As I See It -- Questions and Answers
by Dr. Roy Blizzard
from Various Issues of Yavo Digest
Q: When are you and/or your colleagues in Israel going to complete a translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew into English?
A: Actually, it could be done, but it would be a monumental task that would involve years of labor, and then necessitate an accompanying commentary to explain why any particular passage was translated the way it was.
The fact is--and this is easy for those who are bilingual or multilingual to understand--it is very difficult to translate from one language into another and convey the ideas and concepts of the original language, and especially so when you are attempting to translate idioms, maxims, colloquialisms, etc. Many of our readers probably know a little Spanish or another of the Romance languages. How would you translate into English the sentence from Spanish, "El hombre rico es muy simpatico."? Ask ten native speakers of Spanish, and you will probably get fifteen different translations: handsome, nice, well-mannered, kind-hearted, generous, etc. It encompasses a whole range of meanings, and ultimately, you just have to says, "Simpatico is simpatico." It's a concept that almost defies translation ... in Hebrew, so much the more so.
The words, the thought patterns, the idioms, in many instances, almost defy translation. Just take, for example, a common Hebrew word with which you are all undoubtedly familiar: shalom. What is shalom? The range of meanings is so broad that entire doctoral dissertations have been written, trying to explain the meaning of the Hebrew root, ShLM, from which shalom is derived.
The answer to the question is, it would be much easier and more beneficial for us to teach you Hebrew than to attempt another translation that would most likely retain certain fundamental weaknesses due to the nature of the Hebrew language. As hard as it might be for most people to accept, this is really the key to biblical understanding: not another translation, but your learning Hebrew. It is to this end that we are devoting much of our time and attention assembling and making available for you courses of instruction in the Hebrew language that will assist you in learning Hebrew and being able to work with the original text. (YD, 1-1, 1986)
Q: I heard a pastor say recently that you do not need to know Hebrew or Greek in order to understand the Bible. He said that people who are saying that you do need to know Hebrew and Greek in order to understand the Bible were just like the Pope, who declares that only he has the right or spiritual authority to correctly interpret the Bible. He said, further, that the Bible was simple, and that anybody could understand without it a knowledge of Hebrew or Greek. Would you care to comment?
A. Unfortunately, this pastor is sadly misinformed. The Bible is not simple. What is simple is the Gospel, or the good news of God's salvation. It's so simple that even a child can understand, and it doesn't necessitate a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek in order to be saved. When we talk about the importance of the knowledge of Hebrew and Greek for understanding the Bible, we are not talking about salvation--we're talking about spiritual maturity.
Now I am going to make a radical statement. I know it is going to sound harsh and extreme, but give careful attention and prayerful consideration to what I am about to say: I do not believe that anyone has the right to speak authoritatively on what the Bible says or does not say if he does not know the original languages in which the Bible was written. By "speaking authoritatively," I mean to the extent of formulating doctrine that is imposed on the Body of Christ as a matter of faith.
For example, does one have a right to speak authoritatively on such subjects as shepherding, the "bishop ministry," the "porter ministry," submission, the role of women in the Church, or the organizational structure of the Church if that person has no knowledge of these terms and their usage in the original languages, or in their proper historical and cultural context? All these are topics that are currently being discussed in Christian circles today. All have been lifted out of their proper biblical, historical, and cultural context and have been imposed on the Body in such a way as to bring a vast segment into spiritual bondage. Just a simple working knowledge of the biblical languages and ability to use the above-mentioned study aids could answer all the questions relative to the meaning of these words and their practical application for the Body today.
The words of Jesus are not simple. The fact that He lived 2000 years ago, that He was a Jew, a rabbi, used well-known and well-established rabbinical methods in His teaching, taught in Hebrew--a language as different from English as night is from day--used parables, homilies, similes, allegory, metaphor, and idioms in His teaching should make this immediately apparent to the intelligent and thinking person.
Certainly one does not need to know Hebrew and Greek in order to know God and to be saved. But, if one wants to know the words of God that He spoke to His people to assist them in growing to spiritual maturity, then a knowledge of the biblical languages and the ability to work with them is essential. There is a tremendous difference in what I have just stated and the statement by the pastor, who suggested that the idea of a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek being necessary for serious biblical study was tantamount to the declaration of the Pope that no one could properly interpret the Bible but him or a priest. This is absurd. You see, the opposite of what the pastor has said is true: without a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek and the ability to do independent study, the person in the pew is in bondage to the interpretation of the pastor. In this sense, that pastor, or preacher, or whatever he chooses to call himself, has set himself up before his congregation as a little pope.
I am wondering out loud, as I'm writing this response to your question, if this could not be one reason why a pastor would make such a statement--that a knowledge of Hebrew or Greek on the part of his congregation might jeopardize his papal position. Rather than bringing you into bondage, a knowledge of biblical languages and the utilization of the lexical aids available for you will set you free. You will no longer need to be in bondage to opinion and/or denomination, but you can study for yourself and know the truth. And remember that it is the truth that will set you free.
