Star of David
WELCOME
Why Christianity?
or WHAT Jewish Roots?

by John T. Webb
An introduction to some of the basics.

Have you ever considered why so much of Christianity has a Greek flavor to it when Jesus was a Jew?


This page is the on-line presentation of a small booklet which I wrote over 20 years ago in an effort to give Christians a brief introduction to the Jewish beginnings of Christianity.  Each part can be read in about one minute (less if you're a faster reader than I am) and hopefully will instill in you a desire to learn more about the richness and diversity of the foundations of our faith.  Some of the links are to other articles I have written, some are to other authors' works, and some are to Scripture in the Blue Letter Bible.

Since I wrote this, I have come to the realization that the roots of our faith are in the Hebraic faith of Abraham, rather than the teachings of Judaism.  Please keep that in mind that when reading "Jewish roots," they should be "Hebraic roots."
I hope you will find this enjoyable and informative, and that you will seek further to learn about our Jewish (Hebrew) roots.
SHALOM


PART ONE

THE "CHURCH?"
Its Origin in a Jewish World.

What is the "church?"  What inspired its structure and organization?  What does the word "Christian" mean, and why do we use it?  We will attempt to give answers to these and other questions, and perhaps supply some food for thought, in the pages to come.

The dictionary defines "church" as an edifice for public Christian worship, the whole body of Christian believers, or variations of these themes. But what was Jesus talking about?

Our English word "church" originated in the Greek word(s) kyriakon (doma), or "Lord's (house)." 1 The first occurrence of the word in English translations of the Bible is in Matt. 16:18, when Jesus says to Peter, "upon this rock I will build my . . ."  What?  Jesus never built a "Lord's house."  As far as we know, Peter never built a "Lord's house," but he was certainly instrumental in founding what we call the "church."  So what is a church?  Did Jesus utter the word "church", or even kyriakon doma?  No!  Since Jesus was a Hebrew, a Jew, and spoke Hebrew, what He said was probably something like:
"al ha-sela ha-zeh evneh edatih."
literally "on the-rock the-here I-will-build congregation-of-me

The Greek translation of Jesus' word is ekklesia, which is translated "a calling out, an assembly," but since Jesus was a Jew and spoke Hebrew, not Greek (and not Aramaic, but more about this later), He probably said either edah or qahal, both of which mean congregation or assembly, and are often seemingly used interchangeably in the "Old" Testament.  So Jesus was talking about people, not a building.

Now, let's be sure we understand this one thing from the beginning: Jesus was a JEW!  His given name was Yeshua, the Hebrew word for salvation.  ("Jesus" is a transliteration of the Greek Iesous, which is a transliteration of the Hebrew Yeshua).  He was born in Bethlehem in Judea, "of the house and lineage of David." (Luke 2:4)  There are those who will argue that He was a Christian, and not of the Jewish race, religion or culture.  But Acts 11:26 tells us that the term "Christian" was first used at Antioch several years after Yeshua's death and departure.  And of course, the very word "christ" is a Greek word, christos, which means anointed.  This is a translation of the Hebrew word which means anointed, mashiach , which is Anglicized to "messiah."  Surely, no one will argue that He was Greek!

1
The American College Dictionary, 1970, "church" RETURN

The PURPOSE of the CHURCH

Blue Letter Bible



PART TWO

THE FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF JERUSALEM
Don't Look Now, but It Was a Jewish Synagogue.

MOST OF THE DIFFICULT PASSAGES CONFRONTED IN NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES COULD BE SOLVED THROUGH A KNOWLEDGE OF RABBINIC LITERATURE.
David Bivin / Roy Blizzard, Jr., PhDUnderstanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, pg. 70

Jesus' genealogy is listed in the first chapter of Matthew and the third chapter of Luke. Included in the list of His ancestors is Judah, one of the great-grandsons of Abraham.  From Judah, nine of his brothers, and two of his nephews grew the twelve tribes of Israel.  (God changed the name of Jacob, Judah's father, to Israel; hence, the tribes are descended from Israel.) The division of the nation of Israel after the death of King Solomon resulted in the northern kingdom of Israel, supposedly ten tribes of the children of Jacob, and the southern kingdom of Judah, comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  (The southern kingdom may also have included Simeon -- see Joshua 19.)  Jerusalem was the capital of Judah.  The term Jew first appears in the Bible when the kingdom of Judah is being carried off captive to Babylon (2 Kings 25:25).

Most people, when thinking of church, have a mental picture of a building with a cross on a steeple, a meeting starting with a few hymns, some prayers, scripture reading, and a sermon by a minister. Few realize that (with the exception of the steeple and the cross) this is basically what happens in a synagogue. And has been happening in synagogues for about 2500 years.  And was happening in Jerusalem and Antioch when Yeshua and Paul entered synaqogues on the Sabbath to teach.

