I uploaded a video in 2016 in which I claimed that Jesus broke the Sabbath. Six years later my views have not changed. I still believe Jesus and his Disciples broke Sabbath Laws, not just according to Talmudic Traditions but also from the Prophets. The incident at the Pool of Bethsaida in John Ch. 5 and the Disciples picking grain on Sabbath, Luke Ch.6, are just two examples.
This year (2022), I revisited my Sabbath studies and collected some excellent information from George Foot Moore’s Works on Judaism. I’ve decided to add the information to my video as a new article. After studying George Foot Moore’s writings, I was made aware that in 2016, I missed some crucial information from the Prophets about the Sabbath.
In this article I will touch on Midrash and Judaism’s Primary and Secondary systems of Sabbath Laws. I will also mention what I missed in my 2016 video from Jeremiah and Amos on Sabbath and what I believe Jesus was demonstrating at the Pool of Bethsaida. I will conclude with whether or not God works on Sabbath.
Even in Jesus’s day Midrash was influential among the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes. Let me briefly mention what Midrash is. In his book Questions and Answers, Intellectual Foundations of Judaism, Jacob Neusner describes Midrash as follows: Midrash supplies interpretation and meanings to the text. There are mainly two forms of Midrash, Halakah for Legal purposes and Aggadah for narrative and theology. In short, Midrash means interpretation.
In Judaism, Midrash has been assigned to the Rabba’s and Talmud, although, I do believe Midrash can also be found in the TaNaKh. And, yes, I can prove that! But why even mention the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, or Midrash for that matter? Because it shows that the vast majority of TaNaKh (Old Testament) Laws were open to interpretation. If a Primary Law lacked clarity, it needed a Secondary Law. Otherwise, the people wouldn’t know what they were supposed to do.
This is the predicament I believe the Jewish scholars found themselves in. The Biblical Laws can sometimes be vague and fragmented, hence the need for Midrash (Interpretation). “You shall not work on the Sabbath in ploughing time or harvest.” Work (ploughing) needed defining in this case. Especially for an agrarian community whose very survival depended on working. But the problem with interpretation is, how much interpretation is enough? There seems to be no end to Midrash.
If the truth be known, the Jewish sects of the 1st Century AD, not only disagreed on the Primary Laws but also on the Secondary Laws. According to Moore, three hundred disagreements between the Pharisees and the Sadducees are recorded in the Talmud. Although, at one point a voice spoke from Heaven at the Council of Yavneh. The voice told them both Schools had the Words of the Living God, but Hillel’s (Pharisees) Halakah Laws are to be followed. It must’ve been a huge relief for the Pharisees and Johanan ben Zakkai who was reforming the Council at that time.
In the end the Pharisees became the dominant force in Judaism. We know from history that the Essenes died out shortly after the destruction of the Second Temple. The Sadducees hung around a bit longer, but with no Temple and a Great Bet Din (Sanhedrin) that became infiltrated by wealthy Pharisees, they also faced becoming redundant. The final nail in the coffin for the Sadducees was when the doctrine of The Resurrection of the Dead became finalized.
The Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection of the Dead and were considered heretics by the Pharisees. Heretics had no place in the world to come according to the Pharisees and with that the Sadducees perished. If there was only one example of Midrash, the doctrine of The Resurrection of the Dead would be it in a nutshell. Because it allowed an expansion of the very fleeting mention in only a couple of Scriptures to exclude a whole religious sect as heretics.
I hope by now you appreciate that I am endeavouring to point out that the Laws in the TaNaKh (Old Testament) were sometimes fragmented and vague. And even those who claimed to have God’s Word, disagreed on what exactly God’s Word was. It is my opinion that Old Testament Sabbath Laws were challenging and because of that so much clarification was needed. A whole Tractate in Talmud is devoted to just the Sabbath.
There are, however, Sabbath Laws which are somewhat clearer in Jeremiah and Amos. They do relate back to my video from 2016 but back then when I made the video, I wasn’t aware of ‘Carrying Laws’ in Jeremiah. Neither did I fully understand the issue with the Disciples picking grain on the Sabbath. But thanks to George Foot Moore, I now do.
In Jeremiah Ch.17:21-22, the Prophet is very specific about bearing burdens. He says, “Bear no burdens”, “Nor carry a burden out of your house on the Sabbath Day.” One can assume then that carrying inside the house is perfectly fine. Since Jeremiah, Carrying Laws have taken on so many more Secondary Laws, such as carrying in alley ways or whether the alley ways have open or closed ends. It’s in the video.
If we are to accept that Jeremiah instituted those ‘Carrying Laws’, then I can understand why the religious authorities had a problem with Jesus telling the man to take up his bed and walk. We have a similar incident with the Disciples picking grain on Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-21; Mark 2:23; Luke 6:1-11) and the Sabbath Laws in Amos. Amos expounds Sabbath Laws from Exodus. Exodus 34:21 says, “You shall not work on the Sabbath in ploughing time or harvest.” Amos in Ch.8:5, adds trading grains and making profits on the Sabbath to ploughing and harvest as things forbidden.
But what has agricultural ploughing and selling grains have to do with the Disciples picking grain on the Sabbath? Well, it’s all in the definition of what ploughing means or how it was interpreted. The definition of the Primary Law of Exodus 34:21 has Secondary Laws which includes, planting, plucking, reaping, picking food and grinding. A total of thirty-nine laws have been derived from “You shall not work on the Sabbath in ploughing time or harvest”. And it was the picking and the grinding (rubbing) of the hands together (Luke 6:1) to separate the wheat from the husks that was in violation of Secondary Sabbath Laws.
Technically it was perceived as “Work.” Jesus justified their actions by saying, “Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, the day should never take precedence over a human being, the needs of the Disciples to eat was greater than observing a rule. There is one other thing that Jesus said, which is often overlooked in disputes about whether he declared his Deity or not. In these Sabbath interactions with the Pharisees, Jesus said, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8).
To the average person this might not mean much, but if ever there was a claim to his Deity this was it. Jewish literature and myths references “God of the Sabbath” and ‘Lord of the Sabbath”. The Pharisees would’ve known exactly what he meant. For me it is reminiscent of what the Apostle John said, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”, “All things were made through him and without him nothing was made. (John 1:1-3). That includes Sabbath.
Perhaps it is with this mindset that Jesus approached the incident at the Pool of Bethsaida. Since he was Lord of the Sabbath and that he was the one who instituted Sabbath in the first place. It was an outrageous claim to make, and the Pharisees rightfully saw it as making himself equal with God. Let’s look again at the events as they unfolded on that Sabbath Day. There was a man who sat patiently at the Pool of Bethsaida hoping to receive a healing miracle, he’d been disabled for thirty-eight years.
Of all the days, the Sabbath was chosen for the waters of the Pool to be supernaturally stirred. At which point, people jumped into the Pool and received their healing. Due to his disability the man was unable to lower himself into the Pool. And, personally, I think the Carrying Laws would’ve stifled any hope of others carrying him into the water. As I understand it, Jesus healed him where he was sitting and there was no need for him to be lowered into the water. But the breach occurred when Jesus asked him to take up his bed and walk, which meant breaking what Jeremiah said in Ch.17:21-22.
I can’t help thinking this was intentional on Jesus’s part, to show that mercy should out way rules. It was merciful to not let that man wait any longer and all things considered, his chances of getting into the Pool were pretty limited. Which brings me to another highly controversial topic in this whole scenario. Jesus said, “My Father has been Working until now and I have been Working” (John 5:17). It is clear that even John believed that an Angel stirred the waters (John 5:4). But my understanding is that the Father, stirred the waters, prompting Jesus to say, “My Father is Working.” What does that say about Genesis Ch.2:2 (God’s rest) was it a one-off? And does God in fact Work on the Sabbath?
If we are to take Jesus’s statement about the Father Working on Sabbath at face value, then God’s rest in Genesis 2:2 was not for his benefit but for our benefit. “The Sabbath was made for man.” It’s clear from all other Scriptures that God never tires, slumbers, or sleeps. So, it seems ironic to me that after creation, God got tired and needed a rest. Instead, what God did, was create a day, which he blessed to create a separation from labour. Jesus never denied a day of rest, but for him it was about getting our priorities right. Whether we believe God stirred the waters or an Angel stirred the waters is irrelevant. Even if the Angel stirred the waters, then God instructed the Angel to Work on Sabbath.
On this whole question on whether God Works on the Sabbath, there is a passage in Talmud which suggests a minim challenged the Rabbi’s on this very topic. Why does God not keep Sabbath? Since the incident occurred in 95 AD, it’s not likely a Christian minim although that cannot be ruled out. But it is my understanding that Philo first raised the issue about God working on Sabbath. According to the Rabbi’s God does Work on Sabbath. Since the heavens and the earth are his dominion, he can move about freely and work just like humans can move about in their homes on Sabbath. Make of that what you will.
In concluding, if there is any one creed that epitomizes Judaism, it is the Sabbath. The Sabbath is an Eternal Covenant between God and the Jews! I tend to agree that it is only for the Jews, because of the complexities that have surrounded it. Jubilees and Talmud state that Sabbath is for the Jews and the concept of Rest was created for them and not for Gentiles. Although Jesus did say, the Sabbath was given to man in general, which for me means all peoples. But as a day of rest and reflection, not as a day of rules and regulations.
“My Father has been Working until now and I have been Working” (John 5:17). Is what Jesus said, despite us having a preconceived notion that God observed Sabbath from Genesis 2:2. The idea that God does work on Sabbath was explained away by 1st Century AD Rabbi’s as God working in his own house which happened to be Heaven and Earth. While on this earth, Jesus, and his Disciples didn’t always obey Sabbath rules. Not all of the rules they disobeyed were from the Rabba’s or Talmud, some were also from the Prophets like Jeremiah. Jeremiah defined Carrying Laws but since then these laws have grown enormously. This is because of Midrash and the need to clarify and expound on Biblical Laws.
Biblical Sabbath in my opinion is part of the Mosaic and Talmudic Law. As a Christian, I cannot keep Sabbath as a Law. If I kept it as a Law, then I would also have to accept the punishment for breaking it. The punishment for not keeping Biblical Sabbath as a Law is Capital Punishment, death by stoning (Exodus 31:12-18; Numbers 15:32-36), Rest or Die! I’m not sure about you, but I am not at liberty to go around killing people for picking up a few sticks to light a fire.
Since Messianic Judaism (which is an oxymoron by the way, there is no such thing) arrived on the scene, Christians have been caught up in many Jewish practices, and keeping Sabbath is just one of those practices. They light candles which is from a Talmud they’ve never read, and they sing Sabbath songs to the Queen of Heaven. Yet Jesus tells us that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. The greatest burden you can bear is the burden of guilt and shame for not following a myriad of Sabbath rules and regulations. And the only burden you need to bear as a Christian is to share the Gospel with a lost world.
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Crafts, W., n.d. The Sabbath for man: a study of the origin, obligation, history, advantages and present state of Sabbath obsevance.
Jefford, C., 2012. Reading the Apostolic Fathers. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Lightfoot Moore, G., 1997. Judaism In the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of Tannaim Volumes 1,2 & 3. 1st ed. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.
Neusner, J., 2005. Questions and Answers Intellectual Foundations of Judaism. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., pp.41-44.
Neusner, J., 2005. The Babylonian Talmud. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers.
O’Loughlin, T., 2010. The Didache. London: SPCK.
Patzia, A., 2011. Making of the New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press.
Pritchard, J., 1969. Ancient Near Eastern texts relating to the Old Testament. Edited by James B. Pritchard. Third edition with supplement. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp.286,287.
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My 2016 video on Jesus Broke The Sabbath.
In August (2022) I was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer. Like all the stories in my life, it is filled with gratitude for God, thankfulness to a great medical team, a wonderful family, and supportive friends. It was a fluke that they found it so early and that was a miracle in itself. In the words of Albert Einstein, “You can live your life as if everything is a miracle or nothing is a miracle.” For me, everything about this episode of my life to date has been a miracle and I hope it will continue to be that way.
I did question God as to why he sent this disease my way and if there was a lesson for me to learn. I now realize, not everything is from God or the Devil, sometimes things just happen and I’m certain this is just one of those things. In the past I received a considerable amount of radiation and HRT which could’ve been the main reason for these tumours. Whatever the cause, it was quite miraculously discovered, removed by a great surgical team and I recovered almost immediately. I didn’t even need one pain killer since coming home from the hospital and after I have some treatment, I should be able to continue as normal. For all this I thank God, and everyone who helped and prayed for me. I live in a great country and have an amazing group of family and friends. I feel truly blessed!
This is what I learnt during my experience:
In this article, I will consider the following: Firstly, I will explore what it means to be Chosen from a biblical perspective. Secondly, I will examine the concept of being Chosen and Predestination through the eyes of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Thirdly, I will address whether there is a cost to being Chosen? Lastly, I will give you my understanding of God’s Purpose behind the Chosen concept in the Bible. We need to ponder this last aspect carefully because misunderstanding it can lead to pride, a sense of entitlement and unnecessary suffering for those we consider Unchosen.
What does it mean to be Chosen?
The concept of being chosen in a physical and spiritual sense is throughout the Bible. But what does it mean to be chosen? After reading many dictionary definitions of what chosen means, I arrived at this standard explanation. Chosen means that a group or individuals were handpicked or selected not necessarily because they were the best but because they were the most appropriate for the task ahead. What task you may ask? According to the Bible, the task to advance God’s Kingdom and be A Light to the Nations. That is the task ─ it is the thread that runs from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) through to the Christian New Testament.
