Friday, June 15, 2018

A Hebrew Matthew and Jerome (Q&A)

Q:  [In response to our Q&A on the Du Tillet manuscript:]  ...I believe, based on the statements of various "early church fathers," that the Gospel of Matthew WAS written in Aramaic. I do not agree with those who try to "prove" that the other Gospels or even the entire New Testament were written in Hebrew or Aramaic!!!!!!!!!! If you would like I can e-mail you a website that I know about that shows many of the textual variants of the New Testament. Yet the issue of who the manuscripts of the New Testament come from bothers me. What do you think of the fact that it is said that Jerome got manuscripts for his gospel of Matthew from Jewish believers in Yeshua?...--Jeremy J.

A:  You are right that there is quite a bit of evidence among the early church fathers for a non-Greek original to the gospel of Matthew.  This evidence comes from places as diverse as India (in the early Christian community there), Arabia, and Israel itself.  In all of these reports, this original Matthew is reported as being in Hebrew.  This is occasionally contested by modern scholars, many of whom cling to the outdated notion that Jesus taught in Aramaic.  But there is today no legitimate reason to deny that these church fathers knew what they were talking about when they said that Matthew wrote in Hebrew. 

There is no similar evidence for a Hebrew original for any other book of the New Testament.  This is for a very good reason:  most of the New Testament was written in Greek to communicate the gospel to Greek-speaking Gentiles. 

Sabbath for Non-Jews? (Q&A)

Q:  Very good comment on Isa 56 about Jesus as Salvation [see our Q&A on Isaiah 56]. But what about the context: Israel has to offer also Sabbath-keeping as a sign of the new covenant that is brought about by the Messiah (verse 8 "to HIM" will be gathered all). Do you agree that the Sabbath is also the sign of the new covenant for non-Jews, for all Christians? –Jens S.

A:  Thank you for bringing up the issue of Sabbath with regard to Isa. 56.  As you correctly point out, this is a key element in the chapter.  I'm not sure exactly what you mean by Sabbath-keeping being a “sign of the new covenant” for Israel, since Sabbath-keeping is usually considered a sign of the old covenant as it specifically says in Exo. 31:13; Eze. 20:12.  But if you simply mean that it continues as part of the practice of Jewish believers in Jesus, this is certainly true. 

With regard to Isa. 56:8 ("The Lord GOD, who gathers the banished ones of Israel, declares, 'Yet others I will gather to him, to those already gathered.'"), the phrase "yet others will I gather to him" is a reference back to Israel in the same verse, and as a result, is often translated for clarity “to them.”  This is how Jesus understood it when he alluded to this verse in John 10:16, speaking of the "other sheep" that were to be added to the Jewish people who had already believed in him.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Was Early Christianity a Mystery Religion? (Q&A)

Q:  I heard that early Christianity was a mystery religion in Rome.  Is this true and does anyone know any of the characteristics of mystery religions? (I know that they were a secret but has anything come out about them?)  Was it a popular one, like were there many Romans who joined it?  Also did mystery religions have supernatural events that happened, as I read that in some mystery religions, people would enter the spirit world or supernatural realm.

Anyway, I hope that made sense, and thanks for any help.

A:  The main focus of the most important rituals of the ancient mystery religions, as far as we know,  was the revelation of some secret act or ritual object with deep symbolic meaning for those trained in the belief system of the religion.  This took place toward the end of a lengthy and elaborate ritual.  This revelation was often intended to produce a specific spiritual or emotional effect on the initiates that were experiencing it for the first time.  They were then sworn to keep this ritual a secret, and in most cases they did, as we are still ignorant of most of the core mysteries today.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

When was Jesus' Last Supper? (Q&A)

Q:   In your review of "The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot" by Ernest Martin, the article was interesting. I came on this page of the web looking for what the word meaning of the “common hall” was in the Bible [Matt. 27:27 KJV]. 

I disagree that the Last Supper was the night before the crucifixion. In John 19:14, it states, "And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he [Pilate] saith unto the Jews, Behold your King." With Jesus on the cross the third hour, then this has to be the day before the crucifixion, at least. If you look at John 4:6, the passage with the woman at the well, it's also the sixth hour. Any commentary I've read states that this was noon . If it's noon here, then in John 19:14 it is also noon. In John 13:1 it states, "Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." This is just before the Last Supper. In Josephus it states that the 14th, "The Lords Passover" had become a feast day during the time of Jesus. This is twice that the Bible states that the Last Supper was not the evening before the crucifixion.  Before the feast means before the feast. The 14th was a feast day, but not a holy day. I have been working on this question off and on for about four years. Take a look at another possibility. Please read www.holyweekrevisited.com  --Joseph L.