Think about this: The first church, which was in Jerusalem, was Jewish, 100%.  Yeshua said repeatedly that He was "sent to the lost sheep of Israel."  Gentiles* were not even permitted to join their number until Peter received a vision and argued before the "apostles and brethren" (Acts 15:7) in Jerusalem to admit them.  How, then, can a GENTILE be saved, if it were not for the One sent to the JEWS?

The 3,000 baptized on the day of Pentecost (a Jewish Holy Day, ** the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot) were all Jews from as far away as Libya and Rome. There was a good-sized population of Jewish believers in Corinth where Paul stayed about A.D. 45-55 for eighteen months, teaching in the synagogue (Acts 18).  It has been estimated that "by A.D. 50 ... there were over 50,000 Jewish believers in the city of Jerusalem alone."  (Roy Blizzard, Jr., PhD, "Our Jewish Roots," audio tape series, 1985[?], lesson #13.)

Blue Letter Bible


PART THREE

FIRST CENTURY WORSHIP
Sabbath, Passover, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukkah

THE CHURCH IS BURDENED WITH AN UNRESOLVED IDENTITY PROBLEM.  SADLY, MOST CHRISTIANS ARE UNAWARE THAT A PROBLEM EXISTS. YET MANY ILLNESSES OF THE CHURCH, BOTH PAST AND PRESENT, ARE A RESULT OF OUR NOT KNOWING WHO WE ARE IN JESUS.
David Bivin, "Yavo Digest," vol. 1, no. 1.

Now, the first things that these 3,000 Jews who professed faith in this Yeshua from Nazareth did were to write new hymns, sign tithe pledge cards, start wearing crosses on chains around their necks, go out and buy new suits and ties and dresses, elect a board of deacons, and start meeting on Sunday mornings in their new church buildings with the cross-tipped steeples. Right?

Well, not exactly!

Since the 6th century B.C. and their return from captivity in Babylon where synagogue worship was developed, these people had been worshipping God in a very ordered manner, and many aspects of that order remain to this day. The believers, followers of what they called "the Way" (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23), continued worshipping in the synagogue right along with non-believers for many years. They were still Jews and continued to be Jews.  Yeshua did not teach anything that was not scriptural (as the Jews did and do).

They also continued to observe the feasts and festivals which God had commanded through Moses:  Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Tabernacles, and others.

The most important Holy Day they kept was the Sabbath.  It was most important because God had given them so many: an average of fifty-two per year (the Jewish calendar is a lunar calender, so there are 1-2 fewer sabbaths most year than on the Gregorian calendar), as opposed to the other Holy Days which occur only once a year. The Sabbath is a reminder of the creation, to be observed with rest just as God rested from His work.  Yeshua faithfully observed the Sabbath, as did Paul. In fact, in Acts 20:7, when the believers in Troas gathered together on the first day of the week to break bread (have a meal together), this was a very Jewish custom!  Since the Jewish day begins at sunset, this "first day of the week" began on what we refer to as Saturday evening. And it was (and still is) Jewish custom for the men of the synagogue to gather for a service at the end of the Sabbath. So when the writer of Acts states that Paul preached until midnight, what we might have considered a marathon sermon of twelve to fourteen hours was actually only about four to five hours.

Blue Letter Bible


PART FOUR

TRADITION

THE WRITERS [OF THE BIBLE] ARE HEBREW, THE CULTURE IS HEBREW, THE RELIGION IS HEBREW, THE TRADITIIONS ARE HEBREW, AND THE CONCEPTS ARE HEBREW.
David Bivin / Roy BlizzardUnderstanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, pg. 22

If Jesus (Yeshua) and Paul worshipped and taught on the Sabbath, why do we worship on Sunday?  Yeshua didn't tell us to. Paul and Peter didn't tell us to. GOD didn't tell us to.  MEN started this tradition very late in the first century, after more and more Gentiles had been converted to the Way. Then Sunday worship was mandated by the Council of Nicaea in about 375 A.D., and the common practice has been to follow the directive of the Catholic Church  ever since.  Catholics don't just admit this; they CLAIM it.

The tradition of Easter 1 as a commemoration of Yeshua's resurrection also goes all the way back to this first Council of Nicaea (not to the first century). The "church" decreed that Yeshua was raised on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring.  "Easter" is derived from the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre, which came from "Ishtar," the Babylonian and Assyrian "mother of all life." Is this the kind of tradition we want?

"Many of the festive customs of the Saturnalia were transferred to the Christmas-New Year holiday," about the same time as the celebration of Easter was begun.  Saturnalia was a pagan festival relating to the rebirth of the sun at the winter solstice when the days began to grow long.

"Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your TRADITION?"  (Matt.15:6, Mk.7:13).  Call Easter a remembrance of Yeshua's resurrection if you wish, but Yeshua did not ordain it.

What (it is commonly believed) He began and did ordain had already been a part of Jewish life for over a thousand years.  When He observed His final Passover, Yeshua indicated that two particular portions of it are a remembrance of Him, of His sacrifice for man.  Some say that Jesus did away with the Passover.  If He had, that remembrance could no longer be there!  Yeshua IS our Passover Lamb!  If He had abolished it, the writer of Acts would not have mentioned the Days of Unleavened Bread during Paul's third journey about twenty-five years after Yeshua's time on earth had ended.

The very fact that we believe that Yeshua was sacrificed for the forgiveness of our sins is recognition of a JEWISH ritual.  To deny a Jewish background for our faith is to deny the very foundation of our hope of salvation.  If it were not for a Jewish savior, and opportunity for Gentiles to be grafted in to the root which is the faith of Abraham, how could Gentiles approach the mercy seat of God?

4-1
Explained by the ones who brought it into Christianity. RETURN

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PART FIVE

YESHUA -- OUR MATSAH
The Bread of Life, broken for you, was born in the House of Bread,
Beit Lechem
(Bethlehem)

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE JEWISH TO BE NOURISHED BY JESUS' BREAD, BUT TO BECOME A NEW TESTAMENT SCHOLAR IT IS ESSENTIAL TO ACQUIRE A SOUND KNOWLEDGE OF ANCIENT JUDAISM ... THERE IS NO NEED TO FEAR JESUS' JEWISHNESS.
Prof. David Flusser (Hebrew University, Jerusalem), "Jerusalem Perspective,"  vol 2, no 9, 1989.

The passover is rife with symbols of the Messiah.  Yeshua did not simply pick up a loaf of bread which had been casually placed on the table. In the Passover that Yeshua observed, and that Jews still practice today, there are three loaves of unleavened bread, or matsah, stacked and placed in a cloth covering.  Matsah is full of symbolism for today's believer in Yeshua.

Leaven (yeast) is a symbol of sin or corruption.  Yeshua was without sin as matsah is without leaven.

Before the bread is baked, it is flattened and pierced several times with a sharp instrument to prevent it from bubbling from the heat.  "And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced." (Zech. 12:10)

During the baking process, the matsah becomes mottled with brown spots which appear as rows (or stripes) between the piercings. "And with His stripes we are healed." (Is. 53:5)

Three loaves are used. To the Jew, they represent the priests, the Levites, and the Israelites.  To the believer in Yeshua, they represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God because of a curious custom. During the course of the meal, the middle loaf is removed, broken in half, one half wrapped in a napkin and hidden until near the end of the meal. This is the point in the meal where Mark 14:22 (KJV) tells us, Yeshua "took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.'"  (Hopefully you see the symbolism in all this. Space does not permit explanation of each fine point.  The small white square pieces of unleavened bread which many churches use simply do not compare with real matsah!)

Notice Mark said He "blessed," not "blessed it."  Today, the same Jewish blessing that Yeshua spoke almost two thousand years ago is still pronounced over this bread: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth." The emphasis is on blessing God, the Creator, not the bread, the creation.

During the passover meal, it is customary to drink four cups of wine.  The third is called the cup of blessing.  Paul mentioned this in I Cor. 10:12. This is the cup over which Yeshua said the blessing, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine," and then pronounced to be His "blood which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

Yeshua, our bread of life, was born in the "House of Bread," Beit Lechem, (Bethlehem)

Unleavened -- without sin.
The middle loaf -- the son.
Pierced -- "With His stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53
Broken -- Crucified.
Hidden -- will be revealed at the last day.

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PART SIX

ROSH HASHANAH
The Birthday of the World and the Beginning of Judgment

FOR A GENTILE TO HAVE A RIGHT RELATION TO GOD, HE MUST HUMBLY ACCEPT AND APPRECIATE A JEWISH BOOK, BELIEVE IN A JEWISH LORD, AND BE GRAFTED INTO A JEWISH PEOPLE, THEREBY TAKING ON THEIR LIKENESS THROUGH A COMMONLY SHARED STOCK.
Dr. Marvin Wilson, "Our Father Abraham," 1989, pg. 16


Rosh HaShanah, literally "head of the year," is the first day of the Jewish month of Tishri , which usually begins during the month of September. It is called the Jewish New Year, but it was not instituted as such in the Law which God gave to Moses. It is treated as the beginning of the religious year, while the month Nisan , which usually begins in March, is the beginning of the secular year.

