Tag Archives: New Testament

Could anyone in Old Testament times, take “an Eye for an Eye”?

One of the well known teachings done by Christ at the “Sermon on the Mount”, is the comparison of “Eye for an Eye” and “Turning the other cheek”(Mat 5:38-42). It is a known fact that the “Eye for an Eye” teaching comes from the Old Testament Scriptures. Some believe that Christ was abolishing Old Testament teachings while showing the New Testament way of Love, when He compared these 2 contradictory thoughts, or ways of living. Others see this as an example of how the 2 Covenants are different from each other. The question that is often asked is “Why did God command to take an eye for an eye in the Old Testament, whereas Christ changed it to turning ones cheek in the New Testament”? Is there a contradiction here? Could anyone take “An eye for an eye” in the Old Testament?

Mat 5:38-42  Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

In the following study, we will find out that a little understanding and context behind the Scriptures would help anyone see that the “Eye for an Eye, Tooth for a tooth” phrase was not a commandment for everyone, but a “measurement” used for punishment by “Judges”, appointed in the Old Testament. In other words, no Israelite could take the Law onto his/her own hand and “take an eye for an eye” – it was solely upto the Judges to make just judgement – “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. Solomon JudgesA person who was wronged had to appear before a Judge (Such as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Solomon, etc.) with at least two witnesses, so that their case was heard. The Judge would then give the judgement according to the loss (An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, etc.) as per the legal system constituted by Moses according to the Word of God. Furthermore, we will see that “Turning ones cheek” which means “Refusing to take revenge” has also been a central theme of the Old Testament, which Yeshua(Jesus’s true name) clearly taught to everyone, through the “Word of God or Scripture“.

1. Why were these 2 ideas compared? The Context.
Much of the misunderstanding behind the phrase “Eye for eye” exists because of the comparison made by Yeshua. Because of this comparison, most Christians believe that anyone in the Old Testament was taught to take “An eye for an eye” while Christ changed it to “Turn the other cheek”. To really understand the reason why Christ compared these ideas, we only need to look at the context of the said passage. The “you have heard” – “but I say to you” teachings of Messiah start off at Mat 5:21. One needs to read only a few verses before, to understand the context of His teaching.

Mat 5:17-20  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

So what is the context of His teaching, of “you have heard” – “but I say to you”? Notice the “Scribes and the Pharisees” mentioned just before His teaching. Notice how He says that whoever breaks the least of the Commandments or “teach” men to break them will be least in God’s Kingdom. Yeshua was talking about the Scribes & Pharisees of His day, who had taught a perverted version of God’s Word/Scripture (Old Testament). We have studied all about the teachings of the Pharisees in depth, in a previous post. But it is sufficient to say that the Pharisees were going against God’s Word by their own “Traditions” also known as the “Oral Law”. Yeshua was teaching the crowds that had gathered around at His feet, that “they had heard” (from the teachers of their time – who were the Scribes and Pharisees) it being said “An eye for an eye”, but that the correct way was to “turn ones cheek” or in other words, “keep judgement unto God and God alone”.

2. Eye for an Eye – A measurement for the Judges – Not a commandment for people
Under the Law given by God through Moses, any and all Israelites who were wronged had to come before a judge to plead their case. No one could take the Law into their own hands, and “dish out” justice (Deut 1:16-18, 16:18,19, 25:1-3). Now let’s take a look at the verse in concern “Eye for an eye”, and check what the Old Testament writings say about it.

Exo 21:22-25  If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Deu 19:15-21  One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

In the above verses, we can clearly see that the person charged with some wrongdoing had to appear before the Judges, who made him/her pay as “Determined by the judges” after a trial. This was the legal system which was instituted by God, through Moses. Judges were instituted by God to judge His people (Exo 18:21, 1Chr 17:10), and they were supposed to be impartial(2Chr 19:5-7). One of the criteria that the judges had to adhere, which came straight from God’s mouth was “Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth”(Lev 24:20). In other words, the Judges had to judge righteously – nothing more, nothing less.

Anyone who says that “in Old Testament times, people took an eye for an eye” believe in an erroneous doctrine. The judgement of “Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” could never be put to power without the ruling of the judges, after due inquisition. It is the same today, with most of the justice systems in the world, where the common man cannot take action against wrongdoing. He/she has to come before a judge and plead his/her case, where the judge will give his judgement according to the Law of that country.