From the Hebrew Scriptures we know that Ancient Israel accepted their Covenant at Mount Sinai and thus became the Chosen People. Apart from the national (corporate) choosing many individuals were also chosen for specific tasks. Moses and Aron were chosen, David, Solomon, Ezekiel, Elijah, and the list goes on and on. Others were chosen at the expense of still others being Unchosen, Jacob and Esau for example. Although with Jacob and Esau, we have the choosing but Jacob still had to wrestle with God to get his blessing. Which for me is reminiscent of what Jesus said, “Many are Called but few are Chosen.” (Matthew 22:14).
Being chosen requires some effort on our part. Action or a commission always follows a choosing. Action needs obedience, and there lies God’s Justification (Justice) for choosing. God chooses and commissions, if we obey, we stay chosen, if we don’t, we are rejected. As harsh as that sounds, it is the only way for God to remain fair and just to all humankind.
Chosen ─ A Jewish and Christian perspective.
The term Chosen/Chosen Ones is highly favoured by the biblical authors and therefore is an essential element in both religions. Although, the term may be more significant to Jewish people than it is to Christians. Being The Chosen People is undoubtedly the most essential element in Judaism, it is a core tenet. Being chosen, covenant, promises, purpose are the key elements of their Mount Sinai experience.
Jewish literature affirms that everything including creation was for the Chosen People. Louis Ginzberg in Legends of the Jews informs us that the other nations became curious as to why God had chosen the Israelites. To which God replied, “Bring me the records” … and in doing so God was able to prove that Ancient Israel was pure and without blemish. The Nations applauded and the Torah was then handed to Israel.
We also need to include the biblical commentary of such a significant calling, and who better to quote than the Israelite Prophets. The Prophets were never very flattering with their assessments on anything, and it’s no wonder people called Elijah “The Troubler of Israel.” (1 Kings 18:17). It is so much better to appreciate the specialness of being chosen, rather than be faced with the brutal honesty of the Prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel, in the most offensive language to any Israelite tells them your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. That they were like an unwanted child, whose cord wasn’t cut, nor were they cleansed after their birth. There was no one to wrap them in swaddling garments, they were loathed and thrown into an open field to die.
Here were a people rejected, so, God took compassion on them and said to them, “Live, yes, I said to you Live!” And with that, Israel the people of God lived and still live today as a testament to God’s mercy (Ezekiel Ch.16). But no Covenant is ever one sided, it takes Two to Tango and two to Cut Covenant. Israel’s response to being Chosen was firstly to obey God’s voice (Exodus 19:5) and accept the Commandments (Exodus 19:8), “All that the Lord has spoken WE WILL DO.” There were consequences if they did not obey.
Transitioning from the Hebrew Scriptures to the Christian Scriptures we see a clear change in focus as the word Chosen is used to describe Christians. For Christians however, the focus of being A Chosen People is not a high priority. We are aware of the New Testament passages, but in all fairness most Christians are still caught up with the Jews being the Chosen People. That aside, for the Christian, being chosen should be all about Purpose. Christians are Called and Chosen for the single Purpose of Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven to every Tongue and Nation. Something the majority of them Do NOT DO. Recent statistics show that six out of every ten Christians do not share their faith and worse still do not know how to share their faith. Christians who do not share their faith are in direct disobedience to God’s Commission.
Here are some examples in the New Testament that call the followers of Jesus Christ, The Chosen Ones:
1 Peter 2: 9-10.
“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” There is no doubt Peter is referring to the followers of Jesus Christ.
“But you are a CHOSEN people, a royal priesthood, a holy NATION, God’s special possession, that you may declare (The Great Commission) the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” This cannot mean the Jewish people because the entire premise of Judaism from the very beginning is that they were ‘A People’ (One People!). Christians however were not ‘A People’, we come from the four corners of the earth and are formed into ‘A People’, a Spiritual National Entity for God’s Kingdom.
Ephesians 1:1-5, Paul is writing to the saints at Ephesus, would you agree?
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus”:
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
“Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”
I’m going to deviate here a little and say that I find it fascinating that Paul uses almost the exact inference as Louis Ginzberg, that “Choosing” originated at the very beginning with creation. Those Christians who believe in Predestination have relied heavily on this verse of scripture. Unfortunately, many Christian Denominations are led astray by taking one passage of scripture out of context. Predestination is no different. Paul believed that the followers of Jesus Christ were chosen, but he added it was set up at the very beginning of creation. Which in my opinion was part of his personal worldview because Jesus and Peter never said any such thing. Jesus and Peter emphasised the purpose of being Chosen, which was to proclaim the Gospel and be the Light of this world.
The problem with Predestination is that God states, he wishes no one perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Or that Christ died for all, not some, but all! That the Kingdom of Heaven is something that can be sought out, and he asked his followers to go into the highways and byways and compel people to come into the Kingdom. This contrasts with the Pharisees. Josephus mentions the Pharisees and the Essenes believed in the soul being Chosen at creation (Predestination), the Sadducees did not share their views.
Geza Vermes and David Flusser have a lot to say about the Essenes and their practices. From their writings on Second Temple Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls, I pieced together the following: The Qumran Community believed everything was complete at creation, including being chosen. That creation was not the beginning of work but a completed work. That everything will execute itself at the right time according to God’s plan. That several of Paul’s quotes were directly linked to the Essenes. Josephus mentioned a couple of them but word for word Paul’s writings can be directly linked to the Manual of Discipline. And that the Essenes view on Predestination was known to outsiders.
In Thessalonians, Paul says, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 — Give thanks brethren beloved by the Lord because God has Chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. Another favourite scripture of the Predestination people. To put these verses in their proper perspective, nothing and no one is so special in God’s eyes that they cannot be cut-off or replaced. Paul himself said this when he used the Olive Tree as a metaphor. The lesson we can learn from the Olive Tree is that dead branches were cut off and others were grafted in. Does that speak of permanency to you? It doesn’t to me. If we are chosen at creation, we would never be able to be cut-off. I covered a lot of ground in tracing Predestination in Jewish literature, and I can categorically say it is from the Talmud and steeped in the Kabbalah aspect of the pre-existence of souls. And that it was a deeply held belief of the Essenes, the first-century sect of Judaism.
What is the cost of being Chosen?
There is no end to wars and rumours of wars these days, and every time there is a war, people suffer, children suffer, and animals suffer. I grieve every day for those suffering and do my best to help in anyway I can. It seems social media sites recognize those who help others and I find myself inundated with help requests in my Newsfeeds. The other day, I was deeply moved by a request to help lions trapped in a Zoo in war-torn Yemen. The lions were starving, and they desperately needed food, how could I refuse? I gave whatever I could and felt a deep sense of satisfaction.
As I sat back in my armchair, and I thought about the lions chomping away on their dinner, I thought about the other poor animals I had just sentenced to death. I chose that day for one animal to live and another to die, and that’s what choosing is. With that knowledge came a deep revelation and appreciation about being Chosen. If we are somehow Chosen, it is nothing to be proud of because it is offered to us at the cost and sacrifice of others.
What I just tried to illustrate with my lions in Yemen story is being chosen comes with a cost, a cost to the giver and cost to the receiver. The story of Joseph comes to mind, Joseph really suffered because his brothers knew he was chosen. I have much to say about Joseph in my series on The Good Shepherd. Being Chosen also makes one a target. It’s no wonder there is a belief amongst the Jews that they are The Suffering Servant referred to in Isaiah Ch.53. According to Rabbi Stuart Federow, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 is the Jewish people, because they have suffered a great deal. He tells in his book Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast (which I would highly recommend) that in Judaism there is no such thing as a Suffering Messiah (Chapter 14) and since Messiah cannot suffer, the Jewish people fulfil that role instead.
Before I address this further, I always recommend his book because in some obscure way him and me bat for the same team. Like Federow, I have also made it my life’s mission to stamp out the lies peddled by the Judaizers, the apostate Jews who work tirelessly trying to turn Christianity into some pseudo religion that is neither Judaism nor Christianity. Scholars or experts who truly understand Judaism and Christianity will never say they are the same, like Jacob Neusner, “Christianity and Judaism: Two Faiths Talking About Different Things.”
For the Christian suffering is part and parcel of our existence. There is a constant stream of murders, imprisonment and punishments dished out to us. For example, every two hours a Christian is killed in Nigeria alone. I’m certain no other religious group are being killed at that rate. Nevertheless, we do not see ourselves as The Suffering Servant of Isaiah Ch.53. We see that entity (singular) as Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Jesus ticks all the boxes if you like. Jesus is called Chosen and Faithful in Revelation, but most importantly he will declare Judgement to the Gentiles. Judgement is an important aspect of his. I will say more about the Judgement of Messiah in the next segment.
Quoting from Isaiah Ch.53, “He shall not strive, nor cry aloud, neither shall his voice be heard in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, a smoking flax shall he not quench, till he sends forth judgement into victory. And his name shall be great amongst the Gentiles” And that it is ─ Jesus is great amongst the Gentiles. Apart from everything else, the strongest sign for me that Isaiah Ch.53 speaks about Jesus Christ is that it mentions judgement. Judgement, justice and justify. This must be one of the strongest indications that this is a reference to the Kingdom of God. In my Fruits of the Kingdom message, I pick Judgement as being the single most aspect of the Heavenly Kingdom and that The Rod, The Stem of Jesse is Jesus Christ.
“He will not Judge by what he sees with his eyes or decide by what he hears with his ears: but with righteousness he will Judge the needy, with Justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips, he will slay the wicked.” Isaiah Ch.11.
What is the Purpose for being Chosen?
People are Chosen for a purpose, not because they are something special, or someone that others should respect or look up to. That is not God’s way of doing things. God calls and chooses people to perform his tasks on this earth. We have freewill to reject his calling and commissions. If freewill is removed from the equation, then we are just robots. As with the Ancient Israelites, the call went out and they collectively responded, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” The purpose behind their calling was to be Lights to the Nations.
Rabbi Stuart Federow has this to say about what being a Light to the Nations mean. “As a Jew one has been Chosen by God, to act as God’s advertising agent in the world. An advertisement draws attention to the subject, stands out from amongst the rest…If you look at a Jew you should see God. His existence, his morals, ethics.” That is a clear definition of the expectation that went with the Commission at Mount Sinai. And this is my point, that being Chosen has a very definite purpose, and it does not involve specialness or favouritism.
In the New Testament, Christians are also called by Jesus to be Lights to the World as he is the Light of this World (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14). And for the followers of the New Testament, what Rabbi Federow said about the Jews can apply equally for them also. Although, being a Light is more about how the people of God should conduct themselves, having God’s Righteous Judgement is the way that we prove being Lights to the Nations. But what is Righteous Judgement and how do we decide what is right?
I must say for me it was not easy to define God’s Judgement, but I will try. My first conclusion of having God’s Righteous Judgement would be to be a ‘Holy People’, but only as defined by the God of the Bible. The term ‘Holy People’ is used in the Old and New Testament respectively (Deuteronomy 7:6 & 1 Peter 2:9). If you are not Holy then you cannot transmit God’s Judgement, because his Light and Judgement must emanate from you. It works two ways, from God to the Individual and from the individual to the world. George Foot Moore states that the Hebrew word sedekwhich is interpretedas Righteousness in English is the Quality of Righteousness in relation to God in his Judgements.
George Foot Moore goes on to say, that Justice (remember the same word was used repeatedly in Isaiah 11 and Isiah 53 for Judgement) in a broad sense is a fundamental virtue on which human society is based. It is no less fundamental in the idea of God, and in the definition of what God needs from men.” So, it’s not just Holiness and Righteousness (Judgement) we are talking about here, but it is a Holiness and Righteousness that is defined by the God of the Bible. If we relate this back to being Chosen, to claim that God ‘Chooses’ people irrelevant of their spiritual standings is nothing more than ridiculous. God will never choose a sinner over someone who is in a committed walk with Him!
Christians and Jews use different means by which they believe they live out their call to be Lights to the Nations according to God’s Righteous Judgement. In more recent times, it’s become a priority for Christians to become involved in politics. This is a very American thing and to date Christians have become highly successful in lobbying governments to bring about change. I personally believe it has gone too far and rather than fulfil our role as Chosen for the purpose of preaching the Gospel, we chose to force others to believe what we believe through legislation. I thought long and hard about what true Justice means for the Christian, and for me it came down to The Good Samaritan. Will you help a person, beaten and naked on the side of the road? Once that person becomes unrecognizable by cuts and bruises and cannot be identified because he is naked, will you still help him?
For the Jews, Judgement is carried out through legal means, by adhering to Law Codes. The Sanhedrin, or Council of Hewn Stone, administer Judgement. The Council has remained somewhat inactive since it was demolished after the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. It reconvened briefly at Jamnia and set itself up as a High Court of Moral and Religious Authority. It needs to be told that the Judgements of The Council are not based purely on Biblical principles but also on the Rabbi’s as well. Like the time Rabbi Akiba puzzled Moses who sat in the last row of his class. After nearly two thousand years The Council merges again from the ashes and will sit again in Judgement of Jews and Non-Jews alike. If the Jewish people believe they are the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, then that Suffering Servant must execute Judgement by seeing the labour of his soul and justify many (verse 11). But how this Judgement will be carried out is left to be seen. At the end of the day if any aspect of the Mosaic Law is to be enacted, it will carry with it the death penalty for thirty-six crimes.
In concluding I discovered that there are two requirements to being The Chosen People, they are, being Lights to the Nations and a Holy People. The Hebrew word sedek is often translated in the English Bible as Righteousness but, it should be Judgement. And not just any Judgement, but rather the quality of Judgement and God’s Judgement at that. For the Christian it means being like The Good Samaritan, if a person is so bloodied and naked and you have no way of knowing their status in life, will you still help them? For the Jews it is about legal precedents and enacting the Mosaic and Talmudic Law via the Council of Hewn Stone (Sanhedrin).