In the Book of the Law, God commanded a day of rest, "a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets."  It is a time for remembrance and repentance, preparing for the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur , ten days later.  Rosh HaShanah, according to legend, is the day on which God began the creation.

The biblical trumpet, or shofar (which comes from a word which means beautiful or comely), is made from the horn of a kosher animal, one which chews the cud and has cloven hooves. But it cannot be from a cow, because of the golden calf which the people made while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Law. It is usually made from a ram's horn.

The shofar is significant =in the history and the future of Israel.  A shofar was blown when Moses received the Law. The congregation of the people is called by the blast of the shofar. Rams' horns were blown for the destruction of the city of Jericho.  Gideon and three hundred men, each with a shofar, routed an army of 135,000 Midianites.  (Imagine waking to the sound of 300 trumpets, each playing a slightly different note, in the middle of the night.)  A trumpet was blown when the foundation of the second temple was laid (Ezra 3:10).  A shofar was blown on May 14, 1948, in Tel Aviv announcing the new state of Israel.  It was prophesied that a trumpet will be blown when the children of Israel are called to return to "come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem." (Is. 27:12-13).  Paul may have been thinking of this prophecy when he wrote, "the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed."  (I Cor. 15:52) Here's another Jewish tradition which Gentile believers look forward to with hope and expectation without realizing it or understanding why.

Something else about the Last Trumpet

Blue Letter Bible


PART SEVEN

YOM KIPPUR
The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord is Coming



THE CHURCH IS BURDENED WITH AN UNRESOLVED IDENTITY PROBLEM. SADLY, MOST CHRISTIANS ARE UNAWARE THAT A PROBLEM EXISTS. YET MANY ILLNESSES OF THE CHURCH, BOTH PAST AND PRESENT, ARE A RESULT OF OUR NOT KNOWING WHO WE ARE IN JESUS.
David Bivin, "Yavo Digest," vol. 1. no. 1

Yom Kippur1 is the holiest day of the Jewish year. It was commanded by God as a day of repentance, a time to remember the sins of the past year, and to ask for forgiveness, first from one another, and only afterwards from God. This is what Yeshua meant in the disciples' prayer when He said that we should ask God to forgive us in the same manner that we forgive others. The holy day is to be spent fasting in order that we may concentrate on God and our relationship with Him, and with our fellow man. No work is to be done, no concessions to creature comfort such as cosmetics, anointing the body with oils, taking a bath simply for pleasure, etc.

Kippur is from the Hebrew word for covering; this is the Day of Atonement, the day of covering, when we should seek to be "at-one" with God, a time for soul-searching.

Yom Kippur symbolizes a future day of judgment, the "great and terrible day of the Lord."

Too often in the life of a "Christian," we think that it is unnecessary for us to sacrifice, to fast, to reflect on the sins of the past year, because Jesus is our redeemer, our savior, our propitiation, our high priest before God. We feel, "Hey, Jesus saved me! Now I'm free! I don't have to worry about all that stuff in the law, because I'm not under the law; I'm under grace." But did Yeshua really teach that? Did Paul and Peter preach that?

Well, that certainly seems to be the teaching of many denominations of the "Christian church." But John wrote in his first epistle that if we confess our sins, He will forgive them. Yeshua said, "If you love me, keep my commandments!" (John 14:15).

Yeshua said that the law would not pass away before the earth does, and that anyone who keeps the law and teaches men to do so would be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:18-19)

When Paul wrote that Messiah is the "end" of the law for righteousness, the Greek word here for "end" is telos, which could be more properly translated "goal," as "something aimed at." Yeshua's life brought about the fullness of the law which no one else could achieve.

In the account of the "rich young ruler" who asked Yeshua, "what shall I do to inherit eternal life?", Yeshua told him that the first step was to keep the commandments.  (Lk. 18:20)

Yeshua also said that keeping the commandments is the least that is expected of us. (Lk. 17:9-10)

"You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition!" (Mk. 7:9, RSV)

1kih-POOR (KIP-per is a fish.)RETURN

Blue Letter Bible



PART EIGHT

THE LANGUAGE OF THE BIBLE
Hebrew?  Greek?  Latin?  King James English?

WITHOUT THE INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF HEBREW AND RABBINIC SOURCES CONTEMPORARY WITH THE TIME OF JESUS, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FULLY UNDERSTAND THE SAYINGS OF JESUS.
David Bivin, "Jerusalem Perspective," no. 6, March 1988

In order to understand many of the things which Yeshua said, we need to look at the language, the culture, and the customs of the first century in the regions of Judea and the Galilee. We don't pretend to understand the Early English of Beowulf in ninth century England.  So why do we claim to understand, with our occidental minds, the significance of the oriental ideas expressed in Yeshua's words gleaned from tertiary translations of the writings of common tax collectors and fishermen and tentmakers?

