Thursday, May 30, 2013

Isaiah 14:12 - The Problems of Translation

This week I will be teaching on Isaiah 14:12-14 to a wonderful group of women who are seeking to grow in their understanding of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It will be a time of learning, sharing, and caring spiritually for each other. However, this particular section of Isaiah is really more about translation issues than anything else.

There is much controversy regarding Isaiah 14:12. Here is the verse in three different versions.

Isaiah 14:12 (KJV)
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

Isaiah 14:12 (NIV)
12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

Isaiah 14:12 (YLT)
12 How hast thou fallen from the heavens, O shining one, son of the dawn! Thou hast been cut down to earth, O weakener of nations.

The part of the verse that has caused concern is the phrase that occurs after the word, "O." Each of these versions translates it differently, as "Lucifer," "star of the morning," and "shining one." Of these three choices, "morning star" is by far the most commonly used (sometimes "day star" is used instead, but the meaning of "morning star" and "day star" are the same).

Which is correct?

The word that is translated in these three ways, is the Hebrew "helel," which is believed to probably  mean "shining one." The text does not say, "Lucifer," or "morning star." So how did these other translations occur?

To complicate matters a little more, "Lucifer" is not even an English word. It is a Latin word that was used in Isaiah 14:12 in the Latin Vulgate Bible, translated by Jerome by about 405 A.D. It was then directly borrowed from the Vulgate and inserted into all the English Bibles prior to and including the King James Version.

This is where most of the heated debate on the issue comes in. We have come to associate the name Lucifer to mean Satan. Therefore, the passage Isaiah 14:12-14 is forced, by the translators, into referring to Satan when the passage is actually about a lament or prophecy against the King of Babylon. Many say this is an irresponsible translation. However, in digging a little deeper, the word "Lucifer," during at least the time of Jerome, meant "morning star." It wasn't until later that Lucifer became associated with Satan. It is likely that the KJV translators recognized the passage as very likely a description of not only the King of Babylon, but Satan, too. They decided to leave "Lucifer" in their translation.

Was this inappropriate? Personally, I don't think so. I think the translators of the KJV and the people of the day understood the dual meaning of "Lucifer." The context of the passage is very appropriate for both understandings.

Isaiah 14:12-14 (KJV)
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Also, there is a passage in Ezekiel where a similar situation occurs. The passage is about a lament regarding the King of Tyre, yet it also must be about Satan.

Ezekiel 28:12-15 (KJV)
12 Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

Although "Lucifer" may be acceptable, is "morning star" the better translation?

"Helel" doesn't really mean "morning star." There are separate words in Hebrew for both "morning" and "star." Yet, we do know that "morning star" is a nickname for the planet Venus. Could Venus be the true meaning behind the word? I couldn't find anything for a long time.

Finally, I found that Venus was the representation of a Babyonian god. It seems he was the nephew of the god Baal. He was the son of Shahar, which in Hebrew happens to be "morning" or "dawn." If we go back to Isaiah 14:12 and rewrite it, it could look like this:

Isaiah 14:12 (mine)
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Helel, son of Shahar! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

Based on what is said later in verse 13 (see above), this makes a fair amount of sense! The Babylonian gods were believed to live in a mountain to the north. Apparently, the King of Babylon thought that he was a god himself and would ascend to the highest reaches of the mountain where the rest of the gods lived.

Without understanding the connection between Venus and the Babylonian gods, the Isaiah passage doesn't make sense with "morning star" as the translation of "helel." But even once we know this, there can be confusion when we see the following in Revelation.

Revelation 22:16 (KJV)
16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

Yeshua is here called the "morning star." How can both the bad King of Babylon and Yeshua be called the "morning star?"

2 Peter 1:19 (KJV)
19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

Here again, Peter is referring to Yeshua rising in our hearts, like light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns. Is this about Venus? No, it is the sun that brings the dawn. The comparison of Yeshua is to the sun.

Some say that it doesn't matter that "morning star" is used for both Yeshua and Satan (or a Babylonian god), but others object vehemently. What could have been done?

