Category Archives: Jewish believer and Gentile Christians

TABLE OF CONTENTS

table-of-contents1

Note: this Table of Contents list contains a description of our most recent articles.  Please see to the right for a list of all posts.

  1. Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah — Jews and Gentiles in Land — the first article in the series, shedding light on Jewish understanding of the Land and the fundamental differences between the Galilean Jews of the North and the Judean Jews of the South http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/sketches-of-jewish-social-life-at-the-time-of-messiah-jews-and-gentiles-in-the-land/
  2. Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah – Introduction – an intro to a new, extended series of articles that places Jesus and His teachings within their Jewish context and sheds invaluable light on passages that could not be fully understood otherwise. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/sketches-of-jewish-social-life-at-the-time-of-messiah-introduction/
  3. The Company Dinner – another modern parable http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/company-dinner-another-modern-parable/
  4. The Talmud – now available in English, free and online – Now available to anyone for free and online, tools include the ability to click on a verse of Scripture, see where it’s quoted in the Talmud, and read it in full in with explanatory notes written in plain language. Most surprisingly, the very passages that today’s rabbis deny as being about Messiah, were understood by the Jewish sages to be about Messiah. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/talmud-now-available-english-free-online/
  5. New Years and the Parable of the Ten Virgins – The lighting of the oil lamps for the 8th day of Chanukah on New Years Eve brought to mind the Parable of the Ten Virgins and some thoughts for the Church. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/new-years-and-the-parable-of-the-ten-virgins/
  6. Boundaries of the Land of Israel – as set by God: Christians need to understand that the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334 which was just passed declares that where David was first crowned king is not Israel, nor is Bethlehem of Judea, where Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1). Yes, the “little town of Bethlehem” that you sing about in Christmas carols as being the birth place of the King of the Jews is not in the land of the Jews. This is a battle for truth.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/boundaries-of-the-land-of-israel-as-set-by-god/
  7. Questions and Answers about Jews and Christmas: People often want to know what Jews do at Christmas time and some Christians want to know what Messianic Jews do. This article provides some background on “Jews” and some answers to the questions. Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/questions-and-answers-about-jews-and-christmas/
  8. Gehenna – Jewish Origins of Hell: Some think of “hell” as the one place God is not and to others, it is the place where God pours out His judgment on “those who do not believe”. Is this what the Scriptures teach? Where does this concept of Hell come from? That is the subject of this article. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-teaching-on-hell/
  9. The New Perspective – second phase of the Reformation? The Reformation restored the Word of God to the ordinary people and called them out of an obligation of submission to the papacy to one of submission to Scripture.  But Was the Reformation all that was required to restore the Scriptures to their first century understanding?  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-new-perspective-a-second-phase-of-the-reformation/
  10. The Last Day of the Great Feast –  Sukkot has two  ” last days” — Hoshanah Rabbah and Shiminei Atsaret. The “last day and greatest day of the Feast” mentioned in John 7:37 is Hashanah Rabbah. This article helps explain why Jesus said what He did that day. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/last-day-great-feast/
  11. Who is Abraham’s Seed – Understanding who “Abraham’s seed” is, is to understand God’s plan of redemption to ‘all nations of the earth’ since the book of Genesis! This article follows the previous 3 which covered the promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant, the promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant, as well as Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in Romans. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/who-is-abrahams-seed/
  12. God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant  – What were God’s promises to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and do they still apply?http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-jews-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/

  13. God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant; 

    There are those that say that Gentile Christians, along with Jewish believers in Messiah form what is now termed “true Israel” and replace the Jewish people (physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God’s covenant people. In this article is part of a series of articles, taking a deeper look at God’s promises to the Jewish people and God’s promises to the Gentiles, through Messiah. This article focuses on God’s promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-gentiles-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/


  14. Paul’s Use of the term “Israel” in the Book of Romans –   Some say that Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah are not “true Israel” — but rather Gentile Christians and Jewish believers in Messiah form what is termed “true Israel“.  Does the Scripture teach that “Israel” is part Jewish by descent and part Gentile by descent — and if not, what do the passages in question really mean? In this article, we will explore how Paul uses the term “Israel” everywhere else in Romans and then look at what he is saying in Romans 9:6-8. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/pauls-use-of-the-term-israel-in-the-book-of-romans/

  15. It’s Time We Had a Talk – another modern parable – It came to pass one day, that the older brother felt that it was a fitting time to share matters of the family with his younger brother. This is that story. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/time-talk-another-modern-parable/

  16. Shavuot – Counting of the Omer from Passover to Pentecost -Today, June 12, 2016 is Pentecost Sunday! Yes, we know that the Church celebrated it on May 15th this year but according to how God commanded the Jews to determine the date of Shavuot (Pentecost). it is today. The Church’s Pentecost falls on a different date than Biblical Pentecost. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/shavuot-counting-of-the-omer-from-passover-to-pentecost/

  17. Miquedem – Songs from Scripture; Listen free to a brand new album of Jewish music, with songs taken directly from Scripture. Complete lyrics posted in Hebrew, Hebrew-English transliterated phonetics & English. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/miqedem-songs-scripture/

  18. He Who Believes – Mi Shemaamim; This is a song written by Israeli Eyal Golan which you will probably catch yourself humming later.  It is very catchy!  The lyrics are beautiful, and appear in Hebrew, transliterated Hebrew-English phonetics and English;
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/he-who-believes-mi-shemaamin-song/


  19. What did Paul Mean by “May it never be!” ? – When Paul said in Scripture ‘may it never be” (me genoito / μένα genoito is the Greek equivalent) he was using a very common Hebrew expression as many other Jews of his day would have — not surprising considering Paul was Jew. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/paul-mean-may-never/

  20. Biblical Pentecost and the Church’s Pentecost – few Christians realize that the date that the Church celebrates as “Pentecost Sunday” is different than the day that God established in Scripture. This blog explains how the date of Pentecost (Shavuot) is determined from the date of Passover and how the giving of the Holy Spirit is tied to the day Jesus rose from the dead! http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/biblical-pentecost-and-the-churchs-pentecost/

  21. A Jewish Perspective on Counting Days of Lent and Easter Egg Hunts – As we’ve been working on the 3 upcoming posts (Part 2, 3 and 4) that follow Part 1: The Significance of Passover to the Church, we thought we’d take a bit of a divergence and look at two Gentile Christian customs related to the Church’s celebration of “Easter” that we thought our readers might find it interesting to look at through Jewish eyes. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-jewish-perspective-on-counting-days-lent-and-easter-egg-hunts/

  22. A Jewish Roots Update – More than 11,000 visitors from 212 countries or territories in just 10 months.  Who would have thought.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-jewish-roots-update/

  23. UNESCO Resolution Erases Jews Connection to Temple Mount – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has passed a resolution erasing the Jews connection to the Temple Mount. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/unesco-resolution-erases-jews-connection-to-temple-mount/

  24. Passover – Significance to the Church – Most people know “the Last Supper” occurred during Passover, but have never had just two of the Passover elements — the “bread” and the “cup”, explained in that context.  When Jesus took “the bread”, what did the disciples understand it to signify before He spoke? What prior meaning did the cup(s) of wine have to them?  Given it was Passover, what might the Disciples have understood Jesus to be saying? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/passovers-significance-to-the-church/

  25. INTRO: Passover, Pentecost and Booths – significance to the Church : God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people where they were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/intro-passover-pentecost-and-booths-significance-to-the-church/

  26. Canadian Prime Minister Ignores Mention of Jews in Holocaust Statement – on January 27 2016,  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Most notable was the Canadian Prime Minister’s blatant omission of any reference to the Jewish people or to the anti-Jewish ideology which fueled the Nazi’s systematic extermination of 6 million Jews.
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/canadian-prime-minister-ignores-mention-of-jews-in-holocaust-statement/


  27. Understanding Matthew’s Genealogy – an Old Testament Overview – The genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew starts with Abraham and culminates with the birth of Jesus; which is a uniquely Jewish perspective.  To understand who some of the individuals are that are named in this genealogy requires some understanding of the Old Testament and so in this article, we provide an overview of the Old Testament to lay the framework for our next study. This article is a summary of the first study in a series called the “Gospels from a First Century Jewish Perspective” from our Jewish Roots of Christianity LifeGroup. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/understanding-matthews-genealogy-old-testament-overview/

  28. Jewish Sects of the Second Temple Period – introduction to the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and Nazarenes during the Second Temple Period (introduction to Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child); http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish-sects-second-temple-period/

  29. Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child – We’ve often heard it said that Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism; as if Judaism is the parent and Christianity, the child. A more accurate analogy is to see Judaism and Christianity as siblings, twins in fact, born out of the same event. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/christianity-and-judaism-as-siblings-not-parent-and-child/

  30. Christmas and the Coming of the Messiah – Growing up in the Jewish areas we lived in, the expectation of Messiah was all around us. Christmas, however was a “Gentile holiday” which we had no connection to. Jesus, as portrayed by most Christians has no connection to most Jews, as the Jewish Messiah either. The Jesus of Scripture tells a very different story.  Jesus of the Gospels is Jewish. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/christmas-and-the-coming-of-messiah/

  31. Holy Days of Israel – with Scriptural References: Jewish Holy Days are observances set out by God in Scripture — more than celebrations. This article describes our main Holy Days and what they commemorate.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish-holy-days-with-scriptural-references/

  32. Holiday Observance from a Jewish Perspective: The Jewish concept of ‘observance’ of a holiday is quite different than the idea of ‘celebrating’ one and this difference becomes quite apparent to us at Christmas.  It is not as though there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way, but we thought it might be helpful for our readers to understand how we as Jewish believers regard holidays, in particular Christmas. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/holiday-observance-from-a-jewish-perspective/

