Monday, January 31, 2011

Bread and Miracles

"For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread." Yeshua said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." John 6:33-35

Inside the Tabernacle stood the Table of the lechem haPanim--the Bread of the Presence -also called shewbread. On the table the priesthood placed 12 loaves continually before the LORD. The priests exchanged the bread with fresh loaves every Sabbath. When the priests placed the fresh bread on the table, they removed and ate the old bread. It was their Sabbath bread.

The 12 loaves symbolize the 12 tribes. Leviticus 25 tells us that the bread was baked fresh and then placed before the LORD each Sabbath. The ritual of fresh challah (a slightly sweet egg bread) on our Sabbath tables reminds us of this aspect of the Tabernacle service.

Through this process, the bread was offered before the LORD and then to the priests. In this sense, it constituted a shared meal between the priests (representing all Israel) and the LORD.

Several miracles are associated with the bread of the presence. There is a tradition that the bread stayed fresh and warm all week long. The priests used to lift up the table of the bread of the presence and display it to those who came up for the pilgrimage festivals, saying to them, "Behold, God's love for you!" How did the bread show them "God's love for you"? Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi had taught, "A great miracle was wrought in regard to the bread of the presence, for at its removal it was as fresh and warm as when it was set upon the table [a week before], as it is written, 'Hot bread when it was taken away.'" (b.Menachot 29A quoting 1 Samuel 21:6)

The Second Temple era priesthood was so large the 12 loaves was not sufficient to feed them all. As a result, each priest received only a morsel. When God's favor was on the nation, a miracle happened and each priest was fully satiated though he had eaten scarcely more than a crumb. In addition, when the priests had eaten and been satisfied, they found that there were yet leftovers. Every priest who received a piece of the bread the size of an olive would eat it and be satisfied, and some would eat it and have leftovers. (Yoma 38a)

The miracle of Yeshua feeding the multitudes with the five loaves and all of them being fed and satisfied is a strong allusion to this tradition. A further correlation to the bread of the presence can be seen by combining the two feeding miracles. In the Matthew 14 incident He breaks five loaves. In the Matthew 15 incident He breaks seven loaves. Five loaves plus seven loaves makes 12 loaves. They all ate, they were satisfied, and they gathered leftovers. 2009

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Stolen Teraphim

And Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the two maidservants' tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent. Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not. And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images. Genesis 31:33-35

Rachel has stolen her father’s household idols (teraphim), thus removing the symbols of Laban’s authority. Laban’s pursuit of Jacob seems to be motivated primarily by the loss of the household gods. Jacob, innocent of the theft, pledges that the culprit will die and Laban searches the tents of all the women.

Rachel, however, has hidden the idols in a camel cushion and is sitting on them. She apologized for not standing when her father enters; her excuse is her menstrual period. So Laban does not find the gods and makes peace with the departing Jacob.

Rachel’s reasons for stealing the household idols are never stated. Is it her way of getting even with the father who so long ago denied her the wedding night? Is it her claim to Laban’s property? [Donna note: More recently, texts from Nuzi appear to indicate that these "gods" had more than religious significance–the holder of these items was to be recognized as the chief heir of family property. Perhaps Rachel, who (along with her sister Leah) felt that she had been defrauded by her father (vv. 14-16), was seeking by this rather drastic means to redress this wrong. One could also see why her father would be anxious to recover this stolen property.]

In any case, she proves herself as adept at deceiving her male relatives as her aunt Rebekah. Her claim of menstrual discomfort, whether true or not, subtly declares the uncleanness of the idols. Anything on which a menstruating woman sits is made unclean and anyone who touches anything on which she sits is also made unclean (Lev. 15:19-24). Idols are unclean by definition. Rachel’s action underlines that fact.

(Nowell, Irene., Women in the Old Testament, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1991, pg 36)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

And God Remembered Rachel

And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: Genesis 30:22-23

God's remembering always refers to a specific act that a person performed. In this case what act of Rachel did Hashem remember?

Rashi writes that He remembered that she gave over the signs to Leah. We must realize what an incredibly selfless act this was. By giving over the signs Rachel was forfeiting her chance to marry Jacob and thereby claim her place in eternity as the matriarch of B'nai Yisroel {the Children of Israel}.