It is a common belief that the entire New Testament was originally written in Greek.  However, there are ancient sources that say differently, and modern translation techniques confirm this.

The language of the common people in first-century Jerusalem was Hebrew. True, the Romans ruled, so undoubtedly Latin was in use. The influence of classical Greece was felt strongly, and Greek was probably in wider use than Latin. Although Aramaic was the lingua franca (the common language used in trade and commerce) in the entire middle eastern region at an earlier period, during the first century, Hebrew was the primary language, both written and spoken, in Judea, Samaria and the Galilee. (See Evidence for Hebrew

As proof, see II Kings 18:26. The King James Version calls Aramaic "the Syrian language," and Hebrew "the Jews' language." Revised Standard Version -- "Aramaic" and "the language of Judah." New American Standard Version -- "Aramaic" and "Judean."  See Jesus Spoke Hebrew.

The angels at Bethlehem didn't sing...that is, they didn't SAY, "Gloria in excelsis Deo."  It was probably something more like, "Kavod ba'm'romim l'Elohim, uva'aretz shalom bivneh Adam r'tzono."

The Hebrew word, Amen, appears 99 times in the Greek gospels.

The Aramaic word, abba, which can be loosely translated as "daddy," became just as much a Hebrew word as "Papa" (from French and Latin) has become an English word. "Loaned" or borrowed" words such as these from another language will certainly confuse archeologists and anthropologists studying the United States two thousand years from now.  Even "archeology" and "anthropology" are from Greek.

Other evidence of Hebrew writing is found on coins and tomb inscriptions dating from the period. Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls, written about the same time, are almost completely in Hebrew. "The most telling evidence of the scrolls is found in the sectarian scrolls and the commentaries on the biblical scrolls. In the sectarian scrolls, the ratio of Hebrew to Aramaic is nine to one, but ALL of the commentaries are in HEBREW.

    "It is impossible to conclude that a commentary on the Scripture would be written in a language other than the popular language of the people." (Blizzard, "Yavo Digest," Vol. 1, No. 2, 1987)

When Paul addressed a crowd in Jerusalem in Acts 22, he spoke Hebrew. Now, these people knew which language they spoke! They weren't THAT ignorant! When they meant Aramaic, they said Aramaic or Syriac.

Blue Letter Bible


PART NINE

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE HEBREWS
Attested to by the Early Church Fathers AND Modern Translation Methods

THE AUTHORS OF GOD'S WORD--VIRTUALLY EVERY ONE OF THEM A JEW--HAVE A PROFOUNDLY HEBRAIC PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE AND THE WORLD. IF WE ARE TO INTERPRET THE BIBLE CORRECTLY, WE MUST BECOME ATTUNED TO THIS HEBRAIC SETTING IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST.
Dr. Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, pg. 9


It is a common belief that the Gospels, as well as the remainder of the New Testament, were originally written in Greek. However, several early Christian writers tell of a Gospel "according to the Hebrews." The earliest of these was Papias, ca. A.D. 167, who records, "Matthew compiled the sayings of Jesus in the Hebrew tongue, and everyone translated them as well as he could." (Church History, 3:39) Irenaeus just a few years later writes, "Matthew published a written Gospel for the Hebrews in their own tongue." Perhaps one of the most dramatic accounts is by Jerome, who translated the Scriptures into Latin while living in Bethlehem about A.D. 400. On one occasion, he speaks of "the Gospel according to the Hebrews" which "I have recently translated into Greek and Latin."

Modern translation of the Synoptic Gospels (synoptic from the Greek meaning view together; Matthew, Mark and Luke relate many of the same incidents and parables in Yeshua's ministry) confirms that the basis of all three may have been a single document. The late Dr. Robert Lindsey, Pastor Emeritus of Jerusalem's Narkis Street Baptist Congregation, was one of the leading translators in Israel until his recent death. He wrote in his book, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark, that while attempting to translate the Greek text of the New Testament into a badly-needed modern Hebrew version, "To my surprise the preliminary study of the Greek and idiom was more like Hebrew than literary Greek. This gave me the frightening feeling that I was as much in the process of 'restoring' an original Hebrew work as in that of creating a new one."  (Quoted by Blizzard in "Our Jewish Roots," tape lesson #52.)