My personal feeling is that "helel" should have been translated as "shining one," or left as "Helel." This would allow readers to make their own connections and would have avoided misunderstandings. While "morning star" may technically be accurate, it obscures the true meaning and potentially causes an equality between Yeshua and a false god.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What Happened to the Jewish Church Pt. 2


After the martyrdom of Stephen, the Jewish church moved out beyond Jerusalem into Samaria, the Galilee, and further north and east, even into the region of Damascus. However, there also remained a large group at Jerusalem. The apostles were among those that stayed and the center of authority remained there, as well. Even after the martyrdom of James, Yeshua's half-brother and the leader of the Jerusalem church, by the temple authorities in 62 A.D., many of the Jewish believers remained.

However, before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. the Jewish believers fled. Eusebius (325 A.D.) wrote:

"For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan. It is said to belong to Decapolis (de Mens. et Pond., 15)."

Many Jews died in the Jewish War with Rome and so the fleeing Jewish Christians were considered traitors. This led to a severe rift between the believing Jews and the non-believing Jews. Although, many returned to Jerusalem after the war, the relationship between the two groups was strained even more than it had been.

Finally, the remaining Jewish believers left Jerusalem either during or after the Second Jewish War (132-135 A.D.) when the Emperor Hadrian banned all Jews from Jerusalem, which was renamed Aelia Capitolina.

Meanwhile, Paul and eventually others, had begun many Gentile Christian churches. By the time of the Second Jewish War, Rome took a decidely anti-Jewish position, furthering the desire for the Gentiles to be separated from anything Jewish. Also, as the influence of the Jerusalem church faded for the Gentiles, Torah observance began to fade also.

For a long time Gentile Christian churches existed side by side with Jewish Christian churches, although, the Jewish group did not call themselves Christian, but rather Nazarene, since they continued to believe themselves a sect of Judaism. But finally, in the fourth century, the Gentile Christian church began to view the Nazarenes as heretical, based solely on their continued Torah observance. Epiphanius (310-403 A.D.) said this:

"We shall now especially consider heretics who call themselves Nazarenes; they are mainly Jews and nothing else. They make use not only of the New Testament, but they also use in a way the Old Testament of the Jews. For they do not forbid the books of the Law, the Prophets, and the that they are approved of by the Jews, from whom the Nazarenes do not differ in anything, and they do profess all the dogmas pertaining to the prescriptions of the Law and the customs of the Jews, except they believe in Messiah. They preach that there is but One God and His Son Yahushua. They are learned in the Hebrew language, for they, like the Jews, read the whole Law, then the Prophets...They differ from the Jews because they believe in Messiah, and from the Christians in that they are to this day bound to the Jewish rites such as circumcision, the Sabbath and other ceremonies.."

About that time the Nazarenes ceased to exist as a separate sect, finding no common ground really with the Jews or Gentile Christians, although pockets of believers practicing at least part of the Torah have existed throughout history. It was the Gentile Christian church, for the most part, that was the only surviving body. The Jewish church was simply overwhelmed by numbers and by historical events, but it never veered from its staunch support of Torah obervance, nor did it allow the paganism that the Gentile church allowed or tolerated as Christianity became fashionable, and eventually the approved religion of the Roman Empire. The reason for this tolerance was to make conversion from paganism easier. Many pagan traditions were allowed and supposedly Christianized.

So, this is what happened to the Jewish church and how Christianity became so non-Jewish, so different from the Jewish church that began it. Although, this may seem to be a sad outcome of history, God has allowed it, and there does seem to be a resurgence of Torah observant believers in Yeshua.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Happened to the Jewish Church?

From the book of Acts, it is evident that the church began as a Jewish entity. The life of the body is summarized in Acts chapter 2.

Acts 2:41-46 (NASB)
41 So then, those who had received his word (Peter's) were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;
45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

Of special notice in verse 46 is the mention of going to the temple every day. The earliest believers did not consider themselves to be a part of anything new. They were just another sect of Judaism.