She had no way of knowing that Yaakov was going to marry her afterwards. Nevertheless, she was willing to sacrifice all of that on the altar of her sister's honor. She empathized with Leah and stayed silent the night of the wedding.

What were the long-term repercussions of this sacrifice?

Rachel was sterile-unable to have any children. "Hashem remembered Rachel… and opened her womb!" He remembered her empathy for Leah and created fertility where no possibility for childbirth had existed before! It was her willingness to forfeit becoming a matriarch that enabled her to become a matriarch.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around

And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favored. And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. Genesis 29:16-18

Rabbi Paula Goldberg wrote the following excerpt:

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older one was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes; Rachel was shapely and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he answered, "I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter, Rachel."

Laban said, "Better that I give her to you than that I should give her to an outsider. Stay with me." So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife, for my time is fulfilled, that I may consort with her."

And Laban gathered all the people of the place and made a feast. When evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to him; and he cohabited with her. (Laban had also given his maidservant Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maid). When morning came, there was Leah!

So he said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I was in your service for Rachel! Why did you deceive me?" Laban said, "It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the older" (Genesis 29:16-26).

Leah was destined to marry Esau and Rachel to marry Jacob. Leah sat at the crossroads asking about Esau, and they told her, "Oh, he's a wicked man." Hearing this, she cried bitterly, "My sister Rachel and I were born of the same womb, yet Rachel is to marry the righteous man, and I, the wicked Esau." She wept and fasted until her sight became weak (Tanchuma Vayeitzei 4).

Jacob said to Laban, "Knowing that the people of your town are deceivers, I make my demands absolutely clear." Thus he said, "I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter, Rachel" [Genesis 29:18]--not Leah. "Your daughter"--you mustn't bring some other woman from the marketplace named Rachel. "The younger"--you mustn't exchange their names (Genesis Rabbah 70:17).

Jacob said to Rachel, "Will you marry me?" She answered, "Yes, but Father is a trickster, and you will not prevail against him." He asked, "What is his trickery?" She said, "I have a sister who is older than I; he will not let me marry before she does."

He said, "I am his brother in trickery."

She said to him, "May the righteous indulge in trickery?" "Yes," he replied. "'With the pure, You act in purity, and with the crooked, You are wily'" (II Samuel 22:27). Thereupon he gave her certain identification marks [note: other versions use the word tokens.].

When Leah was led [into the bridal chamber], she [Rachel] thought, "My sister will now be disgraced;" so she gave the marks/tokens to Leah. That explains what is written: "When morning came, there was Leah!" which seems to imply that until then, she was not Leah! Rather, because of the signs that Jacob gave to Rachel, who gave them to Leah, he didn't know who she was until then (Talmud, Bava Batra 123a).

Jacob said to Leah: "You are a deceiver and the daughter of a deceiver!"

"Is there a teacher without pupils?" she retorted. "Didn't your father call you Esau, and you answered him! So did you call me Rachel, and I answered you!" (Genesis Rabbah 70:19).


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sharing the Signs

And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep: for she kept them. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son: and she ran and told her father. Genesis 29:9-12

After describing the initial meeting of Yaakov and Rachel (Bereshit 29:9-12) [Note: In Hebrew, Genesis is pronounced Bera-sheet], which may be the unique case in the Bible of “love at first sight,” the Torah introduces us to both sisters (Bereshit 29:16-17).

And Lavan had two daughters; the name of the older one was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in face and form.”

Having stated this brief physical description, the Torah leaves it to the young women to reveal their characters by their actions. But the Midrash is not willing to let the Torah’s description be misunderstood.

“Leah was as beautiful as Rachel.” (Midrash Tanchuma 2; VaYetze 12) The Tanchuma continues, “At the same time as Rivkah gave birth to Yaakov and Esav, there were born to Laban two daughters (also twins [probably identical] ), Leah and Rachel.