  33. The Abrahamic Covenant and the 12 Tribes of Israel – In this article, we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and whether the covenant God made with Abraham also applies to the descendants of Ishmael. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-abrahamic-covenant-and-the-12-tribes-of-israel/

  34. The 12 Tribes Ishmael and Their Land – We’ve heard people say that since the land of Israel belongs to both the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael and that the solution to the tension in the region is to divide the land between them.  But few people realize that the land of the 12 Tribes of Ishmael is northern Saudi Arabia and the south-eastern part of Assyria (Iraq) — far from the 12 Tribes of Israel! In this article we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Ishmael (with maps). http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-12-tribes-of-ishmael-and-their-land/

  35. Objections to a Religious Ideology or Doctrine is not Xenophobia – We hear a lot these days about xenophobia — with people being accused of being xenophobic or being a xenophobe when they object to a religious ideology or to the doctrine of another’s religion or belief system. That is not Xenophobia.  Xenophobia is to show fear or contempt towards a person because they hold to a specific ideology or holds to a given religious doctrine. There is a difference.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/objection-to-a-religious-ideology-or-doctrine-is-not-xenophobia/

  36. How Israel Came to Possess the Land it Currently Occupies – Israel is often portrayed in the media as ‘land-grabbing’, so we want to clear up where the land that Israel currently occupies came from. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/how-israel-came-to-possess-the-land-it-currently-occupies/

  37. Where is Ancient Palestine and Who are the Palestinian People? Does the idea of an ancient Palestinian homeland belonging to the Palestinian people have any basis in history? There were 3 such places with that name, none of them belonging to Arabs; one belonging to the Romans, one a province of the Byzantine Empire and one under British administration.  So what is “Palestine” and who are the “Palestinian” people? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/where-is-ancient-palestine-who-are-the-palestinians/

  38.  1948 – The Fullfillment of the Second Gathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel – When God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people, was it conditional on their obedience? If so, how would we explain that the Jews have been returned to the land not once, but twice — and the most recent time was in 1948? What do the Scriptures have to say about God’s covenant with the Jewish people with regard to obedience to His commands and how that related specifically to the Land? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/fullfullment-of-the-second-gathering-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel/

  39. Montreal Bagel and Smoked Meat – [a break from our usual articles]. Sometimes, the world is all too serious and what we need is a little distraction — such as food or music.  For Jews, both food and music are integral to who we are.  There is the food and music of home; not our ancestral home, but the Jewish community in which we grew up and for us, as Montreal Jews that food is epitomized by bagel and smoked meat. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/montreal-bagel-and-smoked-meat-the-real-deal/

  40. Jesus born at Sukkot / Festival of Booths / Feast of Tabernacles – People have asked us why we believe that Jesus was born at Sukkot (the Festival of Booths / the Feast of Tabernacles) and this article is about how theologians have arrived at this conclusion.  It is also about how Sukkot has already been set apart by God to be the only Feast of Israel that all the nations of the world will one day celebrate. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-born-at-sukkot-festival-of-booths/

  41. Remembering and Preparing to Remember – Jews are a people called to remember and with that remembering comes preparation. This article elaborates on the the Jewish concept of preparing to remember which has been passed down to the Church in the observance of The Lord’s Table. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/remembering-and-preparing-to-remember/

  42. The High Holy Days and the Ten Days of Awe – The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are commonly known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance. These are the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur, and the requirements of God in observing this day have important significance to New Testament believers today, both Jews and Gentiles. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-high-holy-days-and-the-ten-days-of-awe/

  43. God’s Calling on Gentiles, His Calling on Jews – We have pondered writing this article for a while and the reason is simple. How can the (predominantly Gentile) Church fulfill God’s specific calling on them mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament if they don’t know and understand what it is? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/God’s_calling_on_Gentiles/

  44. ‘The Parable of the Vineyard Workers’ in Matthew 20 is part of Jesus’ reply to Peter’s question given Matthew 19:27 but without understanding the reference Jesus is making to Old Testament concepts that would have been very well known to the disciples, one can easily miss what Jesus is saying.  This article elaborates on those concepts so that the meaning of the parable becomes clear. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-parable-of-the-vineyard-workers/

  45. New Testament Dietary Laws – Different for Jews and Gentiles’ – Most have heard of Jewish dietary laws but not what made foods ‘unclean’ or what role these laws served but few are aware of the dietary laws set out for Gentile Christians in the New Testament. How did these differing food laws impact social interaction between Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in the first century? What about today?http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/new-testament-dietary-laws-different-for-jews-and-gentiles/

  46. ‘A Visit from the Mormons’ – It’s not every day that the Mormons come knocking and find a mother and son engaged in Scripture study in their living room; with a four volume Hebrew-English Interlinear and Strong’s Concordance at the ready. Talk about catching a couple of Mormon missionaries off guard! Daniel answered the door and invited our visitors in.http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-visit-from-the-mormons/

  47. What does Paul mean that he became “as a Jew to the Jews and to the Gentiles, a Gentile”: In this article we look at what Paul meant by being “under” the Law, “outside” the Law and “within” the Law and what that meant in terms of the call to be “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9). http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/as-a-jew-to-the-jews-and-to-the-gentiles-a-gentile/

  48. Status quo  in the First Century Church vs Today – There was no need for the Gospel writers or Paul to explain Jewish practice because the vast majority of believers at the time were Jews and Jewish practice was understood.  But two thousand years later, most Gentile readers of the New Testament have little understanding of these Jewish practices. In this article we discuss the implications of this. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/status-quo-in-the-first-century-church-vs-today/

  49. Historic Perspective Affects New Testament Interpretation – This article looks at how the historical perspective of the Church after the death of the Apostles has shaped understanding of Israel and the Jewish people. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/historical-perspective-affects-new-testament-interpretation/

  50. Jesus – a Prophet like Moses – what does it mean for Jesus to be ‘a prophet like Moses’? What would the implications be for Jesus to have taught something different than what the Law of Moses taught?    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-a-prophet-like-moses/

  51. Creation of a Palestinian State – the “Two State” Solution – the idea of a “two state” solution is often proposed as a means to resolve the ongoing tensions between Israel and the ‘Palestinians’, but few realize there have already been two “two state” solutions. This article documents those. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/creation-of-a-palestinian-state-the-two-state-solution/

  52. Different Sects of Jews – from the Pharisees and Sadducees to the Sects of Today – to understand what Jesus was saying to the Jewish leadership and why, one needs to understand who the Jewish leadership was and what they believed. What are the Jewish sects of today and how are they related to those of the first century?    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/different-sects-of-jews-from-the-pharisees-and-sadducees-to-the-sects-of-today/

  53. The Keymaker’s Sons – A Modern Parable – This story was written with the desire to help Gentile Christians understand how Jewish believers perceive our relationship with Gentile Christians within the Church. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-key-makers-sons-a-modern-parable/

  54. Is there a Difference between Jewish Believers and Gentile Christians – and if so, what is it?  This article seeks explores the ways in which Jewish believers look at their faith and the Scriptures from a slightly different perspective than Gentile Christians. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish_believers_and_gentile_christian_is_there_a_difference/

  55. Shavuot (Pentecost) and Jesus being the “firstfruits from the dead” – this article explains from Scripture the timing of the events related to the crucifixion of Jesus and the Jewish holiday of Passover and how the timing of the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) is tied to the timing of Passover. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/shavuot-pentecost-and-jesus-being-the-firstfruits-from-the-dead/


  56. “A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” – the Apostle Paul has much to say about whether God has rejected the Jews and in Romans 11:14–25 he speaks directly to Gentiles about the unbelief of much of physical Israel. Paul exhorts the Gentiles not to brag (:18), not to be arrogant (:20), not to be conceited (:25) and not to be unaware (:25) of God’s plans of redemption of physical Israel. Why Paul said this and what the Scriptures say with regards to the future salvation of the Jews is elaborated on in this article. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-partial-hardening-has-come-to-israel-until-the-full-number-of-the-gentiles-has-come-in/

  57. The Early Church [including Polycarp] continued to celebrate Passover – few Gentile Christians realize that both Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in the early Church at Jerusalem and Antioch including Polycarp, a Church Father (80-167 CE) continued to celebrate the Passover according to the Biblical requirement (on the 14th of Nisan) and did so for the first two centuries, possibly until the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  This article is fully referenced for the more scholarly and skeptical reader. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/early-church-including-polycarp-continued-to-celebrate-passover/

  58. The Temple and Synagogue in the Early Church – is an article about the role of the Temple and the synagogue in the life of Jesus and the early Jewish believers at the beginning of the Church as we know it. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-temple-synagogue-in-the-early-church/

Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah – Jews and Gentiles in the Land

While it is common for Gentile Christians to refer to it as the Holy Land, this term (“Adama HaKodesh”) appears only once in the Tanakh (the Hebrew “Old Testament”), in Zechariah 2:12 (Zechariah 2:16 in the Hebrew original):

טז  וְנָחַל יְהוָה אֶת-יְהוּדָה חֶלְקוֹ, עַל אַדְמַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ; וּבָחַר עוֹד, בִּירוּשָׁלִָם.

16 :2 זְכַרְיָה / Zechariah 2:16

To the people of the day, it was simply “the Land” — and all other countries were “outside the Land”.  It didn’t need the addition of the term “holy”.