Being Chosen is about Purpose and should not be viewed as favouritism. The Prophet Ezekiel tells us why God chose Israel, because He had compassion on her (Ezekiel 16:6). There is also an element of suffering associated with being Chosen and we see this throughout the Scriptures. Joseph for instance suffered a lot of rejection because he was Chosen. The Jewish people relate to this suffering by seeing themselves in the writings of Isaiah Chs 11&53, which speaks of the Suffering Servant. Christians see this entity as Jesus Christ, but also experience a significant amount of suffering and are the most persecuted religious group in the world today.
I also covered the concept of Predestination, which has become a Doctrine in some Christian circles. Predestination in relation to being Chosen for me is Paul’s personal worldview. Paul’s Pharisaic background meant that he would’ve believed in Predestination. Predestination was also a deeply held view of the Qumran Community. Paul shared many worldviews with this community, including his views on women and celibacy. Paul quoted from the Qumran texts, and there is no disputing that. The Essenes idea of Predestination, which Paul also believed, meant that before the foundation of the world, souls were already preselected too either walk the path of light or walk the path of darkness. It also meant the Unchosen were destined to an eternity of suffering and torment without any freewill. Personally, I cannot accept that God created human souls with that intent.
From a biblical perspective being Chosen is to be selected for the task to being a Light to the Nations. This common theme runs through from the Hebrew Scriptures into the Christian Scriptures. In the Hebrew Scriptures, God Chose Ancient Israel at Mount Sinai to be a Holy People set apart for his divine purpose. Choosing was always followed by a commission to obey. For the Christian the calling is consistent with the identical words and themes to also be Light to the Nations and a Holy People. Christians have been given the task to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to every Nation and People. Something most of them do not do, and that has been confirmed by recent statistics. If being Lights to the Nations and a Holy People is what God intended for his Chosen, then I’m convinced both Jews and Christians have failed miserably in their mission.
Cohen, A., 2008. Everyman’s Talmud the Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages. BN Publishing.
Federow, R., 2012. Judaism And Christianity A Contrast. Bloomington: iUniverse, Inc.
Flusser, D. and Yadin, A., 2009. Judaism of the Second Temple Period. Grand Rapids (Mich.): Eerdmans.
Foot Moore, G., 1997. Judaism In the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of Tannaim Volumes 2&3. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.
1954. KJV- Amplified Holy Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.
Louis, G., n.d. Legends of the Jews. The Library of Alexandria.
Neusner, J., 2011. The Babylonian Talmud. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers.
Neusner, J., 2005. Questions and Answers Intellectual Foundations of Judaism. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.
Raphael Patai., 1983. On Jewish Folklore. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Schwartz, H. and Loebel-Fried, C., n.d. Tree of souls The Mythology of Judaism.
Vermès, G., n.d. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Penguin Classics.
The Council of Hewn Stone:
Sanhedrin which, according to the Mishnah,1234 held their meetings in the Temple; the second, or intermediate Court of Appeal, being in the ‘Court of the Priests’ (probably close to the Nicanor Gate); and the highest, that of the Great Sanhedrin, at one time in the ‘Hall of Hewn Square Stones’ (Lishkath ha-Gazith.)
Every two hours a Christian is killed in Nigeria:
Source: Open Doors USA Please Google this source as I cannot post the link.
Predestination in Judaism:
6 out of every 10 Christians do not share the Gospel and do not know how to share their faith:
All links were accessed in June 2022.
In this article I will be exploring the idea of individual and collective salvation. I will be addressing the concept of salvation from a Christian perspective and will be answering this question: When one family member gets saved does the entire household also get saved? By saved, I mean an acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour and becoming a recipient of eternal life with Him. Opinion is divided in the Christian community about this belief with many Christians using Noah as a perfect example of an entire family being saved. Others see the concept of salvation as only for the individual and no one else.
Examples such as Noah, Abraham and to some extent Job indicate that there is hope for eternal life for extended family members in God’s overall plan. And Paul’s words to the prison keeper in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” supports that argument. But so much of the Bible does not support Acts 16:31. And, since we are called to rightfully divide the Word of Truth, we need to look wider and deeper to see if this concept can be substantiated across the entire biblical text.
Most of our beliefs about the entire household being saved stems from examples in our Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament). Of which Noah and his family are the most prominent. We must keep in mind though Noah’s family’s salvation was physical and not spiritual and what Paul was referring to in Acts 16:31 was spiritual. Although I agree that as a metaphor Noah’s Ark can also have a spiritual significance, Noah’s family were saved only in a physical, earthly sense. It is the same scenario with Abraham and others in the Bible.
Abraham pleaded for his family and for Sodom. He kept bargaining with God for mercy for the righteous souls of Sodom, if there were any righteous souls that is (Genesis 18:20). In this instance also, God in His infinite mercy saved Lot and his family for Abraham’s sake. But it would be purely a physical salvation, because as we know from the story, Lot’s daughters left Sodom, but Sodom never left them. Even physical salvation has its limitations, as in the case of Noah’s son, Ham after being saved departed from the Lord and who can forget the treachery of Lot’s daughters. Another example is the tragedy experienced by Job’s family.
It is without doubt that we are all familiar with the most classical of all biblical stories, the story of Job. Job enjoyed many earthly blessings bestowed upon him by the Almighty. His ten children were amongst the most precious of those blessings. Job was aware his children chose a lifestyle of partying rather than worship, so he took it upon himself to offer sacrifices on their behalf (Job 1:4-5). Job’s intercession for his family, could not save them in this earthly realm forever and despite his efforts his children perished. Like Job ancient fathers viewed their families as one whole unit. And not just families but whole communities viewed themselves as collectivist societies. Entire tribes had only one identity and only one name. This is evident with the twelve tribes of Israel, each tribe took on the identity and the name of its tribal elder.
It is because of this belief the ancients stood so confidently in the gap for their family members. Abraham stood in the gap for his nephew Lot, and Job stood in the gap for his children. The High Priest stood in the gap for the children of Israel in the Tabernacle and the Temple. There is no better example of collective salvation than in the Passover story of Exodus. It was a Lamb for a Household (Exodus 12:3). But everyone of those examples only offered temporary salvation and every one of those examples did not guarantee eternal salvation, or did it? I am often reminded of what the Apostle Paul said, “All Israel shall be saved!”
People read Paul’s, “All Israel shall be saved,” (Romans 11:26) as a statement when it is a question. Paul was asking the question; Will all Israel be saved? Since I believe, he was clearly referring to a remnant, the answer is emphatically, “No.” There is nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures that guarantees corporate or collective salvation for entire nations, tribes, groups or even families. Ezekiel said, “The soul that sins shall die.” Ezekiel Ch.18:20. That is the soul and not the body.
The body is a different issue as I pointed out, while family members remain on this earth, prayer, intercession can be offered up, and they can be saved in a physical sense. Once the soul has rejected God and has passed from this earth all bets are off. That soul has chosen separation from God and cannot be saved anymore. Which pretty much makes offering Masses and prayers for the dead an exercise in futility. It does nothing for the departed soul, it only benefits the churches financially and offers comfort for the ones left behind.
For those who are adamant that “All Israel shall be saved,” because Paul said so, have you checked the cross-reference to that passage in the Old Testament? The cross-reference is Isaiah Ch. 59: 20-21, which simply states, “A Redeemer shall come out of Zion, and to those who TURN from their transgression in Jacob. The operative words there, being ‘Redeemer’ and ‘Turn.’ If they do not accept the Redeemer or TURN (Repent) then they cannot be saved. That is why I can say an emphatic, “No” to “All Israel being saved.”
Turning as in repenting from one’s sins is one of the oldest concepts in Jewish literature. What most Christians do not realize is that when Jewish literature speaks of salvation, it is speaking predominantly about the Resurrection of the Dead. A theory made famous by the Maccabees and book of Daniel. In Jewish thought the idea of salvation is a return to Eden and the manifestation of heaven here on earth, rather than leaving this earth and going to heaven like Christians believe. The phase of death then is a long deep sleep used sixty-six times in seventeen books of the Bible. The individual sleeps in a state of rest until resurrection. It’s where we get RIP from. For a full explanation of what “All Israel shall be saved” means please check out my article in the link below.
I will return now to the original passage I quoted in Acts 16:31, where Paul offers the entire jailers family salvation. It is no doubt that Paul offered them eternal salvation and not just some physical deliverance. There is a couple of things to consider here, firstly, that the jailer would have been the head of the household. And it is understood if he decided to follow Christ his family would have also do so. And secondly, it was a miraculous event that preceded his conversion. In these types of circumstances, it is common to see even whole communities come to Christ. But everything hinged on the family believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, there were no exceptions.
Although Paul goes one step further in 1 Corinthians 7:14 by stating that an unbeliever is made ‘holy’ or ‘sanctified’ by their believing partner. For me, this passage does not line up with the rest of the Bible. No adult can be made ‘Holy’ by another adult under the New Covenant. Only The Holy Spirit can make someone, Holy. I would agree though, that children, perhaps up until the age of reason can be sanctified by a believing parent. The age varies, Jews like many other ancient cultures believe this age to be thirteen, while in others it is eighteen or even twenty-one. Personally, it is dangerous to give anyone the green light for eternal salvation and every soul no matter how young should receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
The Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 4:18, “If the Righteous are barely saved…” my point exactly! Ezekiel also says, even if Noah, Daniel, or Job were present they could only save themselves and nobody else (Ezekiel 14:14). Which leaves us where exactly? The example that Christians use to justify salvation for whole families does not apply for spiritual salvation. Although, God in His mercy, hears and answers prayers to save and deliver loved ones here on earth. There is no mention of collective or corporate salvation anywhere in the Scriptures. Although, from texts such as Maccabees and Daniel a belief in collective salvation evolved in ancient Israel. But this was steeped in the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.
Jews and Christians have vastly different theories of life after death and eternal life. One is here on earth and return to Eden and the other is in Glory land in the Heavens. By all accounts we can barely save ourselves let alone another person who is a sinner. Jesus often spoke of the difficulty in entering eternal life, for some, it is like passing through the eye of a needle. Albeit there is hope, plenty of hope for the believer. The believer, just like the jailer in Acts 16:31 opens the door for the whole family to receive salvation. Honestly, it is a privilege, and we need to start seeing it that way. Unfortunately, in many instances we as Christians cut ourselves off from family in a physical sense when we join a church. This should not be the case, stay close to your families, pray for them, and share the Gospel with them.
I was so blessed recently to have watched a video of a Pastor Thomas Niditauae from Vanuatu, in a Near Death Experience he believed the Lord gave him two warning. We should listen to this man. The second warning had four parts to it and consisted mainly of bringing loved ones into the family of God. The link is below, please watch it sometime. I will leave with the words of Jesus to Zacchaeus the Tax Collector (Luke 19:1-10), “Today salvation has come to this house.” The day you received Jesus Christ into your life and became a Christian, salvation entered your house, and you became the gateway by which the other members could also be saved. May God Bless you in your mission to save your family!
All Israel shall be saved? My article:
Pastor Thomas Niditauae video:
Scriptural References: n.d. The Holy Bible Authorized King James Version. Nashville: Collins World.
Please click on the link below:
Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 14:34-37; 1 Timothy 2:11-15 & 1 Peter 3:1-6
It is evident that Paul’s letters to Corinth relate to specific problems within that Christian Community. We know for sure that he was answering questions (1 Corinthians 7:1). But without knowing the questions we are at a disadvantage to fully appreciate the answers. His letters to Timothy are different, as they are of a personal nature. As a father would admonish his son, Paul wrote to Timothy and perhaps the letters were never intended for public reading. Peter wrote to confirm Paul and emphasise the virtues of a Christian woman.
Whatever the reasons behind these letters to Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, in them the Apostles made some serious assertions about women. Apostles or not, the ‘Ethos’ for the First-Century Christian woman must be addressed. And I pray that I do it respectfully and honestly.
In this article I will present my dilemma with trying to make sense of Paul’s comments on women. If you follow my blogs, you will know, I like studying various laws; ancient and religious. But to fully appreciate where Paul was going with his ‘Women must be silent, as states the Law,’ comment (1 Corinthians 14:34), I had to delve into new sets of Laws, Roman Law and Natural Law. These laws were new to me, and I had to do a lot of reading so that I did not arrive at any false conclusions.
When Paul mentioned, women should remain in silence according to ‘The Law,’ which Law was he referring to? Moses’s Law, Jewish Talmudic Law, Roman Law, Natural Law, which Law?
Scripture Reference: 1 Corinthians 14:34-37
In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul addresses the chaos that was occurring during their church meetings. It appears from his comments that some females were contributing much to this chaos. His solution to the problem was that all the women be silent and not speak, because that is what the Law says. Which left me wondering, which Law was he referring to? Because of the obscurity of this passage, I will begin with a process of elimination. The first Law I am going to eliminate is Talmudic Law. Even though Talmudic Law applies to Paul’s other comment about women ‘learning’ in silence. I covered that in my article on Timothy. Deuteronomy 4:10 says, “Gather the people (not gender specific) and let them hear my words, that they may ‘learn’ (instruction, if you received instruction, you could give instruction) from me.” That puts paid to the Talmud’s position on “Men come to learn, women come to hear.”
According to Deuteronomy everyone came to hear and to learn. Women were equals in hearing and learning (receiving instruction). If you are like me, you would have enjoyed watching the 1983 movie, Yentl. The movie was about a young woman’s desire to learn. In the movie, Barbara Streisand had to essentially pretend to be a boy to learn Talmud in Eastern Europe. Perhaps she should have just quoted Deuteronomy 4:10 to her teachers.
There is another reference in Talmud to the woman’s voice being too provocative which I will also eliminate in this instance, as I do not consider it relevant. I do not think Paul would have meant for women to be silent because of their enticing voices. Not all women have such voices. I know many a man who would prefer deafness rather than hear his wife’s nagging voice 😊 I am also going to rule out Moses’s Law because there is nothing said in there that forbids a woman to speak or to remain in silence. There are too many high-profile women in the Hebrew Scriptures to even contemplate such a thing. It is possible however, that it was implied in a cultural sense, but it was not written down.