Before I close, allow me to add one additional bit of advice: it would be to your benefit if you never took anything that anyone told you that the Bible says or does not say at face value, without having thoroughly checked it out for yourself. It doesn't make any difference who it is or how many academic degrees he has after his name. Most of them either paid $24.95 for them from some diploma mill, or had them honorarily conferred anyway. "Yes," you might say, "but until I know Hebrew and Greek and have the lexical aids at my disposal, how can I ascertain what is correct and what is not?" I will give you an easy way. It involves the utilization of the discernment of spirits: every child of God who has the Holy Spirit within has all nine of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit recorded in 1 Corinthians 12:8ff. We hear a lot of talk about miracles, healings, words of knowledge, tongues, but seldom do we hear anything about one of the most important of the manifestations of the Spirit for the child of God, and that is the discernment of spirits. It is that something down inside that lets you know whether a thing is right or wrong: "Does it fit? Does it feel right? Is my spirit at ease and at peace? Does something just not seem right? Do I have some little disquiet in my spirit?" Are you beginning to see the picture?
Here is a simple formula you can use to ascertain whether or not a doctrine is from the Lord, and it will work for you almost 100% of the time. When you hear a doctrine or teaching, from whomever it might come or however good it might sound, ask yourself this simple question: "When this doctrine or teaching is practically applied in my life, does it bring me into bondage or does it set me free?" If it brings you into bondage to a man, to a congregation, fellowship, denomination, whatever, chances are that it is not from God. I would recommend that you simply put it up on the shelf, and take no action upon it until you can study and search out the truth or the error of the teaching. Remember, all the information is there that will allow you to find the right answer--all you need to do is study. That's what Paul said, and that's what I say.
YD, 1-2, 1986
Q: What do you think of the Bible called the Restoration of the Sacred Name Bible ? In the Bible, they claim that the correct name for Jesus is Yahshua, which means "the salvation of Yah, or God." I have seen the name "Jesus" written Y'shua and Yeshua--which is correct?
A: I am well acquainted with the Restoration of the Sacred Name Bible. Unfortunately, almost all the information in the introduction to the Bible is incorrect.
The correct name for Jesus in Hebrew is Yeshua. It is a name that is well-attested to in literary sources. We learn from inscriptions dating from the 1st century that the name Yeshua was the third most common man's name, Yoseph (Joseph) the second most common, and Shimon (Simeon) the most common. The name Yeshua tied for third place with the names Yehudah (Judah), and Zachariyah (Zachariah) in the 1st century. Yeshua is the masculine proper noun form of the Hebrew root YSH'. In I Chronicles 24:11, the ninth priestly division (in the order of divisions on duty in the temple each week) was allocated to a priest named Yeshua. It is a proper name of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament from the time of the United Hebrew Monarchy onward. You see, the name is not only well-attested to, but enjoyed a long period of popularity.
The individuals who produced the Restoration of the Sacred Name Bible made their mistake in assuming that the name Yeshua came from a combination of the Hebrew root SHV= and YH (YAH), an abbreviated form of YHWH, the name of God. According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, this is a false analogy, as if it comes from the root SHV', although it is used in the sense of being from the root SHV. The analysis of the words Yeshua and Yehoshua is difficult and complex, but one thing is certain, and that is that the name of Jesus cannot be transcribed correctly in English as Yahshua. Also, it is incorrect to use the " ' " and write the name Y'shua. The only correct transliteration of the Hebrew into English is Yeshua.
Q: I am doing a study of Isaiah 45:7, in which it states, "I create evil." Is that really what it says? Does God create evil?
A: Isaiah 45:7 does say that God creates evil. The fact is, He also created the devil and, according to the biblical text, the devil is subject to His bidding. Not only that, but God created hell and it belongs to Him, and He will use it as the final abode for the devil, his angels, and the wicked at the end of this present age. When the biblical text says, "God caused an evil spirit to come upon Saul" or "God caused Pharaoh's heart to be hardened," that is what it literally means in the original Hebrew. Many have been confused about the exact meaning of these phrases because, in the introduction to a popular concordance, the author states that the hiphil form of the Hebrew verb is in the permissive tense, so that all such passages should be translated, "God allowed (or "permitted") ...," instead of "God caused..." This is completely in error. There is no such thing as a "permissive" tense in Hebrew. The hiphil form of the verb is causative, and the passages should be translated and understood as "God caused..."
One of the basic problems that we have is understanding that God is God, and He can do anything He wants to do, when He wants to do it, and however he wants to do it. However, instead of having a proper biblical understanding of the nature of God (with the accompanying reverence, awe, trust, and obedience that such an understanding elicits), most of us tend to be rather like Job, and either want to question God and ask "why," or attempt to order Him around.