With the martrydom of Stephen and the ensuing persecution, the Jewish church at Jerusalem experienced it's first scattering. Positively, Philip took the gospel to Samaria, while negatively, Saul went to Damascus, a city in Syria, with letters enabling him to arrest and capture any believers in Yeshua that he might find there. Peter then received the vision from God that salvation was also for the Gentiles.

Acts 11:19-20 (KJV)
19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

Antioch became the first place where the gospel was purposefully preached to Gentiles. It also became the base for the missionary journeys of Paul, formerly known as Saul and persecuter of the church, and his companions. It is at this point in Acts that the emphasis switches from Peter and the Jewish church to Paul and the Gentile church.

Because of this shift in attention, it almost seems like the Jewish church was left behind. The influx of Gentiles into the body of Yeshua became overwhelming to the point that the church eventually seems to have morphed into a very different entity than the Jewish church that started it. However, this did not happened during the book of Acts. When Paul was called into question by some from the Jerusalem church, he turned to James and the Jerusalem Council. When Paul returned after his third missionary journey he submitted to James' suggestion for the completion of his nazarite vow that he also pay for four others to prove that he was not trying to subvert the Old Testament law.

So what did happen to the Jewish church and how did Christianity become so different, so not Jewish? Stay tuned for part 2!


Monday, May 20, 2013

The Jewish Church Persecuted!

From a human standpoint it is utterly amazing that the church ever survived its first years! In Acts 4 Peter and John were arrested for preaching in Yeshua's name. Then in Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira were struck down by the hand of God because they had been deceitful in the selling of some of their property, the proceeds of which were intended for the church. Later in that same chapter the apostles were arrested and would have been executed except for the intervention of Gamaliel, a Pharisee on the Sanhedrin, who cautioned, that by executing the apostles the Jewish leaders may have found themselves fighting with God Himself. The Sanhedrin refrained and only had the men beaten, which in ancient days, often led to the prisoners' deaths anyway. In chapter 6 there was an internal dispute in the church over the feeding of the Greek-speaking widows. This was remedied by appointing seven men to oversee the distribution of food. One of the seven was Stephen, who in chapter 7 was arrested and eventually stoned for his preaching about Yeshua. Next in chapter 8 is the following:

Acts 8:1-3 (KJV)
1 And Saul was consenting unto his (Stephen's) death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

With the death of Stephen there arose a great persecution of the church at Jerusalem. Saul, who eventually was named Paul, seemed to have been at the forefront of the persecution.

Acts 5:11 (KJV)
11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

This verse is describing the fear that began after Ananias and Sapphira were killed. How much more frightened they must have been after Stephen's death and the ensuing persecution! It is surprising that the believers didn't just give up.

There was another emotion that the church likely had. At this point in time, the church was Jewish. It wasn't until verse 4 of chapter 8 that Philip went into Samaria and began preaching there. The Jewish believers had come to faith in a Jewish Messiah. They continued their worship in the Temple. The Temple was the center of Judaism.

Acts 2:46 (KJV)
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

But with the beginning of persecution, the Temple may not have been a friendly place. The religious leaders were after the believers. They were losing what had been comfortable. Even family may have begun to turn against them. They must have felt an alienation, an isolation, and loss of widespread community and its moorings. Yet, they clung onto Yeshua!

Has faith in Yeshua caused fear, loss, and isolation in your life? Believing in Yeshua can mean great sacrifice, in some way or another. It isn't always government persecution, it could be a result from job or family conflicts. Yet, we must cling to Yeshua. His Words are the Words of Life! There is no other by which we can be saved from our sin, or receive eternal life.

Remember, God is in control. He has a plan and it will be accomplished. In the case of the persecution of the early church, it was an impetus for the Jewish believers to spread abroad, bringing their faith with them. What purpose does your loss have?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Most High God - Daniel 3:24-27


In the last installment, King Nebuchadnezzar had thrown Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to his image. The account continues with this:

Daniel 3:24-27 (KJV)
24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.