They exchanged letters and agreed that Esav would marry Leah and Yaakov would marry Rachel. Leah wept continually about this wedding arrangement that linked her with Esav HaRasha,” Esav the wicked, until ‘her eyes became weak(Bereshit 29:17).” (M.T. 2; Vayetze 12)

Yaakov contracted with Lavan that he would work for him for seven years, in exchange for the hand of Rachel in marriage. For fear of deceit on the part of Lavan, Yaakov gave Rachel signs so that he could distinguish her from Leah.

But on that fateful night, as we learn in the Talmud (Bava Batra 123a), Rachel thought, “I know my father will give Leah in marriage instead of me. Now my sister will be humiliated.” So she told Leah the signs.

Because of her exceptional “tzniut,” (modesty and humility) the Talmud in Megilah 13b tells us that Rachel had the merit that Shaul, the first king of Israel, who according to I Samuel 10:22, was “hidden among the vessels,” when Shmuel came to anoint him as king, descended from her.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Rachel and Leah

For the next several posts, I am going to focus mainly on Rachel and Leah. I love going into more depth regarding the people and events mentioned in the Bible and I think it will an interesting series.

"Rachel and Leah were twin sisters, fourteen years old when Jacob came to their father's house; consequently they were twenty-one years old at the time of their marriage to Jacob (Seder 'Olam Rabbah ii.).

The terms "elder" and "younger," applied respectively to Leah and Rachel (Gen. xxix. 16), are explained by the Rabbis as referring to the divine gifts bestowed upon their descendants; for while royalty and the priesthood remained permanently with Leah's descendants, they were held only temporarily by Rachel's—royalty with Joseph and Saul, and the priesthood with the tabernacle of Shiloh (Gen. R. lxx. 15).

In other respects the two sisters were alike, both being ancestresses of kings, heroes, prophets, judges, and conquerors."

(Jewish Encyclopedia pg.305)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Reading In Context Part 2

It is fascinating to see the parallels between this passage and Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan that we will soon read in Luke. The parable begins,

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own donkey, and brought him to an inn and took care of him... (Luke 10:30 - 34)

There are many nuances from Jesus' culture that give light on this parable that won't be discussed here. But one thing that may be significant is that the character of the Samaritan appears to be based on the story from 2 Chronicles. Several parallels give that impression.

Jesus mentions the town Jericho, one of the few times He ever mentions specific places in parables.

The victim is stripped naked, like some of the Judeans were, and the Samaritan anoints the man and puts him on a donkey and carries him to Jericho, like was done with the Judeans.

The Samaritans in Jesus' time were despised by the Jews, and they despised the Jews themselves. They were descendants from the Israelites of the north after the Assyrians had defeated Israel and repopulated the country with a mixture of Israelites and foreign peoples (2 Kings 17:24).

They had a version of the Torah and worshipped God with their own traditions, declaring Shechem as the place where God's true temple dwelt (John 4). Because they called themselves worshippers of the one true God, but used unacceptable forms of worship, they were especially despised by the Jews.

During Nehemiah's time, they even tried to interfere with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. They also had a history of attacking Jews who were traveling to the Temple for festivals. This makes the irony of the Samaritan as the one who helps the wounded man especially powerful.

Jesus was using this hatred between Jews and Samaritans in His time to make the answer to the question "Who is my neighbor?" especially clear. It is interesting to speculate about why Jesus makes the despised Samaritan act so much like the Samaritans in the 2 Chronicles passage.

Typically when a rabbi alluded to a passage of scripture, he expected his audience to see the larger context and bring it into the story he was telling. Jesus surprises His audience who expects a "good guy" to come to the rescue of the wounded man. Instead He brings in one of their worst enemies into his story!

But, more than that, He reminds them that at one time, these same men from Samaria did one of the most merciful things ever done in their history. They had recognized their sin against the Judeans, and realized that their enemies were not only their neighbors, but even their brothers!

Given that Jesus' audience would have been very familiar with history, with the 2 Chronicles passage and the Levitical laws, it is unlikely that they would have missed his message that "our neighbor" is anyone who we can help — even if that means our hated enemy; and furthermore Jesus' stretching "loving our neighbor as ourselves" into "loving our enemies.”