"So," we will ask, "if God is a loving God, a God of mercy, why would He cause Pharaoh's heart to be hardened?" If you meditate on the following statement, I think you will find it helpful, and perhaps it will serve as an answer to the question: "Grace, rejected, hardens." When individuals are perpetually disobedient to God and refuse to follow God's instructions or will, God, ultimately, will turn them over to the one they desire to serve.
(MORE about God creating evil.)
Q: No place in the Bible is gambling mentioned; however, I have been told that usury is the same as gambling. Where does this come from? I don't buy this--even if I do not gamble.
A. Usury is the charging of interest on money (or other things) borrowed. However, implied in the term "usury" is not just interest, but excessive interest. One of the definitions for "usury," according to Webster's Dictionary, is "an unconscionable or exorbitant rate or amount of interest; interest in excess of a legal rate charged to a borrower for the use of money." We might say that "usury" is not only charging an exorbitant amount of interest, but taking an unfair advantage of an individual in difficult circumstances.
Usury and gambling are not synonymous.
You are correct that the Bible mentions nothing about gambling. However, in the Mishnah, in Order Moed, Tractate Rosh Hashanah 1:8, it mentions that the following categories of people were not eligible to serve as witnesses of the new moon (the beginning of the festival days): "a dice player ( i.e., gambler, since he plays for money which is not his by right; the sages look upon him as a robber whose evidence can therefore not be trusted); a usurer (i.e., a money-lender or creditor, even if his debtor pays interest of his own free will); those who race pigeons (persons engaged in such a profession are not considered as pursuing an honest living, and are in the same category as dice players); dealers in the produce of a sabbatical year (it was forbidden to traffic in sabbatical-year produce, but anyone who unwittingly gathered more than necessary could sell the excess and purchase other food with this money); and a slave."
In Order Nezikin, Tractate Shevuoth 7:4, it says essentially the same thing, mentioning dice players, usurers, pigeon racers, dealers in sabbatical-year produce, etc.
In Order Nezikin, Tractate Sanhedrin 3:3, it mentions these same individuals, but in the commentary there is a further note of explanation that only "professional gamblers" are ineligible; that is, those whose sole means of livelihood is from gambling. The quote is, "when they have no other occupation except that (prohibited one), when they have some other occupation, but not that (whereby to make a living), they are eligible." (Mishnah, edited by Phillip Blackman, Judaica Press).
Gambling was not looked upon as a sin, per se, as we think of sin in Christianity, but professional gamblers whose sole means of livelihood was obtained by gambling were looked upon with disdain and considered not to be trustworthy.
Q: I wonder if you could help me in my quest for the meaning of the symbol of the Star of David chosen by the Zionists to mark the flag in Israel. I was directed to the encyclopedia by one of the resident experts at Zola Levitt's organization but could only find information that was of a general nature.
The closest I have been able to get to the truth is that its appearance is not until after the Zionist conference held in the early 1920s, but I have no way of accessing the conference minutes and would therefore request that if you should know of the origin for the symbol, which is also chosen to mark Yavo's letterhead, I would greatly appreciate information, or at the very least direction, specifically as to where such an explanation is documented. Any help you could give me will be very gratefully received.
A: The question regarding the star of David is one that seems to come up on a regular basis. Much of what has been written, or is being said currently, relative to the star of David, or more correctly the shield of David, Magen David, is wrong and can be relegated to the same place as the "valley of the shadow of death."
The origins of the Magen David are obscure and we can say little about its origins with certainty other than that it is utilized as early as the bronze age as an ornament or art form in countries as far apart as Mesopotamia to the east and Britain to the west. Examples from India are known as early as the Iron Age. The oldest known example of its use as an art form in Israel is the seventh century B.C., but it does not appear in any significant numbers until the second and third centuries of the present era.
Second, it never appears as an occult sign or symbol in any of the earliest books on black magic and/or the occult. It is not until the Middle Ages that it is used as a magical sign, and then predominantly in Muslim and Christian countries. Its use during this period and following is still not exclusively Jewish, as it is widely used in both Christian and Arab circles.
Its use as an amulet with magical powers probably arose in Islam, where the Quran mentions David as the first to make protective arms. The use of the hexagram by alchemists, denoting harmony between water and fire, became popular in the late seventeenth century, but this usage had no influence in Jewish circles. It was not until the nineteenth century that the Magen David began to be used in Judaism in the same way as the cross had been used for centuries in Christianity. There arose a desire for a sign or a symbol that would symbolize Judaism in the same way as the cross symbolized Christianity.
As you perhaps know, the Nazis used Magen David as a badge of shame during World War II, and it accompanied millions on their way to death. With the establishment of the state of Israel, the Magen David became the symbol of new hopes and a new future for the state of Israel and the Jewish people.
An interesting little book written on the subject is entitled The Star of David by Asher Eder, published by Reuben Mass, LTD., Jerusalem, Israel, 1987.
Yavo Digest, 1987-1991
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