The sponge," which soaks up everything. "The funnel," which takes in at this end and lets out at the other. "The strainer," which lets out the wine and retains the dregs. "The sieve," which removes the chaff and retains the fine flour.

This is what's called a "four types" parable, where four kinds of people are compared in their way of living. It reminds us of Jesus' parable in Luke 8:4-11 about the seed that fell in four places: the rock, the path, the thorns, and the good soil. Each parable focuses on how various people respond to God's word.

In the above parable, the rabbi is saying, contrary to our preconceptions, that the best disciple is not "the sponge" who retains absolutely everything, but "the sieve" who sifts through the teaching to retain what is best. What great advice for Christians!

It reminds us that we are not called to be parrots, unquestioningly repeating whatever we learn from a favorite teacher. Instead we are to exercise wisdom and discernment, continually asking questions, weighing answers, seeking understanding, and grounding our beliefs within the context of God's word...."

Page 31

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Surprising Poor

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. Rev. 3:17-18

The Christians at Laodicea had developed some false hopes and shaky reliances. They felt that they were so rich and secure that they wanted for nothing.

That would be an easy mistake for them. They had a gold refinery there, and were proud of the quality of their gold. They also made woolen cloth that was pretty high quality—it bleached almost white. And they made an ointment for the eyes there, and exported it to other towns. The local economy flourished.

But Jesus warns them that they are poor—a surprising thing to say in a city that refined gold. And they are blind—with all that eye ointment. And they who made cloth were naked.

Instead of trusting in their human resources, those ancient Saints were taught that their spiritual wholeness depended on following the Savior’s counsel to submit to the refiner’s fire that they might have the true riches of eternal life, receive sacred ordinances, and gain their spiritual sight.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"I wish that you were cold or hot"

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth"
Rev. 3:15-16

It is thought that the Laodiceans were being criticized for their neutrality or lack of zeal (hence "lukewarm"). Based on this understanding, the pejorative term Laodicean is used in the English language to refer to those neutral or indifferent in matters of faith.

However, some scholars have suggested that this metaphor has been drawn from the water supply of the city, which was lukewarm, in contrast to the hot springs at nearby Hierapolis and the pure water of Colossae (Barclay). The archaeology shows Laodicea had an aqueduct that probably carried water from hot mineral springs some five miles south, which would have become tepid before entering the city

The imagery of the Laodicean aqueduct suggests not that "hot" is good and "cold" is bad, but that both hot and cold water are useful, whereas lukewarm water is useless.

Barclay, William, Letters to the Seven Churches, Edinburgh, 1957 (reprinted 2001).

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Judgement Adapted to Their Prejudices

The Plague Of Lice.— Exodus 8:16.

"The Egyptians were of meticulously clean habits, and this infliction must have been to them an extreme annoyance. They were careful to keep all infested with lice out of their temples. Their priests were clad in linen garments, and every precaution was adopted to keep themselves free from such vermin.

Bryant says, " The Egyptians affected great external purity; and were very nice both in their persons and clothing-bathing and making ablutions continually. Uncommon care was taken not to harbor any vermin. They were particularly solicitous of the head, thinking it would be a great profanation of the temple which they entered, if any animalculse of this sort were concealed in their person or garments."

The priests, says Herodotus, are shaved, both as to their heads and bodies, every third day, to prevent any louse or any other detestable creature being found upon them when they are performing their duty to the gods.

The same is mentioned by another author, who adds, that "all wool was considered as foul, and from a perishable animal; but flax is the product of the immortal earth, affords a delicate and pure covering, and is not liable to harbor insects."

We may hence see what an abhorrence the Egyptians showed towards this sort of vermin, and what care was taken by the priests to guard against them. The judgments, therefore, inflicted by the hands of Moses were adapted to their prejudices. It was, consequently, not only most distressing to the people in general, but was no small odium to the most sacred order in Egypt , that they were overrun with these filthy and detestable vermin."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Forty Stripes Save One

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 2 Cor. 11: 24.

To explain this singular custom of inflicting " forty stripes save one " a few words from Moses may be quoted.