Blue Letter Bible


PART TEN

HEBREW IDIOMS

JESUS' TEACHINGS ARE EXCLUSIVELY WITHIN JEWISH VALUES AND TEACHINGS.  MODERN CHRISTIANITY, OF WHICH THERE ARE MORE THAN 21,000 DIFFERING STRANDS, DOES NOT ADHERE TO MANY OF JESUS' ORIGINAL TEACHINGS ... EARLY CHRISTIANITY WAS AN INTEGRAL PART OF JUDAISM OF THE PERIOD. JESUS...NEVER INTENDED TO EITHER ABANDON JUDAISM, OR TO CREATE A NEW RELIGION. THE CREATION OF THE INDEPENDENT CHRISTIAN CHURCH OUTSIDE THE FRAMEWORK OF JUDAISM TOOK PLACE MANY YEARS LATER BY THOSE WHO NEITHER KNEW THE MAN JESUS, NOR THE MEANINGS OF HIS DIFFICULT NATIVE HEBREW.
Opher Segal, Yavo Digest, vol. 5, no. 6


An idiom is an expression peculiar to a language, not readily understandable from the meaning of its parts, as "to put up with" (tolerate, endure). When an idiom is translated verbatim to another language, serious consequences can ensue. For example, when Pepsi-Cola tried to convert the slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi generation" into Chinese, the message emerged as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave."

Something similar happened when translations were made of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. For instance, the term "evil eye" has conjured up in the western mind images of black magic, witchcraft, evil spells. But to the Hebrew mind, this simply means someone who is stingy, and someone with a "good eye" is a generous person. This was obviously a literal translation from Hebrew to Greek to English, not an interpretation of the idea which the Jewish writer wished to express.

Another word which causes confusion is the Hebrew word tzedakah.  Tzedakah means "what is right, just, normal;" it means "righteous."  Usually translated "righteousness," it is commonly interpreted as charity.  Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin states in his book To Be a Jew, "Every person is required to give tzedakah according to his means.  Even a poor man who is himself a recipient of tzedakah is required to give tzedakah even if he can only give a little.  His little is as worthy as the greater sums given by the rich."  (Sound familiar? See Mark 12:42-44)

Other Hebrew idioms in the New Testament are:

"His name was called . . ."  (Lk. 2:21) -- his name was (cf. Is. 9:6)
"He lifted up his eyes on . . ." (Lk. 6:20) -- he looked at
"he . . . set his face to go to . . ." (Lk. 9:51) -- he turned toward
"Lay these sayings in your ears." (Lk. 9:44) -- announce to you
"Cast out your name as evil" (Lk. 6:22) -- malign you
"He answered and said unto them . . ."  (Mat. 13:37) -- he answered them

Beginning a sentence, a paragraph, or even a book, with the word "and" is very Hebraic.  47 of the 50 chapters of Genesis begin with "And" (the Hebrew letter vav).  Compare the chapters1 in:

Mark -- Of 16 chapters, in the Delitzsch Hebrew version, 15 begin with vav, and in the KJV, 12 begin with "and".
Luke -- Of 24 chapters, 22 vav and 13 "and".
the Pauline epistles -- 23 of 71 (but the original language of these was Greek).
And no fewer that fifteen BOOKS of the "Old" Testament in Hebrew begin with the letter vav.

Considering the difficulty in understanding some of the Hebraic idioms, it should be evident that a knowledge of Hebrew is necessary in order to fully understand the Gospels.  "Even inspired translating will not overcome a lack of understanding of the Gospel's Hebraic and Jewish background."2

1The New Testament in Hebrew and English, from The Society for Distributing Hebrew Scriptures, Edgware, Middlesex, England.
2David Bivin, "Jerusalem Perspective," July 1989.

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PART ELEVEN

BAPTISM
It's Really a JEWISH Thing!

IN THE COMING OF JESUS OF NAZARETH AND THROUGH THE NEW COVENANT SET IN MOTION BY HIS DEATH, THE RITUAL AND CEREMONIAL ASPECTS OF MOSAIC LAW WERE NO LONGER TECHNICALLY BINDING. YET THEY COULD HAVE BEEN OF SPIRITUAL VALUE FOR THE GENTILE BELIEVERS.  THAT IS, ALTHOUGH THEY WERE NOT MANDATORY FOR A RIGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, THEY COULD HAVE HELPED THE GENTILES TO UNDERSTAND THEIR FAITH PROPERLY.
Dr. Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, pg. 27


1.)  John the Baptist invented baptism.

2.)  There are several ways baptism can be performed.

3.)  The 3,000 saved on the Day of Pentecost could not possibly all have been baptized by immersion that day in Jerusalem.

Wrong! Wrong! and WRONG!

1.)  Ritual cleansing is as old as the Law which God gave to Moses.&ensp Strict regulations for washing after many situations which made a person ritually unclean are outlined in Leviticus (i.e.: touching the carcass of an animal, childbirth, leprosy, etc.).  Some details, such as the size of the ritual immersion bath or mikveh, are spelled out in the Mishnah," commonly called the Oral Law, commentaries on the Written Law.  For instance, the mikveh must contain at least 120 gallons.  If it contains 120 gallons minus one spoonful, it isn't kosher (proper, right).  It must be mayim chaim, "living water," (moving); preferably a stream or larger body of water, but mikvehs were constructed in almost every village, many using reservoirs for their water supply.