With the Talmudic and Mosaic Law out of the way, I will now deal with Natural Law. I was surprised to find Natural Law written into Roman Law. And to be perfectly honest with you, I never took it seriously as a ‘thing’ but apparently it is. Wikipedia summarises ius naturale lex naturalis (Natural Law) as Laws relating to Nature and they also relate to religious morality. But here lies the problem, how humans perceive what is natural/nature is vastly different and, in many instances, it is a cultural phenomenon. Women in some cultures go topless, it is natural for them. In other cultures, being natural is for the woman to cover her breasts with more than one layer of clothing.
To understand Paul, we must understand him in a first-century Roman context. On more than one occasion he wrote about this Natural Law. And now that you are made aware of it, you will see it all over the place. He referred to Jews as being ‘Jews by nature,’ the natural olive tree and the wild grafted branches. In 1 Corinthians 11:14, he says, “Does not nature itself teach you?” To which I always replied, “What do you mean?” That was until now. Now I understand it as sets of laws that were established in ancient times, simply by observing nature. It is a difficult concept to grasp in modern times because as I mentioned earlier, cultures perceive what is and is not natural in diverse ways.
Violating Natural Law also brought about shame. It was a shame for a man to have long hair, or a woman to go with her head uncovered. It was a shame for a man to cover his head. It was about what was normal and what was considered abnormal. Yet for Samson, his hair was his anointing, different time, distinct cultural expectation. And as we know from the Hebrew Scriptures, it was considered very sacred for everyone to cover their heads. And the High Priest was commanded by God to cover his head with a turban (Exodus 28:4).
But under Roman Law, if a woman was seen with her head uncovered, it meant she was caught in adultery and being publicly shamed. As we can see Paul used the Natural aspects of Roman Law to teach Christians how to function. And it did not always agree with the Hebrew text as in Samson and the High Priest. There is one other aspect of Roman Law I would like to mention and that is, that women were considered the weaker of the sexes, and Peter mentioned this in 1 Peter 3:7 which I will deal with a little later. Peter like Paul was very much about keeping the Church safe and not rocking the Roman boat.
A lot of what Paul and even Peter referred to in their comments was Roman Law with elements of Natural Law. I found the book, Roman Wives Roman Widows by Bruce W. Winter so beneficial. Please get yourself a copy, it will assist greatly in understanding what the first-century Christian woman experienced under Roman rule. The Romans were big on regulating female morality and conduct by legislating for them. And every one of the commands mentioned in Paul’s ethos for women can be attributed to Roman Law. From how a woman dressed, wore her hair, her submission to her husband, and her responsibility as a child bearer. It was all Roman Law.
I will quickly list the favourable and not so favourable attributes of a Roman woman. If she was a submissive wife, a child bearer, covered her head, wore modest apparel, and had a gentle, quiet spirit she was favourable. If she wore revealing and costly clothing, braided her hair, wore gold, pearls, purple and went unveiled she was considered not so favourable. Much of these outward appearances related to whether a woman was a virgin, a wife, or a prostitute. But not altogether, because as historians discovered, this period also gave rise to the ‘New Woman.’ The New Woman cared little about what people thought of her. She enjoyed many freedoms, and her sexuality was just one of them. She wore makeup, had high brows and rosy, red cheeks. She flaunted her beauty and her wealth everywhere she went.
We see a typical example of the New Woman in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, where a young man was caught in adultery with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). According to Roman Scholars this New Woman preferred younger men and younger men preferred her. Prompting the likes of Plutarch to warn men if they did not lift their game and be a bit more cheerful, that their wives would simply find pleasures elsewhere. Bang smack in the middle of this feminine revolution was Corinth, the la-de-da city of affluence and influence. It is no wonder that it was there that Paul experienced the full extent of the ‘New Woman’ revolution.
There is so much more in Roman Law that relates to what the Apostles wrote. Many laws were passed to ensure women got married and had children. There were incentives for families who did the right thing by the authorities and penalties for those who did not. If a woman did not conduct herself well in public, her male (head or handler) could be fined, as he was responsible for her. We might cringe at the fact that every Roman woman had to have a male head who was answerable for her. But consider a twenty-first century wedding, where the celebrant asks, “Who gives this woman to this man?” And with that just like a chattel, she is transferred from one man to another.
Lastly, I want to deal with Peter’s comment, which really threw a spanner in the works for me. I hold Peter in extremely high esteem, higher than Paul. So, what did Peter say that threw me? He essentially quoted Roman Law but reverted it back to Old Testament Scriptures by referring to Sarah, Abraham’s wife. In 1 Peter 3:1-6, Peter essentially confirmed Paul’s ethos of a first-century Christian woman by saying, “Hey, yeah sure, Paul is quoting Roman Law, which we all have to abide by, but we have examples of the likes of Sarah and other Holy woman in the Scriptures, Holy women’s examples that we should follow.”
Peter called for the conduct of a Christian woman in such a way that by her behaviour she would draw others to God. He also mentioned the hair arranging, jewellery and fancy clothes. We could be fooled for thinking he is reading from a Roman script, but he mentioned Holy woman of old, such as Sarah. I personally would not go as far as calling any man, Lord. And it was only that one time that Sarah did this (Genesis 18:12), and in all honesty we know little else about Sarah. Perhaps, Peter knew more from folklore and tradition. However, it is clear to me that the Apostles likened Roman Law to aspects of God’s Law as set out in the Hebrew Scriptures.
In concluding, based on the studies I conducted to find out which Law Paul was referring to, when he stated, ‘Women should be silent according to the Law,’ he was predominantly referring to Roman Law. I discovered that the Roman’s were prolific legislators especially when it came to the behaviour of their women. The Empire had reached a crisis with crippling birth rates and the rise of the New Woman who decided she could stand alone and needed no man. Introduced Roman Laws were meant to keep society decent, marriages intact and a steady birth rate. There were incentives for those who complied and fines for those who did not. The Apostles, Paul and Peter used Roman Law to keep the churches safe, and the Christians from drawing unnecessary attention to themselves, especially the women. It was Peter in the end that made the connection that this was not just Roman Law, but it was compatible with Hebrew women of old. Peter used Sarah as an example.
The word ‘silent’ is really an unfortunate one and contradicts Paul’s other writings where women were free to pray, sing and prophesy. Peter used the word, quietness instead, and this is more suited to the situation in Corinth. Romans preferred the women to ask their male heads at home if they needed clarification on something and not cause a ruckus in a public place. Quietness does not mean silence. In Roman terms quietness was understood as not being loud, disruptive, and boisterous. Quietness together with gentleness were seen as good virtues for a every woman to possess. I will leave you with a quote from Roman Wives Roman Widows (p.86), “Most of these practices (known from ancient times) are also forbidden by our laws. But ours contain an additional proviso that such offenders shall be punished by the supervisors of the woman.” Plutarch. In light of the punishment imposed by Roman authorities, we can better appreciate Paul and Peter’s ethos for the first-century Christian woman.
En.wikipedia.org. n.d. Natural law – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law> [Accessed 15 February 2022].
Grubbs, J., 2005. Women and the law in the Roman Empire. London: Routledge.
Neusner, J., 2005. The Babylonian Talmud. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers.
n.d. The Holy Bible Authorized King James Version. Nashville: Collins World.
Shelton, J., 1998. As the Romans did. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
Winter, B., 2003. Roman wives, Roman widows. Grand Rapids, Mich. [u.a.]: Eerdmans.
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1 Timothy 2:11-15 KJV
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”
The Apostle Paul wrote his Epistles to Timothy during the last phase of his life. At that time, he was imprisoned in Rome and facing execution. It appears all but a few had abandoned him, which left Paul clinging to the hope that the young Timothy would carry out his vision for the fledgling Christian Church. I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading Paul’s Epistles to Timothy, and I got a sense of the deep anguish he was experiencing at that time.
Paul had run the race and finished the course, he was satisfied to have completed his mission; and while he looked forward to his rewards, his words were sorrowful. Paul knew he was leaving behind a Church in the grips of Gnosticism. Although the real second-century Gnosticism did not eventuate until after Paul’s Epistles to Timothy, Paul seemed aware of its potential dangers. The Gnosticism Paul was referring to was home grown and mystic. I intend to write more about the types of Gnosticism that confronted the early church at another time.
Paul lacked an heir, which made it more important that his prodigy Timothy, knew how to manage this imminent threat of Gnosticism. Reading from his other comments, this new form of ‘knowledge’ may have become rooted in church members with too much time on their hands. I was left with no doubt that Paul believed women were more open to these deceptions than men were. Besides Paul’s tattling, prattling, busy-bodying and women being gullible comments he also provided Timothy with some solid guidelines to manage the unruly and troublesome members of his congregation.
The ‘I’ should be emphasized in Paul’s admonition to Timothy. ‘I,’ “do not permit a woman to teach,” We could assume then, it was his preference or the way he did things. Also, it would be okay to assume that others did not share his views. And certainly, today, unless you belong to a Baptist Church, or similar, most Christian Churches do not follow Paul’s instruction. Yet very few openly express their disagreement with Paul’s views.
Paul stands alone in his views on women in the New Testament, and yet he stated, let everything be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Something that was very much part of his Hebrew tradition. Speaking of his Hebrew Tradition, his instruction for Timothy’s “Apt to teach” comment is directly from the Traditions (Pirke Avot). In Talmudic Tradition also, “The men came to learn, the women came to hear.” Something that is still practiced today in most Synagogues, women are mere spectators, and the men are the participators. The word ‘learn’ is loaded in this instance, inferring that women are incapable of receiving instruction. Therefore, it is more appropriate for them to ‘hear.’
Despite, the Christian Church today practicing an openness for all members to participate, some diehards still adhere to what Paul said in a literal sense. I respect these are personal convictions and should an individual wish to follow Paul’s instructions word for word, it should be their prerogative. And I will not try to convince them otherwise. Nevertheless, I will state my views on why this passage is vague and disjointed. And for me, it lacks logic and coherency. The reasons Paul gives for his beliefs, just do not make sense to me, and that is why I have a problem with 1 Timothy 2:11-15.
Paul refers to Genesis Ch. 2 which states that the male was created first, and since he (Adam) could not find companionship amongst the animals, God made the female. But we are to assume, that male and female already existed in the animal kingdom. My preference is to believe it was always God’s intention to make male and female (Human, as in Genesis Ch. 1) and that the woman was never some afterthought, like Genesis Ch.2 suggests. My preference is also to believe that the ‘Yahwist’s’ took licence in Genesis Ch. 2, to offer some exegesis which emphasised the Jewishness of Adam, the dominance of the male, the significance of Sabbath and the Tree of Life.
Paul’s second reason for silencing women, also stems from the Garden of Eden. As if being a second creation is not enough to bear, he places the woes of the world squarely on Eve’s shoulders. If I am to interpret his comments correctly, Paul is implying that, because Eve was deceived first, the ability to be easily deceived is inherent in the character of all women. As punishment for the original deception, all women everywhere, for all time should learn in silence. This type of attitude does not acknowledge Adam’s role in the deception and that both parties repented and together produced Seth, the righteous seed. I accept there can be no remission of sin for repeat offenders, but in this case, it was Eve’s first violation of God’s command, therefore I do not accept that the stigma of the sin is permanent or that all women should be judged accordingly. I do accept there were consequences for the original sin, but I cannot see how not being allowed to speak has anything to do with that. The Genesis text does not suggest that a consequence was silence.
There appears to be some consolation from Paul’s perspective; and that is that women will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, charity, holiness, and sobriety. No mention of ‘silence,’ because of the two reasons for ‘learning in silence’ he gave earlier. The reasons Paul gave were that women were created after Adam as in Genesis Ch.2 and that they tended to be easily deceived. Both reasons lack logic and do not provide any conclusive evidence as to why women should learn in silence.
My testimony of when I was told to be silent:
As someone who came to Christ in a Baptist Church I was taught from my earliest days about my low status as a woman in the Church. However, God had other plans for me.
God supernaturally opened the heavens and poured out His Holy Spirit on me, and from then on, I was filled with boldness and no Baptist Pastor was ever going to shut me up!
Certain men made it their business to educate me in Paul’s teaching in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. I decided for the sake of my youth and keeping the peace, I would be obedient to their wishes.
But God disapproved of my silence, he gave me a dream, and someone had placed a huge black toilet plunger over my mouth. The suction had sealed my mouth completely and, in the dream, it felt the same as me restricting God’s Holy Spirit from speaking through me. I knew I had to remove this dreadful object. So, I stuck my finger in-between the plunger and my skin and released it. And I was free again.
Although that was not enough for me, I needed more confirmation that I was not in violation of God’s commands. I heard there was a Prophet holding a meeting a couple of hours away. I prayed and told God, I will go before him and tell him my problem and whatever he tells me to do I will do. When I arrived at the meeting and saw the Prophet up close and personal, I got cold feet. I could not bring myself to tell him anything. I just stood there quietly in the congregation.
Then the man of God called me up to the front and prophesied everything that I came to see him about. I had never seen that man or anyone in that meeting before. And I never told anyone about my inward struggles or why I was there. I still have that prophesy and listen to it from time to time. Concisely, God’s message to me that night was noticeably clear, “Whatever I command you to say, you must say it.” There was much more, which I keep to myself. The fire of God touched my mouth, like the hot coals from the very throne of God that night and I never questioned my calling again.
Ironically, I still get challenged about writing, speaking, and teaching as a Christian woman. And my answer to my critics is this … “I would rather be judged as a woman that does too much than a man who does too little.” Thank God for the witness of the Christian women who reach millions with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
First, I would like to wish you all A Very Blessed Reformation Day!
