Friday, July 9, 2021

What Are You Teaching Your Children and Grandchildren?

 


If Jesus dropped by your church or home, what do you think he would say? Based on what we have learned about the Jewish Jesus that founded the Kingdom of God Movement in first century CE Galilee, it would not be, “Are you saved?” Instead he would ask:

 

What are you teaching your children and grandchildren?

 

Why would that be the first thing Jesus would want to know? When God saw that the evil of the man was great in the earth, every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all day long, and that the earth was filled with violence – He wiped the entire human population (except for one family) off the earth with a flood. The path that led an entire generation to their deaths can be summed up in God’s words – “the inclinations of their heart were evil from their youth.”

 

In a previous email, Nations Will Guard the Way of Yahweh With Abraham’s Sons, I discussed why God chose Abraham:

 

Abraham will teach his children how to guard

the way of God by doing TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT.

 

A teacher, in the Hebrew culture, is like a potter who molds and shapes clay to make things. The teacher molds and shapes the hearts of children. It is important to understand that in the Jewish culture of Jesus, the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) includes laws, commandments, and instructions – it is a repository of insights from which wisdom for livings one’s life can be derived. It was the primary textbook for teaching people that wisdom in the time of Jesus.

 

Newly born children do not arrive with instruction manuals. And while hundreds of professions require that you become pre-certified, a new parent, with no experience at all, is expected to raise a healthy, productive child by what amounts to on-the-job training. This fact magnifies the value of shared wisdom among parents, all trying to do the best job they can. At times, the challenges to succeed can seem endless.[i]

 

A potter must have mental image of what kind of vessel he wants to make. He must also be able to identify the type of material he will be working with. A teacher must know the subject matter that he will be teaching. He must also know the natures of the students he will be teaching. Teaching a quiet shy child requires a different approach than teaching a charismatic outspoken child. One of the great revelations of teaching is that the intervention of a grownup in a child’s life carries almost as much risk in squashing their ambitions as it does in nurturing and inspiring them.

 

My son, hear the instructions and discipline of your father,

and do not forsake the instructions and directions of your mother;
for they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
and decorative chains about your neck.

 

This is from Proverbs 1:8-9. God wants every child to be welcomed into the world by it’s first two teachers – its father and mother. They must discover the nature of their child before they begin molding and shaping its heart. How important is this?

 

Remember how God described the generation that He destroyed by the Great Flood -- the inclinations of their heart were evil from their youth.” God wants the inclinations of children’s hearts to be “good” from their youth. TOV is the Hebrew word translated “good” in our Bibles, but “good” does not convey the Hebrew meaning of TOV to English readers. 

 

For something to be TOV it must protect lives, preserve lives,

make lives more functional, and increase the quality of life.

 

Every Jewish person, from the time of Jesus until now, knows the verses below from Deuteronomy 6:4-6:

 

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God. The Lord is one!

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

with all your soul, and with all your strength.

These words, which I command you today, are to be in your heart.

 

The teacher must have these words in their heart, so he or she will be able to teach them to the child. Teaching those words begins with teaching children the meaning of TOV and demonstrating how to do TOV.

 

This is the first line of defense in preventing

the destruction of an entire generation of people.

 

It is also the beginning of creating

a society of Peace and SHALOM for our generation!

 

Teaching our children and grandchildren insights from which wisdom for living their lives can be derived is essential for them and the community. I will continue this series in my next email.

 

Choosing Lives 1st by Doing TOV,

Jim Myers

 

Helping People Examine Their Beliefs

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[i] Letters from an Astrophysicist By Neil DeGrasse Tyson © 2019; W.W. Norton & Company, New York, NY; p. 60, 89.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Guard Justice: Do Acts of MISHPAT

 


In my email Nations Will Guard the Way of Yahweh With Abraham’s Sons I discussed Genesis 18:19:

 

For I have noticed and observed him,

in order that he may instruct his children and his house after him,

that they guard the way of Yahweh,

to do TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT;

in order that Yahweh may bring upon Abraham

that which He has spoken concerning him.”

 

God chose Abraham because of, and because he will, do this.

 

Abraham will teach his children how to guard the way of Yahweh

by doing acts of TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT (justice).

 

That is the first time the word MISHPAT (justice) appears in the Bible. From this point on, TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT will appear together many times. The “Way of God” requires learning and doing both TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT, not just one. The prophet Jeremiah delivers a very similar message (9:23-24):

 

Thus says Yahweh:

“Do not let the wise man boast in his wisdom,
Do not let not the mighty man boast in his might,
Do not let the rich man boast in his riches;
But let him who boast boast in this,

That he understands and knows Me,
That I am Yahweh doing

CHESED, MISHPAT, TZEDAQAH in the earth.
For in these I take pleasure in,” says Yahweh.