A:  Many Gentile Christians are misled by the phrase, "the preparation of the Passover" in John 19:14.  It appears to them to indicate a day of preparation before the beginning of the Passover holiday itself.  But as with so many other details of Jewish observance, what may seem logical to us as Gentiles is no guarantee of a correct understanding of the culture of that day.  The only way to correctly understand it is according to the original Jewish understanding.  Among the Jewish people, the "Preparation" was their name for the day preceding the Sabbath (i.e. Thursday evening and Friday until sunset).  This, by the way, is still the name for Friday in Greece today (Paraskeue, which means “Preparation”).  The "preparation" day in John 19:14 therefore refers not to a day preceding the Passover celebration, but to the Preparation day (the Friday) that fell in the Passover week.  This Preparation day was especially important, because the Sabbath that fell during the Passover week was considered a "high" Sabbath (as explained in John 19:31).  What this means is that the Preparation day of the Passover always falls within the Passover week, and never before it.  As a result, these events could only have happened after the evening Passover Seder meal (Jesus’ Last Supper) held on the first evening of Passover, and not before.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

What Kind of Water is in the Jewish Ritual Bath (Mikveh)? (Q&A)

Q:  I just read your article on Ephesians 5:26 [The Washing of Water with the Word]. A great look at a deeply profound message. I've also been studying Jewish tradition as it relates to baptism and ritual washing. I thought that the mikveh was actually to be made up of running (i.e. living) waters rather than standing or pooled waters. Then to think about this in relationship to what Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:10:  “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’”  Very cool stuff indeed. Thanks for your insight. --Eli

A:  There are several different grades of water for ritual bathing.  Six of these are mentioned in the Mishnah in the section on Mikvaoth (“Ritual baths,” 1:1-8).  The highest grade is freely flowing water (“living water”), like that in the Jordan River where John was baptizing.  Fourth on the list, but quite common in everyday use, is the mikveh bath.  This contains 40 seahs of water, which is about 80 gallons.  These baths must be filled naturally with rainwater channeled from the roof or with water flowing in from a spring or river nearby.  Though this is standing water after it enters the mikveh, it is considered acceptable because of its source.

A constantly flowing spring of living water as described by Jesus in John 4:10 and 4:14 would be the highest grade of water.  Here it is, of course, a symbol of the purifying presence of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39).

(For more on this topic, see the Index category Baptism.)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Is Baptism Essential to Salvation? (Q&A)

Q:  Jeff, I chanced upon the website while surfing the internet. For the past few months, I have been trying to understand whether a person needs to be baptized to be saved. I would like to consult you on the relation between baptism and salvation, as understood by the early church (made up of mainly Jews). I have read what was written in your Q&A question “The Jewish Roots of Baptism,” and it seems like baptism is (and was) seen as a cleansing.

Did the early church (or maybe present day Jewish Christians) believe/teach that baptism is necessary for salvation? --BK

A:  Christian baptism is a rite of initiation adopted from immersion in the Jewish mikveh bath.  The mikveh bath was used for ritual cleansing from many different kinds of uncleanness, most of them found in Lev. 15.  But the use that most strongly influenced Christian baptism was the conversion of a Gentile to Judaism, for which ritual immersion was required.  In Christianity, this became an important part of the overall cleansing—both inner and outer—that marked coming to faith in Jesus (Yeshua) as the Messiah and Son of God.


The Tav Mark (Q&A)

Q:  I have read your message, "When did the 'Tav' mark start to look like a cross"?  I`d be very thankful, if you can answer some questions.

How do you know that the mark mentioned in Ezekiel 9:4 is the letter tav?  In the Bible it reads only "...and set a mark upon the forehead of the men."  Where is it mentioned in the Hebrew Bible that the mark was the letter "tav"?

You say that the Essenes marked Messianic prophecies in their Bible scrolls with a cross mark. Can you give me some example of that, how they use the cross? Is there no doubt that the crosses were placed there with some definitive purpose and not only to mark the messianic passages out of the others?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Is Jesus God? (Q&A)

This set of questions is clearly from a Muslim, and is quite interesting in that it provides insight into Muslim concerns in thinking about Jesus as the Son of God.  Parts of the original e-mail have been edited for clarity.  

Q1:  [The first e-mail began with many Bible verses indicating that Jesus is different than the Father, or stating that he is a servant of the Father or less than the Father, such as:]

John - Chapter 14
28:  …for my Father is greater than I.

John - Chapter 13
16: Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.  20: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

John - Chapter 17
3: And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Is Right Standing with God the Result of Perfect Obedience? (Q&A)

Q:  My name is Troy T.  I am a Black American (non-Jewish) believer in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Holy One anointed by G-D to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.  While I lived in Washington, D.C., I attended a Messianic Jewish Congregation because G-D, in a dream, told me to.  Before the dream, I did not even realize that, except for a few exceptions, that Jews existed who believed in Yeshua as the Anointed One.  However, now I come across them all the time.  Well, I loved the congregation but I have also come across many Messianic Jewish groups who teach salvation by faith and observance to the Law given to Moses.  However, I love your website because it is fair, balanced, and Scriptural.

I teach, according to the Scriptures, that right standing before and with G-D is only the result of perfect obedience to the Law of G-D.  In the beginning, G-D gave all humans a conscience that contains the Law of G-D, which is composed of His eternal law (love Him will all your being and love your fellow human) and natural law (do not murder, steal, commit adultery, commit sodomy, rape, lie, etc.).  Yet, due to the transgression of the one man (Adam), all humans acquired a predisposition to do that which G-D said do not do and to not do that which G-D said do.  Even though until the giving of the written Law of G-D, disobeyed G-D like Adam by breaking a direct command of G-D but only by violating the dictates of the conscience.  This predisposition is only inherited through the father (not the mother) since the sins of the father are transferred and Adam is the father of us all.