It always amazes me at how many wisdom lessons are embedded in the Hebrew text of the Jewish Scriptures. When the teachings of Jesus are reconstructed and viewed through the Hebrew language he spoke, we discover stories related to situations we face in our lives. For many Christians today that sounds strange because the main purpose of the Bible is to prove their religious beliefs are right. Why is that important? Only people with the right beliefs will go to Heaven. What could be more important than that? So, most Christians would probably answer -- “Nothing is more important!”
But there is another question I believe everyone with a Christian Biblical Heritage should ask – “What is most important to God?” I was taught that “believing in Jesus” was most important. However, after thirty-five years of using science based linguistic models to understand what Jesus did and said, I know that what I had been taught was wrong. Instead of “believing IN him,” he wanted people “to believe him and do what he taught.”
You do not have to learn to speak Hebrew or spend decades using science based linguistic models to understand what he taught. The most important thing you can do is become familiar with the sacred stories behind his actions and words. They are our Bibles. You will need some help to understand what they meant to Jesus and his Jewish followers, but you have “Google” and BHC to help you.
The Loss of Two of Important Sacred Stories
The Romans executed Jesus (around 30 CE), destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE), and the original Jewish apostles were executed or had died by 100 CE. Gentile converts became the majority in churches, and they filled the positions of bishops and leadership. The number of Jewish members decreased dramatically and the Jesus Movement became a Gentile religion. Gentile converts knew nothing about the Hebrew language, the Jewish culture and history, or the sacred stories Jesus and his Jewish followers had heard their entire lives at their synagogues. Understanding everything Jesus taught depended on being able to recognize the links between the sacred stories and his words.
Greek speakers were common in the cultures that made up the Roman Empire. Gentile converts were introduced to the Scriptures of the church be reading the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures called the “Septuagint.” They learned about Jesus and his teachings through Greek texts. Converts became Christians, but their meanings of Greek words came for before they became Christians. They didn’t understand anything about the Hebrew words behind the stories of the Septuagint or the teachings of Jesus. What else could they do? We do the same thing; except we use English words with American meanings. What else could any human do? And, unlike us, they didn’t have Google!
One very important sacred story of the Jewish people for the past 2,500 years has been “The Story of the Exodus.” It is retold every year during the Passover Ritual which begins on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. When the Second Temple stood, Jews from distant places traveled to Jerusalem to offer their Passover sacrifices. By the mid–2nd century CE, links to 14th of Nisan and the Passover began to be severed. Churches in and around Rome celebrated “Easter” on the Sunday following first Full Moon following the vernal equinox. They called it "the day of the resurrection of our Savior." This created a big controversy, and finally the 14th of Nisan date was condemned by bishops.[i]
Another important sacred story was “The Story of the Shabbat.” This story is found in “The Creation Story” (Genesis 1:1-2:5a). It was a story that was part of weekly rituals in their homes and synagogues. Jesus, the apostles, and their Jewish followers all kept the Shabbat (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) – as did Gentile converts. They all attended synagogues on Shabbat. On March 7, 321 – almost 300 years after Jesus -- Roman Emperor Constantine the Great issued a civil decree making Sunday a day of rest from labor, stating: “All judges and city people and the craftsmen shall rest upon the venerable day of the sun.” Shabbat became the Sunday Sabbath and the Story of the Shabbat was lost.[ii]
With the loss of Passover and Shabbat, Gentile Christians no longer heard and practiced two of the most powerful stories that were the center of the lives of Jesus and his followers. They lost the link generations who came before them that had done the same things. Those stories were embedded with layers of wisdom that included instructions about God’s relationships with humans, instructions about human relationships with God, and instructions about human relationships with each other as individuals and as members of the Creator’s community (kingdom).
So, how important was the loss of just two sacred stories to Christianity? How important would the loss of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States to Americans? That’s probably how important the loss of the sacred stories behind the words of Jesus was Christianity. Without knowledge of those stories, accurately understanding the teachings and movement of the Jesus who lived in first century is impossible. One of most important questions people with Christian Biblical Heritages should consider is this question – How important are the words of Jesus to me? I will introduce you some of those sacred stories in my next emails.
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