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reading In Context Part 1

Jesus had a rabbinic method of teaching that often alluded to the Hebrew scriptures. He would insert phrases and even single words from a story in His Bible, from which the audience could hear a greater meaning.

For instance, the saying "This house is to be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves" alludes to both Isaiah 56 and and Jeremiah 7. By knowing the prophecies in those passages, His audience would have heard a deeper message than from His words alone. Without a good knowledge of the Old Testament, we completely miss these.

His own audience was quite biblically literate, and easily would have recognized them. There is a passage in 2 Chronicles that may be the background for another of Jesus' allusions.

In 2 Chronicles 28, a scene takes place when the kingdom of Israel is divided into the northern 10 tribes of Israel and the southern 2 tribes of Judah. Ahaz, the king of Judah, led the nation into terrible idolatry, worshipping Baal and sacrificing children to idols. Because of this, the Lord let Judah be attacked and defeated by Israel.

This is the first time that Israel actually took prisoners of the tribes of Judah. They were on the verge of leading 200,000 of them away as their slaves, but a prophet reminds them that God let them defeat Judah as a punishment for idolatry, and they were guilty for worshipping idols too. He tells them that if they took their own brothers captive, it would compound their guilt before the Lord.

So some of the leaders of the tribes repent of their sin and set the Judeans free. It says,

Then the men who were designated by name arose, took the captives, and they clothed all their naked ones from the spoil; and they gave them clothes and sandals, fed them and gave them drink, anointed them with oil, led all their feeble ones on donkeys, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brothers; then they returned to Samaria. (2 Chron. 28:15)

We rarely read of a story of such compassion between nations at war, where one binds the wounds of the other and gently restores them to freedom. By anointing them with oil and putting them on donkeys, it even hints that they are treating them like royalty – because this was the way the coronation of a king was performed (see 1 Kings 1:38-39). This was a remarkable moment of grace between the tribes of Israel.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Unlikely Hero

Jesus, painted portraits of 3 different people: a priest, a levite, and a Samaritan.

The priest apparently feared the man was dead. To touch a dead man would make him unclean and ban him temporarily from temple worship. The priest’s priority was worship before charity.
Then there was the portrait of the levite. A levite was somewhat like a modern deacon. He assisted the priest (1 Chronicles 23:3-5). But the levite was under a different cleanliness code than priests; he could touch dead bodies.

Possibly, the levite’s concern was different. Outlaws frequently used set-ups in their trade. One member played the victim, while others waited for some passerby to take the bait. If the levite had some such concern in mind, he apparently opted for discretion. His priority was safety before charity.

Finally, there was the Samaritan. Making the Samaritan the hero of his parable would have certainly shocked Jesus’ hearers. Jews regarded Samaritans as heretics.

The rift between the two groups had it roots in Assyria’s conquest of northern Israel (Samaria) in 722 B.C.

Those northerners who survived the disaster intermarried with foreigners brought in by the Assyrian conquerors. This shocked Jerusalem Jews. The rift continued to widen with time.
In Jesus’ day, Samaritans were banned from the temple and from all synagogues. Their religious contributions were refused, and their testimony in courts was unacceptable. Samaritans were also hostile to Jews. They made common cause with Jewish enemies, often not letting Jews into their towns (Luke 9:52).

Jesus chose a Samaritan as his hero to teach the people that love has no boundaries. Neighborliness was not limited to neighborhoods. This is why Jesus reworded the lawyer’s question: “Which of the three was neighbor to the man?

Jesus shifted the discussion from “defining” a neighbor to “being” a neighbor. A neighbor was not the object of one’s love, but the one who loves.

Furthermore, a neighbor never considers love an obligation, but only a privilege. Morality in the kingdom of God cannot be guided by a law inscribed in stone, but only by a spirit alive in the heart. Jesus echoed what the prophets had taught: morality can’t be written on tablets of stone, only on tablets of flesh (Jeremiah 31:33).

(Link, Mark S.J., The Seventh Trumpet, Tabor Publishing, Allen, TX, pg 118)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Publicans and "Sinners"

If we are to gain a clear picture of the people to whom Jesus brought the good news, our starting point must be the fact that, when we look at the various designations of the followers of Jesus as they are given in the gospels, we come to know these people from a double perspective.