3. Evidence of the same justice system in force even in New Testament times
Even though the justice system put in to effect by Moses survived through to the time of the New Testament, the ruling sect such as the Pharisees broke this system frequently. The following instances are but a few places where we see that no one could be punished outside the Law of God, even in the time of the New Testament.

A. When the Pharisees were accusing Yeshua without a formal hearing, we see that Nicodemus (who was a pharisee himself) challenging the other Pharisees saying “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?“(Joh 7:51). This proves that no one could be punished before being judged, and being formally heard.

B. In a similar fashion, we see Paul challenging the Council which had brought him to be  judged, for hitting him for no reason saying “for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?”(Act 23:3). This shows that the person brought before the judges could not be punished in any way before proven guilty. In other words, It was contrary to the Law to punish someone without him/her being found guilty.

4. Turning the other cheek
Through this teaching (which challenged and rectified the teaching of the Pharisees) Yeshua taught the crowds that no one should retaliate or avenge oneself, when somebody wrongs them. God alone stands for Justice, and taking it upon oneself to enact justice has never been approved by God. In fact, God had communicated the same idea in the Old Testament as we see below.

Lev 19:18  Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
Pro 20:22  Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.
Pro 24:29  Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.
Job 31:29,30  If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him: Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul.
Pro 25:21  If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
Exo 23:4,5  If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.

5. Righteous Judgement belongs to God Almighty
Righteous judgement can only be provided by Our Heavenly Father. This is why He said not to avenge anyone as vengeance is His alone. These are the same words quoted by Paul, in his letter to the Romans, as well as by the author of the Book of Hebrews.

Deu 32:35  To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.
Rom 12:19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Heb 10:30  For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

We see that throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, people referred to God as the Judge, and kept off judgement to Him alone.

Jdg 11:27  Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the LORD the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.
Job 5:8 
I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause:
Gen 18:25 
That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
Psa 75:7  But God is the judge:
he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

King David has shown the same characteristic of “Turning the other cheek” on several occasions, where he refused to take vengeance, even though it was rightfully his. He knew that God was the ultimate judge, who judges between people to deliver true justice.

1Sa 24:12  The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
1Sa 26:23  The LORD render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: for the LORD delivered thee into my hand to day, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed.
2Sa 16:11b,12 let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day.

Additionally, even Joseph showed the same characteristic, when his brothers begged him for forgiveness for selling him into slavery. His words to them were “Fear not: for am I in the place of God?”(Gen 50:19),  Even though Joseph was wronged by his brothers, he did not avenge his brothers for their wrong, knowing that God is the judge of all creation.

6. Conclusion
The words of Yeshua recorded in Mat 5:38-42 are inherently connected to “Loving your Neighbor”(Mat 5:43). Even though the subject of “Loving the Neighbor and Hating the enemy” has been discussed in a previous post, it is important to note that “turning the other cheek” is part and parcel of “The Love thy Neighbor” commandment(Lev 19:18). In retrospect, whoever compares the Old Testament to the idea of “An eye for an eye” is utterly mistaken, as Yeshua’s message was directed at rectifying the wrong doctrines taught by the teachers of His day, such as the “Scribes & Pharisees”.

A person with a simple knowledge of the Old Testament would know that no one could take the Law on to their own hand, under the Mosaic Covenant. Anyone who was wronged by another, had to bring the case before the Judges who listened to both sides and judged with the measure of “Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. What Yeshua addressed was the wrong doctrine of applying “An eye for an eye”(which was a standard/measure given to the judges), to say that any person can avenge him/herself for whatever wrong caused against them. “Judgement”, just like in the Old Testament times, still belongs to God. We must trust Him and bring our petitions to Him, without trying to avenge anyone for the hurt they have caused us. This was the simple teaching that our Messiah brought us, not that it was from Himself, but it was God’s Word all along.

What is the Biblical definition of the phrase “Word of God”.

Some Words AbolishedAll of us, as Christians believe that we must obey the Word of God. But what exactly is the Biblical Definition for the “Word of God”? Is it the whole Bible? Or is it part of the Bible? Can parts of God’s Word, even be done away? What did Christ refer to as the “Word of God”? As followers of Christ, we must have a clear understanding of this definition, and this is exactly what we hope to research in this short study.