 

MISHPAT is one of the three core values in the Jewish Scriptures. Doing acts of MISHPAT is one of the ways humans imitate God and reveal His image to the world.

 

MISHPAT is a very ancient word, and it is one of those Hebrew words that using one English word to translate it doesn’t accurately reveal its meaning. Two English words, however, lay the foundation for understanding it – judge and govern. MISHPAT is used to describe “a justly ordered society,” which is also one of the foundational values of Judaism. The prophets railed against the absence of MISHPAT in the days of kings who abused their power.[1]

 

The rabbis repeatedly extol the society whose courts insist on justice and whose officials enforce justice to protect human rights. Imperfect justice was preferred to no justice at all. Jews were exhorted to accept the overly harsh laws of the Romans rather than to live under a government without laws.

 

And you have made men as the fishes of the sea,

as the creeping things that have no ruler over them.

(Habakkuk 1:14)

 

Why were people compared to the fishes of the sea?

Because in the case of the fishes of the sea,

the larger one swallows the smaller one;

so, too, in the case of men:

were it not for the fear of government,

the stronger would swallow the weaker.

(Avodah Zarah 46)

 

When a judge renders a decision in accordance with the law of the Torah he is imitating one of God’s attributes -- God is just. Therefore, the judge should not waver in his execution of justice, especially when two litigants come before him.

 

An act of mercy to one party may be an act of injustice to the other.

 

Those who come before the judge are expected to imitate the other attribute of God — His mercy. People are required to go beyond the line of strict justice and to live in accordance with those greater ideals that the court cannot enforceCHESED and TZEDAQAH.

 

In his relations with his fellow man,

a person should be guided by compassion and trust

rather than by the literalness of justice.

 

Exodus 21:1-24:8 is called “Mishpatim” and it lays down basic civil law, including rules of damages, torts and ethical obligations to help the needy, and includes agricultural laws and rules about festivals. It represents the transition from the Tribes of Israel into the Nation of Israel in the Jewish Scriptures.  

 

Today, mishpat is the modern Hebrew word for law. A mishpatan is a lawyer. The Israeli civil courts are called batei mishpat lshalom – “courts for making peace between people.” Mishpat Ivri is the name for those areas of traditional Jewish law that can be applied to the areas usually covered by secular legal systems. Mishpat Ivri has standing in Israeli courts today.[2]

 

CHESED, TZEDAQAH and MISPHAT are the pillars of the message and movement of the Jewish Jesus. They are primary belief models and core values of our Biblical Heritages. I will discuss CHESED in the next email.

 

Choosing Lives 1st by Doing TOV,

Jim Myers

 

Helping People Examine Their Beliefs

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[2] The Language of Judaism by Simon Glustrom © 1988; Jason Aronson, Inc. Northvale, NJ; p. 399.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

How a Gentile Religion Emerged from a Jewish Sect

 

Jesus spoke Hebrew and Aramaic. I have written a lot about Hebrew in the past, but not much about Aramaic lately. Below are some things you need to know about three of the five dialects of Aramaic that are related to the Bible.[1]

 

Ancient Aramaic is the language of the ancient Aramaic inscriptions up to 700 BCE (from Upper Mesopotamia, northern Syria, and northern Israel).

 

Official Aramaic was in use from 700 to 300 BCE. This particular Aramaic dialect served not only as the official language of Persia but also as the lingua franca of the Near East. The Aramaic parts of the Bible are: Genesis 31:47 (two words); Jeremiah 10:11; Daniel 2:4–7:28; and Ezra 4:8–6:8; and 7:12–26.

 

Middle Aramaic was used from 300 BCE to the early centuries CE. The Aramaic inscriptions in Jerusalem and the Aramaic words found in the New Testament, are all in Middle Aramaic. 

 

During the time of Jesus Middle Aramaic was the language of commerce and widely spoken in Judea and the Galilee. It was the language of schools and markets. In synagogues, the Hebrew Bible was orally translated into Aramaic, line by line, for the benefit of those who did not understand Hebrew. Later Aramaic became the language of the Talmud. This creates a very unusual and challenging situations in Christianity.

 

Jesus spoke and taught in Hebrew and Aramaic,

but every book in the New Testament was written in Greek.

 

We do not know whether Jesus spoke or understood Greek. It is likely that he knew a few words, the kind you might use at the market or on the street. But there is no evidence that Jesus thought, taught or prayed in Greek. What evidence we have is overwhelmingly against it. This creates a unique phenomenon in the histories of religions:

 

A religion whose sacred texts were written in a largely unintelligible

language its founder and original members would not have been able to read.

