Thursday, October 24, 2013

Who is “God”?

What is a word? Many years ago I created a guideline that has helped many students of the Bible navigate their way through the maze of interpretations and translations facing them every time they open their Bibles. I call it “The Law of Language.”

A word is a symbol or group of symbols with an attached bundle of associations. Those associations are a product of the author’s culture, historical time period, geographical location and personal experiences.

The two things we must understand are:

(1) The symbols are the letters of the word.
(2) The “bundle of associations” is the meaning that we have for the symbols.

Let me use this example to help make my point. A group of people, who all speak different languages, are assembled in a classroom and asked to write the word they use for this animal.

These are the words they wrote (courtesy of Google translator).

(1) perro (Spanish)
(2) σκύλος (Greek)
(3) chien (French)
(4) cane (Italian)
(5) mbwa (Swahili)

None of them wrote the symbols “dog,” but they all had the same “bundle of associations” attached to their symbols.

Now consider what would happen if they all wrote the same symbols, but had different “bundles of associations” for those symbols. They would all be writing identical words but thinking different thoughts.

This will help you understand what I meant when I asked the original question – Who is God?  What I want to know is:

What “bundles of associations” are attached to the symbols “G+O+D”?

“God” is a theologically loaded word because of the conflicting “bundles of associations” people have attached to it – for example Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

(1) For most Christians, their “bundle of associations” is “Jesus is God.”
(2) The “bundles of associations” of most Jews and Muslims does not include “Jesus.”
(3) For most Jews, their “bundle of associations” is “YAHWEH.”
(4) For Muslims, their "bundle of associations" do not include "YAHWEH."
(5) The “bundle of association” for Muslims is “Allah.”
(6) The “bundles of association” for most Christians and Jews do not include “Allah.”

However, in spite of the above facts, the American media uses the word “god” as if it is a reference to all of the options above. Some groups find this unacceptable in their countries. A recent case in Malaysia makes it clear that Muslims are aware of the above facts and believe that the way the word “God” is used in the media may have significant consequences:

Allah can no longer be used by a Christian newspaper in Malaysia to refer to God after a landmark court ruling on Monday, reversing a decision made four years previously that maintained the term transcended different faiths.

“It is my judgment that the most possible and probable threat to Islam, in the context of this country, is the propagation of other religions to the followers of Islam,” said chief judge Mohamed Apandi Ali, announcing the change.

The panel of three judges was unanimous in their decision that the use of Allah by the Roman Catholic Herald newspaper constituted a threat to the sanctity of Islam, as defined in the federal constitution.[i]

If media would report the “bundles of association” instead of the generic symbols “God,” it would transform the way their stories are understood. It would also place the actions of those who hold those “bundles of association” in the spotlight for what they do – good or bad. Sorry, I didn’t mean to get off track.

In the series of Bible studies that will follow, it is important for you to be aware of the way we understand the answer to the question – Who is God? The correct answer, for the purpose of our studies, is this – it is the author’s “bundle of associations.” When we read the verse below, our goal is to discover what “God” meant to the original author.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[ii]

When we discover what “God” meant to the author, we can then compare our “bundles of associations” to his.

(1) If they are the same, then we have achieved a successful communication experience.  

(2) If they are different, then we must consciously make sure to use his “bundle of associations” to interpret his words.

(3) If they are different, we should find out where our “bundle of associations” originated and why.

One of the major challenges for translators is to avoid ethnocentrism, a term applied to the cultural or ethnic bias—whether conscious or unconscious—in which an individual views the world from the perspective of his or her own group, establishing the in-group as archetypal and rating all other groups with reference to this ideal.[iii] This form of tunnel vision often results in:

(1) an inability to adequately understand cultures that are different from one’s own

(2) value judgments that preference the in-group and assert its inherent superiority

Now we are ready to study our Bibles and find out what it says about who we are. I think we all know that life is getting more complicated, but if we use the linguistic principles that teach us how words work, the “Bible” part of our life will quickly become much less complicated.

I believe that we are all looking for ways to live a meaningful life, and for a lot of us, the Bible plays an important role. When we apply the principles above to our studies and meditations of the words of our Bibles, a very distinct path begins to emerge. It is a path that places the control of our spiritual destinies in our hands – not in the control powerful competing religious institutions.

If you like BHC Bible Studies – please let us know! Go to our Facebook page by clicking here and – “Like” it & “Share” them with others.

This study was made possible by the donations of individuals who want to help us share our information with as many as possible – without charging them before they read it. If you would like to join this “gathering of people” who make it possible to provide these studies for others & themselves -- donations may be made by clicking here.  