In an earlier post (What does it mean to be like a “Berean”?) we learned that Christ, His disciples and all of the writers of the New Testament agreed that “Scripture” in their eyes was what we call, the “Old Testament”. A basic knowledge of History would allow anyone to know that the New Testament writings were compiled almost 3 Centuries after the time of Christ. If this is so, what did Christ and all His disciples refer to as the “Word of God”. Let’s look at the evidence.

1. Christ said that Man lives not by food alone, but by the “Word of God” quoting Deut 8:3

Mat 4:4  But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Luk 4:4  And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
Deu 8:3  And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

We can conclude that every Word that proceeds from the Mouth of God is known as the “Word of God” by comparing Mat 4:4 with Luk 4:4. We can also understand that the “Word of God” referred by Christ in these verses, is the same as what was referred to by Moses in Deut 8:3, as this is the exact verse quoted by Messiah.

2. Christ confirms that God’s Commandments given through Moses is the “Word of God”

Mar 7:9-13  And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

In the above passage, Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) rebukes the Pharisees telling them that they are breaking God’s Commandments by keeping their own traditions (Please read about the Pharisees for a clearer explanation on what they believed). One of the most important things that many glance across in this reading, is that Christ calls the Commandments of God, given through Moses as the “Word of God”.

3. Christ preached the “Word of God”

Luk 5:1  And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,

Christ preached the Word of God as clearly stated in the above passage. If the “Word of God” was (by His own definition), the writings of Moses, then this means that what He preached came from what we now call the Old Testament. (Much of the misunderstandings, such as Christ abolished the Law, comes from a weak knowledge of what He preached. Read an example here)

4. Christ called whoever hears the “Word of God” and does it, “Blessed” and also part of “His own Family”

Luk 11:28  But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
Luk 8:21  And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.

5. The “Word of God” stands forever according to Isaiah and Peter

Isa 40:8  The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
1Pe 1:24,25  For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

We see Peter quoting the words written by Isaiah agreeing with him, that “God’s Word” stands forever, which means it cannot fade away or be abolished.

6. Christ says that “Scripture” (which is the Old Testament) cannot be broken, and refers to it as the “Word of God”

Joh 10:34,35  Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
Psa 82:6  I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

In the above verse we see Christ quoting Psalms 82:6, and goes on to say that Scripture cannot be broken (done away/abolished). Furthermore, He calls the people who received this Word (which is in Psalms, which is part of the Old Testament) as the ones to whom the “Word of God” came. Thereby making “The Word of God” equal to “The Scriptures” or “Old Testament” as it is known today.

7.Conclusion
Yeshua saw every word that proceeded from God’s Mouth as “The Word of God”, and clearly equaled it to the writings of Moses in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament we see clear phrases such as “The LORD (Yehovah) spoke”(Exo 25:1) or “The Word of the Lord came”(Gen 15:1) that refers to “God’s Word” or the “Word of God”.

Even though much of today’s believers are taught that some parts of the Bible are no longer valid for them, and that the “Word of God” is the New Testament Writings, looking at the evidence, we can conclude that “The Old Testament” was regarded as the “Word of God” by our Messiah. If anyone teaches or believes that the Old Testament is done away, they are inadvertently saying that God’s Words are abolished.

It is time that we ask ourselves important questions such as, can parts of God’s Word be abolished, done away or removed?… When Peter and Isaiah both say that “The Word of God” endures forever. Through Yeshua’s own Words and testimony it is clear that this cannot be, and that He regarded “The Scriptures” which is “the Old Testament” as the authoritative “Word of God”. As a follower of Christ, what do you believe?

Does the Old Testament teach us to love our enemies, or hate them?

SermonAs Christians, all of us have read or heard the famous “Sermon on the Mount” and have most probably read Christ’s teaching on “Loving our enemies as well as our neighbor”. All of us know of “Loving ones Enemy” as a New Testament teaching. So much so, that many believe that the Old Testament taught one to “love ones neighbor” but “hate ones enemy”, while Christ taught that one should love the enemy just like the neighbor. But it is interesting to note that this was not a new teaching, as we see this idea that our Messiah taught clearly stated in the Old Testament.

Let’s look into the idea of “loving your enemy” and the origins of this teaching written in the Old Testament Scriptures.

Exo 23:4,5  If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
Pro 25:21  If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
Pro 24:17  Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:
Pro 29:10  The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul.