They are repeatedly called ‘publicans and sinners(Mark 2.16 par.; Matt. 11.19 par.; Luke 15.1), ‘publicans and prostitutes(Matt. 21.32), or simply ‘sinners (Mar, 2.17; Luke 7.37, 39; 15.2; 19.7).

The deep contempt expressed in such designations shows that these phrases were coined by Jesus’ opponents; Matt. 11.19 pr. Luke 7.34 confirms that explicitly.

In the world of Jesus, the term ‘sinner’ had a quite definite ring. It was not only a fairly general designation for those who notoriously failed to observe the commandments of God and at whom, therefore, everyone pointed a finger, but also a specific term for those engaged in despised trades.

We have lists in which proscribed trades are collected. These are in part trades which were generally thought to lead to immorality, but above all those which by experience led to dishonesty: the second category included gamblers with dice, usurers, tax collectors, publicans and herdsmen (these last were suspected of leading their herds on to other people’s land and pilfering the produce of the herd).

When the gospels talk of ‘sinners’, they are thinking of those occupied in despised trades as well as those whose way of life was disreputable. This is clear from their terminology, especially the composite phrase ‘robbers, deceivers, adulterers, publicans’ (Luke 18.11), which is paralleled by analogous collections in Rabbinic literature, e.g. ‘tax collectors, robbers, money changers and publicans’ (Derek eres 2); ‘murderers, robbers and publicans’ (Ned. 3.4); cf. ‘tax collectors and thieves’ (John 7.6). The publicans are the typical "sinners" in the gospels. They, in particular, were outlawed.

(Jeremias, Joachim. 1971. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons., pgs 109-111)

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Good Pharisees

Both the New Testament and the other Jewish literature describes various Pharisees who seem to have been sincere, honest, and godly. There were certainly those to whom Isaiah 29:13 applied, those who drew near to God with their lips, while their hearts were far from Him.

But there were also those, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who believed in Jesus and endeavored to follow Him (John 7:50, 19:39, and Mark 15:43).

In Acts 5 we find Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul, arguing for tolerance toward the Christians

On at least one occasion, some of the Pharisees warned Jesus of an attempt on His life, and others are seen showing hospitality to the Lord (Luke 13:31, 7:36, 11:37 and 14:1).

As ideally conceived, Pharisaism was a good thing. There can be no doubt that the Pharisees were the fundamentalists among the normative Judaism of the first century. Josephus wrote,

"The Pharisees are esteemed most skillful in the exact interpretation of their laws."

This may explain why, after the wars of A.D. 66-73 and A.D. 135, when other Jewish sects disappeared, the Pharisees continued, eventually formulating what is known today as Rabbinic Judaism.

(Moseley, Ron. Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Hagerstown, MD: Ebed Publications., pgs 110-111)

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Funny Translation

The NASB of Psalm 1:1 is a quite literal translation of the Hebrew text: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!”

The Message, by Eugene Peterson, tries to make that more modern:

“How well God must like you—you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart Mouth College.

Although The Message usually does a very good job in trying to bring the biblical language and culture into modern times, most people would never realize that living by the advice of the wicked and being one to “hang out at Sin Saloon” were the same thing. Although there must be some latitude allowed for in translations that are not literal (and they should explain their theory in the Introduction of their Bible), it still behooves the translator to communicate the meaning of the original.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some Problems With Translation Part 2

A literal translation may communicate the wrong meaning

There are times when the Hebrew or Greek, if translated literally, give the wrong meaning. Different languages express things differently, and sometimes a literal rendition does not communicate well. This is especially true with idioms.

The challenge facing translators is, should they translate the original literally, preserving the literal flavor of the original but often forcing the reader to learn from teachers and study aides, or should they translate the original in a way that the modern reader can understand it without much commentary. There is no easy answer to that question, and it is one of the reasons that there is no “best” translation of the Bible.

A less literal version, such as the NIV, is easier for beginners and youth, but lacks much cultural flavor and some of the grammatical “punch” of the original text, while more literal versions such as the KJV or NASB gives more of the cultural flavor, but can be much more difficult for the beginner, youth, or less educated reader. Below are some examples of when a strictly literal translation might cause problems for the English reader.