2.)  This baptism is, then, obviously, by immersion.  However, in Judaism, no one ever immersed anyone else; baptism is self-administered. The person being baptized enters the mikveh, stands with feet apart, hands out in front, fingers spread, eyes and mouth open, and dips him-/herself under the water. The position which John held was that of witness. Someone must verify that every hair goes completely under; otherwise, the cleansing is not kosher.

3.)  Archeological excavations in Jerusalem in recent years have uncovered a complex of forty mikvehs at the southern end of the Temple Mount which could easily have permitted the immersion of 3,000 on the Day of Pentecost.

Blue Letter Bible


PART TWELVE

THE NEW ISRAEL
Is Really the Same OLD Israel


IF THE FIRSTFRUIT IS HOLY, THE LUMP IS ALSO HOLY: AND IF THE ROOT IS HOLY, SO ARE THE BRANCHES. AND IF SOME OF THE BRANCHES ARE BROKEN OFF, AND YOU, BEING A WILD OLIVE TREE, ARE GRAFTED IN AMONG THEM, AND WITH THEM PARTAKE OF THE ROOT AND FATNESS OF THE OLIVE TREE, DO NOT BOAST AGAINST THE BRANCHES. BUT IF YOU BOAST, YOU DO NOT BEAR THE ROOT, BUT THE ROOT BEARS YOU.  YOU WILL SAY THEN, THE BRANCHES WERE BROKEN OFF, THAT I MIGHT BE GRAFTED IN. WELL; BECAUSE OF UNBELIEF THEY WERE BROKEN OFF, AND YOU STAND BY FAITH. DO NOT BE HIGH-MINDED, BUT FEAR; FOR IF GOD DID NOT SPARE THE NATURAL BRANCHES, TAKE HEED LEST HE ALSO DOES NOT SPARE YOU.
Rom. 11:16-2.


Anti-Semitism is rampant in our churches today.  It is called "Replacement Theology," and says that the Church is the "New Israel," that Israel has been rejected by God. It completely ignores promises which God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob about 4000 years ago. It denies statements made by Paul in his letter to the Romans, and by the writer of Hebrews. In short, it denies the Bible as the authoritative word of God.

Space does not permit a list of every promise made by God to Israel, but here are a few:

To Abraham, God said, "I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants....for an EVERLASTING covenant." (Gen. 17:7, RSV)

And, "Your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.  I will establish my covenant with him as an EVERLASTING covenant for his descendants." (v. 19)

Isaiah 45:17 -- "Israel is saved by the Lord with EVERLASTING salvation." (RSV)

Isaiah 54:7-8 -- "For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you.  In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with EVERLASTING love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer."

Jer. 32:37,40 -- Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them....I will make with them an EVERLASTING covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me."

Ezekiel 37:38 -- "Then the nations will know that I the Lord sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is in the midst of them FOR EVERMORE."

Numbers 23:19 -- "God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent.  Has He said, and will He not do it?  Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?"

Malachi 3:6 -- "For I the Lord do not change."

Blue Letter Bible



PART THIRTEEN

ADOPTED SONS OF ISRAEL
Abraham's Spiritual Descendants


A CURSORY LOOK AT THE BEGINNINGS OF CHRISTIANITY REVEALS A CHURCH THAT WAS MADE UP EXCLUSIVELY OF JEWS. INDEED, THE CHURCH WAS VIEWED AS A SECT WITHIN JUDAISM, AS THE BOOK OF ACTS MAKES CLEAR IN REFERRING TO EARLY FOLLOWERS OF JESUS AS "THE SECT OF THE NAZARENES" (Acts 24:4).
Dr. Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, pg.41


Those who teach today that Israel is no longer God's chosen people seem to miss completely the teaching of the eleventh chapter of Romans. While Paul says that some of the people of Israel have not followed God, this is a one-way separation. God has not left them!  They have stumbled, but not fallen! But because of this stumbling, "salvation has come to the Gentiles, in order to make Israel jealous." (v. 11 -- see Deut. 32:21)

If their stumbling brings riches to the world, how much greater riches will Israel in its fullness bring them! (v.12)

(V. 16ff) If the root (of the cultivated olive tree -- Israel) is holy, so are the branches (the children of Israel).  But if some of the branches were broken off, and you (Gentiles), a wild olive were grafted in among them and have become equal sharers in the rich root of the olive tree, then don't boast as if you were better than the branches! But if you do boast, remember that you are not supporting the root, the root is supporting you... If God did not spare the natural branches, He certainly won't spare you!