The above verses of Scripture, show how God commands through Moses that everyone should love & help ones enemy not even permitting an enemy to fall into loss. God’s Word is clear that we should not turn away from providing for our enemies in need, and not even be glad when he or she is in trouble. We should even seek to bring him/her to the free Salvation our Heavenly Father provides.

But what was Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) referring to when he said “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy”? Some read Mat 5:43 and conclude that Yeshua is talking about an “old teaching” written in the Old Testament. But nowhere in the Old Testament would we be able to find such a teaching of “hating your enemy”.

Context of the teachings at the Sermon on the Mount
The “you have heard” – “but I say to you” teachings of Messiah start off at Mat 5:21. One needs to read only a few verses before, to understand the context of His teaching.

Mat 5:17-20  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

So what is the context of His teaching, of “you have heard” – “but I say to you”? Notice the Scribes and the Pharisees mentioned just before His teaching. Notice how He says that whoever breaks the least of the Commandments or “teach” men to break them will be least in God’s Kingdom. Yeshua was talking about the Scribes & Pharisees of His day, who had taught a perverted version of God’s Word/Scripture (Old Testament). We have studied all about the teachings of the Pharisees in depth, in a previous post. But it is sufficient to say that Pharisees were going against God’s Word by their own “Traditions” also known as the “Oral Law”. Yeshua was teaching the crowds that had gathered around at His feet, that “they had heard” (from the teachers of their time – who were the Scribes and Pharisees) it being said “you shall love your neighbour, and hate your enemy”. But Yeshua was teaching them the proper Old Testament idea of “Loving even ones enemy”.

Conclusion
The “Sermon on the Mount”, just like all of Yeshua’s other teachings were rooted in God’s Word. He never spoke of Himself, but all that was the Word of God (Joh 7:16,17, 14:24). “Loving ones neighbor” was directly from the Scriptures (Lev 19:18) just as “Loving ones Enemy”. We should stop being biased against the Old Testament Scriptures and start reading it without preconceived notions, so that we can see it for what it is – God’s Word, which was confirmed by, and through, Yeshua – our Messiah.

Was God known as Father in the Old Testament?

FatherChristians believe that calling the Creator of Heaven and Earth, with the title “Father” is only seen in the New Testament. Some believe and teach that God Almighty was distant to His people in the Old Testament, but came into a ‘Father-Son’ relationship only after the appearance of Yeshua (Jesus’ true name). Are these claims true? Was calling God by the title “Father” a new teaching?

Let’s look at the evidence in the Scriptures

Jer 31:9  They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

Isa 64:8  But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

Isa 63:16  Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.

Deu 32:6  Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?

1Ch 29:10  Wherefore David blessed the LORD before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.

Jer 3:19  But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me.

Mal 1:6  A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?

Mal 2:10  Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

Pro 3:12  For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Psa 103:13  Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.

Not only is God Almighty known as the “Father”, He calls His people as “Children”

Hos 1:10  Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

Isa 1:2  Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.

Exo 4:22,23  And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

Deu 14:1  Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.

Hos 11:1  When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

Psa 82:6  I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

Conclusion
Calling God as “Our Father”, is not a new idea only seen in the New Testament. It is a recurring depiction of the close relationship between the Creator and His people, commonly seen in the Old Testament. Yeshua and the New Testament writers did not invent this idea. Rather they built upon the thought of having such a loving Creator, who was willing to call His creation “His Children”. Our Heavenly Father has, and will not change. He has always seen the ones who love Him as Children, and His people have also understood their Creator to be a loving Father from ancient times. I hope you are empowered with Scripture, to show the truth to people who say, that God has changed and that He came into a “Father – Son” relationship only in the New Testament.

Added on 25th July 2016
As there has been some objections raised against the view that “Our Father” was used before and after Yeshua’s Ministry on earth (even by Jews who did not believe in Yeshua as Messiah) – I present the following references. The reason for such is not to demean the ministry or teachings of Yeshua, but to remove the misconception that the Jewish people have never viewed or spoken of God as their Father.

“Our Father” is common place in the Jewish Extra-biblical writings. (references are also provided)

    • 1. Babylonian Talmud written in 3rd to 5th Centuries AD, Ta’anit 25b it says “Our Father, our King, we have no king but you! Our Father, our King, on your own account have mercy on us!”. This prayer was recited on the 10 days of Awe (leading to the Day of Atonement).