The Rabbis of the time believed that there were ten degrees of sanctity from the bare soil of the Land, up to the Most Holy Place (“Holy of Holies”) in the Temple.  In  their eyes, “outside the Land” represented darkness and death – in fact, the very dust of a heathen country was viewed as unclean, and was considered to defile by contact. It was regarded like the grave, or the rotting of death. They even said that if a spot of heathen dust so much as touched an offering, it must at once be burnt. This, of course is not in Torah, but was the teaching of the Rabbis. They taught that all contact with pagans (non-Jews) must be avoided, and all trace of it shaken off.  

It was into this cultural context, that Yeshua (Jesus)  spoke to His Disciples about those that will not accept the news of the coming of the Kingdom, in Matthew 10:14;

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town.”

It is also in this context that He spoke about restoration of a brother – that if he refuses to listen to us and to the Community that “he should be to us as a pagan and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17).

Although the way the Rabbis of various eras classified the Land vary, the earliest Rabbinic source, the Mishnah, describes different areas of the Land primarily based on religious obligation or privilege. For example, it would specify which Omer offering needed to be taken from the Land, and which did not.

The North-East border of the Land, which is now the modern country of Syria, was loosely defined by the Rabbinic institutions of the day under the term Soria. Unlike other borders of the Land, which had more clear definition of where Israel ended and the Gentile world began, the border region of Soria was less explicitly defined. It was a ‘soft border’: a strip of land in between Israel and the Gentile world, but not considered part of either.  The Mishnah states that if a man buys a field in Soria that lies close to the Land of Israel, he can treat its soil as of it were part of the Land.

The only clear geographical point in Soria where one would know that they had entered the Gentile world was the Syrian city of Antioch. The city and everything Northward was considered the Gentile World. It was in this city where the first Gentile Church was formed (Acts 11:20-21) and also where the Gentile disciples were first called “Christians“.

The Jews who lived in the Land were surrounded by many foreign nationalities, religions and cultural customsthe majority of which were favored and privileged by the Romans, who occupied the area.

Edersheim describes it as follows;

“If anyone had expected to find within the boundaries of the Land itself, one nationality, one language, the same interests, or even one religion publicly professed, he would have been bitterly disappointed.”

Among the Jews of the Land at the time, two main factors divided them; geography and religious sect.  In a nutshell, geography was an influencing factor in that the local culture, Aramaic dialect and political inclinations of the North and the South developed differently.

Galilee in the North was influenced more by the large Roman trading routes that went through it while Judea in the South, with Temple at Jerusalem became the center of religious scholarship and debate. The region of Samaria which was in between the two, served to keep them separate, because the Samaritans were despised by both. As found in the Gospels, Jews from both Galilee or Judea did not associate with Samaritans.

These differences will be expanded on in later articles – suffice to say that the main differences between the Jews in the North and the Jews in the South, in general are that the Galileans of the North tended to be more socially warm and welcoming to both Jews and non-Jews. Language-wise, their dialect of Galilean Aramaic did not have what was considered at the time to be ‘proper’ pronunciation of guttural letters. This not only made them an object of ridicule by the Judeans of the South, it also made them easily identifiable as being from the North. This sheds light on the passage in the Gospels where Peter is confronted by a little girl and denies knowing Messiah and then some bystanders are able to easily identify him as being from Galilee, by how he spoke;

“A little while later, some of the bystanders approached Peter and said to him, “Surely you’re one of them, too—your accent gives you away.

Matthew 26:73

Politically, the North, although being warm and welcoming of Jews and non-Jews, had a more violent attitude towards the Roman occupation. Chronologically, Galilee was annexed by the Romans in 6 CE, which was before Judea was annexed.  This may explain why most of the violent rebel leaders during the first of the Jewish-Roman Wars, also called “the Great Revolt” (66-73 CD) were from Galilee. Even the famous Jewish historian, Josephus, who participated in the Revolt, was from Galilee.

On the other hand, the culture of the Jews in the South in Judea had a profound intellectual and religious ‘snobbery’.  Religious education was prioritized above everything else, and treatment as an individual drastically differed depending on whether the person was taught, and by whom they were taught.  Among “learned men”, there was a contempt for those they regarded as ‘the country people“; who was anyone untaught. The “country people” were viewed with contempt because of their lack of understanding of the rigorous traditionalism of the dominant sect of the day, the Pharisees. 

Language-wise, the Judeans were considered to have better pronunciation of gutterals in their distinct Judean Aramaic dialect. In their institutions, the Judean Jews who studied, also learned Hebrew and could read Biblical texts in their original language. This fueled their sense of elitism and superiority over the Galilean Jews.

Politically, despite their arrogance, the Judean Jews tended to be more willing to cooperate with the Romans in matters of business and governance. Some even got rich in their dealings with the Romans, and the Jewish Sanhedrin, because of its willingness to cooperate with the Romans, was given an ‘ear’ before the Roman officials. This is why members of the Sanhedrin, when seeking to kill Yeshua, were able to go before Pontius Pilate and be heard.

Religiously, there were four major sects or movements. The dominant sect were the Pharisees, who controlled the local institutions of learning (e.g. synagogues).  There were the Sadducees who were almost exclusively made up of Priests – both inside and outside of the Temple, the Essenes who former scribes who became a separate sect primarily as isolationists, and based in Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were later found.  The last sect, which wasn’t an official sect, was what would later be called the Zealots.  They only developed the title “Zealots” during the Great Revolt.

All of these sects disagreed vehemently with each other on almost every theological and political issue. The idea that the term “the Jews” could be applied to members of all four of these groups is a generalization that can contribute to significant misunderstanding. When the term “the Jews” is used in Scripture, it is essential to “read up” in the passage, to determine who is being referred to.

Despite the Judaism of the day being so bitterly divided, there was one thing that united all Jews, and even Samaritans, from North to South and that was observance of some kind, to the Five Books of Moses.

To the Romans, these deep differences between sects of Jews were not appreciated. We were all Galileans or Judeans, to them.  To say they did not have an appreciation for the profound complexities of our culture and religion, would be an understatement.

Edersheim described it like this;

“Circumcision, the Sabbath-rest, the worship of an invisible God and Jewish abstinence from pork formed a never-ending theme of merriment to the heathen.”

Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah – Introduction

 

Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ  was written by Alfred Edersheim, a Vienna-born Jewish Biblical scholar (1825-1889) who came to faith Messiah.

The book was first printed in 1904, after Edersheim's death and also appears in print as as Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Christ.

Edersheim’s book cites Scripture, Rabbinic sources and the works of Josephus and Philo to place Yeshua (Jesus) and His teachings, within their Jewish context – shedding invaluable light on passages that cannot be fully understood otherwise.

This article is the first in an extended series which we’ve titled Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah and which is based on Edersheim’s work.

Note: Edersheim's lived prior to the Balfour Declaration (1922), the division of the geographic region of Palestine into the Arab-Palestinian state of Jordan (1921),and the modern State of Israel (1948).  In this series, we use the term the Land - one Edersheim uses himself, as the equivalent term.

It was in the Land’s sacred boundaries that the prophets saw their visions and psalmists composed their songs. The Land had Jerusalem for its capital, and on its highest hill stood the Temple, around which clustered Jewish history, sacred worship and far-reaching hopes.

“There is no religion so strictly local as that of Israel. Heathenism was indeed the worship of national deities, and Judaism that of YHVH, the God of heaven and earth.”

Christianity was from the first, universal in its character and design, the religious institutions and the worship set out in the first five books of Moses, the Torah (“Pentateuch”) and as they concerned Israel, strictly of the Land and for the Land.

“They are wholly incompatible with the permanent loss of the Land.”

A Judaism without the Land is a Judaism without Priesthood, altar, Temple, sacrifices, tithes, first-fruits, Sabbatical and Jubilee years, and outside the Land, the people are no longer completely Israel – in view of the Gentiles they are Jews; in their own view, “the dispersed abroad.”

After the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, the Rabbis set to  reconstruct their broken commonwealth on a new basis.  The Land, was the Mount Sinai of Rabbinism.  It was from this place the spring of Halachah (the collection of Jewish religious laws derived from both the Written Torah and “Oral Torah”) flowed in ever-widening streams.

For the first centuries, it was in Jerusalem, that the learning, the influence, and the rule of Judaism centered.  Attempts at rivalry by the Babylonian schools of Jewish learning were keenly resented and sharply put down. Later, only the force of circumstances of the day drove the Rabbis to voluntarily seek safety and freedom in the ancient seat of their captivity, Bablyon – where, in political freedom, they could give the final development to their religious system. It was their desire to preserve the nation and its learning in the Land which inspired them.

“Centuries of wandering and of changes have not torn the passionate love of this land from the heart of the people.”

Almost every prayer and hymn breathes the same love of the Land.

The lie of land and water, of mountain and valley, are the same; Hebron, Bethlehem, the Mount of Olives, Nazareth, the Lake of Gennesaret, the land of Galilee, are still there, but all changed in form and appearance  and with no definite spot to which one could  with absolute certainty attach the most sacred events.

When Messiah walked the Land, the country had already undergone many changes. The ancient division of tribes had given way; the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel existed no longer; and the varied foreign domination and the brief period of absolute national independence under the Hasmoneans, had likewise ceased.

Yet, with the characteristic tenacity of the East for the past, the names of the ancient tribes still attached to some of the districts formerly occupied by them (Matt. 4:13, 15).

A comparatively small number of the exiles had returned to the Land with Ezra and Nehemiah, and the Jewish inhabitants of the country consisted either of those who had originally been left in the Land, or of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

The controversy about the Ten Tribes raged in the time of Messiah. “Will He go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles?” asked the Jews, when unable to fathom the meaning of Messiah’s prediction of His departure.

