Tag Archives: Pharisees

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is one that is often evoked in sermons, and like most other parables, does not have an explanation alongside it. Some presume that it could even be a real story which Christ shares. As we all know, the text often unravels new meaning each time we read it, and thus I would like to give you my understanding of this Parable.

First of all, I believe this is a Parable as Yeshua(Jesus’ Hebrew Name) never relates real stories other than Parables, unless it is from the Scriptures. The other reason to presume that this is a Parable, in fact comes from the text itself, as Christ relates several Parables to the Pharisees and Scribes in Chapter 15 and 16 before relating the parable in question to the same audience. It is most likely a Parable also because of the clues riddled in the story.

Let me know your thoughts and whether you agree, disagree or you have had a better interpretation or revelation.

Luk 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
The Rich Man is adorned in attire that symbolises kingship/authority and he was blessed in everything living a rich life, just like the religious leaders of “the Kingdom/House of Judah” who was always blessed by God, living under His care.
Luk 16:20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
The poor beggar named Lazarus (Greek transliteration of Eliezer) was full of sores and was laid at the gate signifying “the Kingdom/House of Israel” who was exiled only to live outside the promised land in uncleanness without the blessing of God. Also note that the dispersed/scattered Israelites were regarded unclean by the Pharisaic authority of the day (Joh 7:35).
Luk 16:21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
The scattered people of the Kingdom/House of Israel desired to be part of God’s people but was barred and separated by the religious authority. We see many a time that Gentiles came to worship in Jerusalem (Joh 12:20, Act 8:27). If the House of Israel stood for the beggar, the Gentile nations who longed to be part of God’s People were signified by the Dogs. Christ had previously equated Gentile nations to dogs(Mar 7:26,27). So far the Parable speaks of the Blessed House of Judah with the House of Israel at its feet taking any blessings that they can possibly get. The gentile nations who longed to be blessed by God were trying to be as close to the House of Israel as they possibly could, and get anything that came their way.
Luk 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
Judgement comes to both the House of Israel and the House of Judah
Luk 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
The House of Israel ends up in Abraham’s Bosom* which means to be collected to their forefather Abraham(Mat 8:11), while the House of Judah is not collected back to their forefather.
Luk 16:24,25 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
The House of Judah will long to be with their forefather but it will be too late when they are in the grave, to change their fate.
Luk 16:27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
The House of Judah longs to save their brethren who are alive and who will receive the same fate.
Luk 16:29,30 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
Christ references himself as a person who goes into the world of the living from the dead, as the House of Judah thinks his brethren will change from evil by the word of such a person.
Luk 16:31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
The change from evil/sin can be attained by the Word of God – His Law and the words of the Prophets, but people who don’t listen to the “Old Testament Scriptures” (as we know them) would not change even if a person comes alive from the dead.

Conclusion
The Parable which is directed at the Pharisees and Scribes were the ones who had Authority of the House of Judah. They were the Rich man of the day. The House of Israel scattered among the nations after the Assyrian Exile, were at the feet of the religious authority and were only getting crumbs because of their disgust of them. The gentile nations were far worse off. This religious authority may think that anything will change with these religious figures, if a person comes back from the dead and preaches repentance and coming back to God’s Word. But a person who does not adhere to Moses (The Five books of Moses known as Torah or the Law of Moses) and the Books of the Prophets would not change their minds because of anything. The Pharisees and Scribes were not keeping God’s Law at the time because of additions that they had made to Gods’ Word (also known as the Traditions of the Fathers/Elders or the Oral Law).

This was a clear rebuke against the religious authority of Yeshua’s day, to go back to God’s Word. How could they believe Yeshua, even when He comes back from the dead; as they don’t even adhere to God’s Law and the words of His Prophets?

*What is Abraham’s Bosom?
It is clear that Abraham’s Lap or Bosom was a generic term used in the 1st century and beyond to explain the dead being collected back to their forefathers, specifically Abraham. In Jewish writings it speaks of a Rabbi named Ada bar Ahava as following: “he was dwelling in the lap of our Patriach Avraham” (Talmud Kiddushin 72b). It was a place that righteous people go to.

Further Reading
The Parable of the prodigal son and the 2 Houses of Israel
Defining the Term “Hell”
The Betrothal, Divorce and Re-Betrothal of God’s people through Messiah
Has the church replaced israel

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.

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.

Gentiles have to obey only 4 Commandments? Misunderstandings regarding Acts 15

As Christians, we have been taught that we are no longer under the “Old Testament”, and that the commandments of old have no bearing on us. But what if I told you that the decision made by James in Acts 15 is also from the Old Testament? Acts 15 is most often used as a clear indication that we are free from the Old Laws. And it is generally taught to all Christians that Gentiles, unlike Jews, need to only abstain from the four things decreed in Acts 15:20. If these 4 abstentions were proved to be from the Old Testament, would we see things differently?