The evil eye. To us today, if a person has an “evil eye,” it usually means he is evil and hurtful, and wishes others harm, perhaps even wanting to curse them.

Biblically, however, it referred to someone being selfish, greedy, stingy, and resentful about what they had given to others. Proverbs 23:6 says not to eat the food of someone with an “evil eye(KJV), meaning not to eat the bread of a stingy, resentful person. Proverbs 28:22 portrays the person with the evil eye chasing after money.

Demons. It was common among the ancient Greeks that a concept, such as “fate” or “victory” was also believed to be a god or goddess, i.e., Fate or Victory. Thus, when the Greeks in Athens heard Paul preach, they thought that he was setting forth “Jesus” and “Resurrection” as a god and goddess (“resurrection” is a feminine noun in Greek). They said, “He [Paul] seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods(Acts 17:18 KJV).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Some Problems With Translation Part 1

The next few post come from a variety of study notes. There are some interesting things to consider.

Before we begin studying translation problems in the Bible, we must acknowledge that there is no way to bring the full meaning of one language into another. Words are not equivalent in different languages, natural word order differs from language to language, ways of saying things differ dramatically, and every language is full of idioms that cannot be translated word-for-word into another language.

For the purpose of this study, a “mistranslation” is a translation that misrepresents the original text, causing the reader to believe something other than what is being communicated in the original text, or one that significantly diminishes the impact of what is being said in the original.

Sometimes what is clear in Hebrew or Greek, if brought literally into English, actually gives the English reader the wrong impression. In those cases, a more literal translation actually may become a mistranslation. The purpose of translation is that someone reading the translated version would understand the meaning of the text to be the same as someone reading the text in the original language.

There are verses where the translators made a simple mistake.

Joshua, not Jesus. In Acts7:45, which is in the context of Stephen speaking about the history of Israel, the KJV says that “Jesus” was the one who brought the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) into the Promised Land. It was not “Jesus” who did that, but Joshua, Moses’ helper. The Greek name of both people is the same, but it is still the responsibility of the translators to correctly bring the Greek into English.

Vultures, not eagles. In Luke 17:37 (NASB), Jesus said, “Where the body is, there also will the vultures be gathered.” In Greek, the word aetos is primarily used of eagles, although the ancient Greeks sometimes used the word for vultures. The KJV and NKJV translate aetos as “eagles,” but eagles do not gather around dead bodies. “Vultures” is more likely to be the correct translation.

Lamps, not candles. Matthew 5:15 and a number of other verses in the KJV, Geneva Bible (1599), Webster Bible (1833), and other older versions of the English Bible, use the word “candle.” But the wax taper we know as a candle was not invented in biblical times. In biblical times, various types of oil lamps were used for light, and olive oil was usually the fuel. We see this in Matthew 25:3, where even the older versions read “lamp.” The common use of candles, as well as a certain amount of ignorance about the biblical culture, led the translators of the older versions to use “candle.”


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Messianic Prophecies Part 2

Darkness would fall over the land [this was fulfilled on TWO continents!] (Amos 8:9); His hands, feet (Psalm 22:16) and side (Zechariah 12:10) would be pierced, but none of His bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20); His own people would reject Him (Isaiah 53:3) and hate Him without cause (Psalm 69:4); His friends would witness His ordeal from afar (Psalm 38:11); and people would cast lots for his clothing (Psalm 22:18).

McDowell notes that the Old Testament was completed in about 450 B.C. The Septuagint (Greek translation) was begun during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.), which means the Hebrew version had to have been completed at least 250 years before Christ was born.