Shalom & Be Empowered!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Man Shall Leave and Cleave

Genesis 2:24 is a verse that many people are very familiar with because it has been used in wedding ceremonies for centuries:.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Who said it? In verse 23, the man had been speaking. If these are his words, then it raises a couple of interesting questions.

    (1) How would the man know what a father or mother was – neither he nor the woman had a mother or father?

    (2) Why would ministers quote the man that clearly “blew it” in the Garden and is credited with playing a major role in the “Fall of Mankind”?

Nothing is said about the LORD God speaking the words, as the text usually reveals when he speaks. So, this leaves one other party as the primary option for who is speaking – the unnamed narrator in the account – the one who told us – "In the beginning God created . . .”

Now let’s examine the words of the above verse. I have no doubt that some readers will be very surprised by what their own Bible says.

(1) a man shall leave his father and his mother – Did you get that? The man shall leave his father and mother. It does not say “a woman shall leave her father and mother.” Yet, most people picture the bride leaving her mother and father and going to groom. If the wedding ceremony reflected what this verse actually says, wouldn't the parents of the groom walk him down the aisle so he could leave them and go to the bride?

(2) a man shall cleave unto his wife – Once again let’s look at what the verse DOES NOT say – a wife shall cleave to the husband. The Hebrew word translated “cleave” literally means “to be glued together.” The man is the one doing the cleaving – he is the one gluing himself to his wife. The man is the one doing the gluing and the woman is the one he is gluing himself to (forgive the grammar).

 (3) they shall become one flesh – As you probably remember, the woman was created from the man’s rib, so at first they were one flesh. But after the woman was created, they were two, not one anymore. If the man leaves his father and mother; and, if the man glues himself to the woman -- they will then become one flesh. Becoming one flesh, however, is dependent on his actionsnot her actions.

Isn't it amazing how much we can learn from one small verse! I hope this Bible Study has been informative and interesting for you. If it has, before you move on to whatever is next on your schedule, please consider doing one or more of the following:

(1) If you know a couple that is about to get married, share this Bible Study with them – or at least the bride.

(2) If you have a daughter, share this information with her.

(3) If you are already married, you may want to make a copy for your spouse. I have a sneaky feeling that more husbands than wives will be receiving those copies.

(4) Forward this Bible Study to others. Share it with as many as possible.

(5) If you like this Bible Study – PLEASE let us know by going to our Facebook page (click here) and – “Like it.” Also post it on your wall and “Share it.”

The next series of BHC Bible Studies will focus on the Creator’s vision of the role of women in His creation. If religions and governments followed the principles established in the opening account of the Bible, the world would be a much different place. This will be a series of studies that every mother and father should make sure their daughters, families and friends clearly understand. They should be prerequisites for membership in any Bible based institution.

If you benefit from our work, please consider making a donation to help us be able to do even more. BHC is completely funded by gifts from those who benefit and understand the importance of its work. Donations may be made by clicking here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What is an evil eye?

But if you have an evil eye, your whole body shall be full of darkness. (Matthew 6:23)

Some terms create real problems for translators and o ofqalmoV sou ponhroV h  (evil eye in above translation) is one of those terms. Below are some of the other choices translators have made.

your eyes are unhealthy (New International Version)
your eye is bad (New Living Translation)
your eye is diseased (Net Bible)
thine eye be evil (English Revised Version)
your eyesight is bad (Weymouth New Testament)

The majority of translators chose to translate it -- your eye is evil.  “Evil eye” is a well-known term, as can be seen by simply searching on Google.

The evil eye is a malevolent look that many cultures believe able to cause injury or misfortune for the person at whom it is directed for reasons of envy or dislike. Talismans created to protect against the evil eye are also frequently called "evil eyes." The term also refers to the power attributed to certain persons of inflicting injury or bad luck by such an envious or ill-wishing look. The evil eye is usually given to others who remain unaware. The idea expressed by the term causes many cultures to pursue protective measures against it. The concept and its significance vary widely among different cultures, primarily the Middle East.[i]

If this is what the term meant to Jesus, then one of these would be the best option:

but if you have a malevolent look. . .
but if you have the power to inflict injury or bad luck. . .

No wonder people get confused when they read English translations of Jesus’s words. The above options present readers with options that mean from “poor eyesight” to “an evil power.”