From the king's vantage point, in front of the opening at the bottom of the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar was able to see what was going on inside the furnace (verse 24). Although, he expected to see the three bound men being burned to death, he rose up in haste, amazed. He even asked his counsellors to verify that only three men had been bound and thrown into the overheated furnace. What was it that caused the king to be astonished (verse 25)?

He saw:
          1. There were four persons in the fire, not three.
          2. No one was bound.
          3. The men were walking around in the fire, no one was lying down.
          4. None of the four were hurt.
          5. The fourth person looked like "the Son of God."

Who could this fourth person be? What did Nebuchadnezzar mean by saying he looked like "the Son of God"? Many pagan gods of the ancient world were viewed as being divine, but with many human characteristics, like having children. Nebuchadnezzar's statement indicates that the fourth person looked like a divine or supernatural being. (Renald E. Showers, The Most High God (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1982) p. 35.) Within the Old Testament there are other similar examples of an angel, or Angel of the Lord, who appeared to mankind. Many believe that these are preincarnate appearances of Yeshua (Jesus). In this situation, He came to deliver the three men from certain destruction in the furnace.

In verse 26 King Nebuchadnezzar ordered the men to come out of the furnace. Notice that he says that these men are "servants of the most high God."  The king is again impressed with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, he's not about to admit that He is the only God.

When the three men come out of the furnace, what do all of the princes, governors, captains, and king's counsellors notice (verse 27)? The men were not burned, their hair was not singed, their clothes were not damaged, nor did they smell of smoke.

Through this miraculous deliverance, God was revealing Himself to King Nebuchadnezzar. How will the king respond? Will he change his ways, or will he continue on as if nothing extraordinary had happened? Stay tuned!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Did God Divorce Israel?

In just a few days both Christians and Jews will be celebrating the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Shavuot in Hebrew). However, not only will Christians and Jews celebrate on different days, the focus of the celebrations will be different as well. While Christianity will be remembering the giving of the Holy Spirit and the so-called beginning of the church, the Jews will be celebrating the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai to Israel.

These differences really should not exist. Scripturally, Pentecost is connected to Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but traditionally, for Christians, the date of Pentecost is connected to Easter and its connection to the first Sunday after the spring vernal equinox. Also Scripturally, both the Holy Spirit and the Law were given on Pentecost. It seems that the two groups should be much more of one mind, yet, as in history, there appears to be an attempt to separate the two groups, as if they did not spring from the same source, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!

Although Christianity has the date wrong, the concern of today's post is on Christianity's view that Pentecost was the beginning of the church and the replacement of Israel by the church. To determine whether Israel was replaced by the church we need to go back to the first Pentecost.

Exodus 19:5-8 (KJV)
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.
8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

In verse 5 God was initiating a covenant with the Jewish people. Notice the conditions, "If you will keep my covenant, then you will be a treasure unto me above all people." Verse 8 records Israel's response, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do."

Unfortunately, the Jewish people were unable to keep their side of the covenant. While they were yet at Mount Sinai, Aaron and the people crafted the golden calf and promptly broke the covenant by failing to keep God's commandments. God again renewed the covenant in chapter 34 of Exodus. This pattern of failure and then return to God continues throughout Israel's history. Finally, during the days of Yeshua, the religious leaders rejected Him as Messiah.

Matthew 21:42-43 (KJV)
42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

Was this the end of God's patience toward Israel? Many in Christianity say that after this passage in Mattew, God rejected Israel as her promised people.

There are two points that speak against this. The first is God's eternal identification of Israel as His people.

Jeremiah 7:7 (KJV)
7 Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.

Jeremiah 31:3-4 (KJV)
3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
4 Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.

The second point is that God's covenant with Israel was more like a marriage covenant than a business covenant.

Jeremiah 31:32 (KJV)
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:

Hosea 3:1 (KJV)
1 Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.

Isaiah 62:1-5 (KJV)
1 For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.
3 Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.
4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.
5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.

If God had taken Israel for her bride and He replaced her with the entity called the church, God would have, for all intents and purposes, divorced Israel. Is this possible?