      2. The Mishnah which contains the teachings of the early rabbis, relates that before the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70AD Jews used to pray “Upon whom shall we depend? Upon Our Father who is in heaven”. (Mishnah Sotah 9:15)

      3. Another Jewish Prayer says “May it be the will of our Father in Heaven” (Midrash Psalms 25:13 – Buber edition Page 214)

      4. The Jewish sage Ben Sira, 200 years before Yeshua, prayed “O Lord, Father and Master of my life… O Lord, Father and God of my life” (Ben Sira 23:1,4). Also “Lord you are my Father; do not forsake me in the days of trouble, when there is no help against the proud” (Ben Sira 51:10)

      5. In a fragment of The Dead Sea Scrolls (written hundreds of years before Yeshua) was found the title “Our Father” (4Q511 fragment 127 line 1)

       

I highly recommend the reading of “A prayer to our Father – Hebrew Origins of the Lord’s Prayer” by Nehemiah Gordon & Keith Johnson, for further study on this subject.

 

What does it mean to be like a “Berean”?

“Be like a Berean!” is a popular motto amongst modern Christian Congregations today. What does it encompass to be like a Berean? What were the qualities of the Bereans? And are we anything like Bereans? The Bereans are mentioned only in passing, in the Book of Acts 17:10&11.
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:10,11).

So we see that the Bereans
1. Were called noble
2. Because they received the Word with readiness
3. And searched the Scriptures to examine Paul & Silas’ words

One of the main qualities of a Berean was to “Search the Scriptures”. This brings us to another very important question. What is the Biblical definition of the word “Scriptures”?
Christians would answer saying “The Bible” without giving it a thought, but is this answer correct? What many Christians fail to understand is, that the New Testament was not available in the 1st Century. In fact the New Testament was not readily available till the late 4th Century. Most of the Epistles of Paul were directed at specific Congregations, which means the letter to the Romans went only to the Church of Rome, the letter to the Corinthians went to the Church of Corinth, and so on.

Please note that this study is not meant to demean the New Testament writings. The New Testament writings take an important part when it comes to our Faith. Without the Gospels, the epistles and other books in the New Testament, we would have no knowledge of our Messiah, the apostles and their teachings. This study is meant as an eye opener to all Christians to understand what “Scripture” meant to Yeshua (Jesus’ true name), His apostles and everyone in the 1st Century including the Bereans.

There is only one logical conclusion to the question “What was considered as Scripture by the Bereans?”  –  The Old Testament!
Most of the New Testament wasn’t even written at this point, and even if parts were written they were not in mass-distribution. Furthermore, the Bereans were checking whether Paul’s and Silas’ claims of the Good News was true. The only way to check this was to go back to the Old Testament and check all the prophecies that were fulfilled in Yeshua.

Christ considered what we call “The Old Testament” as Scripture
Mat 21:42, Mat 22:29, Mat 26:54,56, Mar 12:10,24, Mar 14:49, Luk 4:21, 24:27,32,45, Joh 5:39, 7:38, 10:35, 13:18, 17:12,

The Gospels & Apostles considered what we call “The Old Testament” as Scripture
Mar 15:28, Joh 2:22, 19:24,28,36,37, 20:9, Act 1:16, 8:32,35, 17:2,11, 18:24,28, Rom 1:2, 9:17, 10:11, 11:2, 15:4, 16:26, Gal3:8,22, 4:30, 1Cor 15:3,4, 1Tim 5:18, 2Tim 3:15, Jas 2:8,23, 4:5, 1Pet2:6, 2Pet1:20,21, 3:16

Yeshua, His Apostles and everyone who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob considered what we call the “Old Testament” as “Scripture” including the Bereans. The sad turn of events that have shaped our history and Christian Doctrine, has made the “Scripture” of our Messiah and His Apostles, into an “Old”, “By the way” part of the Bible. The majority of Christian congregations today, cannot truthfully say, that they give equal prominence to the so called “Old Testament” as they give to the “New”.

Christians have forgotten that the Words spoken out of the Mouth of God and most of the Prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled, are all in the “Old” Testament. Each and every writer of the New Testament wrote the Gospels, Epistles and other writings based on the “Scripture” of their day. And we, who are far removed from their time, have gradually forgotten the importance that they gave to what we call the “Old”.

Be a Berean! Read, test, check and examine whether what I am saying is actually true. If it is, in fact true, be of noble nature, and give the attention “The Scriptures” justly deserve. And let it not be “Old” and “New”, but one in the same, a continuation of the Love story between God Almighty and His Children.