I am also excited to inform you that this Blog has performed extremely well in 2021. Apart from the Amazon, Greenland, and a couple of very remote places in Africa, I have had readers from every country on the planet.
Why stop there? I have decided to also resurrect my old Domain www.cherylmason.com and use it to post micro-articles. Short snippets as the Lord leads; insights from my daily readings, devotions, and prayers. Because I want to keep articles short on the new Blog, I can post more frequently.
The Blog you are on now will continue to exist and I will continue to post and link to it.
www.cherylmason.com is now up and running.
God Bless and Be Safe.
Please read Part One for my Introduction to this series on The Book of Jasher.
In Part Two of this series, I will be discussing the life and times of Abraham according to Jasher. We already know quite a lot about Abraham’s life from the Bible. But I promise you lots of new information and many surprises along the way. Curious? Then read on …
Jasher makes it quite clear that the birth of Abram/Abraham was a significant event in the history of the world. “And they saw and behold one very large star came from the east and ran in the heavens and swallowed up the four stars from the four sides of heaven.” Then they prophesied over the child. “And, they said to each other, this only betokens to the child that has been born to Terah this night. Who will grow up and be fruitful and multiply and possess all the earth, he, and his children, forever. And he and his seed will slay great kings and inherit their lands.” (Charles, 1887)
The men observing the stars on the night Abraham was born, knew instinctively the future promises to him. The Promises being: he would be ‘fruitful and multiply’, ‘possess all the earth’, ‘forever’ and that ‘his seed will inherit the land of great kings’. In Jasher, the same words are repeated several times over as an indication of God’s Covenant ─ like any good Suzerain Vassal Treaty. The prophesy to Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12 is identical, except that in Genesis it originated from God and not from those present at his birth. The blessing in Genesis also consisted of seed, land (all the earth in Jasher and river to river in Genesis) forever.
The significance of being born under A Star:
I have studied the importance of being born under a Star for some time. What I discovered was, it was not just superstition in Abraham’s day. The relevance of being born under a star is emphasized in Matthew’s Gospel even in the Christian era. The story of the Three Wise Men who followed the star 2000 years ago is no doubt a Christmas favourite. Throughout the Ancient Near East, ‘Watchers’, watched the night sky for signs, one such sign was a bright Star. Any child born during the phenomenon of the bright Star was destined to change the world in an extraordinary way. Matthew alluded to it in his Gospel. He stated the Three Wise Men (Jewish sages) sought out the baby Jesus, when they saw the Star in the East (Matthew 2:9-10).
There is a good reason to accept that Matthew’s celestial event happened. Astronomers believe Jupiter stood still in the night sky on December 25, 2 BC. Quoting from Pursiful’s Bible & Faith Blog, “Amazingly, one possible answer is that the visit of the Magi took place on December 25, 2 BC. On that date, Jupiter stopped in its path and began its yearly retrogression through the heavens. Remember: It was Jupiter that, in the previous year, highlighted the star Regulus by in effect tracing a crown above it, likely alerting the Magi to the birth of the King. According to Matthew 2, when the Magi left Herod, the star they were following “stood still” over the place where Jesus was to be found (Mt 2:9)”.
“Astronomical calculations reveal that in the predawn hours of December 25, 2 BC, Jupiter indeed stood still in the sky. Observed from Jerusalem, it did this at 68 degrees above the southern horizon, directly over the city of Bethlehem. This date may have been memorable even to those unfamiliar with the astronomical observations because, by Roman reckoning, it fell on the exact date of the winter solstice. (When Julius Caesar instituted the new Julian calendar in the first century BC, the winter solstice festival was celebrated on December 25. This date continued to be observed for many years.)” (Pursiful, 2021). The reason Matthew mentioned the Star in the East was because of a long-expected belief in Messiah’s Star.
The basis for the belief in Messiah’s Star in Judaism and Christianity stems from the passage in Numbers. “A Star will shoot forth from Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). The same scripture was applied to the leadership of Shimon bar Kochba by Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva believed Kochba was the promised messiah. In the end Kochba’s star faded and he was referred to as Bar Koziba, the son of a lie. His ‘messiahship’ ended abruptly with the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews. It was an incredibly sad time in the history of the Jewish people (Bar Kochba, 2021). Throughout the whole episode of Kochba, we got a glimpse of the early Christian understanding of being born under a star.
Justin Martyr (Apol.i.31) mentioned that early Christians were severely punished for not accepting Bar Koshba’s Star. When Rabbi Akiba referred to the prophesy in Numbers as being fulfilled in Bar Kochba (Taanith IV.8, p.68d) the Christians simply replied… “Thou art in error, Jesus of Nazareth and no other is the true Son of a Star.” Although Christians accepted the Star had manifested in Jesus Christ, most Jewish people did not. Hence, the quest for Messiah’s Star continued in some sects of Judaism. The Messianic idea is different in Judaism than it is in Christianity. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, they were all messianic, because they led their people in victories over their enemies. There is still one more Messiah to come according to Judaism. My reason for writing more on Abraham’s Star was to show that Jasher had a very clear plan when he mentioned the importance of Abraham’s Star. And, that the early Christians still believed humans could be guided by the stars.
When was Abraham born?
Abraham’s life is very well documented in many religious texts. Texts that are fundamental to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jasher being one such text. And despite Jasher providing intimate details of Abraham’s life, loves and wars he leaves us clueless about when Abraham was born. Because there is no actual dating for Abraham, we must use specific biblical passages as a guide to gauge when he was born. Extra-biblical sources such as the Amarna Letters, Mari and Nuzi documents also assist by comparing events in Abraham’s life with external cultural contexts. But as I discovered, this was no easy task and all we can do is get a rough estimate at best.
From the Hebrew Scriptures Abraham is dated as follows:
1 Kings Ch.6:1 says the ancient Israelites were 480 years in the land before Solomon’s Temple.
Exodus Ch.12 says the ancient Israelites spent 430 years in Egypt.
Solomon’s temple was built in approximately, 960 BC.
By adding the dates 960+480+430, scholars conclude that Abraham was on the move in approximately 1870 BC. However, because some scholars support an early Exodus and others a late Exodus (1450 BC/1250 BC), Abraham’s timeline changes accordingly. When dating Abraham using extra-biblical sources there is evidence of considerable movement of people in the region during his lifetime. Scholars refer to the period Abraham was on the move in Canaan as the Amorite Hypothesis.
The Amorite Hypothesis:
The Amorite Hypothesis is a hypothesis that originated in the 1930’s by William Albright, archaeologist, and historian. According to Albright’s theory, it is conceivable that Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees and travelled to the land Canaan, on a popular trade route. Although most modern-day scholars reject Albright’s Hypothesis. Professor Cline, states that scholars who do not accept Albright’s Amorite Hypothesis, do so based on the genealogy and the chronology not adding up and because the average life span was around 40 years. It appears the Hebrews lived two, three or four times longer than the average person. Some lived hundreds of years more than the average person. Therefore, according to Cline, an accurate date for Abraham is not possible (Cline, 2006).
Despite varying views on Abraham, Jews, Christians, and Muslims tend to agree by faith, that Abraham was a real person. And that in obedience to God, he made the journey from Ur of the Chaldees to the land of Canaan. Apart from God telling Abraham to go to Canaan, Jasher alludes to some trouble that made Abraham make the journey. Jasher states that, Anuki (Nimrod’s servant) insighted Nimrod to kill Abraham. So, Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees and went to Canaan. Jasher also states that Abraham was in the land of Canaan three years when God Cut the Covenant with him (Charles, 1887). Whereas the Bible says, God Cut the Covenant with him while calling him out of Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis Ch.12).
From other ancient sources we also learn that the Elamites, the Nanna Moon Cult, could possibly be another reason for Abraham leaving Ur of the Chaldees. “Those who believe in the Hebrew Bible as history have long sought the background to the tale of Abraham and his family, their trek around the arc of the Fertile Crescent, from Ur of the Chaldees in Sumer to Haran in the north, and from there westward to the land of Cana’an, in the years following the collapse of Ur’s empire. Perhaps, they suggest, Terah took his family from Ur because of the Elamite onslaught and the consequent move of the moon cult from the conquered southern city to safer Haran in the north.” (Kriwaczek, 2010).
If Abraham was on the move in 1870 BC, then it is conceivable he visited Salem (Jerusalem) around 2000 BC where he had his encounter with Melchizedek. I will deal with the mystery man, Melchizedek later. I will attempt to answer whether Melchizedek was Jesus Christ or if he was Shem as Jewish literature concedes. After all the Bible does say that Shem lived a long time, to 600 years of age (Genesis 11:10). Even though Shem (the Name) is a bit of a riddle in Jewish literature, he is still fundamental to Judaism. Jasher states that Adoni Zedek (Melchizedek) was Shem. In Jasher, Shem is a guiding force in the life of Abraham. On more than one occasion Abraham lived with Shem. In fact, Jasher states that Abraham learned The Law from Noah and Shem. Which Law they are referring to remains uncertain, since according to the Hebrew Scriptures the ‘Law’ originated with Moses, some 500 years after Abraham.
Abraham’s Life Events:
I found the Book of Jasher to be far more detailed than the Biblical text. Especially, with the life of Abraham. As most of my readers are already familiar with the scriptural version of Abraham’s life, I will not bore you with the same stories again. Instead, I will do a dot-point summary of details found in Jasher that have been left out of the Biblical text.
1. As mentioned earlier Abraham was born under a Star which meant he had enemies and his life was always in danger. Which fits nicely into the Talmudic belief that Abraham was so blessed because he was alone and needed extra protection. From the get-go, Nimrod tried to kill him. He took refuge with Noah and Shem for thirty-nine years and it was there that he studied The Law. Which Law, we do not know. He also hid in Caves and was ministered to by the Angel Gabriel. The whole episode of the cave experience was reminiscent of the Islamic story of Mohammed.
2. Despite Abraham’s schooling with Noah and Shem, he is shown as being a polytheistic worshiper of the Sun, Moon and Stars. At the same time Jasher says, Abraham followed the Lord since he was three years of age. Later, Abraham did become monotheistic and followed the One True God. Evidence of this is when he smashed all his father’s (Terah’s) idols. Terah tried to kill his son but again Abraham escaped. Reading between the lines, I glean that this revelation of Abraham’s relates more to The Unity of God, which is the same in Judaism and Islam. Christians have a different understanding of The Unity of God.
3. In another instance Abraham finds himself facing the Fiery Furnace with words that are like the book of Daniel. Abraham also walked about in the furnace, while those that came near died. “And Abram said to the king, The God of heaven and earth in whom I trust and who has all in his power, he delivered me from the fire into which thou didst cast me.” (Charles, 1887).
4. Another interesting aspect to Jasher is the story of Ishmael. First, I must mention that Hagar, together with Eliezer were gifts to Abraham from Pharoah. Hagar was the daughter of Pharoah, by a concubine. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Hagar and Ishmael were cast out, and we heard very little about them. Except that Ishmael made a brief appearance at the funeral of Abraham. Jasher on the other hand, portrays a very different story. Ishmael, threatened Sarah’s life, so had to leave the family home. But Abraham never lost touch with Ishmael, he visited him on a regular basis and instructed him in the Ways of the Lord. “And Ishmael and his children dwelt with Abraham many days in the land, and Abraham dwelt in the land of the Philistines a long time.” (Charles, 1887). Jasher also states that Ishmael was very much present at the Binding of Isaac. Which is explained in the text as a human sacrifice, a Burnt Offering.
5. Sarah the mother of Isaac was both Abraham’s half-sister and his niece. Niece was a preferred choice, because of Leviticus laws concerning incest. Sarah had trouble conceiving, hence the intrusion of Hagar and Ishmael into Abraham’s life. Abraham and Sarah eventually had Isaac, when Isaac was forty years old, he married Rebecca who was ten years old (ouch). Isaac was sixty when Rebecca gave birth to Jacob and Esau. Isaac the child of Promise was the biggest blessing and the biggest test for Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was tempted to offer up Isaac as a human sacrifice. What we do not read in the Genesis version is that Satan enticed God to test Abraham. The similarities to Satan enticing God to test Job for me were undeniable. As with Job, Satan wanders to and fro on the earth and spots Abraham and decided he needed some testing (See Job Ch.1 & Jasher Ch.22).
6. The Binding of Isaac in Jasher, leaves no doubt that it was “A Burnt Offering to the Lord as he commanded.” Sarah was devastated as she said her goodbyes to Isaac. Ishmael was also present. Like the perfect son, in total obedience to his parents, Isaac said to his father … “Bind me securely and place me upon the alter lest I should turn and move and break loose from the force of the knife upon my flesh, and therefore prepare the burnt offering, and Abraham did so.”. In the end, Isaac lived, much to the disappointment of Satan. If Satan solicited the temptation of Abraham just like he did with Job, then that would add another dimension to his existence in the Scriptures. Often his existence is denied in the Abrahamic faiths.
7. I left Melchizedek until last because I have a few things to say about him. The encounter between Abraham and Melchizedek in Genesis Ch.14 is shrouded in mystery. And as always Jews and Christians have very different viewpoints of what occurred. It is my job to tell you what those viewpoints are. Both are rather complicated, and both require a great deal of faith to believe. Josephus had the simplest understanding of Melchizedek in Antiquities of The Jews, he believed Melchizedek was a peaceful king, a real person who ruled in Salem before it was called Jerusalem. If only we could all believe that, but we do not! For the simple reason there are too many loose ends, and since speculation surrounds Melchizedek we must explore all the options. So, here we go …
First, I need to stipulate that Salem is Jerusalem (Jerushlaim). Salem means peace, therefore any king of Salem would automatically be associated with peace. Later either Jerush (possession) or Jarah (foundation) were added to create the word, Jerusalem. But originally it was called Salem and it was called that before King David. Genesis Ch.12 is not the only reference to Melchizedek in Jerusalem in the Hebrew Scriptures. There is also a mention of him in Joshua Ch.10:1-4 and it is a very similar battle. In Joshua Melchizedek keeps his Hebrew name, Adoni Zedek rather than being changed to Melchizedek. Both titles are similar, although Adoni Zedek is Lordship whereas Melchizedek is more about Kingship. I will explain further.