At the time of Messiah’s birth, the Land was governed by Herod the Great  and was a nominally independent kingdom, but under the rule of Rome. On the death of Herod the Great, and  very close to the opening of the Gospel account, a fresh, though temporary, division of his kingdom had just taken place.  A few days before his his death, Herod the Great altered his will and nominated Archelaus his successor in the kingdom; Herod Antipas – the Herod named in the Gospels, was named tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea; and Philip was named tetrarch of Gaulonitis, Trachonitis, Batanaea, and Panias.

Each of the brothers had his own maneuvering to try to influence the  emperor, Caesar Augustus, who was inclined from the beginning towards Archelaus.

Note: Archelaus only ruled for two years, between 4 and 6 CE, and with the reference to his rule in Matthew 2:22, enables us to approximately date the birth of Messiah under Herod the Great. This simply demonstrates the birth account of Messiah, not in an abstract tale, but in the center of classical history.

Meanwhile, a Jewish delegation appeared in Rome, entreating that none of the Herod Ian’s  might ever be appointed king on the grounds of their past deeds, which they related, and that they (the Jews) might be allowed to live according to their own laws, under the rule of Rome.

Caesar Augustus decided to carry out the will of Herod the Great, but gave Archelaus the title of “ethnarch” instead of “king”, promising him the higher grade if he proved deserving of it.

“But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the region of Galilee”

Matthew 2:22

The division of the Land at the time of Messiah, politically speaking, consisted of Judaea and Samaria, under Roman procurators Galilee and Peraea (which lay on the other side Jordan) which were subject to Herod Antipas, the murderer of John the Baptist.

The Jews did not regard Samaria as belonging to the Holy Land, but saw it as a foreign strip, as the Talmud designates it (Chag. 25 a.) “a Cuthite strip,” or “tongue,” intervening between Galilee and Judaea.    From the Gospels we know that the Samaritans were not only ranked with Gentiles and strangers (Matt. 10:5; John 4:9, 20), but that the very term Samaritan was one of reproach (John 8:48).

The Samaritans attitude towards the Jews was one of equal hatred and contempt. At every turn, the Jews had a no more determined or relentless enemy than the Samaritans, who claimed to be the only true representatives of Israel’s worship and hopes.


Coming next: Jews and Gentiles in the Land

The Talmud – now available in English, free and online

For centuries, studying Talmud first-hand was virtually impossible for most people, due to multiple barriers. Written mostly in Aramaic, with unpunctuated text, without vowels, in a column in the middle of the page, with its commentaries wrapping around it, accessibility was further complicated by the fact that its foremost commentary by Rashi was printed in an obscure Hebrew typeface read almost exclusively by religious, learned Jews. Add to that the Talmud’s size and cost — 37 full volumes (called “tractates”) that would take up an entire shelf in a library.  While digital versions do exist, such as the one published for decades by Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, it lacks English translation and a digital version of an English Talmud translation which is available, costs $600.

For the first time ever, the Talmud is available to anyone in English for free — and it’s online.

This past Tuesday, February 7, 2017, Sefaria released 22 of the 37 tractates (volumes) online, with the remaining to be released in 2017.  Sefaria’s format links between the Talmud’s text and the myriad of Jewish sources it references, from the Bible to rabbinic literature. Click on a verse in the Bible and you will see where it’s quoted in the Talmud and be able to read it in full, with explanatory notes in relatively plain language.

Of interest to both the Jewish believers and Gentile Christian students of Scripture is what the Rabbis of old had to say about passages we understand to be Messianic prophecy. Most surprisingly, the very passages that today’s Orthodox rabbis deny as being about Messiah, were understood by the Jewish sages to be about Messiah!

Not only that, the Jewish sages understanding of the suffering Messiah (Messiah ben Yosef) and the reigning Messiah (Messiah ben David) is remarkably similar to what we believe. No wonder Sefaria’s release of the Talmud in English and Hebrew (the two languages spoken by most Jews the world over) is so very controversial.

Available at www.sefaria.org and as a free app for iPhone and Android (that can be used offline, too).

The New Perspective – second phase of the Reformation?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his ninety-five theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. His theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe and the debate which followed culminated  in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation restored the Word of God to the ordinary people and called them out of an obligation of submission to the papacy to one of submission to Scripture.  But was the Reformation all that was required to restore the Scriptures to their first century understanding? This is the topic of this article.


Martin Luther taught that justification (God’s declaration that we are forgiven of sin and righteous in His sight ) comes only through our faith in the ‘completed work and the ‘perfect righteousness of Christ’,  which the Father imputes, or reckons to our account through faith.

Romans 1:16-17 was central to Martin Luther’s theology and lies at the heart of Reformation theology;

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

Luther initially had disdain for the phrase, “the righteousness of God” because he understood it to be speaking of God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners;

I was seized with the conviction that I must understand [Paul’s] letter to the Romans … but to that moment one phrase in Chapter 1 stood in my way. I hated the idea, “in it the righteousness of God is revealed”.  I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners .

—Martin Luther

In time, Luther said he began to understand that the “righteousness of God” is given as a “gift of God” given to sinners by faith and by which the righteous live;

“At last, meditating day and night and by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.

—Martin Luther

James D.G. Dunn, Peter J. Tomson and other proponents of the “New Perspective on Paul” are restoring an understanding of the teachings of Paul to one set in its first century Jewish context, and in doing so, have set in motion what may be viewed as a second stage of Reformation of the Church.

Two foundational books by New Perspective theologians are "Paul and the Jewish Law - Halakha in the Letters of the Apostles to the Gentiles" by Peter J. Tomson (1990) and "The New Perspective on Paul" by James D.G. Dunn (1993)

According to Dunn, Paul’s theology of justification necessarily must be viewed as integral to the commission to preach the gospel to non-Jews.  This after all, is the context of Paul speaking of “the righteousness of God” in Romans 1:16-17;

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Gentile.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

Viewed in context, “the righteousness of God” is not as Luther first thought as “God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners” nor as he later thought, ‘as as a gift of God given to sinners by faith’ — but rather “is a relational term that refers to the fulfillment of one’s obligation to another in the context of a relationship”, specifically;

“God’s fulfillment of the obligations that He took upon Himself in creating humankind and particularly, in the calling of Abraham and the choosing of Israel to be His people.

– James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul, pp 340-346

To Dunn and other proponents of the New Perspective, the ‘righteousness of God’ involves God’s reckoning of covenant membership with respect to Gentiles.  We have referred to this in previous articles as God’s fulfillment of His promise that He gave in the “all nations clause” of Genesis 12:2-3 of the Abrahamic Covenant.

God promised Abraham that he will be (1) the father of "a great nation" -- that is a specific nation (Hebrew: לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל) though Isaac and Jacob (the Jews), and He also promised (Genesis 12:3) that through a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew, "all the peoples  (nations) of the earth will be blessed".  This is the so-called "all-nations clause".

According to Dunn and other proponents of the New Perspective, the term ‘the righteousness of God’ is not a term indicating transfer, but status recognition;

God’s justification is not His act in first making His covenant with Israel, or in initially accepting someone into His covenant people. God’s justification is rather God’s acknowledgment that someone is in the covenant — whether that is an initial acknowledgment, or a repeated action of God (God’s saving acts) or His final vindication of His people”.

– James D.G. Dunn, “The New Perspective on Paul”, p 97

The ‘righteousness of God‘ refers to God’s fulfillment of the obligations that God took upon Himself;

(1) in the calling of Abraham when He chose Israel to be His people (the “great nation”) and made His “everlasting covenant” with them, giving them as an “eternal possession” all the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:1-8).

and a fulfillment of the obligations that He took upon Himself;

(2) in the “all nations clause” (Genesis 12:3), that through a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew, “all the nations of the earth will be blessed”.

The New Perspective as a second phase of the Reformation?

The Reformation restored the common people’s access and accountability to the Word of God, but is it helpful to view “reform” as having occurred at one point in history and complete? Perhaps what began in 1517 was the first phase in restoring a correct understanding to Scripture?

Reformation theology failed to understand that the ‘righteousness of God‘ was God’s reckoning of covenant membership to Gentiles and they also erroneously viewed ‘justification’ and the ‘righteousness of God’ as one of transfer, rather than of status recognition.

New Perspective theologians situate the teachings of Paul in their first century Jewish context, and in doing so may form the beginning of a second phase of the Reformation – one which restores the teachings of Paul and of Jesus to their first century Jewish context.

Understanding that ‘justification’ and the ‘righteousness of God’ describe status recognition of either being “in the covenant” or “not in the covenant” does not distinguish whether the one “in the covenant” came from the “great nation” through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews),  or as a result of God fulfilling His promise to “all the nations of the earth” (the Gentiles).

New Perspective theologians understand that the ‘righteousness of God‘ was God’s reckoning of covenant membership to Gentiles in addition to Jews, which leaves room for a correct reading of Romans 1:16-17; “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile“.

Furthermore, God fulfilling His promises in the “all-nations clause” of the Abrahamic Covenant necessitates that God will also  fulfill the promises He made to the “great nation” (the Jews), the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob under the same “everlasting covenant, including the “eternal possession” of the land (Genesis 17:1-8).

Final thoughts…

The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ is a much a restoration of the Scriptures to the Church as the Reformation of 1517, and may be rightfully viewed as the beginning of the second phase of Reformation.

What is surely needed next is for Gentile Christian theologians to situate the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, in their first century Jewish context — a so-called ‘New Perspective on Jesus‘.