He also notes that while it's true that Jesus could have arranged to fulfill some of these prophecies, He could not have orchestrated the place, time and manner of His birth, that He would be betrayed, the manner of His death, people's reactions to His crucifixion, the piercings and the burial. The statistical odds that any man might have fulfilled all eight of those prophecies, let alone 61 (or 574) of them, are 1 in 10 to the 17th power, or 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Messianic Prophecies Part 1

Biblical scholar J. Barton Payne cited 574 Old Testament verses containing messianic prophecies, and countless others have listed and explained them. One excellent compilation is by Josh McDowell, who highlights some 60 of them as unmistakable predictions. Here is a sampling:

The Messiah would:

reconcile men to God at painful cost to Himself; come from the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15); be a Semite (Genesis 9:26); descend through Abraham (Genesis 22:18), Isaac (Genesis 21:12) and Jacob (Numbers 24:17) and be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10); be a prophet, like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), a priest (Psalm 110:4), the judge (Isaiah 33:22) and king (Psalm 2:6); descend from Jesse's line (Isaiah 11:1) and David's line and be eternal king (2 Samuel 7:13); be God the Father's Son (Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14); ransom men and restore their righteousness (Job 17:3); exist before time began and be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and young children would be killed (Jeremiah 31:15); be given gifts (Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 60:6); be called Lord (Psalm 110:1); be "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14); be anointed by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2, 42:1).

He would have zeal for His Father's house and reproach those who would violate it (Psalm 69:9); be announced in advance (Isaiah 40:3); begin his ministry in Galilee; heal the blind, deaf, dumb and lame (Isaiah 35:5,6); teach in parables (Psalm 78:2); enter the Temple (Malachi 3:1); enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9); be a stumbling block to the Jews (Psalm 118:22, 8:14); be a light to the gentiles (Isaiah 60:3); be resurrected (Psalm 16:10); ascend (Psalm 68:18) and sit at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1); be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:19) and sold for 30 pieces of silver, which he would throw into the Temple and which would be given for the potter's field (Zechariah 11:12-13); be struck, causing his disciples to scatter (Zechariah 13:7), which Christ affirmed and repeated (Matthew 26:31); be falsely accused (Psalm 35:11); stand silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7); be wounded and bruised for people's sins (Isaiah 53:5), smitten and spit upon (Isaiah 50:6) and mocked (Psalm 22:7); be crucified with thieves and plead for those killing him (Isaiah 53:12); be thirsty (Psalm 69:21); ask God why He had forsaken Him (Psalm 22:1); commit His spirit to God (Psalm 31:5); and be buried in a rich man's tomb (Isaiah 53:9).

Friday, January 7, 2011


In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 2 Cor. 4:4

How does Satan blind the mind of the unbeliever? What gives place to this veil? I believe the Lord has shown me a valuable clue. The word "blinded” in 2 Corinthians 4:4 (KJV) is tuphloo, which means "to dull the intellect; to make blind." The root word, tupho, has the meaning of making smoke, and the blindness in this passage is like a smoke screen that clouds or darkens the air in such a way as to prohibit a person from seeing.

This made sense to me, but it didn’t seem to fully answer how he did it. Then I made a fascinating discovery. From this same root comes a word (tuphoo) that is used for being high-minded, proud or inflated with self-conceit. The picture is of one who is "puffed up" much like smoke puffs up or billows.

When I saw the connection between the words blindness and pride, a major missing link was supplied for me. I realized immediately it was the sin of pride, passed on from Lucifer to humankind in the Garden, that Satan uses to blind them.

I realized that most rejection of Christ, whether from the works motivation of most false religions or the simple fact most people just don’t want to give lordship of their lives to another, is due to pride. It is the ultimate enemy of Christ and will ultimately be dealt with in finality when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Christ is Lord. Pride will be dealt its final blow!

(Sheets, Dutch. 1996. Intercessory Prayer. Ventura, CA: Regal Books. pg 166)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Binding and Loosing

In Judaism, binding and loosing has long been understood to be a legal designation.
During the days of Jesus, these antonyms were used to describe certain religious
decisions. The term bind meant to forbid, and loose meant to permit. There are
numerous examples of this in rabbinical literature.

To understand this, we must know that first century rabbis were constantly called
upon by their communities to interpret scriptural commands. For example, the Bible
forbids working on the Sabbath but does not define what specific activities constitute
work. As a result, the rabbis ruled as to which activities were permitted on the
Sabbath and which were not. They bound or prohibited certain activities and loosed
or allowed others.