Adoni Zedek means Lord (Adoni) Righteous (Zedek), or my Lord is Righteous. In past times Zedek has meant Jupiter, but the meaning has changed over time. Adoni Zedek has been left as Adoni Zedek in Joshua in his battle, but in Genesis 14, Psalm 110 and in Hebrew Chs. 3;15-17 the title is written as Melchizedek. It appears from both Jewish and English understanding of this name that Melchizedek was not just some ordinary person. The mention of a Adoni Zedek in Joshua is somehow overlooked, and all the focus is placed on Genesis 14, where Adoni Zedek (Melchizedek) met with Abraham and shared a sacrament of peace. Unlike Josephus’s simple understanding of who Melchizedek was, Christians have interpreted him as none other than Jesus Christ.
There is no doubt this is due to the writer of the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament. The author of Hebrews (presumably Paul) uses various Psalms to establish the Kingship and Priesthood of Jesus Christ. Paul uses Psalm 110 as a prophecy about Jesus Christ. “The Lord said to my Lord.” There is mention of Zion, which is Jerusalem (Psalm 76:2) and finally, “You are a priest forever after the Order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110). From a Christian perspective of the Lordship, Rule (Kingship) and Priesthood of Jesus, Genesis Ch.14 ticks all the boxes. Yet as I discovered the idea of a coming King/Priest was not original to the writer of Hebrews. He expounded on it, but it was not his. The sect of Qumran lived in expectation of two Messiah’s, a Priest like Aaron, and a Royal like David (Merrill, 1996). Since Christians also believe the Hebrew Scriptures are Types and Shadows of the New Testament, some Christians hold the view that Melchizedek was not Christ himself but a type of Christ.
As I mentioned earlier you will need faith to believe both the Christian and Jewish versions of who Melchizedek was/is. Because they are both steeped in spiritual symbolism. If you thought the Christian version was complicated, then stay tuned for the Jewish one. The Book of Jasher states, Melchizedek was Shem. As far as I understand in Talmudic literature, R. Zacharia said on R. Ishmael’s authority that Adoni Zedek in Genesis was Shem (Dennis, n.d.). Also, from my understanding, Shem is the father of Israel. His name Shem (Name) is like Ha Shem (The Name of God). Since it is considered disrespectful to mention God’s name, Jewish people use Ha Shem (the Name) or Adoni (Lord) instead. The exchange between Adoni Zedek and Abraham was perceived in some Jewish circles as a transference of power or an ordination into the Priesthood (Graves and Patai, 2014). Adoni Zedek anointed Abraham and made him a Priest after the Order of Melchizedek, and they broke bread and drank wine.
Shem has a lot of significance in Judaism, more in some sects than others. He lived a long time, 600 years. The 600 then is symbolic, 6 being the number of man and the zeros divine (hidden). Numbers are coded in the Bible. I appreciate Christians having trouble accepting this but trust me they are. Jasher is full of 600’s, and the Bible has that number as well. For example, Noah entered the Ark at 600 years of age, another divine (hidden) number. Then there is the prophesy of Shem, about Japheth dwelling in the tents of Shem (Genesis (:27). From that we can gather that Shem carried messianic expectations, based on his prophesy. If that prophesy is yet to be fulfilled, then Shem is till here in spirit at least. In yet other sects of Judaism Shem is the divine presence, the Shekinah, and the all-encompassing name of God. Shem Hamphorash (YHVH) is 42 letters of the name of God in Kabbalah. It encapsulates the entirety of God’s name in the four-letter tetragrammaton.
Most Christians nowadays also use YHVH to address the God of the Israelites. Yet the inclusion of YHVH in the English Bibles is a recent addition. That appears a little strange to me, since in the Jewish texts, it was being removed and replaced with Adoni. YHVH (Yahweh) existed some 6828 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, it was removed because the scribes could not determine its correct pronunciation. But why take my word for it? Maimonides, the great Hebrew scholar, stated in Guide for the Perplexed, “The letters yod, he, vau, he, is applied exclusively to God, and is on that account called Shem ha-Meforash, the nomen propium.” Maimonides, explained why, when, and how YHVH was removed from circulation, but insisted it was still the 42 letters of God’s name (Moses Maimonides A Guide for the Perplexed, 2013).
Since I am mentioning numbers and their significance in the Hebrew Scriptures. I discovered that the authors of the JPS Torah, discovered some unusual aspects of Genesis Ch.14. For instance, they noted, “Uncommon divine titles, such as God Most High” and “Creator of Heaven and Earth”. Phrases that were not common in other books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Numbers were also repeated, Adam was mentioned 7 times and Melchizedek’s two blessing each contained seven words. In total according to the authors, 11% of the text occupies unique words and phrases (Sarna and Potok, 1989). By all accounts, whether from Jasher, the Hebrew Scriptures, the Book of Hebrews, from a Jewish perspective or a Christian perspective, Abraham’s encounter with Adoni Zedek (Melchizedek) will always be mysterious.
In Part Two of my series on The Book of Jasher, I emphasized that according to the text, Abraham was born under a Star. And at his birth he received blessings which were again pronounced on him by God in Genesis Ch.12. Being born under a Star also meant Abraham was a threat to kings and rulers, hence his life was in danger. Jasher states that Abraham was schooled by Noah and Shem in the Law. Most aspects of Abraham’s life from the Jasher text aligned with the biblical version. I mentioned a few aspects that were different. Such as his relationship with Ishmael, his walking in the midst of the fire, and Satan enticing God to test him, were new to me. I delved a bit deeper into Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek than perhaps I needed to. But my view always has been that the meeting in Jerusalem between Abraham and Melchizedek had layers of meanings. And for me in that instance, Abraham had arrived, he went from being a scared man hiding in caves to a warrior in the company of Canaanite Kings.
To be continued …
Author: Cheryl Mason.
2020. Midrash Sefer Ha Yasher the Book of The Correct Record. 1st ed. YBS, p.30.
Charles, R., 1887. The Book of Jasher. Salt Lake City: J.H. Parry & Company, pp.10,26,32,35,36,58,59,64,67,72, 78.
Cline, P., 2006. The History of Ancient Israel and The Patriarchs.
Daodu, F., n.d. God’s Name is Not Yahweh or Jehovah? The Gentile Church Dilemma.
Dennis, G., n.d. The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic & Mysticism. 2nd ed. Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications. Cited on locations, 13639, 12570,18977 on e-book
Farbridge, M., 1923. Studies in Biblical and Semitic Symbolism. New York: Kegan Paul, Trench, Turner & Co Ltd.
Graves, R. and Patai, R., 2014. Hebrew Myths the Book of Genesis. Rosetta Books LLC, p.147.
Hogarth, D., 1915. The Ancient East. 1st ed. New York: H. Holt.
Kitto, J., n.d. The History of Ancient and Modern Jerusalem. Kessinger Publishing LLC, p.21.Jewish History | We Bring Jewish History to Life. 2021. Bar Kochba. [online] Available at: <https://www.jewishhistory.org/bar-kochba/> [Accessed 20 July 2021].
Kriwaczek, P., 2010. Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization. London WC1N312: Atlantic Books, p.163.
Merrill, E., 1996. Kingdom of Priests A History of Old Testament Israel. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academics, pp.263-265.
Moses Maimonides A Guide for the Perplexed, 2013. New York: Veritatis Splendor Publications, pp.169-200.
n.d. The Holy Bible Authorized King James Version. Nashville: Collins World.
n.d. Ur: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Sumerian Capital. Charles River Editors, n.d.
Pursiful, D., 2021. When Was Jesus Born? Clement of Alexandria. [online] Dr. Platypus. Available at: <https://pursiful.com/2006/12/19/when-was-jesus-born-clement-of-alexandria/> [Accessed 21 July 2021].
Sacred Texts. 2021. The Book of Jubilees. [online] Available at: <https://www.sacred-texts.com/index.htm> [Accessed 16 July 2021].
Sarna, N. and Potok, C., 1989. The JPS Torah Commentary Genesis. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, p.102.
Sayce, R., n.d. Patriarchal Palestine. New York: The Tract Committee, p.8.
Schwartz, H., 2004. Tree of Souls the Mythology of Judaism. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, p.437.
There are several references in the Bible to other texts that were not included in the Canon of Scripture. These texts are often referred to as the Non-Canonical Books or the Lost Books of the Bible. Whatever we choose to call them, we cannot deny that they continue to be of great interest to the curious bible scholar. One such text is the Book of Jasher. In the Bible, the Book of Jasher is cited in Joshua 10:12-13; 2 Samuel 1:18-27 and 2 Timothy 3:8 (as in Jannes and Jambres). In Hebrew, Jasher is referred to as the Sefer ha Yashar (Book of the Correct Record). In the LXX, Jasher is called the “Book of the Upright One.” And, in The Latin Vulgate, Jasher is called the “Book of the Just Ones.”
Anyone seeking information on Jasher will soon discover there are many opinions about the text. The consensus is that there is a genuine copy out there, but the forgeries are more prevalent. Others believe that the original copy of Jasher did exist at some point in time, but it was destroyed and whatever information was contained in it has been lost forever. Despite our fascination with the non-canonical books, we continue to harbour niggling doubts about their authenticity. We are acutely aware they have a flare for exaggeration, mysticism, and drama which most of us find difficult to understand. Perhaps, that is why they were excluded from the Holy Bible.
After much searching and reading reviews and the like about Jasher, I settled on a copy by R.H Charles from a reputable publisher and the Midrash Sefer ha Yashar or the ‘Book of the Correct Record.” I mean seriously, how could I click past such a claim? Besides that, it was accompanied with a nice story of how the text was supernaturally preserved. Call me gullible but I am a sucker when it comes to a good story. I would have liked to have also read a Kabbalistic interpretation for this study but reading two Jasher’s was all the violence I could handle. If I can spare someone else the goriness of Jasher, then I will. Winners are grinners and the Hebrews of Jasher’s world plundered their way through some of the most significant people groups in the Ancient Near East one scalp at a time.
To make this article a little easier to read I will summarize chapters and individuals under the various headings. And where necessary I will compare the R.H. Charles version with “The Correct Record” and The Bible.
Adam and The Creation Story: Chs. 1-5.
The creation story in Jasher is the same as Genesis Ch. 2. Immediately, for me that meant the text was written by a Yahwist. Confused? Then check out my Exegesis on Genesis Chs. 1-2, I explain it all in there.
In Jasher Adam and Eve have two sons and three daughters; daughters that are not mentioned in the biblical text. The daughters of Adam and Eve are further mentioned in other texts, such as Jubilees. And according to the other texts Adam’s sons’ wives were their sisters. Cain married Awan his sister and Seth married Azura. Christians are often challenged with this question: “Where did Cain get his wife from?” Equally, where did Seth get his wife from?
If we go down the path of accepting what Jasher and Jubilees says, then Christians must admit that the first family were incestuous. Something God considers wrong in other parts of the Bible (Leviticus 18:8-10). But was incest wrong for our benefit or for God’s benefit? In my opinion every Commandment of God for humans is for our benefit and incest is just one of them. Theoretically, the first family had to reproduce somehow and until God revealed his precise plan for humans, they were not in any violation of His Laws. God was right, and most cultures now avoid incest because the offspring can be susceptible to genetic disorders. I am by no means qualified to comment on the genetic makeup of Adam and Eve, but according to Genesis Ch.2 they were two separate creations.
Moving on from the first family. Jasher quite early on used two names we are all familiar with, Enoch and Enosh. Enoch, it says was a descendant of Cain and Enosh was the son of Seth. As we know Seth was a replacement child for Abel the first Shepherd who was slain by his brother, Cain. As with the biblical version, sin consumed humans and they were full of debauchery, like avoiding having children. As always when humans reached that point, it was time for a righteous person to appear on the scene and turn things around.
Another Enoch makes an appearance in the line of Cainan and Jared. And, according to Jasher, he was the Enoch that walked with God! He was a pious, holy man who shunned human company in favour of God’s presence. He was full of wisdom and lived to 366 years of age before God took him up in horses, a whirlwind, and chariots of fire. Just like Elijah the Prophet. Ironically, the “The Correct Record” states that Enoch had a son called Elisha. Both men did not experience physical death, one had a son called Elisha and the other passed his mantle to Elisha (2 Kings 2:2,4,6). It is clear in Jasher that as God prepared for Judgement, the righteous were removed (they all died). In the end only righteous Noah and his family were left, their preservation reliant on Noah’s obedience to build an Ark. If that is a pattern, then God will do the same again. If Judgment is upon us, the righteous will be removed first and still others will ride the storm in the Ark of God’s divine protection.
Noah to Nimrod: Chs.5-7.
Noah the righteous man deliberately did not marry or have any children because he was aware that the world as he knew it was about to end. Despite his hesitation, God told him he must marry and have children. Bear in mind we already have a date for Noah entering the Ark and it is recorded in the biblical text as being in the six-hundredth year of his life (Genesis 7:6). According to Jasher, Noah married Namaah the daughter of Enoch when he was 498 years old, and she was 580 years old. She bore him three sons, Ham, Shem, and Japheth. The rest of the Noah story pretty much aligns with the biblical text. Except for Ham’s sin against his father, Noah.
Namaah was the daughter of Enoch, she was eighty-two years older than Noah at the time of their marriage. She shared the same name as another interesting character in Jewish folklore. Namaah means pleasant and lovely, but she is also the fourth sea-demon who has a ravenous sexual appetite. She is blamed for men remaining unsatisfied even after sex and for teaming up with Lilith and seducing Adam to breed demon spawn. Okay, enough of that…Hopefully Noah’s Namaah was Namaah in name only and nothing like the folklore demon.
