Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Gospel of Doing or The Gospel of Believing?

In Galatians Paul calls his gospel “The Gospel of Christ,” thus those who believe “The Gospel of Christ” were called “Christ-ians.” Paul made it very clear that his gospel was not like any other gospel. In Galatians 1:11-12 we read:

The gospel which was preached by me is not according to a man,
because I neither received it from a man, nor was I taught it (by a man),
but (I received it) through a vision (revelation) of Jesus (the) Christ.

Paul, unlike the Saul in Acts, does not describe that experience – so do not project Saul’s words into this story. Paul opened Galatians (1:1) with a claim that sets him apart from the other apostles -- his “apostleship” is completely different.

Paul, not an apostle through men nor through a man,
but through Jesus Christ and
God the Father who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

The other apostles received their apostleships prior to the resurrection. None of them were given “The Gospel of Christ.” According to Paul, he was preaching a gospel that no one before him had ever heard. Below is a description of Paul’s Gospels from Romans 3:21-22.

But now, without the Torah (Law), the righteousness of God is revealed,
being witnessed by the Torah (Law) and the Prophets,
even the righteousness of God, through faith in (the resurrected) Jesus Christ,
to all and on all who believe.

According to Paul, one becomes “righteous” by “believing his gospel” and “having faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ.” As I pointed out above, according to Paul, God did not reveal this gospel to Yeshua, the Jesus of history or the twelve apostles he personally called. So what did they preach?

Let’s begin with the apostle Peter, who according to other New Testament accounts, saw and was taught by the resurrected Jesus (Luke 24:45 below):

And Jesus opened their understanding,
that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

Below is an account from Acts 10:34-35:

And Peter opened his mouth and said,
“Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons;
but in every nation he that fears him and
works righteousness is acceptable to him.”

In the Gospel of John, one of the last New Testament books written, we find these words (5:29-30):

Do not be surprised at this, for the time is coming
when all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
and they that have done good things
shall come forth unto the resurrection of life;
but they that have done evil (things),
unto the resurrection of judgment.

Now let’s see what Yeshua, the Jesus of history, taught. In Matthew 25:46b we read:

. . . the righteous shall go away into eternal life.

Who are “the righteous”? They are the ones who “did acts of righteousness” – in Hebrew the word translated “righteous” is “tzedaqah.” Jesus answered the question above in Matthew 25:34-36. The “righteous” are the ones that “did the acts of tzedaqah” below:

They gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, took in a stranger,
clothed the naked, visited the sick and went to those in prison.

That is what Peter meant by “works righteousness” and John called “doing good things.” The difference between “The Gospel of Jesus” and “The Gospel of Paul” comes down to this:

According to Jesus, people that “do good works” are “the righteous.”

According to Paul, people that “believe what he said” are “the righteous.”

I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it. Please share and discuss it with others.

Jim Myers

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Are Saul and Paul the Same Person?

There has always been some confusion over whether Saul and Paul is the same person. The confusion begins in the Book of Acts.

● “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul . . . he brought him to Antioch . . . for a whole year they taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called ‘Christians’ in Antioch.” (Acts 11:25-26)

Then Agrippa said to Paul, `You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’” (Acts 26:28)

Then Saul, who also is called Paul . . .” (Acts 13:9a)

Based on the three verses above, we would assume they are references to the same person – but is he the Paul we read about in the Epistles?

The name “Saul” doesn’t appear in the Epistles. In order to answer that question we must examine the stories of the “conversion experiences” of Saul in Acts and Paul in Galatians. Pay close attention to the time periods and places mentioned in both accounts.

Saul’s experience is found in Acts 9 and it took place “on the road to Damascus. 

For three days Saul was blind and stayed somewhere in Damascus.

Ananias has a vision and goes to Saul, prays and lays hands on him. 

Saul is filled with the Holy Spirit and his eyesight returns.

Ananias baptizes Saul.

Saul spend “some days” with the disciples at Damascus.

Saul goes to synagogues and preaches “Christ is the Son of God.”

Some Jews plot to kill him and Saul hears about it.

Saul goes to Jerusalem to join the disciples there.

Barnabas takes Saul to the apostles.

The story of Paul’s experience is found in Galatians 1. He begins by telling readers this -- “God had chosen him from his mother’s womb to reveal the gospel of His Son.” Then he tells us he “received the revelation,” not when and where that happened. However, Paul has a lot to say about what he did after he received it:

I did not immediately confer with any human.

I did not go to Jerusalem to see the apostles.

I immediately went to Arabia and stayed there for an unknown time period.

I left Arabia and returned to Damascus.

After staying in Damascus for three years, I went to Jerusalem to see Peter.

I stayed with Peter in Jerusalem for fifteen days and saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 

After I left Jerusalem I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

Fourteen years after my first trip to Jerusalem, I made my second trip with Barnabas.

Acts and Galatians have very different stories. 

The Saul in Acts went to the apostles shortly after the Damascus road experience – Saul wanted to be with them and respected their authority.  