" And it shall be, if the wicked man (brought to the judges for trial) be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed; lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother shall seem vile unto thee. " Deut. 25:2, 3.

On this subject, as on most others, the Jews refined, and affected great concern. And lest they should accidentally inflict more than forty stripes, they resolved to stop short at thirty-nine.

And to insure exactitude both ways they invented a scourge of thirteen thongs, and with this instrument the culprit was struck three times. By this ingenious method the law's demands were met, and the prisoner was secured against excessive punishment. This explains the nature and details of Paul's punishment.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Baldness Between The Eyes.

Ye [are] the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. Deut.14:1

In our day when men are quick to have their unibrows waxed, this ancient perception of attractiveness might not be easily understood without some background.

Ancient Orientals admired eyebrows that met over the nose, presenting the appearance of a bow; and where nature denied them this ornament, they imitated it by artificial paint. This was removed in case of mourning, and the hair growing there naturally was plucked, in order to disfigure the face.

This is sometimes done now, and it appears that it was also done in ancient times; for Moses forbade the Hebrews to "make any baldness between their eyes for the dead."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Refinement from Tribulation

And not only [so], but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; Romans 5:3

Our word " tribulation " is derived from the Latin tribulum— a wheat drag/sled, consisting of a heavy piece of wood, armed underneath with pieces of iron or sharp flints, which is drawn over the grain by a yoke of oxen,—either the driver or a heavy weight being placed upon it,—for the purpose of separating the grain from the husk and cutting the straw.

As the tribulum was also used for separating beans from the pods enclosing them, it had to be adapted in its construction and weight to the kind of pods over which it was passed; so that, in any case, it might break the husks without crushing the seeds.

Thus a divinely appointed tribulation, God's tribulum, is intended to separate the evil without injury to the good. Wherefore "we glory in tribulation also." It builds our character.

Monday, May 16, 2011

God Accepteth No Man's Person.

But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:).... Galations 2:6

The idea here desired to be conveyed is evidently that God takes no account of the mere appearance, or outside, of a man; He looks through these to the heart, and judges what the man really is in principles and disposition.

The force of the contrast, however, is more vividly brought out by observing the origin of the word person. It comes from the Latin word persona, a face or mask; and is evidently made from per-sono, to sound through ; conveying the idea of the sound of the voice coming through the open space left for the mouth in the masks of the actors in the ancient plays ; and suggests at once the word, impersonate, i.e.. to take a character not our own.

Thus we get the idea conveyed in the passage above, that God looks behind the mask which we may assume, and at what is underneath, knowing and judging our real characters while others judge only by our outside appearance.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Death of Herod Agrippa

I think it is interesting to read historical accounts that affirm the New Testament. It gives us, in Paul Harvey's words, "The rest of the story." Josephus helps to flesh out the account given in Acts 12: 19-23 which is given after the Josephus account below.

From Josephus:

Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the city Caesarea [...] There he exhibited shows in honor of the emperor [...] On the second day of the festival, Herod put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a truly wonderful texture, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment was illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it. It shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him. At that moment, his flatterers cried out [...] that he was a god; and they added, 'Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.'

Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery. But as he presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and he fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner.

He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, 'I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death. But I am bound to accept of what Providence allots, as it pleases God; for we have by no means lived ill, but in a splendid and happy manner.'

After he said this, his pain was become violent. Accordingly he was carried into the palace, and the rumor went abroad that he would certainly die in a little time. But the multitude presently sat in sackcloth, with their wives and children, after the law of their country, and besought God for the king's recovery. All places were also full of mourning and lamentation. Now the king rested in a high chamber, and as he saw them below lying prostrate on the ground, he could not himself forbear weeping. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and in the seventh year of his reign.

[Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 19.343-350]

Here is the same story in the Bible:

Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply.

On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. Acts 12:19-23 NIV

Thursday, May 12, 2011

An Early Tradition Connected With James' Death

And he (Herod) killed James the brother of John with the sword. Acts 12:2

Clement of Alexandria narrates that the man who accused James before the judges became so affected by the martyr's constancy, that he too immediately embraced Christianity; and, along with James, was condemned to be beheaded.