However, Namaah did give birth to Ham, and it appears he was no good. Gossip abounds as to the reasons why Noah cursed Ham’s offspring. I have heard that Ham violated his father sexually and that is what is meant by, “Uncovering Noah’s nakedness.” (Genesis Ch.9). Others are shocked that something as innocent as seeing your father naked would warrant such a harsh curse upon Ham. But I think, the story goes a lot deeper when we read from the non-canonical books. According to Jasher, a family heirloom of Adam and Eve’s which held supernatural powers was in Noah’s possession and Ham unlawfully stole it and passed it to Nimrod his descendant.
The stolen ‘garments’ of Adam and Eve is throughout Jewish literature. And so is Nimrod who benefited greatly from the stolen garment. Jasher states that Nimrod was even at the birth of Abram celebrating with Terah. There was also concern about Nimrod being a threat to Abram’s life, simply because Abram was born under a Star. I will cover that in the next section. Jasher states that Nimrod lived in Babel, and people called him, Amraphel. However, most scholars now agree that Amraphel was in fact, the Hammurabi and not Nimrod. Also, since Jasher states that Nimrod died prematurely at 215 years of age because Esau chopped off his head. And why did Esau set his mind on chopping off Nimrod’s head? To take possession of the garments. I used a text called Tree of Souls to find out what these garments were. It did not suffice to just call them ‘garments’, and I could not determine what their significance was in the first reading.
Tree of Souls states that Adam and Eve were originally clothed in garments of light. Like Clouds of Glory and that makes perfect sense to me. Rather than being naked, they must have looked magnificent in their spiritual covering. When they sinned, the Lord had to substitute the covering with covering of skin (Genesis 3:21). The Lord made these garments, hence the supernatural relevance ascribed to them. I discovered in Tree of Souls that even the second earthly garments had a description. It states, they were made of a “Hornlike substance, smooth as a fingernail and beautiful as a jewel.” (Tree of Souls, p.437). Since Jasher states that Esau eventually cut off Nimrod’s head, it was Esau who inherited the garments. On the day Isaac granted Jacob the Blessing, Esau left his garment at home. Rebecca stole it and placed it on Jacob and Jacob became the recipient of the garment’s supernatural powers (Genesis 27:15).
As we have seen in Jasher there is a transition of power passed down through the Righteous Ones from Adam and Eve. An outward expression of this power consisted of a mantle (garment of animal skin) worn by Adam and Eve. I believe in Jasher, Noah still got drunk and while he was in that state Ham stole his mantle (his covering). This in fact is what made Noah so angry, and it all makes perfect sense to me now. Ham was the father of Cush and as we see later Cush and Moses contended for power. But the real benefactor of the stolen mantle of power was Nimrod. The power behind Nimrod, the first settler of Shinar (Babylon) was never intended for him and because of that Babylon will always remain an enigma for God’s Chosen People. As night follows day in the annuals of the Abrahamic religions, it was time for the Almighty to raise up another righteous soul to combat the evil brought about by Nimrod.
To be continued…
Author: Cheryl Mason
Image © Getty Images
2020. Midrash Sefer Ha Yasher the Book of The Correct Record. 1st ed. YBS, p.30.
Charles, R.H., 1887. The Book of Jasher. Salt Lake City: J.H. Parry & Company, pp.10, 26, 78,
Dennis, G., n.d. The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic & Mysticism. 2nd ed. Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications.
n.d. The Holy Bible Authorized King James Version. Nashville: Collins World.
Sacred Texts. 2021. The Book of Jubilees. [online] Available at: <https://www.sacred-texts.com/index.htm> [Accessed 16 July 2021].
Schwartz, H., 2004. Tree of Souls the Mythology of Judaism. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, p.437.
For those inquiring if I am okay because I have not posted for a while — yes, I am okay! I have been working on several articles and they ended up becoming far more time consuming then I originally thought. Because I do a considerable amount of reading for each article, and books are becoming ridiculously expensive, it all takes time.
Although, I can afford to spend a bit more time on my articles now, because this year my readership online has gone gangbusters and taken on a life of its own. For example, more than 90% of my traffic is now from search engines, others posting links and pingbacks. Whereas before most of it came from social media sites. I have always maintained that people searching for you is far better than SMS’s for the simple reason, if a person is searching for you then they are more likely to read what you wrote. Besides social media is dying a slow death anyhow.
With COVID, a world in chaos and restrictions on the internet, I have found myself interacting more and more with real people in the real world and I am enjoying it. Sharing the Gospel on a face to face basis is what it is all about and the internet will never replace that. Although the internet has a place for sharing Christ with others, it is limited in a sense that we cannot truly judge human emotions and responses.
This year I discovered that for the average Christian life is tough. And a little care and some comforting words carry far more weight than some big doctrinal dispute. The early church practiced the simple aspects of the Christian faith and kept doctrines at bay. Having an opinion is okay but enforcing that opinion on others is not. Deliberately causing strife and descent amongst people and especially amongst believers is not okay.
Causing emotional suffering to people is a result of being distanced from that individual on the internet, which goes back to what I was saying earlier. In face to face contact we see the real person, and we can judge to what extent we are harming that person by the things we are saying and doing. And from now on the internet will only consume some of my time and not all of it.
I will be back posting on my blogs again soon, but differently. God has called me to finish my mission here on earth and to forget the rest for now. Stay safe, stay well and may our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ rule in our hearts and our lives always.
Verse 2: All Nations shall go against Jerusalem in battle. And the city shall be taken. Half of the people shall be taken into captivity and a residue shall remain. Residue? Yether ─ 14x as remnant and 8x as residue. In other words, a remnant will be left in the city that have not been taken captive by the enemy nations of Jerusalem. Agree?
Verse 3: The LORD arrives on the scene. “His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives. Christians believe this to be Jesus Christ but who is this LORD who has feet in Judaism? The Jewish God is not anthropomorphic and yet this LORD has feet and stands.
Verse 5: “And, the LORD my God shall come, and all his SAINTS with thee.” But wait a minute, people are fleeing from this LORD. “And ‘ye’ shall flee to the valley of the mountains.” “Like ye fled before in the days of Uzziah King of Judah.” Are these the remnant left after the captivity of Jerusalem, who are fleeing from the LORD and His Saints?
Verse 8: Living Waters shall go out of Jerusalem, the Heavenly Jerusalem no doubt. “And the LORD shall be King over all the earth.” Revelation Ch.22:1-2 describes this River that flows from the Throne of God in the New Jerusalem.
Verse 12: God’s Judgement is against those who came against Jerusalem.
This is where it gets a bit weird, sorry, but I cannot help calling it that.
Verse 14: Judah fights in Jerusalem. Has Judah been released from captivity and returned or the remnant who fled to the mountains returned? Judah seems to appear out of nowhere. Whenever gold and silver are mentioned in the Bible it is reminiscent of taking booty. It remains unclear to me why after God passes Judgement on the enemies of Jerusalem, Judah must fight.
Verse 16,18,19: The Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned (three times). Those left from every nation who came up against Jerusalem (the heathen) will have to attend Feast of Tabernacles (once a year) or they will get no rain.
The Noachides represented by the Seventy Nations will solemnly make an appearance in Jerusalem every year or else they will get no rain. That’s what verses 16,18,19 mean.
Verse 20: Upon the bells of horses, “Holiness Unto the LORD.”
Verse 21: Mentioned again, “Holiness unto the LORD of hosts.” There will also be a return of sacrifice and NO MORE Canaanites in the house of the LORD of hosts.
I will now compare Zechariah Ch.14 with the same event in the
Matthew 26:64 “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
Acts 1:11─12 “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall also come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
“And they returned unto Jerusalem from the Mount Olivet.”
Jesus is coming back the same way and at the same place as he left. That part is confirmed in Zechariah Ch 14:3.
Revelation Ch.19 11-16
John sees the heavens open and Jesus on a white horse, ‘Faithful and True.’ His name is the Word of God. And he is accompanied with the armies of heaven (The Saints) as mentioned in Zechariah Ch.14:5. Horses are also mentioned in Zechariah Ch.14:20.
Revelation Ch.20 1-6
Firstly, Satan is bound. There will never be PEACE if Satan can roam. He is bound for 1000 years. He will be released for a short period of time after that. I prayed about why this can happen. I feel firstly, it is because God is a Just and Fair God and secondly, Satan needs to know that he is the instigator of war and terror among humans. Without Satan, humans can potentially live in peace.
Secondly, the Saints will reign with Christ for 1000 years. But only those who have been beheaded for Christ. This is the First Resurrection ─ those who partake of this will not see a second death. But there will be those who will receive the Mark, they will not rule and reign with Christ for 1000 years and will most likely face a second death.
There you have it ─ Two totally different scenarios. One in the Hebrew Scriptures and one in the Christian Scriptures.
I also did a breakdown of Zechariah Ch.14 & Revelation Chs.19-20:
They both confirm that the event will occur in Jerusalem.
Both involve a return of the LORD; Christians believe this to be Jesus Christ. Personally, I think the anthropomorphism of this figure mentioned in Zechariah Ch.14 conflicts with Judaism’s own teachings. Unless of course Judaism teaches it is a metaphor. However, can a metaphor defeat Jerusalem’s enemy?
The LORD who stands on the Mount of Olives is accompanied with ‘Saints’. Saints has been interpreted from the Hebrew word, Kadosh (Holy).
There is a ‘fleeing’ a running away from the presence of God. Zechariah Ch.14:4 “As you fled in the days of Uzziah King of Judah.” Most likely referring to the terrible earthquake that occurred in Jerusalem during the reign of King Uzziah. Note when the Sixth Seal is opened in Revelation 6:12 there is also a great earthquake. But what did the great and rich men do? They fled to the dens and the rocks in the mountains.
Judgement is passed against the enemies of Jerusalem. Revelation Ch.19-11 mentions He that is ‘Faithful and True’ makes Judgement and War. But in Zechariah Ch.14-I4, it mentions Judah makes war. Revelation Ch. 5:5 states that only one prevailed to open the Seals: The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Could Zechariah Ch.14 mean that Jesus is ‘Judah’ that will Judge and make War? Because remember, the city was captured, half of its inhabitants were taken into captivity, and the others fled.
Zechariah proceeds with confirming the Messianic expectations of the Jewish people. I already mentioned the booty ─ gold and silver. You get booty from physical wars. I cannot help but wonder if Jews and some Christians see this as a physical war between God and humans. I do not see it that way. Although, armies are mentioned and Jesus has a Sword, His Sword has always been His Word. The enemies will be destroyed by His Word, the Word that proceeds from His mouth (Revelation 19:15). There is also a mention of the enemies being destroyed by Angels in Revelation.
Also confirming Messianic expectations, Zechariah mentions the Feast of Tabernacles, there is no mention of The Feasts of Tabernacles in Revelation or no rain for those who do not attend the annual event. Paramount to Messianic expectations is the Temple and the return to the Sacrifice. In Revelation Ch.21:22 “There is NO Temple within, because the LORD GOD and the Lamb are the Temple within.” Revelation does not mention a return to Sacrifice and lastly there is no rejection of Canaanites in Revelation.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek” Galatians 3:28.
In Zechariah, the Jews are victorious and in Revelation Ch.5:10 Christians are victorious.
What they both agree on is that the LORD is coming and will arrive on the Mount of Olives when humans have reached a point of no return.
All Scripture is quoted from the KJV.
Author: Cheryl Mason 17/7/2020
As I mentioned in Part One of this series, I embarked on this study because of a Meme that has been making its way around the Internet.
The Meme says, “Did you know? That the letter J is only 600 years old, so how could Jesus who lived 2000 years ago be named Jesus?”
In Part One of this series, I noted that even though this Meme was plain silly, I did encounter people who believed it. So, I took it upon myself to find out the history of the letter ‘J’ and how it ended up in the name Jesus.
This is the link to Part One: https://cherylmasonblogs.com/2020/05/30/the-letter-j-and-the-name-jesus-part-one/
In Part One I provided a brief history of the English language. I also provided a brief history of the Bible and the origin of the letter ‘J’ in the English language and the Bible. I mentioned that the ‘J’ sound was in existence for some time prior to it being a letter in our alphabet. The ‘J’ sound was written as ‘I’. Eventually, ‘J’ broke away from the ‘I’ and got its own sound and ‘I’ became a vowel. All this happened in approximately the fourteenth century.
In Part Two I will be briefly discussing the following:
Let us begin…
Vowels transformed the Hebrew Scriptures:
Vowels have played an important role in the evolution of language, but they were not always present in the alphabet. Ancient languages, for example, had no vowels. Ancient Hebrew, also known as Biblical Hebrew, had no vowels, they were added later. It was the Greeks who gave us vowels, they also gave us the written form of the English alphabet. In approximately 800 B.C. the Greeks, changed the Phoenician alphabet in the shapes that we recognise today as the English alphabet.
Vowels in the form of dots and dashes were added to the Hebrew Scriptures sometime between the sixth century and the tenth century. A group of Jewish scholars called the Masoretes (meaning the traditionalists) produced The Masoretic Text. The Masoretes translators added the dots and dashes to assist Jewish readers pronounce Hebrew words correctly and to give vocalization to the text.
Without vowels, boat could be written as BT, it could be boat, but it could also be boot, bout, beet or beat. How would we know the difference? Using the wrong vowel can change the meaning of a word completely. And, in fact, this has been the number one accusation laid against the Masoretic Text. Did the Masoretes get every vowel and every word correct?
I will not bore you with too many details, but I will give you just one example from Washington Gladden’s epic work on the Bible. He quotes Jerome, the Early Church Father who left us numerous examples like the Hebrew word zkr-memory in Isaiah Ch. 26:14. ZKR which consists of three consonants could be zeker (memory) Strong’s H2142 or zakar (male person) Strong’s 2145 as in Genesis Ch. 1:27.