If the esteemed theologians of the Church would work together the well credentialed theologians of Messianic Judaism, perhaps this second phase of the Reformation might take place in our day – a first century Jewish understanding of the Scriptures restored to the Church.

cover photo: "Sola Scriptura" - Scripture alone, "Sola Gratia" - grace alone, "Sola Christus" - through Christ alone, which represents the heart of Martin Luther's teachings

God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant

This article is Part 3 of 3 where we look at what God promised the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) in the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Calling of Abraham

The first mention of Abraham is in Genesis Chapter 11 where we learn that Abram (his name at first) is from Ur of the Chaldees, and is the son of Terah, has two brothers named Nahor and Haran and that Haran’s son (Abram’s nephew) is Lot and that Abram’s wife is Sarai (later changed to “Sarah“). It seems apparent that Abram knew God’s voice because when He spoke to him at the beginning of Chapter 12, Abram knew it was God. In verse 1 of Chapter 12 of Genesis, God speaks to Abram for the first time recorded in Scripture of two specific promises;

(1) that He will make him and his descendants into “a great nation” — a people

(2) that he will give this people a very specific land. 

As we will demonstrate below, God specifies throughout the book of Genesis that the “great nation” is a people of physical descendants of Abraham  — and not just any physical descendants of Abraham! God is very specific who can and cannot be Abraham’s “heir” and thus, who Abraham’s descendants will be.  For example, as we outline below, God specifies that Abraham’s heir cannot be through his servant Eliezer and cannot be through Hagar’s son Ishmael, even though Abraham is his father. Furthermore, God foretells in advance that Isaac’s heir will be though Jacob, and not Esau (Isaac’s firstborn son).

God is very particular that Abraham’s descendants i.e. “seed” (plural) are a very specific nation who are descended from very particular Patriarchs.

A Land and a People

The very first time God speaks to Abraham as recorded in Scripture, it is of of the two promises concerning a people and a land, in Genesis 12;

“The Lord said to Abram:

Go out from your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.

Genesis 12:1

Then God spoke to Abraham of His promises, God says;

I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who curse you,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:2-3

In Genesis 12: 1-3, God is contrasting the promises made to Abraham pertaining to two groups of people 

(1) to the “great nation” (singular) — a specific physical people, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — the “great nation” (singular) with whom He makes an “everlasting covenant”. This group is a physical nation, the people  of Israelthat is derived from Abraham’s “seed” (plural).

and 

(2) “all the nations (literally families) of the earth” (plural— The word for “nations” is the word in Hebrew מִשְׁפְּחֹת meaning “families” refers to the Gentiles that will be blessed through a specific physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — a Jew, the Messiah.

 

God leaves no room for doubt that the “great nation” He will make of Abraham is a physical nation that would come through very specific physical offspring or “seed” (plural) of Abraham (i.e. through Issac and Jacob and in Genesis 22:15-18, He repeats the exact SAME promises  to the exact  SAME two groups of people as in Genesis 12:1-3! After Isaac was born and after Jacob became Isaac’s heir, God reaffirmed His covenant with  BOTH the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the ‘great nation’) as well as His covenant with “all the families / nations of the earth”;

Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By Myself I have sworn,” this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gates of their enemies.

And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command.”

Genesis 22:15-18

Furthermore, God also reaffirmed the covenant He made with Abraham concerning his physical descendants to Isaac in Genesis 26:1-5 and to Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15 and in Genesis 35:9-12.


God’s Promises to Abraham were “a people” and “a land”

God made two specific promises to the physical descendants of Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12:1-3; that He will make of Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and that He will give this great nation a specific the land (verses 5-7) ;

“He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated, and the people he had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the site of Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, I will give this land to your offspring.”

Genesis 12:5-7

The term “offspring” is also translated “seed” (Hebrew זֶרַע), and is used here in its plural form and as we will demonstrate, refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacobthe Jews. In this verse, God is speaking of a specific land (the land of Israel) that He will give to the Jewish people.

When Abram leaves Ur of the Chaldees, he takes Lot, his brother’s son, with him.  Things get tense between Lot’s herdsmen and Abram’s herdsmen, so Abram gives Lot his choice to go one way and he goes the other.

After Lot  separated from Abram, God said to Abram to look as far as he could see, looking north, south, east and west for He was going to give Abram and his offspring (“seed”, Hebrew זֶרַע)  all the land that he sees, forever. In this case too, the word “seed” is in its plural form and refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob;

“After Lot had separated from him, the Lord said to Abram, “Look from the place where you are. Look north and south, east and west, for I will give you and your offspring forever all the land that you see. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust of the earth, then your offspring could be counted. Get up and walk around the land, through its length and width, for I will give it to you.”

Genesis 13: 14-17

The beginning of Chapter 15 of Genesis reads

After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision“.

God says to Abram;

Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield;
your reward will be very great.”

Genesis 15:

Abram was frustrated because anything that God would give him would only be for his lifetime, because Abram didn’t have an heir and everything he had at that point, or would receive from God in the future, would become the property of his head servant, Eliezer.

Abram complains to God (:3);

“But Abram said, “Lord God, what can You give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram continued, “Look, You have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.”

Genesis 15: 2-3

The Lord answered Abram clearly and said that Eliezer will not be his heir but one who comes from his own body will be his heir.

God knew that He was going to bring Abram’s heir through his wife Sarai and that He would make His covenant with his physical descendants:

“This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.

Genesis 15:4

Then God took Abram outside and said to him (:5);

“Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.”

Genesis 15:5

In this case, the Hebrew word for “offspring” or “seed” is in its plural form and refers to the physical descendants of Abraham — and as we shall see, specifically through Isaac and Jacob.

In Genesis 15:6-8, when it came to having physical descendants, Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (:6) but when God spoke to him about the physical land they would inherit, Abraham wanted proof (:7)!

“Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.

”But he said, “Lord God, how can I know that I will possess it?

Genesis 15:6-8

God’s asks Abram to bring Him specific animals, split them down the middle and lay them opposite one another. This act is how covenants were made.


God’s Covenant with Abraham

God’s responds to Abram’s request for proof that his physical descendants would inherit the land by asking Abram to bring Him specific animals, split them down the middle and lay them opposite one another. This is how covenants were made, and the term in Hebrew for making a covenant is literally “to cut a covenant” (וַיִּכְרְתוּ בְרִית).

A covenant is an agreement between at least two parties where the terms of the agreement are set out and both parties accept them. In this case the covenant is made between YHVH and Abram but looking at another example of the covenant cut between Zedekiah and the people of Judah (Jeremiah 34:8–22) — in both cases at least one animal was killed, cut into two pieces and someone passed between the divided pieces.

The killing of an animal in making a covenant signified that those that entered into the covenant could expect the same fate as the animals if he violated his oath. The slaughtered animal(s) was both a ratifying sacrifice and symbolic of the curse for violating the covenant.

It is important to note that God alone ratified the covenant with Abram – and Hebrews 6:13 refers to this saying, He swore by Himself and furthermore, says why God swore by Himself;

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself:

I will indeed bless you,
and I will greatly multiply you.

And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise. For men swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute. Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.”

Hebrews 6:13-15

God swore by Himself to demonstrate that His promises were unchangeable, and these are His promises were to both the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and to the “nations”, the Gentiles;

(a) to the Gentiles that the “seed of the woman” and the “seed” (singular) of Abraham (Jesus) would be a blessing to “all the families of the earth”

and

(b) to the Jews that He would have an “everlasting covenant” with them and that the land was their “eternal possession”.

God alone ratifying the covenant (i.e. Abram did not have to walk through the cut pieces of animals as is normally the case) signified that if either side broke the covenant, God Himself would die! 

We all know the story of what happened next…

Abraham was getting old and his wife Sarai was resolved she was not going to conceive, so she tells Abram to sleep with her handmaiden, Hagar so that he would have an heir to the promise of ‘the land’ and to bring forth ‘a great nation’. Abram obliges and Hagar conceives Ishmael.  After Ishmael’s birth, at the very beginning of Genesis 17, God appears to Abram and reiterates the covenant he made with him when He passed through the animal part— including the certainly of the Land as an eternal possession that He was giving to Abram’s descendants through a son that Sarai, Abram’s wife will bear;

“I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”

Then Abram fell face-down and God spoke with him: “As for Me, My covenant is with you: you will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”

Genesis 17:1-8


Abraham Through Isaac – not Ishmael

Abraham was hoping God would simply recognize Ishmael as the heir to the covenant and the son of promise, saying to God “If only Ishmael were acceptable to you”(Genesis 17:18) but after Ishmael’s birth (Genesis 17:1-8), God appears to Abram and reiterates the promises He made with him when He passed through the animal parts — including the promise of the Land and in verse 15, God tells Abraham that his wife Sarai, whose name He will change to Sarah, will bear a son and that nations will come through her.

 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah[e] will be her name. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.

Who are these “nations” (plural) that will come through Sarah?

Sarah bore only one son, Isaac and the “nations” that God foretold come through him.

God specified that Abraham’s physical offspring or “seed” (plural) would be through Isaac and NOT Ishmael (Genesis 17:19) and that it was through Isaac that God would confirm His covenant with Abraham;

“But God said, “No. Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his future offspring. As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father 12 tribal leaders, and I will make him into a great nation.  But I will confirm My covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.”

Genesis 17:19-21


Abraham through Isaac and Jacob – not Esau

God was very specific that Abraham’s physical offspring / “seed” (plural) would be through Jacob and not Esau (Genesis 25:23) and foretold this;

“These are the family records of Isaac son of Abraham. Abraham fathered Isaac. 20 Isaac was 40 years old when he took as his wife Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan-aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.  Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord heard his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. But the children inside her struggled with each other, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?”So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her:

Two nations are in your womb;
two people will come from you and be separated.
One people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.