As they went to execution, the new convert asked forgiveness of the Apostle, who deliberated a little with himself as to whether he should treat him as a brother or not; but, after a short pause, he embraced him, and said, "Peace be with you;" after which their heads were struck off.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Highway For the Lord

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
Isaiah 40:3-4

This passage, of which the force may not at once strike the reader, is well illustrated by a description which Diodorus Siculus gives of a march of Semiramis, Queen of Persia.

" marching towards Ecbatana she came to a mountain called Zarkeum. which, extending many furlongs, and being full of craggy precipices and deep hollows, could not be passed without taking a long and circuitous route. Being desirous, therefore, of leaving an immortal monument of herself, as well as to make a shorter way, she ordered the precipices to be cut down, and the hollow places to be filled up with earth; and, at a great expense, she made a plain open road, which to this day is called the road of Semiramis.

Afterwards she made a progress through Persia and all her other dominions in Asia, and wherever she came she ordered the mountains and craggy rocks to be cut down, and at a vast expense made the ways level and plain. On the other hand, in low places she raised mounds."

Something similar to this may possibly have been known to the prophet, and from it his imagery appears to be borrowed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 12

13. The father’s response. For a fourth time, the father goes beyond what a traditional patriarch would do. For the second time in the same day, he is willing to offer a costly demonstration of unexpected love. Only this time it is to a lawkeeper rather than a lawbreaker. Amazing grace holds true for both sons.

Culturally, the father is expected to proceed with the banquet and ignore the public insult. He can deal with the older son later. But no! In painful public humiliation, the father goes down and out to find yet one more lost sheep/coin/son.

14. The older son’s response. The younger son “accepted” to be found. He was overwhelmed by the costly love freely offered to him. The older son, in contrast, seems unimpressed. Instead, he mercilessly attacks both his father and his brother in public. The father is expected finally to explode and order a thrashing for the public insults. For a fifth time, patriarchy is transcended.

This is not a remarkable father. Rather it is a symbol for God. As Henri Nouwen has written regarding this parable, “This is the portrayal of God, whose goodness, love, forgiveness, care, joy and compassion have no limits at all. Jesus presents God’s generosity by using all the imagery that his culture provides, while constantly transforming it” (The Return of the Prodigal). If the older son accepts the love now offered to him, he will be obliged to treat the Prodigal with the same loving acceptance with which the father welcomed the pig herder. The older son will need to be “conformed to the image” of that compassionate father who comes to both kinds of sinners in the form of a suffering servant, offering undeserved, costly love. Is he willing? We are not told. By this point the audience is on the stage and must decide for itself.

[I hope this was as insightful for you as it was for me.]

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 11

12. The older son’s anger. If the banquet were a straightforward celebration of the Prodigal’s safe return, the older son would enter the hall immediately. It would mean that the Prodigal’s position in the family has not yet been determined. The older son would be very anxious that his point of view be represented when the family discusses the matter. Of course, they are all (publicly) glad the Prodigal is home and in good health. It would be churlish not to rejoice at his safe arrival. But the young boy tells the older brother that it’s all over! Their father has already reconciled the Prodigal son–and has done so without the Prodigal paying for his sins! This is why the older son is angry. He is so angry he takes the radical step of breaking his relationship with his father.

For a son to be present and to refuse participation in such a banquet is an unspeakable public insult to the father. A cultural equivalent might be the case of a son in the West who has a heated public shouting match with his father in the middle of a wedding banquet after a large family wedding. A shouting match is not unthinkable–but not in public at such a banquet. The older son’s rejection of his father’s reconciliation with the Prodigal leads that same older son to break his relationship with the father who achieved it.


Friday, May 6, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 10

We have yet the older son’s interpretation to consider, which he offers after
the father tries to reconcile this son to himself. He says, “You killed the
fatted calf for him!” This claim is the exact opposite of what the little boy has
just told the older son. It is also the opposite of the father’s own declared
purpose for the banquet. Noting that the older son contradicts the two previous
interpretations of the banquet, the listener must choose between them. Is the
banquet in honor of the Prodigal or in honor of the father? Is it a celebration
of the Prodigal’s successful efforts at reaching home (on his own), or is it
rather a celebration of the success of the father’s costly efforts at creating
shalom? Will the guests congratulate the Prodigal or the father?