In this study, we will attempt to look at the context of Acts 15 and the origins of these four abstentions, making it clear to all of us that James and the Jerusalem Council did not set Gentile converts free from God’s Law, but gave them a good starting point. The four Abstentions are as follows.

Act 15:20  But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
(Abstain from    1.Pollutions of Idols    2.Fornication    3.Things strangled    4.Blood)

If you want to skip the lead up and the context of the Abstentions, and want to know about the origins of the 4 requirements and their connection to the Old Testament Scriptures, please move on to point no.7 given below. But I highly recommend you follow through, if you have the time on your hands for serious study.

1.Context of the events leading to this decision (Acts 14)
Leading upto Acts 15, we see that Paul and Barnabas sail in their missionary journey, ending up at Antioch (Act 14:26). It is here, in Antioch, that men from Judea come and teach the brothers as written in Acts 15:1.

2. What was the teaching that led to this Jerusalem council meeting? (Acts 15:1)
It is very important to know what exactly these men from Judea were teaching the congregation of Antioch.

Act 15:1  And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

The teaching was that, “Whoever is not circumcised according to the custom of Moses, cannot be saved”. In other words, “you need to get circumcised to be saved”. This is obviously an unbiblical doctrine which Paul and Barnabas both opposed(Acts 15:2). Nowhere in the Scriptures do God require anyone to get Circumcised as a requirement for Salvation. Even the patriarch Abraham got called by God when he was 75 years old(Gen 12:1-4) but was given Circumcision as only a “sign” of the covenant between God and himself, when Abram was 99 years old (Gen 17:1,11). In a similar fashion, Joshua circumcised the Children of Israel before entering the promised land, as none of them had gotten circumcised along the way in their wilderness journey for 40 years(Jos 5:3-6). Circumcision was a commandment given by God, but nowhere does keeping any of God’s Commandments guarantee us salvation. Salvation, was, is, and ever will be, a free gift of God.

These men from Judea were making a claim that you needed to do a specific act to earn Salvation. It’s like someone saying to new converts that unless you’re baptised, you cannot be saved. Baptism is a commandment, but it does not guarantee us salvation.

3. Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem (Acts 15:2,3)
This dispute led the believers in Antioch to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, so that they could return back to them with a favorable answer.

4. A question of what basic requirements are needed from a new convert (Acts 15:4-6)
After Paul and Barnabas were welcomed by everyone at Jerusalem, some of the believers of Christ who were from the Sect of the Pharisees (Yes, there were pharisees who believed!) expressed there views on what a new convert should be “required” to do.

Act 15:5  But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

The view of some of the believers from the sect of Pharisees, was that they should indeed circumcise them and command them to keep God’s commandments. Zealous as this sounds, making or forcing anyone to obey God’s Law does not bring true obedience. This is why the Apostles and Elders considered this question and came to discuss what the basic requirements of a new convert should be (Act 15:6).

5. Peter’s Speech (Acts 15:7-11)
After there were disputes regarding the matter, Peter addresses the council proclaiming how through him, God declared the Gospel to the gentiles and how God did not see any difference between the Jew and the Gentile giving them the Holy Spirit, referring to Cornelius’ household as we see in Act 10.

Acts 15:10 is of special importance as we must clarify what Peter is talking about. He says “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”. Some Christians believe that the “yoke” Peter is talking about in this verse is the Law/Commandments. This does not make sense as Peter talks about tempting God by placing this yoke on disciples. If the yoke was God’s Commandments, this would mean that Peter is saying that they were tempting God by placing God’s Commandments on the disciples. furthermore, the next verse clarifies what Peter meant. Peter says “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” So the yoke can mean only one thing. Peter was saying that we should not make adherence to God’s Commandments a prerequisite to Salvation. In other words, we are saved through Grace and not through any commandment we keep. (Please note that this does not mean that Peter or any other member of the Council agreed or ever thought that new converts do not have to obey God’s Commandments. The issue was in keeping laws for salvation)

The other part of the statement he made, reads “which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear”. What does Peter mean by this? The religious establishment of his day believed that one could be saved only by keeping God’s Law. This is the yoke he is saying neither their fathers or they could bear. It is Obeying God to earn Salvation. (This fact is true in Orthodox Judaism even today. If someone wants to convert to Judaism, that person must prove that he is keeping God’s Law and be Circumcised prior to being accepted as a follower of Orthodox Judaism)

6. James’ speech and judgement/decision (Acts 15:13-20)
James makes it clear that God indeed had plans to bring Gentiles back to him, giving proof to the council from the Scriptures by quoting Amos 9:11,12 and paraphrasing Isa 45:21(read Isa 45:22 as well to understand James’ point). Finally, James makes his decision known. Firstly, he says that no one should trouble the Gentiles who are turning to God. But that they write asking them to abstain from Pollutions of Idols, Fornication, Things strangled & Blood.