Genesis 25: 19-23

Isaac’s wife Rebekah had twin sons; Esau and Jacob and God said (Genesis 25:23) that “two nations” were in her womb and that the “older shall serve the younger“. The first born son was Esau, who under ordinary circumstances would have been the heir to Isaac, but God foretold that he would serve his second born twin brother, Jacob. As God said would happen, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, effectively making Jacob as if he were the “first born son” — fulfilling the promise that the “older would serve the younger.

The “two nations” that Isaac’s wife Rebekah bore were:

(1) Jacob’s descendants, the 12 Tribes of Israel. This is the nation of “Israel”. 

and

(2) the descendants of Esau. The descendants of Esau are listed in Genesis 36 and verse 6 says that Esau moved some distance away from his brother Jacob to another land called Se’ir, also known as Edom (or Idumea). The nation which came from Esau are the Edomites.

The Physical Descendants of Abraham – a “people” forever

 

God promised through the prophet Jeremiah that Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would always exist before Him.  In Jeremiah Chapter 31, immediately after promising to give the Jews the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33) because they broke the Mosaic Covenant (the Law) that He gave them at Sinai, God promised in Jeremiah 31:35-37 that as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon and the stars shine at night, that Israel will be a nation before Him.  He promised that only if the heavens above and the foundations of the earth below can be measured, will He reject Israel’s descendants because of all they have done;

This is what the Lord says:

The One who gives the sun for light by day,
the fixed order of moon and stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea and makes its waves roar—
Yahweh of Hosts is His name:
If this fixed order departs from My presence—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
then also Israel’s descendants will cease
to be a nation before Me forever.
This is what the Lord says:

If the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below explored,
I will reject all of Israel’s descendants
because of all they have done
this is the Lord’s declaration.”

Jeremiah 31:35-37

We know that both of these promises still exist because “it is impossible for God to lie”;  

“Is God a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind? Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?”

Numbers 23:19


Final thoughts…

It is our belief that only reason that the Jews still exist and that they are back in the land is because of His faithfulness to His word — to keep the covenant that He made and swore by Himself to uphold, even if the Jews broke it, which they did.

God was clear in Scripture, that the penalty for the Jew’s disobedience (even the rejection of His Messiah) was exile from the land (Leviticus 26: 30-33).

[see http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/fullfullment-of-the-second-gathering-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel/]

The Jews were exiled in 70 CE after the death of Jesus and for more than 2000 years were in exile from the land He gave them as an “eternal possession”, but as He promised, the Jews would never cease to be a people before Him.  Even though in WWII 2/3 of the Jewish people were wiped out), God promised (Jeremiah 31:35-37) that as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon and the stars shine at night, that Israel will be a nation before Him and He has been faithful to His word. He returned the Jews to the land He gave them because He is faithful to His word and said that it was their “everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:7-8).

Israel is still Israel.  

God's eternal promises to Israel


Part 2 on God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-gentiles-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/

Part 1 on Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in the book of Romans can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/pauls-use-of-the-term-israel-in-the-book-of-romans/

It’s Time We Had a Talk – another modern parable

There once was a family, with two brothers; one older and one younger and they both related to their father in slightly different ways. The older one had come to the age of maturity well before the younger one and as a result, knew the father in ways that the younger didn’t.

It came to pass one day, that the older brother, seeing that the younger was now reaching the age of maturity, felt it was a fitting time to share matters of the family with him. Pulling his younger brother aside, he said;

It’s time we sat down and had a talk. I think you’re old enough and mature enough to handle this now.

“Sure, what’s up?”

You know how we always tell people about who we are, as sons of our father? Well, there’s a bit more to it. While it is true that we are his sons, what you need to realize is that we’ve both been adopted.

“What?! What are you talking about?”

Look, I know this is hard to hear. I’ve had to work through the same thing. Even though he refers to me as his “first born”, I am adopted, just like you are. But, keep in mind, where we’ve come from doesn’t take away from who we are now.  But we do need to be honest about it.

“How come no one has told me this?”

It’s not a matter of whether someone has told you or not, but whether you are ready to hear it.  I “get that”.  I can be stiff-necked, too. When our father adopted me, and declared me as his, he cautioned me to remember where I came from and not to get proud, lest I should look down on other people. But the truth is, my father was an Amorite and my father was a Hittite. Yeah, I know…it’s not like I come from great ancestry.  The Amorites were stateless nomads and the Hittites were known as ruthless conquerors. There is nothing wholesome about where I came from. But our father, being loving and kind, saw past that. He did not adopt me because the people I came from were numerous or great, he adopted me because he made promises to my ancestors, who he knew and loved.  As you know, he is always faithful to what he commits to.  He set his love towards me, making me his special treasure, but he also made promises to my ancestors concerning you, and as I just said, you know he is always faithful to what he commits to.

“What did he say about me?”

Even before I was adopted, he spoke of blessing ‘the other’, and as time went on, he spoke more and more of you, and his heart towards you. When you were finally adopted, I found it hard to accept, in fact, I was even a little jealous…maybe more than a little bit. I mean, you didn’t look like me, you didn’t talk like me, you didn’t even eat the same food as me! It was hard for me to accept at first, but I’ve come to know you as my brother and because our father loves you, I too have come to love you, despite our differences.

“Who is my father and mother?”

Your father was a Greek from Antioch, and your mother was a Roman. In fact, you got your name in Antioch.  As was the custom of my ancestors, I was named the eighth day.”

There was a long and difficult silence, as the younger wrestled with what his older brother had just told him.

“Hmmmm…so Father is not my father.”

No, he is!  Despite both of our pasts and all that we came out of, he is your father, and he is my father and we are brothers.  Yes, we relate to him in different ways, and to each other in different ways, but we are both equally his kids, and equal as brothers before him.  I’m not better than you because he adopted me first, nor are you lessor, because he adopted you later.  Where we come from and when we were adopted does not take away from who were are; in fact, it gives us a way to appreciate in an even greater way, his kindness, goodness and faithfulness. Neither of us can look down on the other, because we both know where we came from. This should keep us humble and appreciative.  This is why you needed to know this.”

With tears welling up in his eyes, the younger brother replied, “Yeah, I agree.”

Throwing his arms around his younger brother, the older said “We’re family, bro.

The two embraced like brothers do, and like brothers do, they both wiped the tears from their eyes before the other noticed.

 

 

 

 

Shavuot – Counting of the Omer from Passover to Pentecost

Today is Pentecost Sunday! Yes, we know that the Church celebrated it on May 15th this year (2016) but according to how God in Scripture commanded the Jews to determine the date of Pentecost (called Shavuot for “weeks”), it is today, June 12th.  For us, it began at sundown on Saturday night.

The timing of Shavuot, is determined from when Passover falls, and as covered in an earlier article, Passover’s Significance to the Church (http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/passovers-significance-to-the-church/), the date that Passover falls each year wasn’t known until the “new moon” appeared that month.

[Orthodox Jews have since replaced the Biblical way of determining when the new moon is, with a fixed calendar however Karaite Jews still use the Biblical method of sighting the new moon.]

Passover is the first holiday following the start of the first month of the Biblical calendar, and falls 14 days after the sighting of the “new moon”.

new moon over Jerusalem April 9 2016
new moon over Jerusalem April 9 2016

Once the new moon is sighted, the first month is said to start. The date of Passover is on the 14th day of that first month, which is called Nisan [or Aviv, in the parts of Scripture from before the Babylonian exile].

Note: The 'fixed' Rabbinic Calendar, was developed in the 4th century CE, by Rabbi Hillel so that the beginning of each month (and the beginning of the first month by which all other dates are determined)  was pre-set. This meant that Jews that were scattered from the Land after the destruction of the Temple in 30 CE and the expulsion of the Jews under the Romans in 135 CE, would know when to celebrate the Passover and all other holidays. This is the so-called "Jewish Calendar" that is followed by most Jews, today. According to this fixed calendar, every month of the year has a set number of days, except for three (that have a pattern for determining how many days they have).

Biblical Pentecost is not simply 50 days after Passover on the Biblical lunar calendar, as some people think. In fact, when Pentecost began was one of the most fiercely contested matters between the Pharisees and Sadducees. More on that below…

"Christian Pentecost" does not fall on the same date as "Biblical Pentecost". Christian Pentecost falls 50 days after "Easter Sunday", on a 'fixed' solar calendar -- adopted by the Church at Rome around the time of Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, or just before. At this point in time, the Church abandoning the Biblical calendar established by God in Scripture; a lunar calendar of 354 days -- in favour of a solar calendar of 365 days.  Their reasons for doing so were much the same as the reasons for the adoption of the 'fixed' Jewish Calendar, adopted in the 4th century; so that the date of all the holidays was known in advance. 

Church records document that the believers, including the early Church father Polycarp (80 – 167 CE) commemorated the death of Jesus on the Passover on the 14th day of Nisan according to the Jewish (lunar) calendar, as he maintained he had been taught by the Apostle John to do.  Polycarp and many other bishops were almost excommunicated from the Church of Rome because they wouldn’t adopt the new practice of commemorating of the death of Jesus on the Sunday following Passover on this new ‘fixed’ Roman (solar) calendar — a day the Church now calls “Easter Sunday”. With the adoption of the Roman solar calendar, the date of “Easter Sunday” is ‘fixed’ and “Christian Pentecost” was set as falling 50 days after “Easter Sunday”. [see http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/early-church-including-polycarp-continued-to-celebrate-passover/]

At first glance, determining when Biblical Pentecost is to start seems fairly straight forward, however when to start counting is not agreed upon by all sects of Jews. 

“You are to count 50 days until the day after the seventh Sabbath and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. Bring two loaves of bread from your homes as a presentation offering, each of them made from four quarts of fine flour, baked with yeast, as firstfruits to the Lord.”