It is my 40-year perception that generally modern readers of the parable do
not even discern these contrasts or observe that there is a choice to be made.
The banquet foreshadows [the Sacrament]. Surely we know that Jesus is the hero of
that sacred banquet and that sinners are not the center of attention.

The older brother’s self-righteousness becomes a pair of colored glasses through which he
sees the world. All he can understand is that the Prodigal lost the money and
that he has been reconciled to their father without having first returned the
money. In short, grace has been offered and accepted rather than the requirements
of law demanded and fulfilled by the sinner. The older son’s interpretation
represents the view of many, then and now.

But the father’s view of the banquet (supported by the young boy’s speech) is the mind of Jesus. For many, grace is not only amazing–it is also unbelievable! How could it be true? After all, you
get what you pay for, don’t you?


Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 9

11. The meaning of the banquet. The banquet in the parable has three interpretations. The first is offered by the father, the second by a little boy in the courtyard of the home, and the third by the older son. The first two are in harmony with each other. The third is in sharp contrast to the first two. Contemporary readers usually only recall the third. All three interpretations must be examined.

Once reconciliation is assured, the father orders a banquet. He says, “Let us eat and celebrate; for [now comes his reason] this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” The father does not say, “He was lost and has come home.” Instead, we read, “He was lost and is found.” So who found him? The father did! Where did he find him? At the edge of the village! Thus, in the father’s perceptions, the Prodigal was still lost and dead at the edge of the village.

Even as the shepherd was obliged to go forth and pay a high price to find his sheep, and the good woman sought diligently to find her coin, even so the father went down and out in a costly demonstration of unexpected love to find and resurrect his son. The banquet is a celebration of the success of that finding and that resurrection.

Now for the little boy’s interpretation. The older son comes in from the field and on hearing the music calls to a pais. This Greek word can mean three things. The first is “son,” which does not fit this text. The second is “servant,” which also does not fit, because all the servants are busy in the house serving the huge banquet. The third option is “young boy.” Middle Eastern Syriac and Arabic versions have always chosen this third alternative.

As the older son approaches his family home in the center of the village, he naturally meets a crowd of young boys who are not old enough to recline with the elders at the banquet, but are outside the house dancing in tune to the music and enjoying the occasion in their own boisterous manner. The young lad assumes the role of the chorus in a Greek drama. (We now know that there was a large Greek theater in Sepphoris, four miles from Nazareth.)

The little boy tells the listener/reader the truth about what is happening in the story. The older son asks him what the party is all about and the lad says (as I would translate it), “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because (now comes the second interpretation) he (the father) received him (the Prodigal) with peace!” The word I translate here as “peace” is the Greek word hugaino. This means “in good health,” and from it we have the English word hygiene. But in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint), this same Greek word appears 14 times, and without exception it translates the Hebrew word shalom or peace.

When a first-century Jew used the word hugaino, he or she mentally translated the Hebrew word shalom, which includes “good health” but means so very much more. I am confident that Jesus used the word shalom in the story.

The point is that the banquet is in celebration of the father’s successful efforts at creating reconciliation–shalom–and the community has come to participate in that celebration. Rather than a qetsatsah ceremony of rejection, they are participating in the joy of a restoration achieved by the father at great cost. Thus the young boy confirms the father’s interpretation. For both, the banquet is a celebration of the success of the father’s efforts at reconciling his son.

The language of the young boy, “He received him. . . .” (and plans to eat with him), reminds the listener of the Pharisees’ complaint, “This fellow [Jesus] welcomes sinners and eats with them.” The young boy’s speech confirms that the father has clearly evolved into a symbol for Jesus. Jesus receives sinners and eats with them. In this parable, the father does the same.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 8

10. Christology. As the father comes down and out to reconcile his son, he becomes a symbol of God in Christ. “Father,” a symbol for God, ever so quietly evolves into a symbol for Jesus. The same shift occurs in the story of the Good Shepherd. At three points in the Old Testament, God is a good shepherd who goes after his lost sheep (Ps. 23:3; Jer. 23:1-8; Ezek. 34). Jesus retells that classical story and introduces himself into it as its hero.