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Meaning of "Christ"

As we learned in an earlier blog – How “Yeshua” became “Jesus” – during the life of Yeshua, and for over another thousand years afterwards, the name “Jesus” was unknown. It didn’t exist. This isn’t a recent discovery. It has been known in scholarly circles for centuries. However, when it comes to local pulpits, there are numerous examples of sermons and theological disputes over the importance of the English word “Jesus.” Some say there is no salvation without the “name of Jesus.” Others preach that healing only comes through the name “Jesus.” They use the word “Jesus” like it has some “magical properties” connected to it. But, as pointed out above, no member of the Yeshua Movement or anyone else for over the first thousand years of Christianity would have known who you were referring to if anyone had asked if they knew “Jesus.” The same thing would have been true in Galilee, Samaria and Judah if anyone had asked about “Christ.”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What did “Heaven” Mean to Jesus?

What did “Heaven” mean to Jesus -- “store up treasures in Heaven” or “kingdom of Heaven”? Before we learn what it meant to him, let’s consider what it means to millions of Bible readers today. The place we will begin our study is the BHC Bible Study Tools Section on our website. Be sure to bookmark it and use it in all your Bible studies too.

The first tool we will use is a dictionary to look up the word “heaven.” The first entry is:

The abode of God, the angels, and the spirits of the righteous after death; the place or state of existence of the blessed after the mortal life.

If this is what “heaven” means, then the picture it creates in the reader’s mind is:

(1) “store up your treasures in the abode of God, the angels, and the spirits of the righteous after death.”

(2) “the kingdom of the abode of God, the angels, and the spirits of the righteous after death.”

You may be surprised to discover that Jesus wasn’t talking about a place when he used “Heaven.” As far as what would happen after the “Great Day of Judgment” he said:

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to life eternal. [i]

Do not mistakenly assume that “to life eternal” means “go to Heaven.” Long before the time of Jesus until today, ShAMAYIM (Hebrew word translated “Heaven”) was used as a very common euphemism[ii] in the Jewish culture for ELOHIYM (God) or YAHWEH (the sacred name of God). It was used to avoid breaking the commandment of “taking the name of ELOHIYM in vain,[iii] Common euphemisms for “God” are: ShAMAYIM (Heaven), HaShem (the Name), the Holy One, the Almighty, and many more.

Another BHC Bible Study Toolthe Jewish Encyclopedia – provides important cultural clues for what words meant to Jesus. When Jesus said, "malkut shamayim" (kingdom of Heaven), his Jewish audience knew it was an expression of the "sovereignty of YAHWEH" that would become a reality in the Messianic age when -- YAHWEH will reign as the sole King on earth.” Make sure to understand that the focus is “on the earth” -- not in “Heaven.”

When you see the phrase “kingdom of God” in the New Testament -- instead of “kingdom of Heaven” -- it is probably a good clue that the author was either not writing to a Jewish audience or was not familiar with the Jewish culture – or both.

If you like our BHC Bible Studies -- let us know! Go to our Facebook page by clicking here and – “Like” it & “Share” our Bible Studies with others.

Donations may be made by clicking here.  

[i] Matthew 25:46
[ii] A euphemism is the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Did God or Satan Do It?

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1 KJV)

In your mind, visualize what took place in the above verse between Satan and David. We will probably all agree on who David is; but who or what is “Satan”? Let’s look up the word “Satan” in the dictionary and see what it means:

The devil, adversary of God, and tempter of mankind: sometimes identified with Lucifer.[i]

Are the devil, Lucifer and Satan all the same being? Is this what you had in mind when you read the verse above:

And the devil, the adversary of God and tempter of mankind, stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

If this was the only reference we had to this event, then the above interpretation would be a good possibility, but there is another reference. A great tool for Bible study is the book A Synoptic Harmony of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles: With Related Passages from Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezra (see Bible Study Aides).  When we look up the above verse in it, we discover that the same event is recorded in 2 Samuel 24:1 –

And again the anger of YAHWEH was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” (KJV)

In 2 Samuel, “YAHWEH moved David,” but in 1 Chronicles, “Satan provoked David.” Who did it -- YAHWEH or Satan?

In the second blog in this series -- Bible Study 101: BHC’s Basic Guidelines for Bible Study – I pointed out that two of the options translators have when working with ancient biblical manuscripts are: 

(1) Translate -- transport the meaning of a word from one language to the other.

(2) Transliterate -- reproduce the symbols (letters) of a word by their equivalent symbols in the language of their translation.