Paul didn't believe that Israel was "cut out of God's Last Will and Testament," so to speak.  When we say anything contrary to God's will concerning His chosen people, we stand in judgment of the promise He made to Abraham: I will bless them that bless you and curse him that curses you. (Gen._12:3)

This doesn't mean that everything an individual Jew does is blessed by God, or even what might be done by the state of Israel; it refers to the children of Israel as God's people. And denying that they are still His people is Blasphemy!

Blue Letter Bible



PART FOURTEEN

OUR GREEK RELIGION
Church versus Congregation, Christ versus Messiah


JESUS WAS A JEW, NOT A CHRISTIAN OF GENTILE ORIGIN. HIS TEACHINGS, LIKE THOSE OF HIS FOLLOWERS, REFLECT A DISTINCT ETHNICITY AND CULTURE. THE EVIDENCE FOUND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT IS ABUNDANTLY CLEAR: AS A MOTHER GIVES BIRTH TO AND NOURISHES A CHILD, SO HEBREW CULTURE AND LANGUAGE GAVE BIRTH TO AND NOURISHED CHRISTIANITY.

AT THE TIME OF PETER, JAMES, JOHN, AND PAUL, A MAJOR QUESTION CONFRONTED THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH. THE QUESTION WAS NOT WHETHER JEWS COULD BELONG TO THIS NEW, SPIRIT-BORN COMMUNITY [cf. Joel 2:28-29]; INSTEAD, THE ISSUE WAS WHETHER GENTILES COULD, UPON REPENTANCE OF SIN, BELONG TO A TOTALLY Jewish COMMUNITY. THE NEW TESTAMENT EVIDENCE IS IRREFUTABLE ABOUT THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CHURCH: IN ITS ORIGIN, CHRISTIANITY WAS JEWISH TO THE VERY CORE.
Dr. Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, pgs. 12, 43


Yeshua was a Jew. Every person who wrote a book in what we call the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was a Jew. (Some claim that Luke was not a Jew, but there is scholarship which believes that he was converted to Judaism.) It is written that Yeshua and Paul taught in synagogues on the Sabbath. They spoke Hebrew. Most of the Old Testament and quite a bit of the New (including numerous passages quoted from the Old) were originally written in Hebrew. Yeshua and His disciples, including Paul, observed the Jewish Holy Days. ** The first church in Jerusalem and many other cities were comprised entirely of Jews.

So why is so much of Christianity today from Greek Origin? The very words, Jesus, Christ, church, eucharist, baptism, apostle, deacon, and even synagogue are from Greek.  Why don't we say Yeshua, Messiah, edah, Pesach, taval, shaliach, shammash and bet knesset?  Or better yet, we could actually translate them so that they could be understood in our native language: Salvation, anointed one, congregation, passover, immersion, emissary, servant, and meeting house.

Our Greek religion, riddled with Greek, Roman, Babylonian, Egyptian, and other pagan practices, bears little resemblance to the holy way of life which God intended for His people. Consider the possibility that, if we were to do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names, the miracles and mighty works done by prophets and apostles of old might be done today!

What simpler homage could we pay to our Savior than to use the name that He was given in the language of the people He chose to bring salvation to the world.

Modern-day Jews who have put their faith in Yeshua consider themselves "Messianic Jews." For those not obviously born of Jewish parents, but who wish to observe Jewish customs and holy days, I propose the term "Jewish Messianist." The suffix "-ish", meaning "characteristic of or tending to"; "-ian", meaning "belonging or adhering to"; and "-ist", meaning "one who practices, or a believer in." Therefore, a "Jewish Messianist" would be "one who tends toward (being) a Jew, and adheres to a belief in the Messiah," the anointed one of Israel, Yeshua of Nazareth.

Anyway, why can't all believers be Hebrew "Messianists" instead of Greek "Christians?"


*Funk and Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary (1984) defines "Gentile" as:
"n. 1. Among Jews, one not a Jew.  2. Among Christians, a heathen or pagan.  3. Among Mormons, one not a Mormon."  Strong lists goy/goyim translated 30 times as "gentile" and 371 times as "nation/nations."  It is my intent here to be considered as viewed from the Jewish standpoint per Funk and Wagnalls.  Otherwise, I consider myself to have become a member of the "Commonwealth of Israel" (Eph. 2).
RETURN

**
Actually the term "Jewish Holy Days" is a misnomer, as a close reading of Lev.  23:2 reveals that God claims these are HIS Holy Days.




Let's Talk.  E-mail me at johnt204(at)inbox.com

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6/13/13
Last update 5 December 2015---.