The Paul in Galatians, in a seventeen year period, only spent fifteen days with two apostles -- Peter and James. In addition, he claims have received “the only true gospel of the Christ” -- he is only true apostle too!

The Saul/Paul in Acts appears to be a very different person than the Paul in Galatians. The Christianity that spread through the Gentile nations was based on the Gospel of the Paul in Galatiansnot on the Gospel of Yeshua the Jesus of history recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

I will discuss the differences between them in future emails. I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it. Please share and discuss it with others.

Jim Myers

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Monday, July 20, 2020

Include these Facts in Discussions about the Bible

Obviously, Bibles play major roles in all “biblical heritages,” therefore it is essential for Biblical Heritage Explorers to include facts about Bibles in their discussions – and belief systems. This is why Explorers “take the Pledge.”

My belief system will be large enough to include all of the facts,
open enough to be examined and questioned,
and flexible enough to change when errors or new facts are discovered.

Fact #1

The book most people call “the Bible” is a translation.

As of October 2019 the full Christian Bible has been translated into 698 languages, the New Testament has been translated into an additional 1,548 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1,138 other languages. One of those languages is English, which didn’t exist until the 5th century CE. Prior to then the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language.[1]

Fact #2

No Bible is a translation of original books.

No original manuscript of any book of the Bible exists today.

Approximately 6,000 Greek manuscripts and fragments of New Testament writings have been discovered and catalogued.

About 10,000 manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate have been discovered.

Manuscripts of other versions exist -- Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Old Georgian, Church Slavonic, and others.

Writings of church fathers that contain quotes of Bible verses exist -- Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Athanasius are among the Greek; Tertullian, Jerome, and Augustine among the Latins.[2]

Textual differences are also found in modern editions of the traditional text of the Hebrew Bible, the so-called Masoretic Text.

We now have manuscripts in Hebrew and other languages from the Middle Ages and ancient times as well as fragments of leather and papyrus scrolls two thousand years old or more (Dead Sea Scrolls).

All of these manuscripts differ from one another to a greater or lesser extent.

Since no textual source contains what could be called “the original biblical text,” a serious involvement in biblical studies clearly necessitates the study of all sources, including the differences between them.[3]

Fact #3

Translators translated “reconstructed texts.”

The primary goal of textual criticism has traditionally been to reconstruct “the actual text that the author wrote.” However, surviving manuscripts are copies of earlier copies -- often at an unknown number of steps removed from the original.[4] One thing scholars know is that in the process of hand copying manuscripts changes to text were made.

Some changes were accidental because people making the copies were simply tired, inattentive, or, on occasion, inept.

Other changes were intentional because scribes wanted the new copy to emphasize precisely what they themselves believed or remove something they didn’t believe or thought was a mistake.

All translations of the Bible today have been affected by those changes.  


As the result of 21st computer technologies and powerful algorithms, scholars have access to a tremendous amount of new information.

They are able to see previously unknown writings that are beneath those they see.

Data from archaeological, genetic, historical and cultural databases are linked to specific manuscripts being examined.

Writings from other peoples involved in events recorded in the Bible can also examined and compared to biblical accounts.

Scholars have more information about scribes that made the copies.

Based on what we are now seeing, in the near future we will know much more about the book in all biblical heritages. Regardless of what you believe about that book, it is important to remember the following:

“The Bible” is a very important because of the role it has played in the development of Western civilization.

“The Bible” is revered by over two-billion people today because it lies at the foundation of the largest religion of the world today, Christianity.

Christian and Jewish Scriptures are writings that people around the world turn to in difficult and uncertain times – even people who are not Christians or Jews.

When it comes to belief systems and discussions about “the Bible’” -- all of the things above need to be included. I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it. Please discuss it with others, too.

Jim Myers

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[2] Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why By Bart D. Ehrman © 2005; HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY; pp. 62, 69, 83-84, 88-89, 208-212.
[3] Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Second Revised Edition) by Emanuel Tov © 1992, 2001 Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, MN; p. 2.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Doing What’s Life Instead of Believing What’s Right!

In my previous email, Adam Destroyed the Law But Jesus Didn’t (click here to read), I discussed what the words found in Matthew 5:17 meant to Yeshua, the Jesus of history. English translations have something like this:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

Here is what he actually said:

Do not think that I have come to misinterpret the Torah or the Prophets.
I have come to correctly interpret them!

In my email, Making the Jesus of History Part of Lives and Discussions Today! (click here to read), I pointed out that in the first century environment in which Yeshua lived “correct interpretations of the Torah and the Prophets” were a very big deal. Yeshua wasn’t the only one claiming to “correctly interpret” them. He was competing with the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Hellenists and Herodians. So, the Jewish people living in Galilee and Judea faced the challenge of “choosing from six interpretations” of their Scriptures.

We know a lot about what the Pharisees taught from Rabbinic Judaism (Babylonian Talmud). With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls we learned much more about what the Essenes taught.