Leviticus 23:16-17

Jews start counting 7 sets of “weeks” from “the day after the seventh Sabbath (following Passover)“.  The 7 sets of weeks totals 49 days and the “day after the seventh Sabbath” adds 1 more day, totalling 50 days until Pentecost, but “which Sabbath” do we start counting from?

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the morrow (day) after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.’”

Leviticus 23:10

The Pharisees (who wrote the Mishnah and the Talmud and from whom today’s Orthodox rabbis descended) argued that Pentecost is to be counted from the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which they designated a “Sabbath.”

The Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls began the 50-day count to Pentecost on a different Sabbath from the Pharisees. The Essenes had a 364-day solar calendar which began every year on a Wednesday and had fixed lengths for each month, so being a solar calendar, Pentecost always fell on the 15th day of the third Hebrew month. The Essenes began their count to when Pentecost started on the Sunday after the seven-days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The Sadducees who made up the Temple Priesthood, believed the 50-day count to Pentecost began on the weekly Sabbath that falls during the seven-days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

We know from Josephus that the Pharisees interpretation was the one that prevailed as he writes that “all prayers and sacred rites of divine worship are performed according to their [the Pharisees’] exposition” (Antiquities 18:15), and that the Sadducees “submit to the formulas of the Pharisees, since otherwise the masses would not tolerate them” (Antiquities 18:17).

Orthodox Jews today also count the Omer the same way the Pharisees did, by starting on the second day of Passover. Karaite Jews (a very small sect) do not recognize the authority of what the Pharisees and today’s Orthodox Jews call “Oral Torah” (i.e. of the Talmud or Mishnah) and follow only the teachings in the Old Testament (Tanakh).  Karaites count the Omer is accordance with a clear reading of the text (which was the same as the understanding of the Sadducees) which is also the way by which we determine when Shavuot falls.

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the morrow (day) after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.’”

Leviticus 23:10

“You are to count 50 days until the day after the seventh Sabbath and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. Bring two loaves of bread from your homes as a presentation offering, each of them made from four quarts of fine flour, baked with yeast, as firstfruits to the Lord.”

Leviticus 23:16-17

Counting from Passover until Pentecost — beginning on the day after the Sabbath

The way the Sadducees and today’s Karaite Jews (and the way we do), determining the timing of Pentecost is based on a straight forward reading if the text; Since Sabbath is on Saturday, the “morrow after the Sabbath“, is a Sunday.

In Temple times, the “wave offering” of the first stalks for grain cut during Passover is called the Feast of First fruits, and in Jesus’  day, would have fallen the day after the weekly Sabbath.

The timing of Pentecost, as God commanded the Jews to observe it, has profound implications to the Church and in retrospect, we know that the Sadducees had the correct interpretation for determining it’s date, because exactly 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits, the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost. 

The year that Jesus celebrated “the Last Supper” (more accurately the “Last Seder” with His disciples), Passover fell on a Thursday night. Remember that Biblically the new day begins at sundown the evening prior, so Thursday night after sundown is the beginning of Friday.  The day Jesus was crucified (called “Good Friday” by the Church) was the day of the Passover. The next day was Saturday, the Sabbath.

Jesus rose from the dead on the Sunday (“Resurrection Sunday”) – which was the “morrow after the Sabbath” of Passover — the day of the wave offering, the “Feast of Firstfruits” and Scripture says that He is the “first fruits from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:23).

“But now Messiah is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Messiah the firstfruits, afterward those who are Messiah’s at His coming.”

1 Corinthians 15:20-23

The night of Jesus’ last Seder with His disciples, the Feast of Passover fell on Thursday night, which by the Jewish reckoning of days is the beginning of Friday (days begins at sunset, the night before). Jesus was crucified later that day (by Jewish reckoning) which is the “next” day by the way the days are determined by non-Jewish custom. This Friday is what the Church has called “Good Friday“. So the “Sabbath of Passover” was the one between Jesus’ crucifixion and Resurrection.

Now here is where it gets very interesting…

It was that Sabbath — the Sabbath during Passover from which is the “morrow after the Sabbath of Passover” (a Sunday) was determined.  It is that Sunday of the wave offering, on the Feast of Firstfruits — from which the “counting of the Omer” began that year. When one adds one day to the 49 days (7 weeks of weeks) in accordance with Leviticus 23:15 — on the year that Jesus went to the cross and rose — that year, Pentecost fell on a Sunday… Pentecost Sunday!

It is important to remember that the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, so the year following Jesus’ death, Pentecost would have fallen on some other day than Sunday i.e. it was not “Pentecost Sunday” the year after, or even the year after that.

Pentecost (Shavuot) in Judaism has come to be associated with the giving of the Law to Moses at Sinai although this is not explicit in the Biblical text.  While Shavuot was one of the three Pilgrim festivals — one of the three times a year that every Jewish man was commanded to ascend to Jerusalem and present himself before the Lord in the Temple, the reason for this festival is not stated by God, in Scripture.  He simply commanded us observe it as outlined above, and that it is a Sabbath.  It is only with the coming of God’s Messiah. that we understand the significance of the day — as the one in which the Holy Spirit was given, as recorded in the New Testament book of Acts.

 

What did Paul mean by “may it never be!” ?

When Paul said in Scripture ‘may it never be” (me genoito / μένα genoito is the Greek equivalent) he was using a very common Hebrew expression as many other Jews of his day would have — not surprising considering Paul was Jew.

This common expression in Hebrew is “הל’לה” also spelled “הללה” (pronounced “chalilah” —  guttural ‘ch’) is found 21 times in the Tenakh (Old Testament).  The Strong’s word is H2490 and literally means “to be profane, and thus forbidden“.  It is used (interjectionally) in the KJV as “God forbid”, “far be it” (4x), “Lord forbid” (3x) and in other translations as “by no means”, “absolutely not”, “let it not be”, “certainly not”, “far be the thought”.

The first occurrence of this phrase is in Genesis 18 where Abraham is pleading with God in the form of a man on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah (incidentally yes, the tetragrammaton YHVH (יהוה) is used twice to describe the Man) :

“You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Genesis 18:25

The last occurrence of the 21 passages in the Tenakh where this word is used is in Job 34, where Job says:

“Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding. It is impossible for God to do wrong, and for the Almighty to act unjustly.”

Job 34:10

The Greek phrase me genoito / μένα genoito  occurs 15 times in the New Testament and is translated at “may it never be” and means the same as הל’לה (also spelled הללה) — “God forbid that such a thought should be allowed in any one’s mind”, “let the thought be abhorred”)

When Paul speaks of God never rejecting the Jewish people, he uses this SAME phrase; “may it never be“.

For example;

“Did God forsake His people? May it never be! “

Romans 11:1

“I ask, then, have they stumbled in order to fall? Absolutely not!”

Romans 11:11

When Paul speaks in Romans 9 – 11 of God never forsaking the Jewish people, he meant the phrase just as strongly as Abraham and Job; God could never possibly do that! It is impossible for God to do wrong or act unjustly. Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?

“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.”

Romans 9:14

 

Passover’s significance to the Church

Introduction:

God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people that were occasions that all the men were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth.

To understand the significance of any of the three pilgrim festivals to the Church, one first needs to understand the significance to the Jews, so we’ll cover that first.

This article is on Passover; the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant.

Last Supper vs Last Seder 709 x 803


Passover (Pesach) falls on the 14th day of the first month on the Biblical calendar and is the first day in the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nowadays the term “Passover” refers to both.

“The Passover to the Lord comes in the first month, at twilight on the fourteenth day of the month.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord is on the fifteenth day of the same month. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you are to hold a sacred assembly; you are not to do any daily work. You are to present a fire offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day there will be a sacred assembly; you must not do any daily work.”

Leviticus 23:5-8

While months in Scripture are numbered; first month, second month, etc. they also have names.

The names of the months that appear in the Old Testament are split between the names used before and after the exile of the Jews under the Babylonians.  As a result, in some passages, Passover is said to fall in the month of Aviv — in the parts of the Old Testament written before the Babylonian exile, and to fall in the month of Nisan in the parts of Scripture written after the exile. The first month is still called Nisan, today.

Passover is the commemoration of God bringing the Jews out of Egypt, our deliverance from slavery, God’s redemption of us, and His taking us as His people, as He said He would in Exodus 6;

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”

Exodus 6: 6-7

I will bring“, “I will deliver“, “I will redeem“, “I will take”  from the verse above are referred to as “the four ‘I wills’” and play a central role in framing the commemoration of Passover, called a Seder (for “order”). These four “I wills” correspond to the 4 cups of wine that are poured during the Passover commemoration and have significance to the Church, as well as to the Jewish people. More on that below.

The Feast of Passover commemorates the night when the Angel of the LORD passed over the households in Egypt where the blood of a perfect lamb was applied to the doorposts and lintels of the house; sparing the first born son (Exodus 12:1-13; Leviticus 23:5).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates that the Jews left Egypt in such haste that they did not have time to let their bread rise and had to bake it quickly by grilling it, as opposed to baking it.

Passover is quite literally, the account of how God saved His people by the shedding of the blood of the perfect Passover lamb. Sound familiar?  It should.

The 4 cups of wine that are poured during the Seder, the commemoration meal of Passover and which correspond to the four “I wills” are called;

Cup of Sanctification
I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians

Cup of Judgment
I will deliver you out of their bondage

Cup of Redemption
I will redeem you with an outstretched arm

Cup of Praise
I will take you to me for a people

It is believed that it was the third cup, the Cup of Redemption that Jesus took with His disciples and with which He instituted the New Covenant.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the [1] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

[1] some manuscripts insert "new"

Matthew 26:25-28

Here is Luke’s account;

“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Luke 22:20

If there is a “new” covenant there must necessarily be an “old” covenant.