Using zkr as an example, Jerome questioned whether Saul’s judgement in 1 Samuel Chapter 15 was correct. Did Saul wipe the memorial/vestige (zeker) of the Amalekites or did he kill all the males (zakar)? Jerome was not the only early church father to raise these types of questions. The early church father’s writings are overly critical of perceived corruptions within the texts from which our Old Testament was copied. Of course, we can all sigh and go tut-tut but Jeremiah the Prophet accused the Scribes (Sopherim) in his day of having a lying pen which deceived the people (Jeremiah Ch. 8:8).
I am deviating here for a minute, see if you can read this little brain teaser. It has vowels but reading the ancient languages without vowels would have been remarkably like reading this meme.Your mind must work overtime to read between the lines and draw out its true meaning.
I have been told by Jewish scholars that just as you were able to read the meme, they also inherently knew what vowels to add to the Masoretic Text. I have no reason to doubt them except that the making of the Masoretic Text was not all smooth sailing.
The Masoretic Text was constructed in Palestine and Babylon between 500 ─ 1000 A.D. About the same time as the Babylonian Talmud. This period not only experienced a reconstruction of the TaNaKh but also a regeneration of the Hebrew language itself. Hebrew was officially a dead language even during the time of Christ. When Hebrew is mentioned during the time of Christ it means Aramaic. Aramaic and before that Greek were the official languages of the Jews.
There were two main groups adding vocalization and meaning to the Masoretic Text. The two groups, Western and Eastern interpreted the text differently. They represented two families, the Ben Asher family, and the Ben Naphtali family. We know from the Talmud that Rabbis were also involved in the Masora, they were called Sopherim (scribes, counters). Thanks to the Dictionary of Rabbis by Jacob Neusner, we can learn about these Rabbis. Like, who they were, when they lived, what they stood for and their contribution to modern day Judaism.
In the end the Ben Asher version became more authoritative and was later sanctioned by Maimonides. It was Ben Asher’s punctuation that has influenced our Old Testament, or at least that is what I think. Personally, I believe it would have been better if we used the unvocalized and unaccentuated Hebrew and worked out the translation ourselves. The benefits to Christians in my opinion would have been fewer denominations and a cleaner more fluid text. After all God had placed on this earth outstanding people like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale to translate for us.
The argument in favour of the Masoretic manuscripts until recently has been that the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm that it was transmitted without any alterations. And that was true until the DSS themselves have come under some scrutiny in recent times. It is my opinion there are major differences between The Masoretic Text and the DSS. I was aware of this even before I discovered that some DSS fragments have proven to be fraudulent. I will leave you with this quote and link from The Biblical Archaeology Society. “Nevertheless, there are differences (some quite significant) between the scrolls and the Masoretic text. Furthermore, these differences have made scholars rethink variant readings found in other ancient manuscripts. How should scholars treat these variants with relationship to the Masoretic text?”
Please do not get me wrong, I am eternally grateful to the Jews for sharing with the world their Hebrew Scriptures. I am a person of deep faith, but I also present facts. And, for too long Christians have been dumbed down due to an absence of facts. By faith I believe the Hebrew Scriptures has everything that leads us to Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Therefore, there are no excuses. But I am also intelligent and educated enough to know that throughout the process man has had a big part in the way the text has been transmitted to us. And to say that the Masoretic manuscripts are flawless is nothing short of ridiculous.
Here are some ‘pointers’ (pardon the pun) about the Masoretic Text:
The Meme in question, YHVH and the name Yeshua:
The Meme at the beginning of this article drove me to get a much better appreciation of the history of language. Never did I realize that language was so dynamic. Changing letters, making new sounds, and adding vowels is not some rare phenomenon that occurred only with the letter J and I. Instead, it occurred repeatedly in the history of language in general but also the English language. Language is constantly evolving, and its history is fascinating.
Take the letter ‘Y’ for instance, it is a complex letter. The shape ‘Y’ is present in proto-Canaanite script and is said to be Akkadian in origin. The Romans adopted it around 100 A.D. and it found a home in the English alphabet during the Old English period. It remains unclear to me if the Hebrew script adopted it from the Romans or from the Canaanites. Since one of the Hebrew scripts is incredibly old: the one used by the Samaritans, I would say the Hebrew ‘Y’ is Canaanite in origin. The other Hebrew script is referred to as Modern Hebrew and has its origins in Aramaic. Both scripts ultimately have their roots in Phoenician.
Since the ‘Y’ shape is ancient, it should not come as a surprise that the ancient Israelites adopted it in the name of their God YHVH. There is no shortage of information out there about the meaning of YHVH. I have mainly used Jewish sources to follow this trail of the ineffable name. I must mention here, the NAME comes with its own caveat. In the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, we read there is a death penalty for those uttering the name (Sanhedrin 56a). With that in mind, I will proceed.
This is what I discovered about the name YHVH:
A word of warning:
I find it strange that for nearly 2000 years Christianity has survived by recognizing God as Father and Jesus as Jesus. If we consider the hundreds of Revivals that have occurred over that period and Yeshua was never heard of in any of them. Also, there are hundreds of You Tube videos about people from every corner of the globe who experienced Jesus supernaturally. There is not one video where He refers to Himself as Yeshua. To Muslims and Hindus alike, He says, “I am Jesus the God of the Christians.”
Sure, Jesus is called different names in different languages, but never in the history of Christianity has there been such a contrived effort to change the name of the Christian God across the globe. Personally, I believe many races have adopted this because of their rejection of Western Civilization. And a genuine belief that God must have Jewish names. Except it is questionable that these names even have any meaning in the Hebrew dialect. Why do we suddenly have to call Jesus new names or names in other languages? Hebrew is not my language neither is it the language of some person living in a village in Papua New Guinea or Africa.
What concerns me even more is that the Jews themselves have abandoned the use of YHVH in favour of Adonai or HaShem. They have lost the original vocalization of the name. If there are doubts concerning YHVH amongst Jews, then gentiles cannot be certain they are addressing God by the correct name. If YHVH remains in doubt how can we be certain of Yeshua? We cannot ─ As I will show you in Part Three, Yeshua is an off shoot of YHVH. As for Ha Shem (The Name), it is what you call God when you do not know His name anymore.
In Part Three I will also explain how problems can arise when trying to understand Ancient Near East names with a modern mindset. Every ANE name had a function, modern names do not necessarily have a function. Finally, I will give you my understanding of Names and Titles from the Biblical perspective.
I will leave you with Exodus 23:13 “And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect; and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” Christians be careful what names you use when referring to God.
Author: Cheryl Mason.
Please feel free to comment or discuss further, thanks!
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I conducted this study because of a Meme that was making its way around the Internet.
The Meme says … “Did you know? That the letter J is only 600 years old, so how could Jesus who lived 2000 years ago be named Jesus?”
Most sensible people would regard this Meme as plain silly, but unfortunately there are people who believe what it says. The reason why they believe it is because it contains an element of truth. In other words, it is a half-truth.
The part that is true is that the letter ‘J’ is approximately 600 years old. However, it is not true that Jesus cannot be called Jesus because of it. After all there are many English words that start with the letter ‘J’, like Jerusalem, Judah and Jews. If it is impossible for Jesus to have the letter ‘J’ in his name, then it is impossible for Jerusalem to be called Jerusalem.
In my opinion there is a more sinister reason behind this Meme and its aim is not that the author has a issue with the letter ‘J’ per se: but that it is constructed in such a way that it attacks the name of Jesus. The purpose of the Meme is to encourage people to use an Aramaic name ‘Yeshua’ instead of Jesus. Which is part and parcel of the Hebrew Roots Movement. Hebrew Roots is a Christian Movement that is pro-Zionist and supports the Zionist agenda of Land, Language (Hebrew), Sabbath and other Jewish markers.
Half-truths are always more difficult to disprove than out-and-out lies, so I had to read a lot of books to get to the bottom of this subject. I also completed a course by Professor Michael Drout who is a leading expert on the English language. I feel I have done this topic justice by reading so widely. What I am presenting here in this Three-Part series on The Letter ‘J’ and the name Jesus are my conclusions.
Let us begin…
We need to appreciate first and foremost that the English language has an exceptionally long and complex history. And secondly that English has been influenced by many other languages. It is by no means a pure language, and to be completely honest, there is no such thing as a pure language that fell from the sky, and that includes languages like Hebrew and Arabic.
Despite its lengthy history, the English language developed in four distinct phases. They are: Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English and Modern English. The English language has predominantly been influenced by Latin, German, French, Greek and Romance (a group of Roman languages).
Old English was influenced by German, German was influenced by Latin. Latin was the official language of Christianity and it was also the Legal language in its day.
Understanding the origins of the English language is paramount to this study because it affects the way in which we understand and read the Bible.
Ultimately our goal is to find out how the letter ‘J’ ended up in the name Jesus. Because of this, we need to take a quick look at the history of the English Bible before we proceed.
The first Bible was translated from the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into Latin, by Jerome, an Early Church Father, in 382 A.D. It was called The Latin Vulgate, Vulgate because Vulgar was the common Latin of the day. Jerome, was a Greek scholar, learnt Hebrew and was prolific in Vulgar Latin.
The next major translation was done in the German language by Martin Luther. Luther completed the German translation of the Bible, the New Testament in 1522 A.D. And the Old Testament in 1534 A.D.
William Tyndale wrote the Tyndale Bible in English, the New Testament in 1525 A.D. And the Old Testament in 1531 A.D. He introduced some new words and phrases in the Bible, like Jehovah (for the name of God) and we are going to see why he did that soon. You might also be surprised to learn that he was the first person to use the word Passover and Scapegoat. And phrases like, My brother’s keeper, Salt of the Earth etc. Tyndale was tried for heresy and burned at the stake in 1535 A.D. He had a falling out with King Henry VIII over divorce.
I have not added any information for the Wycliffe Bible, because it is not relevant to this study. But Wycliffe’s biblical manuscripts predated Tyndale by two-hundred years approximately.
This is what English looked like in Tyndale’s day, as you can see it is a little different to the English we read today.
Even though Tyndale’s Bible was not the first English Bible, it was the first to use the letter ‘J’ in the history of Bible translations. As far as I can tell that is, unless someone can prove otherwise.
Something to note is that Tyndale was influenced by Martin Luther, who was German.
German words beginning with ‘H’ and ‘J’ sounded like ‘Y’ in German and vice versa. Coincidently, it was about this time that we begin to see the ‘J’ used for the ‘Y’ sound in the Bible. ‘Y’ sound is the Hebraic sound, YHWH, Yehoshua, Yehuda etc. They were translated into ‘J’ words in the Tyndale Bible. Although Luther himself never used Jehovah which is a rendering of YHVH, he used LORD instead in his translation.
Just in case you did not know, JeHoVaH is YHVH with vowels in the Tyndale Bible. Suspicious, if you ask me, considering the proper pronunciation of YHVH which was only used by the Hebrew priest in Temple services once a year is lost. However, Tyndale took it upon himself to pronounce YHVH as JeHoVaH.
Although, Tyndale introduced us to the letter ‘J’ but not the ‘J’ sound. The ‘J’ sound was already in the English language.
The letter ‘J’ was incorporated into the English alphabet sometime in the fourteenth century.
Prior to that the letter ‘I’ had the ‘J’ sound. It is not that the English language did not have a ‘J’ sound, it did have a ‘J’ sound, it is just that it was represented by an ‘I’. So, ‘J’ evolved from ‘I’, kept its own sound and ‘I’ became a vowel and got a new sound.
That part of the Meme is a lie!
By the eleventh century (Middle English period) the Norman’s conquered England, and the French language influenced the English language. By then most people were bilingual.
The French speakers emphasised the ‘J’ sound in the French accent and that sound was then adopted by the English speakers. ‘J’ was a variant of ‘I’ and was used interchangeably with ‘I’.
It is estimated that in the Middle English period 10,000 French words were added to the English language. Now, that is a lot of English words that are of French origin.
Even though the early translations of the English Bible were written during the Middle English period they were still highly influenced by the Old English, which was influenced by German, which was influenced by Latin.
And, this was still apparent in the next major English translation, which was the Authorised King James Version in 1611 A.D. The AKJV is an Old English Bible, even though it was written in the Middle English period.
By the way, 80% of The Authorised King James Version is the same as the Tyndale Bible.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth century the English language entered its Early Modern phase and the language transformed yet again. Latin continued to influence the language, but Greek and Romance also played a part in this transformation. It is estimated that 30,000 new Latin, Greek and Romance words were added during this period.
The other major change that was taking place was the emphasis on vowels. Vowels became longer and more pronounced.
I would suggest you listen to a series of lectures by Professor Michael Drout who is a world leading expert on the English language and how it evolved.
Professor Drout says, that in the 1400’s, the Black Death gave rise to a new middle class in Britain. About half of the British population died because of this plague and this new middle class emerged, with new ways of speaking English, this is one of his theories, anyway. It did not happen all at once; he thinks perhaps it might have happened over 50 years or so. Scholars refer to this as “The Great Vowel Shift”.
The fifteenth century also gave rise to the printing press in Guttenberg in Germany, which pretty much revolutionised the English language. There is plenty more to write about in the next session, but for now I hope I have given you some idea as to how the English language evolved.
Before I move on to next session I just want to say this…”Yes, the letter ‘J’ was a late addition to the English language, but prior to it being a letter ‘J’ it existed as a sound and was written as the letter ‘I’.
Then the letters ‘J’ and ‘I’ were used interchangeably. Eventually they would split ‘J’ would become a consonant and ‘I’ would become a vowel.
That is why I call the Meme a half-truth which was made with the intension to deceive people!
Author: Cheryl Mason.
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