Now. let’s examine the Hebrew text of 1 Chronicles 21:1 --

Hebrew is read from right to left. The first letter is on the right and the vowel sign is below it.
!   !   !   !   !
4 & 3
2 &1


You can now clearly see that the translators chose to transliterate the Hebrew word. When we look up the Hebrew word in A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (page 350 column “b”) (see Bible Study Aides), we find there are two options:

(1) accuser, adversary

(2) the Satan (HASATAN)

In Hebrew, the prefix for the definite article (“the”) is HA. HASATAN would be translated “the accuser” or “the adversary.” However, the Hebrew word in 1 Chronicles is SATAN, not HASATAN. Therefore, we have two options for translating it:

(1) And an accuser stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

(2) And an adversary stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

Why did the author(s) of 1 Chronicles decide to use the Hebrew word SATAN, meaning “accuser” or “adversary,” instead of “the anger of YAHWEH”?  One possibility may be that the beliefs had changed. We find examples of later scribes being concerned about “profaning the name YAHWEH” and choosing to not place a word next to it that might profane it. So, rather than risk profaning the name “YAHWEH” by placing “anger” next to it, presenting an image that takes away from the majesty of the name, they used SATAN (accuser) instead. Of course, Hebrew readers would have understood SATAN to simply mean an “accuser” or “adversary” when they read it. The real problem begins when the later English translators chose to transliterate it Satan” instead of translating it.

Why wouldn’t the Hebrew readers have viewed SATAN as being “a reference to “the devil, adversary of God, and tempter of mankind”? In the Hebrew Scriptures, there is no belief about a rebellious fallen angel at war with YAHWEH. Instead, YAHWEH is in complete charge. Any of the heavenly beings, including “the Satan” in the book of Job (one of the sons of ELOHIYM [God]), acts only in accordance with YAHWEH’s will. Dualism was not part of the Hebrew culture or belief system.

Two good online tools to use when you are studying the Bible – and they are FREE – are:

When we look up a verse, the parallel Bibles show the Hebrew or Greek text, along with several different English translations. When we look up 1 Chronicles 21:1 in The Parallel Old Testament, we find that only one translation chose to translate “SATAN” instead of translate it -- Young’s Literal Translation:

And there standeth up an adversary against Israel, and persuadeth David to number Israel.

Young’s Literal Translation gets the award for the best translation of this verse!

Check out all of BHC Study Tools on our website by clicking here. Learn to incorporate them in your Bible Studies.

If you like our Bible Studies please share them with others and also take a moment to go to our Facebook page “Like” it and “Share” it – click here.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Is Lucifer in the Bible?

Two people can have very different meanings for a word. When that word is found in a Bible, their differences may create very different ideas about what they believe is the “Word of God.”

What does this word mean to you – “Lucifer”?

When we look “Lucifer” up in the dictionary, we find the following definitions:

1. a proud, rebellious archangel, identified with Satan, who fell from heaven.

2. the planet Venus when appearing as the morning star.
Is “Lucifer” a “rebellious archangel, Satan, or a planet?

When it comes to the Bible, the answer probably depends on which translation you read. Below are two translations of Isaiah 14:12:

King James Version: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

New American Standard: How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations!

In the Hebrew text of Isaiah, we find the following -- HEYLEL BEN ShChAR (transliteration of the Hebrew words). A literal transliteration of the Hebrew text is:

How you have fallen from heaven, O day star, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations!

The word “Lucifer” is not in the ancient manuscripts of Isaiah – it was added by the King James translators. Before you get upset, take a moment to consider the answer to this question: What did “Lucifer” mean to the King James translators? The clues to the answer to this question are found in earlier English translations, i.e., the Geneva Bible – which also used the word “Lucifer.” They probably decided to use it because of the Latin version that was read in the Roman Catholic Church:

quomodo cecidisti de caelo lucifer qui mane oriebaris corruisti in terram qui vulnerabas gentes

But, Latin readers would have known that the meaning of the word “lucifer” was “Venus, the Morning Star,” not “Satan.” So how did the meaning “Satan” replace the “Venus” in the minds of English readers? The 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary provides an important clue:

“How wretched Is that poor man that hangs on princes' favors! . . . When he
falls, he falls like Lucifer, Never to hope again. Shak.”

It took a little work but I finally discovered the source of Webster’s quote; Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII, Act III:

Of a rude stream, that must forever hide me.
Vain pomp and glory of this world, I hate ye;
I feel my heart new opened: O, how wretched
Is that poor man that hangs on princes’ favours!
There is, betwixt that smile he would aspire to,
That sweet aspect of princes, and his ruin,
More pangs and fears than wars or women have;
And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,
Never to hope again.

If you like our Bible Studies please share them with others and also take a moment to go to our Facebook page -- CLICK HERE  -- “Like” it and “Share” it.