Was the New Testament written in Greek or in Hebrew?

A common fact that is taught to all Christians is that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew while the New Testament was written in Greek. There is consensus among all Biblical Scholars that the Old Testament was indeed written in Hebrew. But not all scholars agree on the point that the New Testament was written in Greek. Even though most of the remaining Manuscripts of the New Testament are all in Greek, there is evidence that parts of the New Testament would have indeed been written in Hebrew and subsequently translated to Aramaic, Greek and any other languages of the day.

Matthew wrote his account of the Gospel, in Hebrew

British Library Ms Add No. 26964 Manuscript of Hebrew Matthew

One of the best pieces of evidence that exists to prove that the New Testament may have originally been written in Hebrew, is “The Gospel of Matthew”. This Gospel account which is regarded as the earliest out of the 4 Gospels contained in our Bibles, come from Matthew who was surnamed Levi and who was a Tax Collector previously. He was a Hebrew speaking man just like all of the other Disciples of Christ. There are quite a few historical witnesses who have spoken how Matthew wrote his account of the Gospel in Hebrew.

“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.”
(Irenaeus of Lyons – Against Heresies 3:1:1 – 180AD)

“Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism and published in the Hebrew language
(Origen – Commentaries on Matthew [cited by Eusebius in History of the Church 6:25] – 244AD).

“Matthew had begun by preaching to the Hebrews, and when he made up his mind to go to others too, he committed his own Gospel to writing in his native tongue, so that for those with whom he was no longer present the gap left by his departure was filled by what he wrote” (Eusebius – History of the Church 3:24 – 300-325AD).

Matthew compiled the sayings [of the Lord] in the Hebrew Dialect, and everyone translated them as well as he could”
(Papias – quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3:39 – 150-170AD)

Hebrew Word Puns
The second reason to take this claim seriously is the amount of “Word Puns” that the Hebrew Manuscripts of Matthew contain. While the Greek Manuscripts make little or no sense in these particular places, the Hebrew gives a rich poetic feel to the Words of Yeshua (Jesus’ true name). While the Old Testament is dotted with these Word Puns, the Greek to English Translation of the New Testament does not contain such attributes. The Hebrew version of Matthew was administered to a serious study by Professor George Howard in the 1980’s, and can be further studied through his book “Gospel of Matthew According to a Primitive Hebrew Text by George Howard”. (You can read the 1st edition of his book here) Professor Howard reviews these Word Puns contained in the Hebrew Manuscripts, in his book from page 194 – 201 which can be viewed through the above link.

Furthermore, Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer from the 16th Century had this to say about Hebrew and the New Testament

“The Hebrew language is the best language of all … If I were younger I would want to learn this language, because no one can really understand the Scriptures without it. For although the New Testament is written in Greek, it is full of Hebraisms and Hebrew expressions. It has therefore been aptly said that the Hebrews drink from the spring, the Greeks from the stream that flows from it, and the Latins from a downstream pool.”
(Martin Luther, Table Talk, quoted in Pinchas E. Lapide, Hebrew in the Church, trans. Erroll F. Rhodes – Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984).

What difference does it make?
One of the questions that could be running through your mind right about now, could be “What difference does any of this make to my walk with God?”. What we believe today hinges completely on the Translations we read in our own native languages. Most of these translations are, translations of translations. Meaning the Greek Manuscripts get translated to Latin, then English, then into other languages from thereon. Much of the original essence could be lost in translation. A great example for this is the misunderstood sect called the Pharisees. Many Christians believe that the Pharisees were the ones keeping the Old Testament Laws. This is not Biblically accurate. (Please read this study to know more about the Pharisees). If we were familiar with the Hebrew version of Matthew, this would have been obvious. Let me explain:

Our Bibles (which are translated from the Greek Manuscripts) read in Mat 23:3 regarding the Pharisees as follows:
All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
The Hebrew Manuscripts of Matthew read the same verse as follows:
Therefore all that he says to you, diligently do, but according to their reforms(Takanot) and their precedents(Ma’asim) do not do, because they talk, but do not do.