The Pharisees complain, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus replies with this story, which in effect says, “Indeed, I do eat with sinners. But it is much worse than you imagine! I not only eat with them, I run down the road, shower them with kisses, and drag them in that I might eat with them!” Jesus is clearly talking about himself. By the end of the story, the father does what Jesus does. A famous eleventh-century Syriac scholar in Baghdad, Abdallah Ibn al-Tayyib, identified the father in his self-giving love on the road as a symbol for Jesus.

The great New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias made the same identification this century. I call this “hermeneutical Christology.” That is, Jesus takes a known symbol for God and quietly transforms it into a symbol for himself.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 7

9. The father acts like a mother. In the parable, a traditional oriental patriarch would be expected to sit in grand isolation in the house to hear what the wayward boy might have to say for himself. The mother could run down the road and shower the boy with kisses. A 1,000-year-old, finely tuned sacred tradition is available to Jesus. The prophets called God “Father” and partially described that father in female terms. This language affirmed the personhood and the unity of God for all believers, male and female.

In the Old Testament, God is already presented as a father who also acts with the tender compassion of a mother (Deut. 32:18; Ps. 131; Isa. 42:14, 66:13). The Dead Sea Scrolls describe God with the same imagery. More than 200 times Jesus calls God “Father,” and in John’s gospel, we find that the believer must be “born from above.” In 1 John, the believer is “born of God.” That is, God “gives birth” in the New Testament even as he does in the Old (Deut. 32:18). In this parable, too, the father appears on the road, demonstrating the tender compassion of a mother.


Monday, May 2, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 6

8. The point of turning. The Prodigal steels his nerves for his humiliating entrance into the village. He remembers the qetsatsah ceremony and braces himself to endure its shame. The painful interview with his father will not be any easier. His one hope is that his “humble speech” will touch his father’s heart and that he will win his father’s backing for the training he needs to become a wage earner. The Prodigal is expected to return with generous gifts for the family. Not only does the Prodigal return home empty-handed, he returns in failure after insulting his family and the village at departure. This painful road back is endured for one reason: he is hungry. The bottom line is, “I am dying of hunger!”

But what of his father? The father knows his son will fail. He waits day after day, staring down the crowded village street to the road in the distance along which his son disappeared with arrogance and high hopes. The father realizes full well how his son will be welcomed in the village when he returns in failure. Thus, the father also prepares a plan: to reach the boy before the boy reaches the village. The father knows that if he is able to achieve reconciliation with his son in public, no one in the village will treat the Prodigal badly. No one will dare suggest that the qetsatsah ceremony must be enacted.

The father sees him “while he was still far off.” The “great distance” is more spiritual than it is physical. If the Prodigal thinks he can earn money and with it solve the problem of their relationship, he is yet very far away! The language is borrowed from Isaiah 57:19, where God affirms peace to those who are “far off” and peace to those who are “near.” This is precisely what the father sets out to do. Through a great, dramatic action, he will offer peace to the one who is far off and then concentrate on creating peace with the one who is near (the older brother).

And so, for the third time, the father breaks the mold of Middle Eastern patriarchy. He takes the bottom edge of his long robes in his hand and runs to welcome his pig-herding son. He falls on his neck and kisses him before hearing his prepared speech! The father does not demonstrate love in response to his son’s confession. Rather, out of his own compassion he empties himself, assumes the form of a servant, and runs to reconcile his estranged son.

Traditional Middle Easterners, wearing long robes, do not run in public. To do so is deeply humiliating. This father runs. The boy is totally surprised. Overwhelmed, he can only offer the first part of his prepared speech, which now takes on a new meaning. He declares that he has sinned and that he is unworthy to be called a son. He admits (by omitting the third phrase) that he has no bright ideas for mending their relationship. He is no longer “working” his father for additional advantages. The father does not “interrupt” his younger son. Instead, the Prodigal changes his mind, and in a moment of genuine repentance, accepts to be found.