 

This brings us back to the history of Christianity. In the first decades after the Romans executed Jesus, his movement could have gone in either of two directions and become:  

 

A Hebrew/Aramaic speaking Jewish sect under the leadership of Jacob (James) the brother of Jesus.

 

A Greek speaking Hellenistic Jewish sect under the leadership of Saul a.k.a. Paul.

 

The Greek speaking movement of Paul rapidly increased in size because he attracted Hellenists Jews and God-Fearing Gentiles that adopted some aspects of Judaism, e.g., kept Shabbat, attended synagogues, etc. A critical component of Paul’s movement was the Septuagint -- the Greek translation of the Hebrew Jewish Scriptures made in Ptolemaic Egypt in the third century BCE. It was the first Bible Gentiles read, taught and memorized stories. Greek was the natural language of thought for Paul, the writers of the Gospels, the authors of the other books of the New Testament, the early Church Fathers and the first Christian theologians. It was their genius that shaped Gentile Christianity.

 

If Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic been closely related languages, this might have been of little consequence. But first-century Greek and Hebrew were not just different languages – they were different types of societies with realities that were diametrically opposed. Concrete acts were the pillars of Jewish societies. Reason and abstract thought produced beliefs that were the foundation of the Greek societies.

 

Later, for Gentile followers of Paul, the meanings of the Hebrew words ELOHIYM, YHVH, TZEDAQAH, SHALOM, AHAVAH, TESHUVAH, etc. were unknown. They were replaced by the meanings of the Greek that replaced them in the Septuagint. A good example of this is the verse that Paul’s gospel and movement are based on. It is Paul’s answer to a question he asked in Romans 4:3 – “For what does the Scripture say?” This was his answer:

 

Abraham believed God,

and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

 

For Greek speakers, “believed God” was understood to mean “construct philosophical proofs of the existence of God.” But the verse in Romans is a direct quote of Genesis 15:6 -- which was written in Hebrew.

 

Abram trusted God, and He credited it to him as TZEDAQAH.

 

Trusted God” in Hebrew meant “being faithful to God.” In Hebrew, “faithfulness is a matter of how people behave, not a matter of what people think.” Believing and doing are part of a single continuum -- both are a measure of a living relationship characterized by loyalty to God and to those created in His image.

 

Faithfulness to God is a relationship in which humans become

God’s partners in the work of doing acts of TZEDAQAH

concrete acts that are TOV that restore SHALOM.

 

For Paul’s Greek speaking Gentile followers, believing God was demonstrated by the strength of their reasoned arguments about abstract notions – when Jesus became the Christ; whether God and Jesus are creatures of the same substance; how one changes his mind to repent; what one must believe to be saved from Hell; what the afterlife will be like; to name a few.

 

For Jesus and his Hebrew speaking Jewish followers, faithfulness to God was observable” – everyone could see concrete acts of compassion, generosity, kindness, and understanding; i.e., feeding the hungry, healing the sick, housing the homeless, visiting prisoners, forgiving others, and fighting for justice.

 

After the Romans beheaded Paul (between 64 and 67 CE), and then destroyed the Jerusalem Temple (70 CE), Paul’s movement quickly lost any links it had to its Jewish roots. It rapidly spread through Gentile cultures which resulted in “new beliefs based on reasoned arguments, persecutions by Roman emperors and internal wars between Christians themselves.” From those things, the universal Gentile religion emerged that caught the attention of Constantine the Great, Emperor of the Roman Empire.

However, embedded in the Sacred Scriptures of this Gentile religion are “the stories of the Jewish Hebrew speaking Anointed One” – the one they call “The Christ.”

 

Today those original stories are being heard again!

 

Choose Life 1st by Doing TOV,

Jim Myers

 

Helping People Examine Their Beliefs

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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Nations Will Guard the Way of Yahweh With Abraham’s Sons

 


Something I was reading today caught my attention. The author was making some points related to how many people today trace their roots (physical or religious) back to Abraham.

 

2,382,000,000 (Christians)

 

1,907,000,000 (Muslims)

 

14,700,000 (Jews)

 

The members of the three major monotheistic religions above total 4,303,700,000 people -- 55% of the total population of the world. 

 

The thing that caught my attention was a reference to Genesis 18:17-19. Genesis contains some of the most difficult sections to translate in the Jewish Hebrew Scriptures. A habit I picked up over the years is to always compare multiple English translations of Bible verses. In many cases the place where translators differ can be quickly identified. After doing a comparison, it was clear to me this is one of those cases. So, I had to pull out the Hebrew text and dig into it. The first verse in Genesis 18 sets the stage for the events.