Malachi 2:16 (NASB)
16 "For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel, "and him who covers his garment with wrong," says the LORD of hosts. "So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."

Considering God's hatred for divorce and His statements of everlasting love for Israel, it is unthinkable that He would have divorced Israel and taken a new wife.

God's righteous character requires that Israel will always be His bride. God's chosen people will always be Israel. However, this statement should not disturb those who are Gentile believers in Yeshua. Salvation comes for all who trust in Yeshua, both Jews and Gentiles. Both become Israel in some sense upon salvation.

Although the Matthew 21 passage points to God's removal of Israel as His chosen people, it was referring only to Israel's temporary loss in God's plan of history where the Gentiles were to become the predominant number entering into Israel. However, one day again, Israel, as a nation will turn back to their Messiah and will be saved.

Romans 11:26 (KJV)
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Zechariah 12:10 (KJV)
10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

God's promises to Israel are everlasting. The church can never take that away. Why would it want to when it has been grafted in?

Romans 11:19 (KJV)
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Conflicting Advice in the Bible


When I became a born again believer in Yeshua, there was an enormous amount of information in the Bible that I did not understand. Since I came from a Catholic background, complete with a Catholic education that stretched from second grade through high school, I had somewhat of an advantage because I had a minimal concept of God. Yet, still, I didn't know much. I voraciously read the Bible and began a long journey of discovery that continues to this day.

Along the way I had questions that no one seemed to be able to answer. One problem had to do with Christian liberty. From the many pastors that I heard speak on this issue, I gleaned that basically no rules existed definitively, except perhaps the Ten Commandments. "You only have to love God and your neighbor!" they said. But something deep inside of me was not satisfied with this answer. According to Paul, Christian liberty did exist, but how could Yeshua's death and resurrection void all the laws? And why did God, then, in the first place, insist on the obedience to those laws, when one day He would make them void?

Obviously, these well regarded, Bible believing teachers had worked out how this all made sense. They would even respond that the laws weren't made void by Yeshua's death and resurrection, they were fulfilled! But in essence their definition of fulfilled made the laws void, they just couldn't seem to see the issue from my perspective.

Then one day, I met a Messianic believer who began to explain her understanding of the law. It wasn't done away with, we are still obligated to follow the Torah, just as Yeshua did. Christian liberty only exists when considering the traditions and man-made rules that Judaism and Christianity have a penchant for creating. The "lightbulb" turned on in my mind. What she said made perfect sense. Other questions and problems fell into place. I also began to follow Yeshua as a Messianic.

Finally, as I began to reread the New Testament in light of my new understanding, I came to see that the Torah is the foundation of the entire Bible, and if the Torah is the foundation, any apparent conflicting advice given in the Bible must be compared to the Torah's instructions. Paul cannot trump the Torah! If something appears to contradict the Torah that Paul wrote, there must be some further explanation, because, if he truly wrote anything contradictory to the Torah, his writing should never have been allowed in Scripture. Even Yeshua cannot trump the Torah! If Yeshua spoke or taught against the Torah, He was a false prophet. And then nothing that God ever said would be trustworthy again. We would have to worry that the way of salvation might change in the future.

So, in reading the Bible, and in trying to understand what it is that God requires from mankind, the New Testament can clarify and give further understanding to us, but the foundation and the final word remains with the Torah.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (KJV)
1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

Deuteronomy 4:2 (KJV)
2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Torah is The Foundation of the Bible

The Old Testament comes at the front of our Bibles and takes up a larger portion of the whole than the New Testament.  Yet, most Christians view the Old Testament as something that has passed away and has relevance only for teaching history or for understanding the Jews.

There are some who are willing to admit that the Old and New Testament are dependent on each other. The New cannot be understood without the Old. Also, there are so many quotes in the New Testament that come from the Old, that much of what we find in the New is repetition. Yet, how many of these believers really know the Old Testament?