If you are familiar with what the Pharisees taught and believed you would know what “Takanot” and “Ma’asim” refer to. These are traditions and customs that they added into God’s Word (The Holy Scriptures). “Takanot” and “Ma’asim” were sometimes even regarded more important or higher than God’s Word. Examples for Takanot and Ma’asim are, the “Washing of Hands” mentioned in Mat 15:2 and “The Breaking of the Sabbath by plucking corn” mentioned in Mat 12:2. The Hebrew Matthew gives us a better understanding of what went on in such instances, while our own Bible translations are silent on these issues.

Conclusion
There are many more instances where the Hebrew Manuscripts shed light on the Gospel stories as well as towards the collective understanding of the New Testament. While I believe that much of the New Testament would have been indeed written in Hebrew, (the native language of most of the New Testament writers) we must acknowledge that much of the Manuscripts that have survived are Greek in nature. My effort is not to say that we should get rid of the Greek Translations that we have, but to say that we must make an effort to look at all sources when studying Scripture. If these Hebrew Manuscripts were studied a little closer, maybe we wouldn’t have  grave misunderstandings regarding the characters such as the Pharisees, which has in turn led people to believe that the Old Testament has been done away with, or whoever believes or does what is said in the Old Testament are Pharisaic in nature.

Though much of the New Testament Manuscripts that we have are in Greek, most of these would have been translations of the Originals which were Hebrew. And along the way, through translation and time, we have lost most of the essence, context and connections that the originals had to the people, places and atmosphere that these books and letters were written in. It is my firm belief that we need to go back to the Roots of our Faith, in search of “True Christianity”, not one which is divided, but one which is in agreement with the entirety of Scripture being one body with Christ.

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UPDATE
Following is an important piece of information which was missing from this post, but was added because of Brother Hubert Krause who posted an important question.

His question being
What about Matthew 16:18, where there is a word-play between petros and petra. This is possible only in the Greek, isn’t it?

What an amazing question. Yes, this word Pun between Petros and Petrai is definitely there in our Greek Manuscripts of Matthew.

Greek Matthew 16:18
“You are Peter (Petros Πέτρος), and upon this rock (petrai πέτρα) I will build my church”

As far as I know, this is the only word-pun which exists in this Gospel in the Greek. But compare that with the word puns found in the Hebrew Manuscripts of Matthew. There are 4 puns mentioned below. But there maybe more which I am not certain of.

Hebrew Matthew 9:8
“And the crowds saw (vayir’u ויראו) and they feared (vayir’u ויראו) very much.”

Hebrew Matthew 12:13,15
“(13) And he said to the man, stretch out your hand, and he stretched out (vayet ויט) his hand… (15) And it was after this that Yeshua knew and he turned (vayet ויט) from there and many sick people went after him…”

Hebrew Matthew 18:23-35
shalem שׁלם “to pay” five times, followed by

“So shall my father in heaven do if you do not forgive each man his brother with a complete (shalem שׁלם) heart.”

shalem שׁלם – “pay” vs. “complete”

Hebrew Matthew 16:18
“You are a stone (even אבן) and I will build (evneh אבנה) my house of prayer upon you”

The Interesting point is that there is a word pun in the Hebrew Matthew in the same verse as the Greek version. So what does this all mean? Looking at the fact that we know for certain according to the early Church Fathers that Matthew did in fact write His version in Hebrew and that it was copied by others accordingly, Mat 16:18 maybe an instance where the translator applied a word play in Greek using the interesting opportunity. Remember that word-play is used by writers to flourish the text. Also something to remember is that Matthew mentions that he was “called” Peter in 4:18, just as Saul was “called” Paul. Shimon and Shaul both have the “sh” sound not used in the Greek, and this may have been the reason for them to have a Greek name which was used instead in their journeys. Peter or Petros would have been an apt Greek name for Simon because he was called “Rock” by the Messiah.

 

What are Phylacteries?

Have you ever noticed or been puzzled by the word “Phylacteries” in the New Testament? Ever wondered what Christ was talking about in Mat 23:5? His words were “But all their works they do to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments”.

Pharisee I had paid little notice to this word before, picturing in my mind that it was some sort of clothing item that the Pharisees wore. Not paying full attention to details in the Bible can, and have, had a major impact on the beliefs that are prevalent in the Christian congregations.

The “Pharisees & Scribes” who were wearing phylacteries mentioned by Yeshua (Jesus’ true name) would have looked something like this. The “Phylacteries” or “Tefillin” as it is called in Hebrew, is a small box which contains Scripture with a strap, which can be bound on the Head or the Arms.