7. Why these specific 4 abstentions and where do we see these in the Scriptures
We must spend a bit of time studying these 4 abstentions and where it comes from. The reason for these 4 abstentions would have originated because of the society they lived in. The abstentions themselves originate from the Old Testament, more specifically Lev Chapter 17&18. Let us read through each of the abstentions looking at the Old Testament origins of these as well.

1.Pollution of idols/Meat offered to idols
The Greek speaking world of the first century was known to be a culture that had many gods. A particular person at that time would worship many gods, depending on the day, season or circumstance. For some YHVH(God Almighty’s name) would have been another god that they could believe in. A restriction on sacrificing and partaking in any rituals to other gods was an understandable abstention. And the origins of this commandment is clearly from Lev 17 where God specifically says not to offer sacrifices to foreign gods, and that whoever does so would be cut off from being one of His people.

Lev 17:7-9  And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations. And thou shalt say unto them, Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice, And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the LORD; even that man shall be cut off from among his people.

2.Fornication
Fornication or sexual immorality was rampant in the 1st century Greek society. The Congregation in Corinth is said to have a big problem with fornication as it is recorded in 1Cor 5:1. This makes it clear, why James would mention “Fornication” as one of the 4 things to abstain from. And just like the other 3 abstentions, this is also found in the Scriptures. The whole of Leviticus Chapter 18 is descriptive of what sort of sexual activity is abominable to God. (Please read the whole chapter to go through each description. I have provided a shorter version highlighting a few, so as to prove the point. There are many more abstentions described in this portion of Scripture)

Lev 18:6-24  None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD. … Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:

3. Things Strangled
Just like in the society today, most of the butcheries in the 1st century did not know or adhere to killing an animal in the way which is stipulated in the Scriptures. “Strangled” by it’s mere definition means that it was not bled to death, letting the blood drain out of the meat. God made it clear in the Scriptures that no one was to eat blood. And even gave clear orders on how a person should kill an animal so that its meat could be consumed. Christians erroneously believe that they are free to eat what they like. Not only do we have to eat what is stipulated in the Scripture as “clean”, this abstention of things strangled, means we need to eat things which are prepared according to how it is commanded in Scripture. This abstention is also clearly described in Lev 17.

Lev 17:13  And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.

4. Blood
Eating meat of animals which have been “strangled” is closely connected with “Blood”. If the blood is not drained out properly, the consumer of the meat will inadvertently be consuming blood. This abstention, just like all the others proclaimed by James came from the Scriptures in Lev 17 as shown below. Historians say that most of the ancient pagan rituals even had people consuming blood of animals, to attain strength (such as from a bull). These practices of the first century might have also led James to bring out this abstention specifically.

Lev 17:10-12  And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood.

8. Final words from James (Acts 15:21)
Now some of us will have a hard time believing the evidence shown above in the 4 abstentions and their connection to Lev 17&18. Some would say, that it still does not prove that we need to keep any other commandments from the Old Testament. This is why the following verse is of so much importance. James finishes his speech and his decision with why he thinks it is enough to command these 4 abstentions only. He says “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” Why would he use such a statement to finish his speech? We should look at his judgement again, reading it altogether.

Act 15:19-21  Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

His judgement hinges on a simple fact. For Moses is preached in every city being read in the synagogues every Sabbath. In other words, he is telling the council that they should not trouble the Gentiles, but only ask them to abstain from 4 things as the rest of the commandments can be heard in every city on every Sabbath. This statement proves two important facts and clears up a major misunderstanding.
1. The Jerusalem Council did not decide that the Gentiles are free from obeying God’s other Commandments
2. They knew all of the Gentile converts would attend synagogue and listen to the Old Testament (Moses) on the Sabbath

If this was not so, there would be no reason for him to make such a statement at the end of his speech as it is recorded in Acts 15:21.

Conclusion
Acts 15 and the decision made by the Jerusalem Council is one of the biggest misunderstood chapters in the New Testament today. I hope you have clearly understood the reason for this decision, the origins of these abstentions in Scripture and that it does not give us freedom to throw out all of God’s other commandments. No one should keep His commandments to earn salvation (which is impossible), but we must obey Him and His Commandments because we love our Heavenly Father. Just because “Thou shalt not kill” or “Thou shalt not steal” was not mentioned in the decision of James, does not mean Gentiles were exempt from obeying those Commandments. We cannot pick and choose what we obey and what we don’t from God’s everlasting Word, which will not loose even a jot or tittle, till heaven and earth pass away.

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.