There are two areas in particular where Christians seem to lack knowledge. This is, of course, a general statement and doesn't necessarily reflect everyone, but seems to hold overall. The first area is that of prophecy. How many churches teach prophecy? Some don't because of the many potential views that exist across Christianity. In some ways, this is understandable. Perhaps, though, the solution is to teach without necessarily becoming dogmatic. The Bible opens up when we view history through the eyes of prophecy. Interconnections between the various prophetical books is an amazing testimony to the overall cohesiveness of Scripture and to God's plan. The second area is that of the Torah, primarily the aspects of the Law. How many churches preach on the Feasts of the Lord, the sacrifices, or the laws regarding the red heifer?

Since there is no longer a Temple there are laws that are no longer applicable to us. There are also laws that apply only to priests, or to men, or to women. Yet, the understanding of these laws is the foundation of modern Judaism, even though there are aspects that are not currently applicable. What they learn about is the essence of God and how to relate to Him.

As Christians we have the most complete understanding of God because we have both the New and Old Testaments. With Yeshua's coming much of the Old makes more sense and we can fully grasp the redemption that Yeshua provided in His death and resurrection. And don't we also long to understand God's essence and how we are to relate to Him? However, if we relegate the Old Testament to the category of "done that," we won't learn the intracacies of the Old Testament that tell us the very baseline information that we seek.

You see, it is the Torah that is our foundation. The rest of the Bible is built on it. Yeshua and His disciples, only knowing the Old Testament, lived on and taught from the Torah. The rest of the Old Testament and the New spring from the Torah. Without the Torah there would be nothing. How can we emulate our master Yeshua by ignoring it? God forbid!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Meat of Idols - Part 3


Part 1: The Jerusalem Council, in Acts 15, had determined a list of four purity related prohibitions that would allow the new Gentile believers to participate in the local body of Messiah Yeshua. One of those prohibitions was the abstaining from meats that had been offered to idols. Part 2: Paul, attempting to solve the practical problem of dealing with meats of unknown origin, advised the believers in 1 Corinthians 8 that the eating of unknown meat was perfectly acceptable, unless it would cause another believer to stumble in his or her walk with Yeshua. Today's topic comes from Romans 14.

Romans 14:2-4 (KJV)
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Romans 14 is also dealing with the topic of meats. In verse 2 it appears that there are two kinds of believers. One believes that he may eat all things, while the other eats only herbs. Traditionally, Christianity has used this verse as an example of how the food laws have been put aside and are no longer applicable to Christians. However, just as was seen in the discussion on 1 Corinthians 8, the topic was not about meats in general, but on meats that had been offered to idols. The food laws of Leviticus 11 and 14 never command anyone to eat only herbs. The only reason that a believer would eat only herbs was to stay away from any potential meat that had been offered to idols. So, Paul was saying that one kind of believer was able to eat the meat of unknown origin without violating his or her conscience, while the other kind refrained from all meats and ate only herbs. In verse 3 Paul commanded that the two kinds of believers not judge each other. God was the only judge as seen in verse 4.

Romans 14:5 (KJV)
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

In verse 5, Paul seemed to exhort the believers to follow their own consciences regarding eating and the keeping of holy days. However, if Paul was truly advocating that each individual become a law unto himself, he would, again, be guilty of contradicting the Jerusalem Council's decision and the Torah, that states that some days were to be kept as holy days and that the eating of certain foods did matter.

Since the topic of this passage was about meats offered to idols, it is also likely that the days mentioned are not those discussed in the Torah, but are those days that the wider culture deemed special. An example might be the celebrating of one's birthday.

Romans 14:19 (KJV)
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Romans 14:21 (KJV)
21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

Finally, Paul concluded that the guideline in this area of eating was the edification of fellow believers and the prohibition of becoming a stumblingblock. In many cases, it was likely that the believers did, in fact, refrain from eating meats from unknown origins just so that no one would stumble in his or her faith.

What about our own practices? Do we adhere to Paul's guideline or do we flaunt those things that we think we can do or eat? Too often, we view our way as right, and then judge and ridicule those with differing ideas. While we must adhere to God's law, those non-essentials should not be used against our fellow believers.