The importance of this verse is in the fact that it sheds light on a major misunderstanding in Christianity. Which one, you ask? “It’s the common belief among Christians that the Scribes and Pharisees Kept the Old Testament Law, and that this is why Yeshua called them Hypocrites and white washed tombs – because the Old Law was done away”.

The problem with this understanding is that both biblically and historically, we have evidence that the Pharisees did not keep God’s Law. In fact, wearing “Phylacteries” was not a Commandment given by God. Then why did the Pharisees wear these things? Because it was part of their “Oral Law”, known as the “Traditions of the Elders” throughout the New Testament (Mat 15:2,3,6, Mar 7:3,8,9,13, Gal 1:14). TefillinWearing “Phylacteries” was how they had interpreted Exo 13:9,16 & Deut 6:8, 11:18 which says that “God’s Word should be a sign upon our hands and between our eyes”. Obviously, this was a figure of speech to say “that we should do or obey as well as remember God’s Word”.

The Pharisaic Sect of Yeshua’s day had taken a piece of Scripture out of context and made a separate Law out of it. The “Oral Law” which is still in use today, known as the “Talmud” is strictly adhered to by Orthodox Jews around the world. Not only do they wear it, the “Talmud” provides strict laws on how to even put it on. (If you want to learn more about the Pharisees and their traditions, I recommend that you watch this video, brought to you by former Orthodox Jew – Nehemiah Gordon)

What does this mean? Are all Jews like Pharisees? Are all Pharisees alike? The picture of “Pharisees” and some times, even “Jews“, in a Western Christian mind, is that they were wicked, legalistic and nonspiritual people. This is hardly the case. We know that there were quite a lot of Pharisees who respected Yeshua, as well as some who believed in Him (Luk 13:31, Joh 9:16, Act 15:5). We should by no means generalize people. Furthermore, it is important to remember that Yeshua, His Disciples, His followers and even Apostle Paul, were all Jews.

The Orthodox Jews of today, still adhere to a plethora of extra laws (from the Talmud), thinking that it is genuinely what God expects from them. They are misguided, as much as the Christians who think the Law is done away in Christ. We must understand that not all Jews are like the Pharisees of Christ’s age. Consider the Karaite Jews who reject the Talmud and anything other than the Old Testament, and the Messianic Jews who believe in Yeshua.

The many persecutions which have fallen on the Jews have always happened because of this huge misunderstanding. A lot of people have persecuted “Jews” standing under Christ’s banner, making it impossible for them to except Yeshua as the prophesied Messiah.

What was the main Commandment which the Pharisees broke through their traditions?
God’s Word specifically instructs that no one can add or remove anything from God’s Law/Commandments.
Deu 4:2  Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Deu 12:32  What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
The Scriptures call anyone who adds to God’s Law, a Liar (Pro 30:6). This was one of the main concerns Yeshua had regarding the Pharisees, when He said “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men”(Mar 7:8) & “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Mat 15:3).

Are all traditions bad? Are all traditions sin? definitely not. But the moment we put “Tradition” over “God’s Commandments”, or teach “man made Traditions” as “God’s Law”, we are breaking His Words. This is why Yeshua said (quoting Isaiah 29:13)”But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men“(Mat 15:9) regarding the Pharisees.

Adding and Diminishing & the 2 Houses of Israel
If you know about Biblical History, you would know that the people “Israel” divided into 2 Kingdoms after the death of King Solomon. These 2 Kingdoms were called “The House of Judah” & “The House of Israel/Ephraim”. “The House of Israel” was carried away by Assyria and scattered in the nations with a promise of being regathered, while “The House of Judah” was exiled for 70 years in “Babylon” being let back into the land. (Please go to this link for more info) It is interesting to see how “the Jews” (House of Judah) add to God’s Law, through their various traditions and man-made laws written in the Talmud, while “the gentiles” (House of Ephraim) diminishes from God’s Law, saying it is done away and that they are free from it.

“Phylacteries” are a good reminder of checking our lives, our doctrines and our thoughts for anything that we may be adding or diminishing from our Creator’s Words. It is a call to really put His Words in our hearts and souls, binding them on our hands by being obedient to Him, that His Words may be always foremost in our minds (Deut 11:18), so that we do not turn to the left or to the right from them (Jos 23:6) choosing God and His Word alone in the midst of man-made commandments & traditions.