One thing the Pharisees and Essenes shared in common was that
they both insisted that members only follow their interpretations.

Yeshua, the Jesus of history, used their “mutual exclusivity claims” to a very important point – it was the one absolute requirement for membership in the Kingdom of Heaven!

Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments,
and teaches men so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Whoever does and teaches them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Make sure you understand this:
Unless your acts of tzedaqah exceeds those of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not be in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The key point Yeshua made is this:

Doing acts of tzedaqah is required for entering in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Accepting, following or teaching anyone’s interpretations
-- without acts of tzedaqah
isn’t enough for admittance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

What are “acts of tzedaqah”? I answered that question in my email, The Jewish Jesus and the Salvation of Gentiles (click here to read). In the first story in Genesis, the Story of the Creation of the Heavens and the Earth, the Creator used “The TOV Standard” to measure each act of creation:

Acts that are TOV protect and preserve lives,
make lives more functional and increase the quality of life.

Now pay close attention to the “acts of tzedaqah” Yeshua pointed out in the parable in Matthew 25:35-36:

Giving food to the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty,
bringing a stranger into a home, giving clothes to the naked,
visiting the sick, and going to see people in prison.

Acts of tzedaqah are acts are TOV -- they are acts that affect lives in TOV (good) ways. The acts Yeshua described in Matthew 25 are not the only acts of tzedaqah. For a human to survive and thrive as the Creator intended, their basic needs must be met:

Basic physical needs -- water, food, clothing, shelter, protection, etc.

Basic emotional needs -- affection, love, support, meaning, happiness, etc.

Acts of tzedaqah provide basic physical and emotional needs for another person.

The key point Yeshua taught his followers was always be aware what’s going on in the lives of people you encounter in the normal course of your day. He stressed the importance of love in people’s lives. Something that lots of Bible readers do not know is that in Yeshua’s culture the opposite of love was not hate

The opposite of love for the Jesus of history was indifference!

In my last email I challenged readers “to consider how the teachings of the Jesus of history can be applied to current circumstances.”

What would happen in America if Christians did
acts of tzedaqah like Jesus taught above in their lives?

I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it. Please discuss it with others, too.

Jim Myers

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Making the Jesus of History Part of Lives and Discussions Today!

In my last email, “Let’s not call him ‘The Jewish Jesus’”, I discussed how much I appreciated Dr. David Flusser’s work on Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity. I pointed out that Flusser called Jesus “the Jesus of history” and “the historical Jesus” – but he did not call him “the Jewish Jesus.” Today I want to share two more things that set Flusser apart from other Jewish and Christian scholars.

While Flusser understood Jesus belonged fully to
the diverse and competing streams of Jewish thinking of the first century,
he felt no need to deny Jesus his high self-awareness.*

Flusser’s point about “diverse and competing streams of Jewish thinking of the first century” is critical for understand the people Jesus interacted with in the Gospels:






All of the groups above had their own interpretations of Jewish Scriptures and other writings. The historical Jesus added his interpretations to the mix. He made sure the people that knew him best clearly understood what he believed God had called him to do. He announced it at his hometown synagogue on a Shabbat (Luke 4:16-21):

“The Spirit of Yahweh is upon me,
because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed . . .
Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus told the people that he was the person God called to fulfill those words – he was “the anointed one.” When the Hebrew word translated “the anointed one” was translated into Greek it became “christos” – and when that was transliterated into English it became “Christ.”

By the way, in the Jewish Scriptures and Jewish culture
there have been many christs (anointed ones).

That is something that most people don’t know -- there were other people claiming to be “the anointed one” in the first century, too. For Flusser, Jesus seeing himself that way -- and others viewing him that way – wasn’t a problem. That is probably why Flusser said, “even Jesus’ most radical conclusions would have been unthinkable without the innovations of those in the generations of Jewish teachers before him and the nurturing environment of Jewish thought at the time he lived.”

However, because most people are not familiar with the Late Second Temple Period and the environment in which Jewish people lived, they cannot see the Jesus of history the ways his contemporaries saw himor the way he saw himself.

Because of how the human brain biologically works,
the only thing any human can do is “use the beliefs he or she has acquired
about Jesus and his world to give meanings to the words of the New Testament.”

Flusser did something else that I encourage others to do – apply the teachings of Jesus to current circumstances to see their relevancy. A graduate student of his provided this example:
On the eve of the Gulf War, January 15,1991, the streets of Jerusalem were virtually empty in anticipation of the outbreak of war and the consequent launching of scud missiles on the civilian Israeli population. The student went over to Flusser’s house to discuss a research project. Flusser opened the door and said, “Interesting days we are living in. What would Jesus say? Let’s go and find out.”

In closing let me challenge you to do the following:

1. Learn more about the diverse and competing streams of Jewish thinking of the first century.

2. Apply the teachings of the Jesus of history to current circumstances.

I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it.

Jim Myers

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● Jesus by David Flusser © 1997 The Maness Press , the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel; pp. 10-12.