 

1 And Yahweh came to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre.

He was sitting at the door of the tent in the heat of the day.

2 He lifted up his eyes, and behold, three men were standing by him.

He saw and ran to meet them from the door of the tent,

and he bowed to the ground.

 

Abraham showed hospitality to the strangers, who were headed to Sodom. Before they left, Yahweh told Abraham again that his wife Sarah would have a son. At that point in time, the only son Abraham had was Ishmael and his mother was Hagar the Egyptian. Abraham went to send the men on the way. What happens next is very important because it reveals why Yahweh chose Abraham:

 

17 And Yahweh said,

“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?

 

18 Abraham shall surely become a great and powerful nation,

and all the nations of the earth shall

wish upon themselves a blessing in him.

 

Most Bible readers are aware of Yahweh’s promise that “Abraham will become a great and powerful nation.” But take another look at what Yahweh said after that:

 

all the nations of the earth shall

wish upon themselves a blessing in him.

 

Think about what it would look like for “all nations of the earth wishing a blessing upon themselves in Abraham.” Why would they wish for that?

 

19 For I have noticed and observed him,

in order that he may instruct his children and his house after him,

that they guard the way of Yahweh,

to do TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT;

in order that Yahweh may bring upon Abraham

that which He has spoken concerning him.”

 

Most translations read “I have known him,” but the Hebrew reminded me of Noah, when his acts of TZEDAQAH caught God’s attention. Yahweh “knew” Abraham “by the things He had observed Abraham doing.” Yahweh chose to make him a great and powerful nation for these reasons:

 

● in order that he may instruct his children

 

● in order that they may instruct their children after him

 

What will Abraham teach them?

 

Abraham will teach them how to guard the way of Yahweh

by doing acts of TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT (justice).

 

I am sure you know what acts of TZEDAQAH are by now (click here if you are a new reader for more info). When members of other nations of the earth see Abraham’s great and powerful nation doing acts of TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT (justice) – they will wish the blessing in Abraham upon themselves and become nations that do acts of TZEDAQAH and justice. Isaiah said the same thing, but he used different words (2:4):

 

“He shall judge between the nations,

and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war any more.”

 

These words are inscribed on a wall across the road from the United Nations Building. The statue in the graphic above is in the United Nations Garden and is named “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Plowshares.”

 

Choose Life 1st by Doing TOV,

Jim Myers

 

Helping People Examine Their Beliefs

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Greatest Commandment in the Bible

 


My previous email was about “Laying Up Treasures With God.” Jesus ended the parable with these words:

 

No one can serve two masters;

for either he will hate one and love the other,

or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon.

 

This is written in a form called a “parallelism,” which Jesus used to highlight specific points. The following words are highlighted -- “love // loyal” and “hate // despise.” They are sandwiched between “serve and serve.”

 

Those who serve God, love God and are loyal to God.

 

Those who serve mammon, hate and despise God.

 

The Hebrew word “AHAVAH” is translated “love.” In Hebrew, “to love is to give.” This brings us to one of the most important teachings of Jesus. It is found in Matthew 22:34-40.

_______________________________________

 

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the Torah, tested him with this question: 

 

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Torah?”

 

Jesus replied: 

 

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

_______________________________________

 

The answer Jesus gave as the first and greatest commandment is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5:

 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

with all your soul, and with all your strength.

 

Instead of stopping there, Jesus connected another commandment to it, which is found in Leviticus 19:17-18.

 

You shall not hate your brother in your heart.

You shall surely correct your neighbor,

and not bear sin because of him.

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge

against the children of your people,

but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:

I am the Lord.

 

His Jewish audience knew the full contexts in which both commandments are found. They were, and still are, two of the most important commandments in Judaism. The point Jesus made was this:

 

The only way you can love God is to give to your neighbor as yourself.

 

In order to understand the last point Jesus made, one must be familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and language.

 

All the Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

 

The Torah and the Prophets are two sections of the Jewish Scriptures and Hebrew letters “hang from a line” (see graphic above). English letters sit on a line. The point is, if the line is taken away nothing will be supporting them. The line is the foundation that is required for the words to exist.

 

Loving God and loving people

are the foundation that supports all Scriptures.”

 

God’s vision for all people is that they experience SHALOM -- “a social environment in which lives are complete, healthy, wholesome; relationships are harmonious and mutually beneficial; homes are safe; places are secure and restful; members are loyal and committed to each other and the community.”

 

God blessed and empowered people to make His vision a reality!

 

Bookmark our Bible Study Vocabulary Page.

 

Choose Lives 1st by Doing TOV,

Jim Myers

 

Helping People Examine Their Beliefs

Adopt Shared Morals & Values Network to Make SHALOM

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