Peter was given the keys, or the authority, to bind and loose concerning scriptural
questions with the early Church. An example of this practice can be found in Acts 15,
during the controversy over whether or not Gentiles should be admitted into the
fellowship without first being circumcised.

After the apostles and elders convened in Jerusalem, Peter showed an example of
loosing when he ruled that both Jews and Gentiles were part of Gods covenant. (Acts
Then James, the pastor of the Church at Jerusalem, gave an example of
binding when he required the believing Gentiles to abstain from the four
characteristic practices of the pagans (Acts 15:13-20).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Our Battle Partner

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. John 16:7

There are two references in Scripture to the Holy Spirit’s being our Helper. One is the aforementioned verse, John 16:7: "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."

Here the word is parakletos, which literally means "called to another’s side to aid, help or support." While often used to describe a legal advocate or attorney, it is not limited to this, but includes any and every means of helping.

Another interesting use of the term parakletos was in ancient warfare. "Greek soldiers went into battle in pairs so when the enemy attacked, they could draw together back-to-back, covering each other’s blind side. One’s battle partner was the paraclete."

(Donna's note: the definition in the first passage comes from James Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), ref. no. 3875;

the one about Greek soldiers comes from Edward K. Rowell, Fresh Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1997), p. 110.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Reed and the Oak

And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? Matt. 11:7

Perhaps the most convincing evidence of the thorough-going Jewishness of Jesus is His method of teaching. Over the past fifty years, studies of the Jewish nature of the early Church have brought to light many new insights into the first century documents, especially concerning the idioms and Galilean teaching methods of Jesus. In these articles we will study some of the more common idioms in the life of Jesus and His disciples.

One of the most powerful idioms was referred to as The Parable of the Reed and the Oak. This concept is seen in Jesus reply to the Jewish crowd in Matthew 11:7, concerning John the Baptizer. He asks, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?"

There was a well-known parable during first-century Judaism. The Reed and the Oak Tree was often used by teachers to illustrate an important truth regarding conviction and commitment.
Without an understanding of this parable it is difficult for us to grasp the imagery behind this passage.

According to the parable, a giant oak tree and a thin reed were both planted by the river. Whenever a storm came, the deep roots of the oak kept it firmly established, enabling it to withstand most winds. It could, however, be blown over by a wind of sufficient strength. There was nothing wishy-washy or compromising about the oak.

The reed, on the other hand, would bend to the right or left, even with a slight breeze.
The conclusion of the story was that the oak, because of its refusal to compromise, could end upon losing its life in the storm, but the reed, though it might survive, could only do so by continual bending.

Jesus was clearly pointing to this familiar Jewish story when He asked, "Did you expect John to be a reed blowing in the wind?" In other words, Did you expect this prophet of God to be a weak-kneed compromiser? The Jews who heard this immediately understood what Jesus was saying and asked no questions.

Monday, January 3, 2011

An Additional Thought Re: Baptism

I thought this was a useful word picture to add to our understanding of baptism.

To understand what baptism really means we first look at the word baptism or its Greek and Hebrew original word itself. What does it mean?

The word Baptism is derived from the Greek word baptismos (Strong’s #909). The verb in Greek is baptizo (Strong’s #907). It's meaning commonly is given as "to dip or to immerse".
However this is not the primary meaning of the word in Greek. It is only a secondary derived meaning.

The word came into existence from the smithy of Greece.
The primary meaning of the word implies a sudden change, which I believe, is the correct implication of the word. It is explained as what happens when a hot iron is dipped in cold water. The state of the material is changed drastically and permanently cast.

Those who are familiar with the old style smithy will understand this well. When a piece of iron is to be remolded into a tool such as axe, knife etc, it is first heated to near melting point and then put on the anvil and is shaped while the iron is red hot. (We got the expression, "strike while it is hot" from this method of recasting)

In that condition it is dipped in cold water where it crystallizes and is permanently cast. When the smith is satisfied with the shape and sharpness of the tool it is once again heated to full glowing red heat and plunged into cold water and brought to normal temperature in a short time. It will then keep the shape and temper for a long time. It can withstand the outside rough world sharply.