Most Gentile Christians think of the “old covenant” as the “Law” given to Moses at Mount Sinai – but God says in Jeremiah 31:32 that the “old covenant” is the one that He made with our forefathers in the day that He took us by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt”.


The “New Covenant” – promised to the Jewish People

It may come as a surprise to learn that the New Covenant was promised by God beforehand to the Jewish people.

The “new covenant” that Jesus instituted at what the Church calls the “Last Supper” (more accurately called ‘the last Seder’) — was promised to the Jewish people in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 31.

It is a Jewish covenant – one He said He would make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (the Jews).

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Jeremiah 31: 31- 33

Why did God need to make a “new” covenant?

Hebrews 8 explains why He needed to make a new covenant with us.  We broke the first covenant:

“if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one. But finding fault with His people, He says:

 Look, the days are coming, says the Lord,

when I will make a new covenant

with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah—

not like the covenant

that I made with their ancestors

on the day I took them by their hands

to lead them out of the land of Egypt.

I disregarded them, says the Lord,

because they did not continue in My covenant.

But this is the covenant

that I will make with the house of Israel

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put My laws into their minds

and write them on their hearts.

I will be their God,

and they will be My people.

And each person will not teach his fellow citizen

and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,”

because they will all know Me,

from the least to the greatest of them.

For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing,

and I will never again remember their sins

By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear.”

Hebrews 8: 7-14

God needed to make a new covenant with us because we broke the “first covenant” (the one He ratified with Abraham and that He swore by Himself to uphold) and which He implemented when He led us out of Egypt to bring us into our own Land, which He promised to Abraham. He was a husband to us and we were unfaithful.

While the New Covenant is a Jewish covenant promised by God to the Jewish people in the Old Testament, it was also God’s  means to fulfill the promise He made to the Gentiles back in Genesis 12:3;

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse those that curse you, and in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.

In this passage, God speaks of His promise to Abraham (developed more in Genesis 17:1-8) that He will make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and given them a specific land . He then goes on to say something incredible — that through a descendant of Abraham’s “all the nations [Ha-Goyiim, in Hebrew, meaning “Gentiles”] on earth will be blessed”. 

This is referred to as “the all-nations clause of the Abrahamic Covenant”

Wow! God planned right from the beginning that the Messiah, a Jew — would be a blessing to the Gentiles.  On the cross, access to all — Jew and Gentile was provided.  The veil was torn.  Whosoever will, may come.

Jesus is the mediator of this new covenant (Hebrews 8:1-6).


The “Bread and the Cup”

Some people think that Jesus was implementing  a new ritual, a “Holy Sacrament”, an Ordinance, when He took the “bread and the cup”,  gave thanks, broke it and said “take eat all of you, for the forgiveness of sins“. Let’s look at this in its context…

Jesus was sitting at the Passover meal with His disciples.  As Jews, in accordance with the Law of Moses, they were keeping the memorial feast (Seder) to remember that night that the Angel of the Lord passed over the houses of the children of Israel when He saw the blood of a perfect lamb (“a lamb without blemish”] — painted on the doorposts and lintel of the Jews’ houses. When He saw the blood, He passed over — sparing the first born of the Jews.  It was in THIS context, that Jesus took the “bread and cup”.

It was not “any bread” that He took.

It was not “any cup“.


Taking, Giving Thanks and Breaking the Bread

In the account in Luke (Luke 22:14-20) it says:

He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Luke 22:19

Let’s break down the account of what Jesus did in

(1) taking the bread

(2) giving thanks and

(3) breaking it


The “Bread” Jesus Took

Have you ever seen what matzoh, unleavened bread looks like? It is hard, dry and very crumbly.

Here is a picture;

passover cup and echad

Matzoh is made of only flour and water and is baked very quickly over an open fire — because it symbolizes the the Jews had no time to let their bread rise (with yeast) when they fled Egypt. Holes are pierced into it in stripes to allow more even heat flow during the baking process and to keep it from puffing up while it is cooking.  The flames leave these little brown spots that look like bruises all over, because matzoh are grilled over an open fire.

Matzoh is pierced, striped and bruised — like the Messiah was prophesied to be in Isaiah 53:4-6.

This is the “bread” that Jesus took !


“Giving Thanks”

Scripture says that when Jesus took the (unleavened) bread from the Passover Seder, He “gave thanks“.

As a Jew, having a meal with His Disciples who were Jews, “giving thanks” meant something very specific.

There is the “blessing on bread” and the “blessing on wine” — bread and wine are two elements that are found at every feast meal, including the Sabbath (Shabbat) meal. The only difference is, at Passover, the “bread” is unleavened.  So matzoh is used.

These are specific blessings.

When Jesus took the “bread” and “gave thanks” He prayed the “blessing on bread” over the matzoh;

“Blessed are You, O LORD, God King of the Universe, who brings bread from the earth. Amen”.


“Breaking” the Bread

Remember, the “bread” Jesus took was hard and pierced with holes in stripes. “Breaking” the matzoh means it would ‘snap’ along one of the lines of pieced holes.

After He took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, He gave it to them and said;

“This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

He was saying, this broken pierced, striped, bruised matzoh — is Me. He was saying that He was going to be ‘broken’ for them, that He is the One spoken of in Isaiah 53.

Then He said;

“Do this in remembrance of Me”.

Was He implementing a new ritual? A Holy Sacrament? An Ordinance of the Church?

Or was He taking elements that are found at the Passover meal — elements that already had a specific meaning and relating THAT to what He was about to do?

Like the perfect Passover lambs on the night the Jews left Egypt, He was about to be sacrificed — broken for us.


“The Cup”

It is believed that the cup that Jesus took was the 3rd cup — the Cup of Redemption, as it was a cup He took “as they were eating”.   As you will see below, the 4th cup was taken “after supper”.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:25-28

By way of background, it is important to know, is that the wine served at the Passover Seder meal must be red wine, because it is represents

“the blood of the lambs that was placed on the doorposts and lintels of the homes , the night we left Egypt — so that when the Angel of the Lord saw it, He would “pass over”.”

Jesus took an element fundamental to the Passover Seder meal — a cup of red wine that already had a very specific meaning and told His Disciples what He was about to do;

“When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.  Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Luke 22:14-18

He took the cup and after “giving thanks”…  i.e. He said the “blessing on wine”:

“Blessed are You O LORD, God, King of the Universe, who brings forth the fruit of the vine. Amen”

Since He said the “blessing on the cup”, he would have taken a sip of it. Then He passed the cup around for everyone to take a sip, which is what is done after “Kiddish”, the “blessing on the wine” is said.  He would have passed the cup to the eldest male there, who would have taken a sip and then passed it to the next eldest.

Then He said:

“I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

He knew what lay ahead and that on THIS Passover, He was the Lamb that was about to be sacrificed — so that they (we) could be spared the penalty of death.

Then Jesus said He would not drink of the fruit of the vine (i.e. would not drink the 4th cup of wine of the Passover Seder meal) until He drinks it with us in the Kingdom of God (cr Matt 26:29, Mark 14:25).


The Fourth Cup  — the Fourth “I will”

We know that this was the fourth cup, because it says in Luke 22:20 that it is the one that He took “after supper”. This cup represents the fourth “I will” – “I will take you to me for a people”.

Of this cup, Jesus said;

In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said,“This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.” “

By saying this, Jesus was telling His Disciples that THIS Passover it would be His blood that was going to be the sacrifice and more than that, He was saying that His blood would be the sacrifice that would ratify the New Covenant — the covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31.

Remember…

The “first covenant” was the one that was ratified with Abraham — the SAME Covenant with the “all-nations clause” in it.

This was the Covenant that was ratified when God alone passed through the split carcasses. This meant that if that Covenant was broken by the Jews, only God would have to pay the penalty for it having been broken.

Referring back to Hebrews 8:7-14, a “new covenant” was needed because we (the Jews) broke the “first covenant”.

Jesus was saying when He took the 3rd cup — the Cup of Redemption, that just as God swore by Himself to do when He passed through the cut carcasses alone, He was going to “pay the required price” for us breaking the first covenant. He was going to redeem us — buy us back.

In just a few hours, He would do, just that.

While the New Covenant was promised to the Jews and He would be the sacrifice that would soon ratify it — God planned from the beginning, that ‘all the nations — the Gentiles, would be blessed through this descendant of Abraham‘…the Jewish Messiah. In this new covenant — both Jew and Gentile would be full and equal partakers of.

When Jesus took this cup, He was comparing His blood to those of the lambs’ that were put on the doorposts and lintels of the houses the night we left Egypt — to spare us from death.

The reason that Jesus won’t drink the 4th cup yet — is because He is still gathering His people — both Jews and Gentiles to Himself.

Paul speaks of this in Romans 11:25-17;

“I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,

he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

“and this will be my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel, they [the Jews] are enemies of God for your (the Gentile’s) sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Romans 11:25-27

[for an in-depth explanation of this passage, phttp://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-partial-hardening-has-come-to-israel-until-the-full-number-of-the-gentiles-has-come-in/]

Paul also speaks of His future redemption of the Jews in Romans 11:11-15;

“So I ask, did they [the Jews] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their [the Jews] trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

Now if their [the Jews] trespass means riches for the world, and if their [the Jews] failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their [the Jews] full inclusion mean!

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. In as much then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

For if their [the Jew’s] rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

Jesus is coming back for His Bride, comprised of both Jews and Gentiles and at that time He will again drink the fruit of the vine, the Cup of Praise, in the fulfillment of the fourth “I Will” – “I will take you to me for a people”.